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October 27, 2006

Against entropy
Posted by Patrick at 08:58 AM * 108 comments


Comments on Against entropy:
#1 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2006, 09:30 AM:

S = Q/T

#2 ::: Jack Womack ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2006, 09:44 AM:

Ave atque vale.

#3 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2006, 10:12 AM:

Word-fame lasts.

#4 ::: steve ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2006, 10:18 AM:

In any philosophical discussion it is useful to start with an accurate description of the topic. I believe it would be a little more meaningful to state


This is especially true because these are path functions and how you get to where you are going matters.

Americans must like entropy, we produce more of it per capita than people of any other nation on earth.

#5 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2006, 10:19 AM:

Go with God, Mike.

After the first death, there is no other.

#6 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2006, 10:22 AM:

My thoughts are with you all. Thank you for remembering Mike aloud for those of us who can't be there.

#7 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2006, 10:37 AM:

I hope wherever Mike is, he's enjoying it (whether or not he can remember he's dead).

#8 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2006, 10:38 AM:

John M. Ford once wrote -
And though I had slain a thousand foes less one,
The thousandth knife found my liver;
The thousandth enemy said to me,
'Now you shall die,
Now none shall know.'
And the fool, looking down, believed this,
Not seeing, above his shoulders, the naked stars,
Each one remembering.

The Naked Stars remember, John.

So do we.

Against Entropy.

#9 ::: Velma ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2006, 10:39 AM:

We are thinking of you all, and Mike, and love.

#10 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2006, 10:46 AM:

I am not Mike Ford, nor was meant to be.

After creation, long silence, no single word
to mark a thought or pin down a sense;
nothing to indicate what was once absurd,
nothing to puncture dishonesty and pretence.
He told the truth by making up bright lies,
he educated by sheer linguistic power,
his words rise up, it seems, above these skies
and last, we thank the gods, beyond this hour.
When he made stories, novels, complex verse,
we knew the presence of a noble mind;
never offensive, though sometimes quite terse,
yet believing in the best of human kind.
Too short his working life beneath our sun
but bright the vision his imagining won.

#11 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2006, 10:48 AM:

Velma, in #9, writes:

We are thinking of you all, and Mike, and love.

Ditto here.

#12 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2006, 11:14 AM:

I'll let A. E. Housman say it for me:

The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

Today, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.

Eyes that shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears;

Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.

So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still defended challenge cup.

And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl's.

(Laurel was used to crown poets as well as athletes.)

#14 ::: JBWoodford ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2006, 11:58 AM:
Bill Higgins, #11 wrote:

Velma, in #9, writes:
We are thinking of you all, and Mike, and love.

Ditto here.

And here.

#15 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2006, 12:19 PM:
. . . the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.

I ask
for you God's peace, Mike,
for all those who love you, comfort,
and protection for all who journey to be together for you today.

#16 ::: Suzanne ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2006, 12:24 PM:

I am not able to be there, but my thoughts are with you all.

#18 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2006, 01:03 PM:

Here. More than what I could create.

Lyrics to "When I Go."

"And should you glimpse my wandering form out on the borderline,
between death and resurrection and the council of the pines.
do not worry for my comfort, do not sorrow for me so,
all your diamond tears will rise up and adorn the sky beside me when I go."
-Dave Carter

Music here


#19 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2006, 01:45 PM:

I've done what I could for the occasion.

Peace to all who miss him.

#20 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2006, 01:51 PM:

What vision will come when you summon my face?
Which feature of mine will you hold?
Are my eyes shining starlight, my hair wild in space,
Or a wide smile the key to my soul?

Say that I was a man who loved life and lived love.

(from "Epitaph", copyright 1992 Bruce Adelsohn)

Farewell, and blessed be.

#21 ::: Tucker ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2006, 01:52 PM:

I honor his memory the only way I know how: by passing out copies of his books to people who didn't realise they needed them, and by trying a little harder in my own writing.

#22 ::: dan ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2006, 03:01 PM:

A grand wake to all who can attend...

...and peace to those who cannot.

The naked stars. ...and us. Thanks, Scott.

#23 ::: RuTemple ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2006, 03:40 PM:

Christina said it best for me:

When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.

I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on, as if in pain:
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
And haply may forget.

Tell the stories, sing a song, raise a toast to our sacred dead, gone on beyond.
Haply, this day, Remember.

I am glad Mike was in the world; I am deeply glad that Elise, Teresa, Patrick, and all the rest who read and interact in this salon of recycled electrons, are here. Love to you.


--I'm baking bread today, and remembering the TP on the grocery run.

