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March 6, 2007

Mike Ford: Occasional Works (Pt. Seven)
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 04:30 PM * 28 comments

Literal translation makes figurative translation possible, however crudely:

When three ways simmer down to two
A man who knows not what to do
Will not just laugh and stay between
But coldly sacrifice his queen.

A lady at the same divide
Who’s as resigned to take a side
Won’t curse the game, or snarl and fight,
But lose the pawn, and play the knight.

(Don’t expect an alternate version of Saucers.)

Open thread 60

Continue reading Mike Ford: Occasional Works (Part Seven)

First, the book was much too long for the price point we had in mind. Several of our interns agreed that whaling was nasty anyway, so removing that material was an obvious choice. The character “Queequeg” had a funny name, indicative of stereotyping, and was renamed “Q-Loc.” Nobody could figure out what the heck was going on in the chapter called “Forecastle, Midnight,” so we replaced it with an attack by Pel-Troon battlecruisers, part of trying to fit the yarn into the Tough Guys in Bad Boats metaverse. The Captain’s bionic limbs reinforce this unity, and allowed us to include a guest appearance by Skunky Fazool, the lovably shady cross-time trader who is one of the most beloved characters in TGiBB. (I’m finishing up Skunky’s next full-length adventure, and should have it posted in a week.) We believe, however, that this splendid novel is still Emily Brontë’s Moby-Dick, or, Rage of the Krill, and under that title we have proudly reissued it.

Sandy: Yes, that’s the umpty-ninth version of “She,” with Sandahl, dancing killer mutants, and gay werewolves.

It’s not actually an adaptation of “She” — more like a gang of fourteen-year-olds with access to a large pile of crap genre DVDs and a costume trunk went out into the desert carrying a camcorder and several cases of Whizzo Beer as sustenance and inspiration. (Haggard’s novel has been more-or-less adapted at least ten times, several times in the silent era. The most fun is probably the 1935 Irving Pichel version, with great Art Deco Lost World sets, Helen Gahagan as She Who Must Slap Nixon Upside His Stoopid Head, Nigel Bruce as Hunter Holly, and Randolph Scott looking confused.)

If there’s a cat named Sackbut around, you obviously need a dog named Crumhorn. Or possibly Hautboy.

Or Psaltery, though the dog might get rude comments from his friends.

“‘Arf?’ This canis goofus’s named Psaltery, and all you can say is ‘Arf’? Who was chasing sticks during obedience school, then?”

The Naming of Dogs is a hard algorithm,
It isn’t the sport one pretends it to be;
For canine cognomens and all that go with ‘em
Do not come as singletons; there must be three.

First of all, there’s the name that’s inscribed on the collar,
Such as Bruno, or Asta, or Rinty, or Spike,
Such as Toto, or Spot — look, I’m sure that you foller,
All of them names that are very dog-like.

There are fancier things to engrave on the pendant,
The Terhunish monickers, raffish and gay:
Such as Darbyshire, Fardels, perhaps Co-defendant —
The stuff that your dog will be glad he can’t say.

But I tell you, a dog needs a name that’s generic,
A name that is shared across doggiedom’s lines,
For the discourse of dogs falls quite short of etheric,
It’s yelping, and snarling, and sniffing behinds.

Of names of this kind, I can ladle a bowlful,
Such as Barker, Droolbucket, and Bumponnalog,
Such as Fleabitten, Mangy, and Stop Looking Soulful,
Names that all know mean the subject’s a dog.

But there’s one name more, for why should we be frugal?
For words, as all writers will tell you, are cheap;
The name you can’t ask for, or wiretap, or Google,
Because the dog knows it,, and boy, is it deep.

When you notice your puppy has eaten your wallet,
You must be aware of the root of the plot:
He’s thinking quite hard of his whatchamacallit,
Of the bark that is worse than the bite he has got:
His ceteris paribus
Name all his own, that he’s long since forgot.

{Max Bialystock wants to take this to Broadway, as soon as we can work out a few quality considerations.]

Roomba costumes

Since the Roomba needs to go under furniture (if it doesn’t, it comes to believe that it is failing in its task and becomes despondent) either you would need very high furniture or a very short Dalek suit. Though if you could get the deadly plunger to work, it would be a Boon to Mankind, when it wasn’t trying to conquer the universe.

