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Monday, August 17, 2009

Cryptozoology in the Mainstream

Loren Coleman, International Cryptozoology Museum, Portland, Maine, 2005. Photo: Joseph Citro, with permission.

In a recent issue of The New York Review of Ideas is a Q&A with Loren Coleman, a cryptozoologist of 50 years. A cryptozoologist searches for and studies undiscovered and recently discovered species.

Yes, Yeti, Bigfoot, and the Loch Ness Monster all fall into the category of undiscovered-but-reported creatures. It was clear from the interview that this aspect of cryptozoology, to use his metaphor, is the "Brad Pitt" of cryptids, and is the reason his field has difficulty with acceptance (and why he can't have an interview where that topic does not arise, and why it took six months to convince the IRS that his field was real). But there is serious study in this border area of zoology; many new species are discovered every year, but if they're smaller than a Yeti, they get no news. (BTW, the Blogger spellchecker complains about cryptozoology, suggesting that I change it to cryptography, cryptology or cryptographer.)

Coleman's interests are in the "character actor" species, like the okapi (giraffe family with zebra-like stripes, found in 1901), the coelacanth (fish thought to be extinct for 65 million years, found in 1938), and even smaller critters that will never get a movie contract. It wasn't expressed this way in the interview, but the "window of fame" closes quickly after discovery of a new species, because by definition, once the creature is discovered, it is suddenly in the realm of zoology rather that cryptozoology.

Since cryptozoology has been at the heart of many speculative fiction stories, here is the interview with Loren Coleman, cryptozoologist, courtesy of Flash Fiction Online.

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