#24 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2006, 04:14 PM:

Every time I go poking around in the Making Light archives, I stumble into some wonderful flight of fancy that makes me smile -- and then hurt, as I remember that there will be no more flights of fancy of quite that flavour. Goodbye Mike, and thank you for the joy you brought to this world.

#25 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2006, 04:29 PM:

Justice? We're in the wrong cosmos for that.
Only in Story is all that should be, fair.
Here, deus exes aren't drawn from a hat
Nor complications vanish into air.
Meanwhile, we do our best with what we've got,
Imagining what could be, only If;
Light-conjuring, as though all life were not
One foot still on the shore, one on the skiff.
Might some of this playacting, in the end,
Keep just a little Entropy at bay?
Far worse games have been played of Let's Pretend;
Our hope's high, though the House wins anyway.
Regret's beside the point; things fall apart.
Do what you must. Be honest. Increase Art.

(Everybody got a little Mike Ford in 'em now.)

#26 ::: jrochest ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2006, 05:01 PM:

Two snippets from Auden's long poem on Yeats' death:

...poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its saying where executives
Would never want to tamper; it flows south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.

[. . .]

Time that is intolerant
Of the brave and innocent,
And indifferent in a week
To a beautiful physique,

Worships language and forgives
Everyone by whom it lives;
Pardons cowardice, conceit,
Lays its honours at their feet.

[. . .]

Follow, poet, follow right
To the bottom of the night,
With your unconstraining voice
Still persuade us to rejoice;

With the farming of a verse
Make a vineyard of the curse,
Sing of human unsuccess
In a rapture of distress;

In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountain start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.


Are there plans afoot for a volume of Ford's poetry? It strikes me that that might be an appropriate tribute, oh mighty ones of Tor.

#27 ::: Harriet ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2006, 05:32 PM:

Thinking of all of you this afternoon, and of him who brought you all together.

(Surely someone has quoted this one, somewhere in the past month? I can't recall)

Our revels now are ended, the airy constructions fading. Only the music remains, as it always remains, waiting for another improvisation of life.

--John M. Ford
at the end of "Historical Notes"
for "The Dragon Waiting"

#28 ::: Nick Fagerlund ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2006, 06:56 PM:

It was a lovely ceremony.

#29 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2006, 08:03 PM:

Hi, all. I am home resting for a few minutes, and eating some splendid hearty chicken soup that Jo Walton made, before I go off to the wake.

The memorial service was really, really good. Everybody was.

And Abi, the book is so, so beautiful. Thank you. I don't even have words. Just... thank you.

#30 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2006, 09:46 PM:

Peace and memory and honor. Ad aeternum.

#31 ::: Neil in Chicago ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2006, 12:15 AM:

His memory for a blessing.

#32 ::: Nina Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2006, 12:46 AM:

to quote Diane Duane again
...."Turn down an empty glass.
Knowing that one, he would rather you filled it and drank..."
Blessed be.

#33 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2006, 02:48 AM:

I just got back from the memorial service and the wake.

I mostly wasn't crying.

#34 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2006, 04:36 AM:


I'm glad you liked the book. (I'm glad the book arrived, transatlantic postal services being what they are.)

Mike taught me something after he died. "Against Entropy" came about because his impulse in the face of grief and loss was to write something. That, even more than the quantity or quality of his work, is why I think of him as a poet. It's not something he did, it's something he was.

I've been losing faith in my bookbinding for a year or more now, after a very damaging encounter with a would-be teacher. But Mike's death gave me the overwhelming desire to bind something - my fingers all but itched with the impulse. Explaining Mike to my father, who was visiting while I was doing the lettering, made me see the similarity. Binding the book turned out to be a step toward reclaiming that bit of myself.

So the book is a lesson and a thanksgiving for the lesson, all in one. May it bring you peace.

#35 ::: Raven ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2006, 02:06 PM:

I think the best comment I can make is over here.

#36 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2006, 03:50 PM:

I saw the Pioneer Press article (linked in the Sidelights) this morning, and didn't like it. In general, I prefer the Press to the Star-Tribune, not least because the Pioneer Press at least wrote about Mike's passing. (They are much more aware locally, it seems to me.)

I sent the following e-mail to the reporter:

Dear Mr. Vezner,

I am writing concerning your article on the memorial service for John M. Ford. I was one of those in attendance, although I'm not a writer, editor, or science fiction industry guru. I see that you quote from several of the eulogies, correctly, so you were probably there as well.

The tone of the piece puzzled me. From the headline referring to Mike as an "obscure writer" to the comments about him ending up in a one-bedroom apartment, the impression was that Mike was a failure. Surely you heard Neil Gaiman's comments (regarding his conversation with you, I think) about how Mike wasn't a failure, but rather brilliantly successful?