The Short Squat Dalek’s* voice chip would of course contain such phrases as “We represent the Exterminating Guild,” “One more jelly baby and I hurl,” and “Oh [bleep,] stairs again.”

One would think there would be a ladybug costume for the critter. One of the Martian war machines from the Gene Barry movie (possibly with a waggling heatray arm) would also be dandy, especially with green LED wingtip lights.

Roomba: because your cat doesn’t vacuum.

*Not, so far as I know, a children’s book, I’m not sure why not, though. Like The Velveteen Shoggoth.

I would Google on “hot Roomba on Dyson action,” but I might find something.
Roomba — vacuums floors
Scooba — washes floors
Loomba — reweaves carpeting
Doomba — eats dropped rings and other jewelry
Voomba — cleans everything really fast, but requires a Cat in a Hat
Looba — cleans bathrooms
Grooba — creates mass havoc among other furniture
Mooba — milks cows
Rooba — carries a small version itself in a pouch
Pooba — cleans up after Fido
Poo-Bah — sings Gilbert & Sullivan while trying to intimidate the rug
Doobieba — hides your stash

Earth Creatures Put One Right Past Martian Defense Force

Panic was felt across the dry red sands today as a Terrestrial telescope arrived safely in Martian orbit. “And we’d been doing so well, too,” said an MDF Commander who declined to be named. “I blame, well, lots of things, and expect a highly acrimonious round of thing-blaming at all levels of government. This makes me so mad. I mean, that thing can resolve down to half a prashnit [about thirty cm], and I need a clean uniform! Now, of course, our equipment is much more sophisticated, but due to, well, funding cuts and bunnies and things, we haven’t actually got any of it in Earth orbit at the moment.”

The MRO should start sending back high-resolution images in November, and is expected to operate for at least two years, and possibly longer. No word yet on when it’s going to start blogging.

As the saying goes, watch this space.

The green dog was (and is) indeed K-9. Recall that he first appeared in 1949, a long time before even William Hartnell got into space-time.

“I say, Jeeves, this is a deuced odd police-wossname.”
“Indeed so, sir.”
“All very shiny. And modern, in a how d’you say, modernist sort of way. I haven’t blundered into Angel Station by mistake, have I?”
“I think it unlikely, sir.”

That K-9 turns up in “K-9 Caddy,” a Duck Dodgers TV episode in which Marvin … uh, I mean Commander X-2 is trying to play golf around the Martian versions of the Goofy Gophers (who are green and have four arms, like, you know, small furry Tharks.)

The perfect uselessness of Warren Whitlock

“This is a side of Schtupperware I never imagined.”

“Oh, be honest, Sue Ann.”

“Well, you’re right. This is a side of Schtupperware I imagined a whole lot.”

sex toys, Mormons, bad art, spam and wit

There is, as many of the local crowd will already know, a secondary sexual meaning of “wit.” But then, we’re so weird about the subject that the whole [insert Anglo-Saxon verb here] language has secondary sexual meanings. And who, these days, can hear the word “coulter” without thinking of the Wife of Bath?

What I want to do is find a ’50s, Saarinen-style high-modern church for sale, buy it […]

The old TWA terminal at JFK (which is now inadequate for major carriers — the last time I looked, was being used by JetBlue, meaning it may well be available soon) might do nicely; it’s more than “Saarinen-style,” is accessible by subway/Airtrain, limo, and of course international flight. The sect’s tenets could include something about “preparing for a journey” — most of them do anyway — and anybody would be invited to stop in before departure or after arrival to say something nicely propitiative to the Relevant Spirit. A duty-free shop could sell Thoughtful Items for the Worshipful Traveler, like imprinted garments reading “The Spirit of the Open Way Protected My [insert here] from Hazard, and All I Got Was this Blessed T-Shirt” (tote bag, prayer shawl, inflatable neck pillow), and of course, “got wings?”

Open thread 61

The idea of an “endochronologist” is pretty swell, from a science-fictional standpoint — someone who looks after your internal time. Would be applicable to time travelers and people who do a lot of relativistic spaceflight, though in the latter case the patient would probably outlive a whole series of doctors.

Re punctured tympanic membranes: the Merck notes that in cases where the eardrum is left to close on its own, if it hasn’t done so within two months, it’s time to consider surgical repair.

