July 1999
s m u g
back issues
by Joshua Allen

Fortean Times

06.04: The sky hangs low and heavy, swollen with portent. I am halfway through my article for the July SMUG, re: People En Español, when I am buffeted by an odd burning smell. The sentence I have been slaving over all morning will never be completed ("Jennifer Lopez, wearing nothing but a pair of water-wings, a sullen blaze of consternation cavorting behind her eyes, gestures at me with a straw finger-trap and then howls a howl of"). I trace the smell to my refrigerator, open up the freezer door, and there, inside, encased in ice, is the July issue of Fortean Times, the British journal of unexplained phenomena. I can just make out the distinctive visage of Linda-Blair-as-Regan-MacNeil through the ice's distortional lens.

I decide not to put the magazine in the microwave to thaw it out, scared that it might burst into flame, so I set it by an open window there in the kitchen and wait. As the water bleeds away from the block of ice, it reforms into a small puddle in the shape of Andrew Jackson's head.

"You are uneasy," a voice says to me. "You never sailed with me before, I see."

I stagger out of the kitchen, filled with dread. I know this is no hoax because I recall reading that very quotation in Parton's Life of Jackson, Volume III, page 493.

06.05: I finally work up the nerve to go back in the kitchen, and Fortean Times is waiting for me, almost flaunting its immobility, its obviously feigned innocence. I poke at it with a spatula and am surprised to note that the ice had no effect on it. The magazine is as smooth, glossy, and pristine as if it had just rolled off the press instead of appearing in my freezer. I pick it up and find it warm to the touch. I smell my late grandfather's talcum powder as I flip through the pages.

Charles Fort, obsessive note-taker and item-clipper, inventor of the word "teleportation," lurched through the early part of this century investigating events that either couldn't be explained away by science or, more likely and more interesting, events that had been explained away by science in an illogical and ineffectual manner.

O it is a vast trench that exists between the rational and irrational. It is a precarious tightrope that we must walk to stay above said trench.

06.09: The puddle has long since evaporated but the voice of Andrew Jackson still haunts my apartment, hiding in cupboards and under chairs. The award for Most Disconcerting Moment Thus Far goes to this morning when I was in the shower, sensuously loofah-ing my nether parts with a delicate cream containing crushed apricot and bean seeds, and A.J. nearly gave me a heart attack with this disembodied pronouncement:

"Are you so frightened by the intangible and supernatural that you will agree to swallow blatantly implausible scientific explanations?"

I choose not to answer this. Tonight I shall throw away Fortean Times - nay, burn it! - and be done with this nonsense.

06.10: A scant hour ago I was awakened by silence. You know how that can happen? The world, even at night, even in a remote location, is alive with noise, even if it's just the whisper of dead air against blades of grass. But at 4:12 AM there was absolutely no sound - nothing. It was as if I'd been struck deaf in my sleep and thrust into wakefulness from the trauma. Then a light burst through my window, briefly illuminating the room in sharp relief, and then, just as suddenly, I was plunged back into darkness ... and sound. I fumbled for the lamp by my bed with shaking hands, my eyes still bedazzled. When I finally turned the switch I was horrified to see another copy of Fortean Times, identical to the one I had burned last night, there upon my bedspread.

I, of course, cannot return to sleep so I write these words and then resign myself to reading this damnable magazine.

06.12: The surprising thing about Fortean Times is how good-natured it is. I thought that perhaps it'd be didactic, indignant, bitter, caustic. That's the thing I've noticed about those who have been abducted by UFOs and possessed by Satan and entranced by a yeti: They don't seem to have a particularly well-developed sense of humor. Fortean Times, on the other hand, perhaps because it has the luxurious benefit of perspective, presents this information with just the right degree of restrained British jocularity.

(Great Britain: A land saturated with færies and dæmons. And ligatures. Stonehenge, the Loch Ness Monster, crop circles - all that shit is in the UK.)

But that makes sense. Fort was opposed to scientific authoritarianism so it would be hypocritical to speak in absolutes (e.g., "Aliens crash-landed in Roswell, NM in 1947. This cannot be disputed. The evidence is overwhelming, categorical, and final."). It would also be off-putting and far less subversive.

See, Fortean Times, instead of reading like the sociopathic rantings of a street-corner prophet, couches its facts in a distantly amused envelope - not mocking, but friendly and open-minded. The editors shrewdly realize that the best way to infiltrate the general public is by passing off their astounding tales as bite-sized, ain't-it-weird, end-of-newscast anecdotes, and so the bulk of their material comes from those oddball news stories tucked in the creepy recesses of newspapers around the world.

("On 26 January, the clock started going backwards. 'It's keeping perfect time, but backwards instead of forwards,' said Ms. Vian. 'There's definitely a presence in the shop.'")

These clippings, which clog the first half of the magazine, are Fortean Times' most effective propaganda tool. "Look how many of these little stories there are," it's telling me. "These aren't from the 1800s either, brother, they're from this month. And there's plenty more where they came from. Floating heads, ghost dogs, talking corpses, supersonic airships ... these things swarm around our daily lives with alarming density. Can you really explain all of these little events? You can stretch weather balloons and photographic aberrations only so far. Let's face it: Even if just a small percentage of this stuff is real, that's still a goodly amount. More than enough to permanently alter the way we perceive reality."

I fling Fortean Times away and find it back in my hands within a matter of seconds.

06.15: Every word in this magazine ... no, "magazine" taints its value and purity. Every word in this codex is weighty with truth. And yet this weight somehow makes life lighter, since my eyes are opened for the very first time.


Andrew Jackson and I had a lengthy conversation about the myserious jumping snake of Sarajevo. It got a little heated at times, but it was pretty enjoyable, overall. He tells me that the codex will be taking us both to a new place tomorrow at dawn. There we will meet the others and the machinery of the plan will at long last be set in motion.

06.16: 00003400234000007750000007




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