He didn't have a lot of money, but he didn't want a lot of money. He wanted to write the books he wrote, and he did that. He wanted friends who loved and understood him, and he had that. He wanted a deep and intimate relationship with Elise, his partner, and he had that. Mike lived the life he wanted, and what else is success?

You comment that Mike was almost unknown to readers and fans. I think that you should have talked to the two ladies from the Friends of the Minneapolis Public Library who were also in attendance. They set up the "John M. Ford Endowment Fund" to honor his memory. In the time since his death, thousands of dollars have come in, from all over the world. (I heard well over ten thousand dollars yesterday, but I don't know if that was verified.) The Friends of MPL were stunned, as they have never had such an outpouring of support, and from such widespread locations. MIke, and his work, were deeply loved by those who read him.

I appreciate that you wrote the article. It was important to mark the passing of an important local literary figure. MIke cheated death for decades, and his life was more of a triumph than your article implied.

The officiating clergy did a lovely job. She clearly had listened well to Mike's friends. The eulogies were genuinely moving without being maudlin. The readings were well chosen and well done. The music was beautiful and heartfelt. It was a deeply moving memorial.

#37 ::: Karen Swanberg ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2006, 04:38 PM:

Thank you, Teresa and Patrick, for holding the wake and for the memorial. We all should have such friends.

Go well, Mike.

#38 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2006, 04:48 PM:

Apropos of Raven @35:

I'm not Mike Ford, nor was I meant to be;
But an attendant lord, who will just do
To swell a thread, or start a meme or three,
Obtuse and pompous, yes, and foolish too.
Yet still I write my high sentitious verse,
Between the ether and the mermaid beach.
My scansion's poor, my structure's even worse,
And artistry is far beyond my reach.
I'm not alone: beside me Legister
Sits pecking at his keys with hairy paws.
We're monkeys, see? Does Shakespeare register
Or can we go for Ford instead? No pause...
Fragano, Raven, Dan and I all writ
And hoped our numbers reached the infinite.

#39 ::: Raven ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2006, 04:57 PM:

Juli, Here's a Google search for "John M. Ford" or "Ford, John M.":

      only about 229,000 hits.   Such obscurity!   Barely mentioned at all!

Or search for bits of his work, like klingonaase-related terms: about 45,700 hits.

For comparison, Marc Okrand, deviser of the canonical Klingon language: about 42,400 hits.

(Tad Vezner gets about 1,050 hits.)

Would the Nielsen-Haydens care to post an Amazon link to Mike's books, with the kickback set to pay the Friends of Mpls Library's JMF Book Endowment? (This link doesn't have that feature!)

#40 ::: Raven ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2006, 05:11 PM:

Oh, to be fair, "Marc Okrand" or "Okrand, Marc": about 45,200 hits.

"Tad Vezner" or "Vezner, Tad": about 1,050 hits.   (Gosh, no difference!)

#41 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2006, 05:50 PM:

Abi 338: While the OED agrees with you, my family has long spelled it 'Ledgister'. My paws also are not that hairy. A lovely sonnet, though!

#42 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2006, 05:54 PM:


Blast you and your pesky spelling! There's always a flaw.

The hairy paws are only visible when you're one of the infinite monkeys. Your everyday incarnation is another matter.

#43 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2006, 06:06 PM:

Abi #42:

We all are flawed and never will perfect
the skill that Mike had, the noteworthy line;
we try our best and sometimes can affect
the poet or the scholar though not so fine
as he did with effortless skill and grace.
We joke and laugh and choke back all the tears,
it isn't fair and doesn't seem our place;
we wish that we had known him through the years
but know that time and chance had set the rules.
Now with the end of story comes the time
which we must recognise if we're not fools
to praise him who has vanished in his prime.
Across the gap of years and all those miles,
Somewhere I'm certain there's a ghost that smiles.

#44 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2006, 07:32 PM:

I got a response from the Pioneer Press reporter: (On a Saturday!)


I appreciate your criticisms. I do.

You should know that reporters don't write headlines, so the word "obscure" was not mine. (Copy editors, in the late hours, determine how many collumns wide a story is, and have to pick the size/number of words for a headline accordingly).

However, I don't know that I'd argue with the adjective. Or, as you say, take it as a sign of failure. Friends, editors, and other writers all commented that the "masses seldom read him," primarily because he didn't build any sort of brand for readers to identify him by. It was a frequent lament. Sci-fi fan boards (which I perused, prior to writing the article) were littered with comments along this vien: "he wrote THOSE? That was HIM? What a loss." But that was part of his charm: he followed his own ideals, and didn't chase fame. The tone of the piece, I had hoped, was to point out that perhaps he wasn't well known, but, like Van Gogh or Jack Kerouac, maybe he should have been when he was alive. We don't use the words "adored" and "laud" lightly when indicating his praise. You are right, about $13,000 came into the library fund. I believe Patrick put it best: Mike had a small, but very loyal and admiring following.

