Think to New Worlds

Think to New Worlds
How a writer who investigated scientific anomalies inspired a factious movement and made a lasting impact on American culture.

Flying saucers. Bigfoot. Frogs raining from the sky. Such phenomena fascinated Charles Fort, the maverick writer who scanned newspapers, journals, and magazines for reports of bizarre occurrences: dogs that talked, vampires, strange visions in the sky, and paranormal activity. His books of anomalies advanced a philosophy that saw science as a small part of a larger system in which truth and falsehood continually transformed into one another. His work found a ragged following of skeptics who questioned not only science but the press, medicine, and politics. Though their worldviews varied, they shared compelling questions about genius, reality, and authority. At the center of this community was adman, writer, and enfant terrible Tiffany Thayer, who founded the Fortean Society and ran it for almost three decades, collecting and reporting on every manner of oddity and conspiracy.

In Think to New Worlds, Joshua Blu Buhs argues that the Fortean effect on modern culture is deeper than you think. Fort's descendants provided tools to expand the imagination, explore the social order, and demonstrate how power is exercised. Science fiction writers put these ideas to work as they sought to uncover the hidden structures undergirding reality. Avant-garde modernists--including the authors William Gaddis, Henry Miller, and Ezra Pound, as well as Surrealist visual artists--were inspired by Fort's writing about metaphysical and historical forces. And in the years following World War II, flying saucer enthusiasts convinced of alien life raised questions about who controlled the universe.

Buhs's meticulous and entertaining book takes a respectful look at a cast of oddballs and eccentrics, plucking them from history's margins and spotlighting their mark on American modernism. Think to New Worlds is a timely consideration of a group united not only by conspiracies and mistrust of science but by their place in an ever-expanding universe rich with unexplained occurrences and visionary possibilities.

Publication Date: 
June 24, 2024