Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Monday, December 21, 2009

OLL LEWIS: 5 Questions on… Cryptozoology - IAN SIMMONS

In the hot-seat today is Ian Simmons, who works as Science Communication Director of the Centre for Life science centre in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. He has a wide-ranging interest in Forteana and writes, edits and compiles articles and books for a number of Fortean publications, including Fortean Times and the Anomalist.

So, Ian Simmons, here are your 5 Questions on… Cryptozoology:

1) How did you first become interested in cryptozoology?

I suppose it was when I was given a kind of annual called Stranger than People when I was about 10 or so. It was full of all sorts of stuff about Yetis, manimals, the Loch Ness Monster, Zombies, mythology, vampires, the Kraken; all mixed in with mostly dreadful fiction and so on. Badly written and highly inaccurate, but I was hooked.

2) Have you ever personally seen a cryptid or secondary evidence of a cryptid; if so can you please describe your encounter?

Never seen one myself, but have come close to a Big Cat. When I worked at Snibston Discovery park in Coalville a colleague saw one on site shortly before I arrived; must have missed it by 10 minutes or so. I've seen all sorts of secondary stuff; I borrowed a lot of it for the Fortean Times exhibition I did in Croydon in '95. There were some actual cryptids in that, come to think of it; the Hayling Island Jungle Cat, Felicity the Puma, a Rat King.

3) Which cryptids do you think are the most likely to be scientifically discovered and described some day, and why?

I reckon there's a Thylacine or two out there - there's a paper in Anomalist 14, which I have just finished editing, that does the maths on their survival, and it looks possible. I reckon we might stand a chance of a manimal of some kind; Orang Pendek, most likely. We ought to be able to nail a UK big cat too, but they are interestingly illusive, despite loads of hard-to-dismiss anecdotal evidence, but maybe that's telling us something about their very nature. Just because something is real doesn't mean it exists. Some of the sea monster things might turn up too; Charles Paxton has done extrapolations that suggest there are 47 new pinniped, or was it whales? I forget exactly, 47 of them, anyway, out there, and some of those might turn out to match some of the classic sea monster tales. Actually, it is quite difficult to get the idea that cryptids can be found accepted, as soon as they turn up, it's forgotten they were ever cryptids. When I was first reading forteana, Giant Squid were firmly in the cryptid realm; now there are routine write-ups on them in the scientific press. There's this myth that while we keep finding loads of new stuff, the classic cryptids never turn up, which clearly isn't true in this case.

4) Which cryptids do you think are the least likely to exist?

No chance of Nessie whatsoever, and the Chupacabra is clearly a bust; it was always a dodgy one and Jon seems to have nailed it good last time he was in Puerto Rico.

5) If you had to pick your favourite cryptozoological book (not including books you may have written yourself) what would you choose?

Difficult, difficult; anything Heuvelmans wrote has to be near the top, the Bords' Alien Animals was pretty influential on me, but if Mothman counts as a cryptid, and I know that's pretty debateable, Keel's Mothman Prophecies, a rattling good tale of extreme wide-spectrum high weirdness. Keel's approach to weirdness has probably been more influential for me than anyone apart from Fort's. I love Loren's books in this area too.

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