I should also point out that reader comments (the majority of our readers are not sci-fi fans) have been along the lines of "Wow. What an interesting guy." One of our best feature writers (again, not a sci-fi fan), came up to me after reading it and his first words were "ya gotta give him credit. He was his own man." Our editors thought so: that's why they put him on the front page (the highest honor they can give). We wouldn't put somebody on the front page that we didn't think was successful in some way.

Thanks again for the input. I'm sorry you saw the article as negative. It certainly wasn't intended to be.

I see his point. I'm glad that the responses have been so positive. And he is right about the front page placement.

#45 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2006, 08:26 AM:

I've just come over here from nemesis_draco, the LJ "community" for discussing Mike and the various projects in the wake of his death, where the link I posted to the Pioneer Press article has set off a small whinefest.

I agree with some of the eye-rolling. On the other hand, those of us with more than one or two experiences of seeing newspapers cover something we know about do get used to the fact that there will be errors. Newspaper stories are written in hours or, at most, a couple of days. There's a reason for the old saw about them being the "rough draft of history."

I was particularly put off by the person who demanded "Who told the press?" (Elise, Mike's significant other of the last dozen years. Is that good enough for you?) And by Marilee Layman, who sniped about the article quoting "no fans." Thanks. In the wake of several days working on this memorial and helping supply this reporter with information, what I really wanted more than anything else was another round of being defined out of fandom by my day job.

#46 ::: Cynthia ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2006, 09:02 AM:

For Patrick in #45

Aiding the grieving, especially while one is still grieving oneself, is one of the noblest and most selfless things one can do, and one of the most difficult.

As with all noble, selfless, difficult things, there will always be those who feel free to critique it. Sadly, I've been to many, many funerals in my life, and there are always the fault-finders, those who pick apart some aspect of the ceremony/coverage/floral arrangements. The sympathetic aspect of me says they do this because they're trying to avoid thinking about the loss and how upset they are. The pragmatic part of me says Fie on them, and advises you not to expend any energy upon it.

Both parts (and a variety of others) are thankful that you, and a community of others, were there to support Elise and honor the memory of a man who changed so many lives.

#47 ::: Dwight Williams ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2006, 09:21 AM:


Front page, for many such scribes,
down through the years in our tribes
to a one, they in time decide
to hope for farewells to swell their pride.

#48 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2006, 09:24 AM:

PNH #45: You and Teresa have done nobly and deserve the thanks of all of us. You certainly have mine.

#49 ::: Raven ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2006, 09:25 AM:

But Patrick, but Patrick, haven't we always seen the distinction between "fan" and "pro"?

And you're a "pro", so — just like Forry Ackerman and Wilson Tucker and John M. Ford himself — it follows as the night the day that thou canst not be a "fan".

Ummmm... maybe I should have saved this a couple of weeks, until the sting had faded, and you had reached the point of weary resignation that would let you smile faintly with something resembling gallows humor....

#50 ::: Raven ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2006, 09:30 AM:

(Above is my entry in "False Dichotomies" for 2006.)

#51 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2006, 09:35 AM:

Anger and frustration are a common part of the grieving process. Sometimes it gets directed at the dead - a very painful thing, but at least private to the griever.

Sometimes it comes out in interpersonal interactions, causing people to say things that they might not say otherwise, and hear more stings than were intended. It sounds like this is what happened.

Although I never knew Mike, and don't really know you, or Teresa, or Elise, I'm impressed at the effort that has gone into this weekend's gatherings, and pleased that fandom (pro and not) has such warmth.

Tread lightly, if you can, and take care of yourselves.

#52 ::: Harriet ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2006, 10:18 AM:

I do wish that the readers over there on LJ could all see Juli's letter to the Pioneer Press (#36 above) and especially the reporter's response to it (#44 above); seeing them certainly relieved some of my quibbles about the newspaper story. But I don't know if it would be appropriate for me to point them over this way.

#53 ::: Harriet ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2006, 10:25 AM:

As someone whose impression of the living Mike Ford was formed mostly through reading his comments here on Making Light, what I missed most of all in the Pioneer Press article was that sense of the quicksilver mind that was captured so well in Andrew Brown's column in The Guardian about the London memorial gathering, and THAT was written by someone who had direct experience of the living man.

