John M. Ford 1957-2006

Science fiction/fantasy writer John M. Ford died Monday.

Ford wrote one of the best of the Star Trek novels, How Much for Just the Planet?, as well as the World Fantasy award winner, The Dragon Waiting and the excellent The Last Hot Time. He was also an accomplished poet, winning the Rhysling Award for best long SF/Fantasy poem with “Winter Solstice, Camelot Station.” He was also author of the weird and wonderful short story, “Scrabble with God” (where God cheats by creating creatures whose names would use up his tiles, and the devil dropped in bringing “Me Food Cake”).

I met him a few times at conventions (he was one of the original Cyberprep authors). Mike was a charming and funny guy and it’s a damn shame of the universe that he left it so soon.

Much too soon. How Much For Just The Planet? is the only Star Trek novel I bothered to keep on my shelves over the years. I know what I’ll be re-reading this weekend.

I had never read anything by him until I picked up The Dragon Waiting this week. Pity, indeed.

Weird. I’m reading The Last Hot Time now. He was an excellent writer.

I never had a chance to meet him. I guess now that we’re of a certain age, that’s going to be more and more frequent in the future. Sad.

Damn. How much for Just the Planet was hilarious.

And he wasn’t even fifty.

I just found out about John M Ford’s death yesterday.

I read A Dragon Waiting years ago & never forgot it. More recently The Last Hot Time & How Much For Just the Planet. He never repeated himself & always left you wanting more.

“A Holiday In the Park” is another of his Arthurian Christmas poems. Like “Camelot Station”–it can move me to tears. Especially since I got my first dose of serious Arthuriana from The Once & Future King.

From the End of the Twentieth Century, a collection of his shorter works, was published in 1997. calls it a Limited Edition, but copies are apparently still available. (“Usually ships within 4 to 6 weeks.”)

That’s funny; I’ve been hunting for a copy of that for years. The only Trek novel I’ve bothered to keep on MY shelf was The Final Reflection, a surprisingly deep yet short novel in which the Enterprise crew appears only in the first and last chapter wraparound (although Spock has a cameo as a boy, and McCoy has one as a baby.)

This guy was too young and too talented to croak it yet. :frowning:

If anyone is in the Twin Cities, the memorial service will be Oct. 27th.

In the meantime, he was an active supporter of the Minneapolis Public library, and a special endowment fund has been set up in his honor. They have a paypal link, and told his longtime partner that they were amazed at the amount of money coming in from all over the world.

Zip me an email with your address and I’ll send you my copy. Consider it payback for all the stories you’ve entertained me with.

Bumping this for any of his fans. Slate posted a great article about him today, with some interesting information about his life, and intrigue about how his books became so difficult to find. The upshot: it looks like at least of his books will be coming back in print, including his final unpublished opus Aspects.

Read it to the end - the article has one of the best codas for a story like this.

I first experienced Ford’s work with Mandalay, an Alternities Corporation story published in the October 1979 issue of Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. Set after an unexplained apocalypse, a ragtag band of travelers troop thru an endless tunnel (origin unexplained), arriving every 100 kilometers at a door to one of the alternate dimensions that the Alternities Corporation had offered as vacation getaways. Want to fly as a superhero with actual powers? Fight the Nazis in WWII? Be a cowboy in the Old West? A samurai in feudal Japan? We can offer any of these and many more in one of our vacation worlds set in alternate dimensions!

Until the connection between all these worlds breaks somehow. Our wandering crew finds access at each door to one of the many alternate worlds, trying to find the home they originally came from. As seems to be the way Ford approaches his stories, little is explained. Details are obliquely given. We get only hints at what Alternities Corporation was, or how they operated. No real explanation of the disaster that sundered the connected worlds. The travelers have no power to change their situation, except to continue their endless trek to find the ‘Homeline.’

One of the main characters had been a superhero. I’d been (and still am) a comic book fan. I point to this story, read as I was transitioning from teenhood to adulthood, as altering my tastes to preferring superpowers in more realistic fashion than the traditional capes-and-cowls. And this long before Miller’s Dark Knight or Moore’s Watchmen.

Glad to see that Ford’s works will be republished (and some published for the first time!). Ford’s Mandalay shaped a key piece of me, way back when, and I’ve enjoyed everything of his that I’ve been able to find. Here’s to more!

Articles are cropping up online about all this, Slate’s being the most prominent.

I’d heard that his family did not approve of his polyamorous lifestyle and/or his frivolous career of “writing silly stories” and purposely prevented his work from seeing print after his death. Turns out the truth is a tad bit more complicated… but I’m overjoyed to see that his stuff is going to see print again.

<hijack> You’re back?

Please stay! </hj>

I don’t think I ever read John Ford when he was alive, but I am now looking forward to reading his works. They all sound fascinating. Meantime, I have to check my collection of really old Isaac Asimov’s given me by a friend decades ago. That October 1979 issue might be one of them.

By coincidence I’d only recently stumbled on one of Ars Technica’s old articles about the Star Trek expanded universe and picked up his Star Trek novels.

I was delighted to read that article, having only ever read part of one of his books before (while waiting for a table at a Perkins restaurant, of all places!). Apparently Mr. Butler of Slate has set off a process that will see the republication of Mr. Ford’s works by TOR/MacMillan, starting next year. I’m looking forward to reading them.