The “Civil War Cavalry-style hat” is often known as a “Hardee hat,” (though it is technically a variation thereof) and also as the “Jeff Davis hat,” because it was approved for use by the United States Cavalry by the US Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis … who went on to do other things of some note, and was definitely a man who knew how to dress. (Extremely off-trail period joke.)

— From the monograph If You’re Gonna Stick Your Head Out and Get It Shot At, You Might as Well Look Good Doing It: A History of Military Headgear from Ancient Times to the Cygnus-Carina Arm Campaign (forthcoming)

… our local grocers sometimes have Meat Wars …

“I find your lack of filet … disturbing.

Obviously a novel by a dilettante, as Zeppelins of Phobos would by signification be an alternate-history novel, not sciencelike fictionism. Tech period would be somewhere between Victorian and Edwardian brasstech,* probably with pre-WWI imperial politics. Lowell grass** a distinct possibility.

Plot must involve airship assault on something, somewhere, probably to include aero-infantry wearing personal gasbag/hang glider combinations, and of course leather helmets with goggles, armed with rapid-fire small arms (product of Vickers or Krupp, depending). No trenches; battle is fast-moving and fun for everybody who doesn’t die.

Names for Martian cities chosen for easy national identification: Tombstone, New Grinstead, Ploetzlich bei Stumpf, Novaya Ladoga.

Book concludes with Romantic Couple standing in cover-painting pose as moons hurtle like all get-out and full Earth hangs large enough in sky to create Roche limit problems, while discussing future of Mars (promise to rebuild Olympus City sealed with handholding).

Pulp is like Legos. You can build really swell things out of it. Or not.

*The shiny fittings and decorative plumbing of steam with the operating qualities of internal combustion, i.e., none of the cantakerous complexity of actual steam power.

** Plant, genetically engineered by Old Martians or Upstart Humans, intended to concentrate water and drip it on Martian soil, releasing bound oxygen, meaning that martiforming is in progress and people can do without helmets (impediments to kissing) in low-lying areas. Traditionally planted along lines of canali.

Happy birthday

Sorry I’m late; the day turned rather busy. Circumstances beyond, oo-er, oo-er yeah, ting tang yadda yadda bing bang.

Today we mark a demi-century
Nativity, on just the cusp of spring,
It’s time to rhyme on she who’s known as t,
Editor, hostess, friend — that sort of thing
Light in the making, light on which to dine,
Slogging through slush for diamonds in the smoke
Exploring how the mind-yarns intertwine,
Never too proud to topple at a joke;
Holding on to the stuff that does endure,
And living on the faith that hope increases,
Yearning for better nations to mature
Dissenting in the way of editrices.
Enough already. She’s not finished yet;
No change in our affection. Mark it stet.

Open thread 62

Fry does not narrate those movies

Of course you are correct; I had gone back and found a credit for “narrator” on imdb, and as I’ve only seen the pictures in bits and pieces on cable, brought it over without context. Always Follow the Link.

They would probably be better films if he did narrate them, but then, I might actually be able to sit through the entirety of a version of “Mission: Impossible 2” with voice-overs by Fry and Laurie as two British Intelligence chaps trying to interpret the events for Tony Blair —

Fry: “No, sir, MI5 no longer suggests that our agents chat up the ladyfriends of international villains.”
Laurie: “Not after Christine Keeler. Oh, of course you recall, sir. The lady who wanted your autograph at the Party conference. For, ah, certain values of ‘autograph.’”
Fry: “The lady the Shadow Minister for Deniable Acts referred to as ‘Popsy One,’ Prime Minister.”
Laurie: “As for this part of the operation, sir, you will recall that our agents are still licenced to kill — well, yes, they still lie and cheat and steal, that’s true, but since Mr Reagan it’s no longer required licences for that — but they now have to fill out much more detailed expense-account forms. It would seem that the Americans have a broader charter in that regard.”

At any rate, apologies all round.


Their tacos are a wee bit more expensive than the ubiquitous Taco Bell and made with better, more careful ingredients.

The concept of “less careful” ingredients than Taco Bell would make a swell Guillermo del Toro movie*, but I don’t think you’d wanna eat there. Even with really, really cheap longnecks.**

*”Hellboy II: Gehenna Drive-Thru” or “Mimic 4: That’s Not Chicken.” (And yes, there were two sequels to Mimic, though del Toro didn’t do either of them.)