It's interesting to read the Brown column again in the light of these discussions of Tad Vezner's piece and to see how the two articles differ in tone when discussing the same career -- perhaps it's true as Brown wrote that "The mixture of facility and faithfulness to tradition which distinguished him is much more common on this side of the Atlantic", perhaps that's why I came away from the British article with a more positive feeling about the life's work.

But the Pioneer Press story, considered as reportage of an event, surely gave me much the same impression of the service as I got from various LJ posts from folk in attendance, and as someone who couldn't be there in person I'm grateful for that.

#54 ::: pegkerr ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2006, 12:37 PM:

My account of the memorial service and wake afterwards is here.

#55 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2006, 02:03 PM:

Peg, that's a wonderfully complete account. I'm glad someone did that.

The song that Adam and Emma performed was "Madonna of the Midway", a quite remarkable lyric that goes boom! in my head every time.

#56 ::: PixelFish ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2006, 02:28 PM:

In an odd bit of synchronicity, one of my co-workers came up to me in the hall (Thursday) and began babbling about this GREAT! Star Trek novel he'd just read with all this amazing stuff with Klingons. I took a guess and said, "Mike Ford, right?" He stopped, looked puzzled, and said, "I can't quite remember the author's name. Ford sounds about right. The book was called The Reflection or something like that."

"The Final Reflection," I said. "By John M. Ford. You should read his other Trek novel too."

The irony of all this is: I didn't know myself until the day we got the news on Making Light that he had died. Til that day, he was this amazing virtuoso poster I read in the comments. And then I read all the wonderful things here, and read the outpourings of love, and everything, and then I spent the next couple of days rooting up posts and checking the shelves at my local bookstores and now my universe has expanded to place him where he belongs, and little weird things keep happening to cement this, like my co-worker telling me about The Final Reflection, or another friend telling me about the various GURPS modules he wrote. It's strangely comforting to me, even though I only knew him, as I said, through the posts on Making Light.

#57 ::: Raven ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2006, 02:59 PM:

Re #54, pegkerr:

A wonderful telling, Peg, and I drank it in greedily, because I so much wanted to go, and it just wasn't possible.

One quibble, which I'll put here since I couldn't comment there.

He had the backbone of a rigorous classical education — totally self-taught, mind you, since he dropped out of college probably because he was just ahead of everybody....
Actually, he dropped out to go to New York because da Godfadder made him an offer he couldn't refuse: help start Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine.

Would you, or I, or anyone else here, have refused an offer like that — if we'd had Mike's abilities?

#58 ::: Mac ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2006, 03:20 PM:

Those of you who knew Mike Ford have done a particularly marvelous job of commemorating him in such a gentle and humorous way that those of us who weren't lucky enough to know him feel the loss, as well. Thank you for sharing him with us.

#59 ::: Raven ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2006, 04:56 PM:

Revisiting pegkerr's comment   "He had the backbone of a rigorous classical education..."

How little anyone realized the extent of the truth in that remark.

As a small, almost unnoticeable in-joke, John M. Ford began his first published novel, Web of Angels, with a quote from Perkin Warbeck, a play by the English dramatist John Ford (whose dates are given as "1586 - c.1640?", note the question mark), "perhaps best known for the tragic play 'Tis Pity She's a Whore".

JMF himself wrote and performed in plays — How Much For Just the Planet? is a musical-comedy Star Trek novel, and Casting Fortune notably features the use of real magic in presenting stage plays.   The two John Fords clearly had common interests.

But the truth has inadvertently slipped out: the two were in fact the same person: John M. Ford himself is also the author of 'Tis Pity She's a Whore.   (If you don't believe me, click that link and see for yourself.)

So now the only question is... where will he show up next?

#60 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2006, 06:48 PM:

Geez, Patrick, that's not what I said. The article said the attending were authors, editors, and industry gurus. I commented on that by saying "No fans? Yeah, right." I probably should have put the article quote in quotes, but it was right at the beginning of the article and I figured other people would notice it.

#61 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2006, 07:09 PM:

Just a moment now -- where has he gone?
One of our very finest, a perfect gentleman
Honest, witty, second to none;
Now silenced, no longer bringing his elan.

Maybe. Maybe not -- as long as friends survive
I think he'll have a loving audience.
Living means helping others thrive,
Or doesn't have a tiny touch of sense.

For all the ways we played together, Mike,
Only the wonderful is worth the play.
Recall the soaring thoughts we'd like;
Deny the tiny bits we'd throw away.

Go well, fine man, and take some tiny part
Gently given, of our lesser heart.

(extemp, first draft, forgive)

#62 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2006, 07:34 PM:

The memorial service is over, and the wake, and the cleaning-up. It all went very well. My part in that was small. I'm grateful to everyone who made it happen.

