The following is a transcribed letter from science fiction author H.G. Wells, to journalist and author Theodore Dreiser. Wells is responding to Dreiser, who had earlier sent Wells a copy of Charles Fort’s recently published book, The Book of the Damned (the original, not the compilation).
I’m having Fort’s Book of the Damned sent back to you. Fort seems to be one of the most damnable bores who ever cut scraps from out of the way newspapers. I thought they were facts. And he writes like a drunkard.
Lo! has been sent to me but has gone into my wastepaper basket. And what do you mean by forcing “orthodox science” to do this or that? Science is a continuing exploration and how in the devil can it have orthodoxy? The next thing you’ll be writing is the “dogmas of science” like some blasted Roman Catholic priest on the defensive. When you tell a Christian you don’t believe some yarn he can’t prove, he always calls you “dogmatic”. Scientific workers are first rate stuff and very ill paid and it isn’t for the likes of you and me to heave Forts at them.
God dissolve (and forgive) your Fortean Society. Yours,
Dreiser was a long time friend and fervent defender of Fort, and his exchange with Wells is legendary. Dreiser responded to Wells in kind, and the following quote from his response letter, which many believe was crafted with the input of Fort himself, is, in my mind, priceless:
At best your letter lends me a laugh.
In regard to Fort’s work, I am still of the opinion that such a body of ideas, notions, reports, hallucinations – anything you will – gathered from whatever sources and arranged as strangely and imaginatively, is worthy of any mind’s attention. I think it arresting just as pure imagination, as Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea or your own The Island Dr. Moreau is arresting. You the author of The War of the Worlds to be so sniffish and snotty over The Book of the Damned.