**Spanish for “light beer:” Cerveza de vaca.


After a little bit of hunting: what we’d think of as a mass-produced book was priced around two shillings at the end of the 19th C, though this was generallly discounted by about 25%. So, a shilling and a half for a new edition. It’s obvious that two hundred times that isn’t a reasonable price for Dracula, which (though the details of the first edition are vague) was a popularly priced book.

There are tantalizing references to a suggestion (some attribute it to Henry Irving) that Stoker make the work available for free “downwire” on the electrical telegraph, both saving on postal costs and increasing demand through word of mouth, but these seem to have come to nothing.

(Is it still before midnight? Good.)


There’s a curious website called “How Much is That Worth Today” that does English currency conversions from the 13th century forward. It says that two shillings (one-tenth of a pound then) in 1897 comes out as seven pounds 56p in contempoary money. A mulitple of 75 seems about right — remembering that, even in a money-based (rather than a barter-based) economy, the things one can buy, for any price, have changed a great deal.

Looking at abebooks indicates that first British (Constable, 1897) editions of Drac start at about US$7000, and go up based on the usual variables (the top price was $25k, but it’s inscribed by Stoker to Ellen Terry). First US editions (Doubleday, ‘99) seem to start at about $4k. In 1960 (before devaluation) eleven pounds was US$55, and I doubt very much that you could have gotten a first edition for that; the book was by no means obscure then, and was certainly collectible. (The Antiquarian Bookseller’s Association listing for the inscribed one describes it as “rare,” but that is a word with a great deal of slack in its couplers.)

Before the war, a servant who lived in the master’s digs made a pound a week (cf. Allingham, re Lugg). My guess is that, at that time, long before Antiques Roadshow, it might have been possible to find a First copy for twenty pounds or thereabouts. Unless you looked like a rich American collector who kept an autographed picture of Bela Lugosi in his bedroom, in which case the price would have gone ballistic faster than you could say “Good eeevening.”


Oh, financial. The smarter vampires (and you don’t live for a century-plus if you aren’t paying some attention) have been taking advantage of compound interest, well, probably as long as it’s been around. The fact that, at least in some legal interpretations, a corporation is a person that lives forever, ought to inspire some sort of Creepy Thoughts.

Remember that, once upon a time, the Catholic Church was be really hostile to interest-bearing accounts — “wealth is sterile” and all that. Who really suggested that they change? There’s probably a good short Fark Dantasy story in that, though I’m not sure I want to be remembered for creating EconoGothick. Now, where the heck is my copy of Raymond de Roover?

(And no, there are no plans to build a sequel to Dragon called something like Night on the Rialto.


I imagine Christopher Lee as the creepy CEO.

In Lee’s last time out as Dracula (“The Satanic Rites of Dracula,” Though It Has Many Names), Dracula has a “secret identity” as a reclusive millionaire, vaguely inspired by Howard Hughes. He’s barely in the picture, and (as it postulates that vampires don’t appear on video as well as in mirrors and photographs) there are scenes that he’s only in part of the time. This is actually kind of amusing, and while the picture’s not very good, it’s not as bad as “Dracula AD 1972.” But then, few movies are. And there’s a pretty fair confrontation between Lee and Peter Cushing (playing a van Helsing descendant, naturally) in what passed for a modern office in 1974, that’s nicely low-key, and, well, has two very good actors in it.

The unfortunate part is that Evil CEOs are no longer very interesting, if indeed they ever were. I suppose you could make a farce about Enron or Halliburton being run by vampires (“Look, I want Cheez-Its, Famous Amos, and blood in the breakroom. And red napkins. Who do I have to fire to get red [bleep]ing napkins?”) but we’re talking about an SNL sketch.

Speaking as a guy who was kept alive for three decades on the body fluids of dead animals, and is now kept alive on the body fluids of human beings (though they are peed out by mutant E. Coli), I can assure you that vampirism is waaaay overrated as a lifestyle choice, not to mention a romantic metaphor.


$5.00 US = 1 [pound symbol goes here*] UK, for values of “a long time ago” more than about 20 years.

A bit longer than that. There’s been a fairly constant decline in the pound’s value from 1930 (which is not to say that the dollar hasn’t dropped as well). The 1967 devaluation was from $2.80, which had been stable for a couple of decades, to $2.40. When I was in England twenty-two years ago, it was hovering near the dreaded parity (some of my card bills cleared at $1.03 to the pound), though it’s of course come back considerably, both because of pound recovery and dollar weakness.