Tonight I'm irrationally feeling like a failure, because the ceremonies of memorial service and wake didn't bring Mike back.

#63 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2006, 07:38 PM:

This is where Mike would quickly come up with an amusing, literate, and touching vignette in which he was brought back . . . to his great peevement.

I miss stuff like that.

#64 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2006, 08:01 PM:

Probably in the style A Buffy episode, perhaps? "Once More, with Peevement."

#65 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2006, 11:13 PM:

"Well, what you have to understand is ..."

#66 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2006, 01:33 AM:

*goes outside to bang his face on the peevement*

#67 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2006, 03:10 AM:

I just woke from a dream of Mike -- I still feel a bit awkward calling him that, since I only ever met him in public fora, where he signed himself "John M. Ford", but that's what everybody who really knew him called him -- anyway, the dream's fading now, but it had elements of "How Much for Just the Planet" and the episodes of Buffy where Joyce dies and Dawn tries to bring her back and the episode of Firefly I just watched on DVD, the one where Mal gets a coffin in the mail. Doesn't make a lot of sense now, but....

It wouldn't necessarily have been a good thing if the ritual had succeeded, Teresa, and you'd brought him back. But with Mike's involvement, I'm sure it would have been funny.

#68 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2006, 06:45 AM:

As Neil Gaiman said, we sould all absent ourselves from felicity awhile.

I wish I could have been there, or in London, or somewhere people I know, who better knew him, could have shared the wistful sense of loss I've got.

This place is sufficient for that, better than sufficient, in fact, because this is where I knew him.

Thanks to one and all.

#69 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2006, 09:53 AM:

Teresa, love, the Ritual was meant to send him across the river with all the wealth of love and laughter his friends could give him. It succeeded. The coin for his passage is solid gold.

#70 ::: Joe J. ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2006, 01:08 PM:

I didn't know Mike outside of this website, but whenever I read anything he wrote, I had a sense that I had experienced something marvelous. And, as I learn more about him, I feel more amazed at the marvel that he was.

He was a wonder of the world, and now the world is less wonderful with him gone. May he inspire us each to do our part to add some wonder back.


#71 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2006, 01:26 PM:

I never met Mike outside of this site either and so never felt comfortable calling him Mike. I never felt I had the right to that. Still, I did meet him on this site and that's why I'll never forget him.

#72 ::: Andrew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2006, 03:43 PM:

Harriet, that's sweet, but I never met him, though we did sometimes correspond. In any case, I learned this evening that the piece about him was the penultimate one of those columns. They just shot the worm.

#73 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2006, 06:32 PM:

Thank you all for the memorials and for sharing them with us who could not be there.

#74 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2006, 07:29 PM:

Oh, god, Beth, you speak true. And my tears come down like rain. I miss him so much, and I *will* miss him so much, but....

...but by all the gods that ever were, we did give him all the love and laughter we could. You're right. That coin really is solid gold.

I know he won't deny me my tears, though I expect that if he's looking, he wishes rather strongly that he could hold me. (And how's that for a sort of recursive bit of brain-weirdness of grief? He'd have something to say about it, I am sure.

Oh. Actually, I AM sure. Because he DID say something about it.

Thank you for reminding me. I have to go cry some more, but from a slightly different direction and viewpoint.

#75 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2006, 07:46 PM:

i went to powell's in portland (for the first time) this weekend. and, uh, spent half the money i'd just made selling comics at the comics fest. but, anyway.

i looked for john m. ford (i promised myself i'd read all his books, now that i can't get any new mike ford words from here), & the computer said they had the last hot time & both star trek books. i looked & looked in the stacks, & they were not there. i was apparently scooped, but recently. good for them, but i guess i better keep looking.

#76 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2006, 08:07 PM:

#75 miriam

You should have tried the UW bookstore in Seattle on your way back up. As of Oct 9, they had _Last Hot Time_, the 1997 collection, and _Heat of Fusion_. I didn't pick them up because I had just about run out of luggage space for the flight back to Austin, and have been regretting it ever since.

#77 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2006, 08:15 PM:


i did indeed stop in the u district on my way back up (it is slightly unsettling that you knew i lived north of seattle, & that i was driving. i still think of myself as a comparative lurker here. unless you're just psychic :)), but it was late late at night then. maybe i'll try that next time, thanks!

#78 ::: TexAnne does not gloat ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2006, 08:16 PM:

#75, #76: The Powells website lists a UK trade edition of _The Dragon Waiting_. It's $19.50, and I'm going to a con this weekend, so I won't be ordering it today. (I'm not mentioning the Fordian goodness I found there in August. Boasting is so unseemly.)

