Bob Rickard bigraphy, stories - Design

Bob Rickard : biography

1945 -

Robert "Bob" J M Rickard is the founder and editor of the UK magazine Fortean Times: The Journal of Strange Phenomena, which debuted in 1973 under its original title The News. The magazine's express purpose is to continue the documentary work of Charles Fort on the strange, anomalous and unexplained. In addition to his editorial role, Rickard has written several books and hundreds of articles on a wide range of Fortean topics. In 1981, he was a founding member of ASSAP and is also the founder of the Charles Fort Institute.

Founding of the Fortean Times

Pre-1973

Rickard writes that he was first made aware of the works of Charles Fort, skeptic and researcher into anomalous phenomena through second-hand references, most notably through his (Rickard's) reading of various science-fiction stories:

"John Campbell, the editor of Astounding Science Fiction (as Analog was then titled), for example," writes Rickard "encouraged many authors to expand Ford's data and comments into imaginative stories."

In the mid-1960s, Rickard studied Product Design at Birmingham Art College where he met several like-minded science-fiction fans. Rickard credits fellow-student Peter Weston's fan-produced Speculation 'zine for helping him to "[learn] the art of putting together a fanzine," some years before he created his own.

In 1969, Rickard read an advert in the underground magazine Oz for the "International Fortean Organisation" (INFO), an American group "founded in 1966... by Paul and Ronald Willis," who had acquired material from the original Fortean Society (started in 1932, but in limbo since the 1959 death of its founder Tiffany Thayer). Corresponding with the Willis Brothers (Paul was a particularly avid letter-writer) and sending them British newspaper clipping, Rickard was instrumental in encouraging the Willises to publish their own Fortean journal - and the "INFO Journal: Science and the Unknown" began intermittent publication in Spring, 1967. Rickard writes that he was slightly disappointed not to see (m)any of his clippings used in the journal, later discovering that the production was fraught behind-the-scenes as Ronald Willis had been seriously ill, Paul thus finding it difficult to "keep up with things." Accordingly, the Willises helped inspire Rickard to create his own periodical, and, bearing a date of November 1973, the first issue of Rickard's self-produced and self-published The News was available directly from him. Ron Willis sadly succumbed to a brain tumour in March 1975.

The News (1973-1976)

The magazine which was to become The Fortean Times thus began life as Rickard's self-published bi-monthly mail-order miscellany The News. The title is said to be "a contraction taken from Samuel Butler's The News from Nowhere", (although Rickard may be conflating/confusing Butler's Erewhon and William Morris' "News from Nowhere"). The News saw mostly regular bi-monthly publication for 15 issues between November 1973 and April 1976. Rickard met kindred spirit Steve Moore at a comics convention when the latter was a sub-editor at IPC, and found the two had much in common - including a love of Chinese mysticism. Moore and "Paul Screeton (then editor of The Ley Hunter), both urged on the first few uncertain issues" of Rickard's publication, with Moore in particular frequently joining Rickard to help "stuff envelopes and hand-write a few hundred addresses" to disseminate the early issues. These early issues featured some articles by different individuals, but were "largely the work of Bob Rickard, who typed them himself with some help from Steve Moore."

Amongst the key early Fortean Times advocates and supporters, Rickard cites Ion Will, a "constant [source] of valuable clippings, books, postcards and entertaining letters"; Janet and Colin Bord, authors of Mysterious Britain (among other titles and articles - an article by Colin in Gandalf's Garden is particularly cited by Rickard as being overtly Fortean) and cartoonist Hunt Emerson, introduced to Rickard when in late 1974 (after seven issues) he "wanted to improve the graphics", which Emerson certainly did (Indeed, Emerson's still-on-going monthly "Phenomenomix" strip in FT had its prototype in #11's three-page "Fortean Funnies").

Living octopus

Living octopus

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