You start out talking about Econogothick and it just won’t let go.


I’m a nominee for the G. O. P.
But if, baby, I’m the bottom, you’re the top!
— Cole Porter, 1934

As will be clear from context, this is not a song of praise for the party.

And yes, I was going to write a parody verse (“You’re a fraud/You’re a crashing market/And your God/Meets the Godwin target”), joining a seventy-year tradition, as often off-color as on (King Kong’s what?), but, as the Professor Emeritus of the Satiric Lyric put it,

Don’t say that he’s hypocritical;
Say rather that he’s apolitical.


Well, I shouldn’t have said anything about song parodies. Maestro, da capo:

Ja, wir haben kein Bananen
Unter den Bananenbaum,
Schreib’ sein Antwort in die Spannen,
Auf der Seite gibt’s kein Raum.
Hier Bananen sind betrunken
Wie von Foster anbesicht,
Bring die Freude, bring das Funken
Ach, Bananen sieht man nicht.

Yes, I’m sorry already.

The life and times of young Porco Bruno

It is obvious to me that he once got into a knock-down-drag-out fight with a cocky young American hamster who one day hoped to be a film star. (The other hamster did achieve some success, and was to play Templeton in Werner Herzog’s sadly aborted version of “Charlotte’s Web,” but that’s another story.)

I doubt Porco will speak of this, and I, as the saying goes, had the story from one with no business to tell it. It may, some time after those involved have gone to turn the wheels of a better world, be fictionalized as Wir Hamstern Geheimnisse (UK title, Hamsters at the Gates of Dawn, US title My Gun Has Fur).


Are all Tor interns named Torie? If not, they should be.

“Torie 7*, Torie 9 is trapped on the 6 train between Hell’s Gate and Highpockets. She’s down to a life-or-death choice between using her phone battery for a sales conference or Warcraft Online. It’s the bottom of the ninth with long yardage. You and Torie 14a are going to have to photocopy like your lives depended on it, because they do.”

“Isn’t this a job for Torie 22bis?”

“Torie 22bis and Torie 34.7 are still bleeding from the Cheney memoir, and Torie 4 MkII Mod 3 just threw a Naturalizer in the third furlong. We needya, Miz Doe.”

“I am not a Torie! I am an unlisted number!”

“I hate this! I feel like a character in 1984! One of the rats, in fact!”

“You think that’s bad … I’m starting to feel like one of the troopers in Zulu.”

“Oh, well, if it’s a war of numerical references you want …”

[Slowly rising cries of havoc]

*All numbers are ficticious.

Open thread 63

teresa: Thank you. Do note that this is in fact the Lang/Ford Joint Birthday Celebration, so save a glass of whatever you’re celebrating with for the Ansible editor. The day also belongs to Joe Pulitzer, Bad Vlad Ulyanov, and Omar Sharif. (We were all supposed to be in “Lawrence of Arabia,” but David Lean said something about “Super Panavision’s not that by-our-lady wide,” and the rest is history.)

Laurence: spit-turning dogs go a long way back — about as long as spit-roasted meat in indoor hearths does. At the time, there wasn’t a particular breed selected for it, though I suspect a short-haired dog with a long attention span was desirable. (A really big manor-house fireplace would need more power, and had spit-boys for the purpose; you can watch Tony Robinson enduring the process in The Worst Jobs in History.)


Well, I’m ok with caché as a pronunciation if you mean the social accolade transfer thingy

Which word is spelled “cachet.”

Though the idea of designer CPUs with “two full meg of cachet” is something I’m surprised hasn’t occurred to somebody in marketing. Maybe it has, but the geeks asked to come up with an implementation wiped all his personalware, put a “possession of four tons of pseudoephedrine” flag on his record, and then let events follow like virtual dominoes.


“Banded or splint mail” — Everything I know about this I learned from Dungeons & Dragons.

(Though in the Great Long Ago of role-playing, I devised a suit of armor that was quite effective against bladed weapons, but messed the wearer up badly when struck by a blunt instrument. It was known, naturally, as Fourth Class Mail.)


From the Particle:

Men about to play a financial game were shown images of sexy women or lingerie.