#79 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2006, 09:45 PM:

#77 miriam

No, I'm not psychic, I went to the link in your article header to see if you were likely to be in/from Seattle. I had driving on the brain since we did Seattle->Vancouver->Seattle by car on this trip.

#80 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2006, 09:56 PM:

So I spent Sunday re-reading _The Scholars of Night_ for the first time in at least 15 years. And not too far from the beginning is the scene at a memorial service where someone who did not know the deceased is somewhat perturbed by the behavior of the man's intimates.

You people are playing games? At a funeral?
Hansard said, "This isn't a funeral. It's a--memorial, for want of anything better to call it . . . if you'd known Dr. Berenson, you'd understand that there isn't any better way we could remember him. Most of us knew him through games. I met him over a gameboard, and half of what I learned from him, I learned there. We keep on playing because it keeps him alive."
[John M. Ford, _The Scholars of Night_ (Tor: 1988, pp. 48,49)]

Then I read some of the posts above this. Life imitates art.

#81 ::: Harriet ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2006, 11:25 PM:

Andrew Brown #72 - Damn! I'm sorry to hear about the end of the Worm.

And I gathered that you probably hadn't actually met Mr. Ford face to face, but corresponding with him and, I'd guess, reading the occasional Making Light topic with comments, did IMO give you a kind of first-generation experience of his mind, in a way that "as told to" info-gathering over a few hours just can't match.

#82 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2006, 11:37 PM:

In my mind's eye, I picture Mike Ford and Bob Tucker chatting while watching us, feeling a bit sorry that we're so sad, but relieved of their various miseries and infirmities (oh, and Fern is on Bob's arm...).

They were both smooooooth. (but no Beam's Choice, there has to be something better over there.)

#83 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 01:32 AM:

What a relief - and a pleasure - to see that obituary in the St. Paul Poineer Press. It's so rare to see someone from our side of the tracks treated with respect (I'm more used to seeing the sort of stuff Dave Langford quotes under 'as others see us') and knowledge (or at least the ability to listen and pay attention).

I particularly liked Patrick's "Most normal people had the slight sense that something large and super-intelligent and trans-human had sort of flown over"

I know some people weren't thrilled by the word 'obscure' in the headline, but really, that article's one hell of a sendoff!

Like many other people around here I've been on a John M. Ford readathon, and have finally got around to _How Much For Just The Planet_. I regret to say it just didn't click for me. I could see it was clever, but I didn't enjoy. I don't think I'm the farce type. As penance I will mail my copy to the first person who emails me to say they'll give it a good home.

But oh - _The Last Hot Time_. Nobody told me! I feel like I've found the lost original that inspired a wholegenre full of lesser immitations. A literate Doc Savage, with added elves - who'd have thought! It's been tried before, but he actually made it sit up and talk.

As for _Erase, Record, Play_ - what a fine piece of work. It was good to read it just when I'd been given the Folio Society _Midsummer Night's Dream_. I'm impressed with the extra tones he brought out in the play.

Sigh. On to _The Dragon Waiting_...

#84 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 03:46 AM:

> As penance I will mail my copy to the first person who emails me to say they'll give it a good home.

We have a home for our orphaned book.

#85 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 03:47 AM:

I'm left with the feeling that the St Paul Pioneer Press missed what made Mike for so many of us, which was the small things.

Perhaps his talents came out at the best in the work that seems to get sidelined today. Look at how few places there seem to be for short fiction.

And we who read Making Light got so much of that, perhaps individual pearls rather than the full necklace, but oh! how they glow!

#86 ::: Lisa Padol ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 08:38 AM:

I'm rereading Growing Up Weightless, fairly slowly. Maybe this time, I'll understand more of what's going on.

#87 ::: Adina ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 09:45 AM:

Re: #59, Raven

I asked Fictionwise to correct their listing. They say thanks for the heads-up.

#88 ::: Raven ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 02:57 PM:

Adina, they've made the correction — which means the link in my #59 no longer backs me up.

#89 ::: JBWoodford ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 05:10 PM:

#83, Steve Taylor:
got around to _How Much For Just The Planet_. I regret to say it just didn't click for me.

AFAIK, it was the only time he wrote himself into a story (as the stage manager, of course). Have you read his essay "Rules of Engagement?" He talks a bit in there about why _HMFJTP?_ didn't work for some people--most of the flak he got, though, was from serious Trekfen who didn't like the way that he gored some of the core assumptions of ST:TOS.


#90 ::: Raven ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 12:57 AM:

Following up JBWoodford's #89: "Rules of Engagement?" is in From the End of the Twentieth Century, but not online, AFAICT.