Ah yes, Hentai Monopoly, the DVD Edition. The game where choosing the dog playing piece says more about you than perhaps your friends wanted to know.


You people have no inkling of the facts.
You people just don’t see the situation.
You people sit alone and grind an ax.
You people start and bring your own damn nation.
You people sleep with partners made of straw.
You people’d unconvert old Johnny Knox.
You people sturmed the drang off Godwin’s Law.
You people, get your hands out of your socks.
You people, by the merest act of saying,
“You people,” spin the prop atop your beanie;
“You people” is your one-string banjo playing,
“You people” goes da capo senza fine.
Here sits a church, the browser is its steeple:
Open the tab, and see the typing people.


Link to Photoshopped image of SS. Barbara, Margaret of Antioch, and Catherine of Alexandria as The Supremes (w/Queen o’Sheba as D. Ross), found by application of search engine technology that may violate unpublished DHS regulation carrying severe criminal penalties. Link slashdotted, multiply mirrored, and then implodes.


Abrupt turn into a discussion of filter funnels, their (mostly improvisational) uses and where located in various kitchens, pantries, garages, etc. Subthread collapses shortly after a wistful but vain request for a downloadable video of Filters of Tomorrow, a 1956 promotional short whose SF content was not limited to the presence of Al “Captain Video” Hodge as Osmosis Master.


Five posters, three citing Snopes, insist that “Filters of Tomorrow” never existed, while a sixth claims it was written by Isaac Asimov.

Dumbest of the Twenty Worst

Oooohhhhhh, now I know what the M. stands for.

Well, you probably don’t, yet. It’s “Milo.”

“Dictionopolis was at war with Digitopolis. Dictionopolis had always been at war with Digitopolis.”


The Asian Bird Flu Disaster
(after Julia Moore, with squeaky shoes on)

O what is that cackling, so mournful, so sad?
O what is that noise from the coops?
The birdies are coughing, they feel mighty bad,
So they speak, though they cannot say “oops.”

An unpleasant scourge has flown out of the East,
Like the Great Khan’s bold ponies all creeping;
It has laid low the poultry, and many a beast,
Now it comes where our people are sleeping.

‘Tis a pestilence vile, ‘tis a type of disease
And it strikes, as some do, without warning;
And Science looks wan, and says “Take two of these,”
“And call if you live in the morning.”

O what’s its beginning, this terrible thing,
O what is the force that could do it?
It might be from Shanghai, or far-off Beijing,
Or “Peking,” as we formerly knew it.

The chickens and geese come to shadow your town
With a fell and unspeakable clucking
They are sneezing and pale, they are eastbound and down,
They are loaded and Interstate trucking.

No, that was a mistake. You can’t do this kind of thing deliberately.


It would be my assumption that the “editorial service” is a false front (or, more precisely, a slightly different sort of false front) — the marks read that Actual Famous Editors are signing up to have stuff written to order, and with this “guaranteed market,” write stuff to order.* They are no doubt paying at every stage of the process: for the advice on what to write, the “editorial work” to gild the refined pyrite, and then the agenting. And then probably a subsidy publishing “sale,” in what those of us who read David Maurer at an impressionable age call “cooling out the mark.”

This is, of course, merely a hypothetical construction, though the data point that no editor with a line to fill, no matter how desperate (or how cacopulpulous the subject) would buy books this way nudges it in the direction of theory.

*Sample Outline:
1. Spin the Wheel O’Genres.
2. Hero gets in trouble.
3. Trouble gets worse.
4. Heroine shows up.
5. Haben Sie gehört das Rising Action?
6. Mit ze bang.
7. Mit ze boom.
8. Mit ze bang bang boom boom bang.
9. Heroine sighs (or, if you spun “Romance,” sighs deeply).
10. Trouble gets really bad.
11. No, worse than that. Send money order for $500 to find out how bad.
12. Happy Ending (or, if you spun “Novel of Grim Irony,” Not-Happy Ending).


I note in passing that The Stuffed Owl,* edited by D. B. Wyndham Lewis and Charles Lee, is once again in print. McGonagall is unfortunately not present, though Juli/a Moore is, along with Bill Nye’s encomium,** as well as some people, like Wordsworth and Poe, who did have their off days —

While ever does the dear Eulalie raise violet eyes and blink,
While ever does the dear Eulalie — G-d, I need a drink.***

And on Longfellow’s Excelsior, the editors offer a pertinent observation:

[We] would merely point out, before passing on, that the poet’s suggestion that village maidens in Switzerland are in the habit of inviting complete strangers in to lay their heads on their virgin breasts has been strongly censured by many who consider it an unwarrantable slur on a British Dependency.

*”It ought to be in every home.” —Vita Sackville-West, whose taste may be considered irreproachable.

**The Humor Guy of a century-plus ago, not the Science Guy. “Julia is worse than a Gatling gun; I have counted twenty-one killed, and nine wounded, in the small volume she has given the public.”

***Periphrasis is Your Phriend.


Operating by the rules of Necessary Plot Components, that would presumably have to be Brokeback Volcano. Though Gojira vs. Capote has solid Oscar(tm) potential.

Recall, however, that the Wheel O’Genres does not deal with fine subdivisions; it is a novice’s instrument, less refined than that well-established indicator of romantic content, the cover painting’s location of the Hero’s fingers on* the Heroine’s anatomy.

*If they are not On, the book is not Romance (unless they are fondling her reticule,** in which case we have a Highwayman story, or other scritti banditti). If they are In, it is Erotica, unless it is Sci-Fi about android maintenance, or a medical-examiner procedural. (Note that medical-examiner romances, or “Habeas corpus” novels, occupy a pinkish-gray and spongiform area outside our current discussion.)

**Reticular fondling in the more technical sense occurs about two-thirds of the way through Fantastic Voyage.


Well, my Stuffed Owl is ready to hand, for reasons less unfathomable than usual, and it notes that the peom(1) on the Invalid Gipsy is by “Author Unknown.” (It’s not actually given a title, and is in the “Hors-D’Oeuvre” section of excerpts. It’s probably one of the bits the editors mention being sent by thoughtful admirers between the First and Second Editions.)

In the interests of Science, here’s another offering from the book:

The Birth of KNO3
Hence orient Nitre owes its sparkling birth,
And with prismatic crystals gems the earth,
O’er tottering domes the filmy foliage crawls,
Or frosts with branching plumes the mold’ring walls,
As woos(2) Azotic Gas the virgin Air,
And veils in crimson clouds the yielding fair.

It’s by Erasmus Darwin, who wrote numerous odes to the Natural World.

(1)stet, he said irrelevantly.
(2)See note 1.

Comments on Mike Ford: Occasional Works (Pt. Seven):
#1 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2007, 04:41 PM:

Sigh. Makes me miss him all over again, especially the bits abount Brontë's Moby Dick and Zeppelins of Phobos...

#2 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2007, 05:00 PM:

I miss that man.

(Or, on preview, what Serge said: "Sigh.")

#3 ::: Marcos ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2007, 05:00 PM:

Oh. My. Goodness.

Out of all that shining brilliance, it is somewhat disturbing that what stands out for me is "The Naming of Dogs", which is a bit fluffier than Mike's other works, but an amazing piece of doggerel (ahem) nonetheless.

This is why we miss this man...

#4 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2007, 06:08 PM:

I smiled. I laughed. I cried when I remembered that no more such works will come from him.

#5 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2007, 06:51 PM:

Did he at least get to see the first levitating Dalek?

Marcos, "The Naming Of The Dogs" did it for me, too. I couldn't believe what I was reading.

#6 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2007, 07:13 PM:

"Naming of the Dogs" got to me (reminded me of one I lived with who wanted to be a show dog, but could never quite live up to his registered name), but I fell apart at Velveteen Shoggoth. I almost snorted my soup.

#7 ::: DarthParadox ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2007, 07:54 PM:

Wow. I had actually never heard of the man until I saw obituaries spring up all over the Internet last year, and I miss him. I'm going to have to go back and find parts 1 through 6 now (having only started reading Making Light within the past month)...

#8 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2007, 08:38 PM:

I am deeply saddened. I have heard Mike Ford's name before, but knew only very vaguely of him or his work. In the last hour or so I've been following some of the links on Making Light and elsewhere, reading his poetry and his postings, and I wish that I had learned more about him long ago, so I could have had more time to savor it while he was still with us. My congratulations to those who knew him; you were clearly blessed.

#9 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2007, 10:51 PM:

I never met him, never knew him other than via his books and ML, but I really miss him.