#91 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 02:20 AM:

Erase, Record, Play had unusual resonance for me becauseI once staged a performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream, with no props, (almost) all amateur actors and most of them reading from the scripts, in an empty field. It was completely magic. It was also performed on Midsummer Night, and in celebration of a wedding.... It was completely electric - had the audience rapt within a few minutes of starting - a very magic time.

So reading Erase, Record, Play, it felt uncannily as if it were written directly to me. Then there's that whole other dimension to it, which speaks uncannily to my present position as American, and thereby as patron of secret prisons and torture camps. A very unsettling piece.

#93 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2006, 08:09 AM:

My good friend & fellow sf lover emailed me the news of Nigel Kneale's demise a few hours back. It was not that many weeks ago that I was restraining myself from doing the Happy Dance on the way out of the shop, having picked up my special order of both sets of Quatermass DVDs, and had an extra-silly grin for the busdriver on the way home. (Since I'd never seen it, I watched the 4th, John Mills, series from 1979 first in a gulp over a weekend, not knowing what to expect, and was shaken & stunned.) I hope he knew that his work has been remembered, re-watched & appreciated.

#94 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2006, 08:27 AM:

[OT]We've just started Daylight Saving. You've just stopped it. My post above is timestamped sixteen hours earlier than the current warm, damp, dark Sydney night.[/OT]

#96 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2006, 10:46 AM:

Like Serge (@71), I hadn't felt I'd yet known John well enough to call him “Mike” (although I did pick up that he was so known to his friends). But appreciate meeting him here.

The past month, I've been going through the “Occasional Works” threads, and finding what I could at the local libraries. So far, I've read The Last Hot Time and Growing Up Weightless. The Dragon Waiting is in the system, but still checked out. I even read On Writing Science Fiction (The Editors Strike Back) [1981], because he was listed as one of the co-authors. I was also lucky enough to find a copy of The Final Reflection at a used book shop. I hope to add to this list.

#97 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2006, 11:29 AM:

Since I still tend to think in Locus time (two months ahead of actual date), the year-in-review look back at deaths in the field is nearly upon us. So many losses! For me, Mike and Octavia may have been the worst blows, though I knew neither personally, but everyone will have their own source of pain and regret. It's good to have some recourse, like the Day of the Dead, so we can also celebrate them as they live on in our memories.

#98 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2006, 12:14 PM:

Rob... You do know about Mike's spy novel, Scholars of Night, right?

#99 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2006, 12:18 PM:

Kneale is gone too? Maybe I should watch the movie version of Quatermass and the Pit tonight. Kind of like watching To Kill a Mockingbird when Gregory Peck passed away just before Father's Day in 2003.

#100 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2006, 07:38 PM:

JBWoodford (#89) wrote:

> Have you read his essay "Rules of Engagement?" He talks a bit in there about why _HMFJTP?_ didn't work for some people-

No - sounds good. I've had a look around the net and it doesn't seem to be online. The only source seems to be _From the end of the twentieth century_, which neither of my local library systems has. Might see what the State Library has...

> -most of the flak he got, though, was from serious Trekfen who didn't like the way that he gored some of the core assumptions of ST:TOS.

I like Trek, but not religiously, so I'm safe there.

#101 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2006, 08:52 PM:

Serge, I'd heard (read) of Scholars of Night (as in the list of books by John M. Ford), but didn't realize it was a spy novel. Appreciate the reminder to keep an eye on another section of the bookstore (beyond the SF & Fantasy).

#102 ::: Lisa Padol ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2006, 03:43 PM:

Got to page 74 or so of Growing Up Weightless. Thoughts:

1. Wolfe's praise is utterly accurate.
2. I know I'm missing something. I just know it.
3. If I were directing the movie, would it be too heavy handed to have the opening music be the same as what Albin conducts at the end?
4. Is it still in print? My assistant's kid is probably old enough for it, and I've been giving her pretty exclusively fantasy up till now.

#103 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2006, 05:16 PM:

I don't think Growing Up Weightless is still in print, but you can get it used online. ABEbooks is showing me copies in the $1-2 range (plus $3-4 shipping).

#104 ::: Spam deleted ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2008, 10:22 AM:

Spam from

#105 ::: Vicki spots comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2008, 10:53 AM:

The post above this has nothing to do with Mike or anything in this thread, it's spam.

#107 ::: David Goldfarb sees spam both new and old ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2014, 07:09 PM:

There's a financial spam posted today, and one from a week ago that never got deleted.

#108 ::: Cally Soukup Spots Spam at 106 ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2014, 12:17 PM:

There's still financial spam at message 106.

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