#10 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2007, 01:05 AM:

The thing that continues to amaze me is that he thought that stuff up on the fly and typed it into a comment box (well, maybe he typed it into Notepad and pasted, but still...).

The sheer speed with which that man came up with such brilliant rhyme and enchanting foolishness is something to be treasured.

#11 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2007, 01:59 AM:

More wonderful stuff: thanks. Wish he was here.

It was only a few days ago that the statute of limitations allowed me to add my SFX magazine column about Mike to the website. One can't say much in the allowed space, but adding links to 110 Stories and the ML anthology threads helps a lot....

Do I remember a posting here about plans to publish the Wodehouse/Tolkien silliness that he circulated with filename MIRKWODE?

#12 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2007, 11:11 AM:
Do I remember a posting here about plans to publish the Wodehouse/Tolkien silliness that he circulated with filename MIRKWODE?
It has been rumored that Dreamhaven Books was planning to do it as a chapbook, but I don't know if that is still true (I expect the plan is on hold, at least).
#13 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2007, 11:29 AM:

Like everyone else here, I'm both laughing and missing him all over again. Incomparable!

#14 ::: fr richard ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2007, 11:37 AM:

Hello Carrie and Rob:

Thank you for respondng to my post. I don't know if you'll see this one, but I still can't quite figure out to get in on the conversation and make a post on a current thread. Can you help me a bit? Be VERY specific; I'm old. (47) Thanks again. This is a facinating conversation.

Fr Richard

#15 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2007, 11:43 AM:

Fr. Richard: Just the way you did this one. Go down to the bottom of the thread you want to comment on, and leave your comment.

#16 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2007, 11:45 AM:

Fr. Richard (14): I still can't quite figure out to get in on the conversation and make a post on a current thread.

You just did. :)

To be more specific: go to Making Light's front page,, click on one of the posts to read it and its comments, scroll all the way down to the bottom to comment.


#17 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2007, 11:56 AM:

Even easier, scroll up to the top of the page, and on the left, a little way down, you'll see

Go to Making Light's front page.

It's a link. Click on it. And welcome to Teresa's vine-decked terrace. Just watch out for the dinosaurs.

#18 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2007, 12:11 PM:

Oh, Mr. Ford, you beloved silly man. (Yeah, I still talk to him. Probably always will.)

There should probably be a gathering on April 10 this year, or possibly several gatherings. He would have been fifty. I'll give something to the Book Endowment Fund in honor of the day.

Reading his work is a comfort.

#19 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2007, 12:47 PM:

re: The Fellowship of the Woosters:

It has been rumored that Dreamhaven Books was planning to do it as a chapbook, but I don't know if that is still true (I expect the plan is on hold, at least).

To be precise, when Ford read from it at last year's Boskone, he stated that it would be published as a chapbook by Dreamhaven. However, I don't if contracts had already been signed, etc., etc.

#20 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2007, 02:45 PM:

PJ Evans #17: And sodomy.

#21 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2007, 02:48 PM:

Fragano @ 20

I thought of it. And decided not to go there.

#22 ::: Nina Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2007, 02:50 PM:

Dave @ 11 Thanks for the link-i hadn't read that.

#23 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2007, 04:26 PM:

Fragano @20
Not yet with that. He's new.

#24 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2007, 05:26 PM:

P J Evans #21 & Abi #23: OK. OK.

#25 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2007, 11:09 PM:

For the newbies: what it is about dinosaurs and sodomy on this blog.

#26 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2007, 02:32 AM:

Really, what do you expect from a couple of guys from Philadelphia except dinosaurs and sodomy?

Bruce from Philly

#27 ::: vee ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2007, 04:19 AM:

Dave @ 11--Thank you for posting the piece and for linking the previous "Occasional Works" entries. And as always, thank you, Mr. MacDonald, for putting it all together.

To the dinoslash commenters: I started reading the comments around then, and it never fails to elicit a "hee!" when it comes up.

(Previously, the idea of reading three figures worth of comments was too daunting...but now I've lurked on the thread that hit four figs, so....)

#28 ::: Ken Burnside ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2007, 07:21 PM:

Jim, I've been gathering up Mike Ford's posts from the gaming industry, some dating back to 1999 or so, and am collecting permission from those quoted to be included.

When I gather them all up, could they be packaged into this series?



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