Ford, John M
Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.
(1957-2006) US author, author of some children's fiction under an unrevealed pseudonym, and of some work as by Milo Dennison (a House Name despite the use of Ford's own middle name) and as by Michael J Dodge. He was involved in Fandom from an early age, beginning to publish sf under his own name with "This, Too, We Reconcile" in Analog for May 1976. His Alternities Corporation sequence appeared in magazines 1979-1981. His first novel, Web of Angels (1980), can be seen in retrospect as a quite remarkable rendering of the basic venues exploited by Cyberpunk some years later, though its traditional rite-of-passage plot bears little resemblance to the quest-for-Nirvana structure given definitive form by William Gibson in Neuromancer (1984). Beyond that basic distinction in dynamic thrust, however, and beyond Ford's failure (or disinclination) to make use of film-noir icons and the hegemony of corporate Japan, the eponymous communication/data web much resembles Cyberspace, though intergalactic in scope; the cowboy hacker protagonist hired out to a merchant prince is also familiar, as are the Web's automatic defence systems – Geisthounds – which hunt him remorselessly.
Ford's second novel, The Princes of the Air (1982), is a florid Space Opera whose detail is more enthralling than its span. The Dragon Waiting: A Masque of History (1983) is an Alternate-History fantasy set in an unChristianized (and dragonless) medieval Europe; it won the 1984 World Fantasy Awards. The Final Reflection (1984), Star Trek: Voyage to Adventure (1984) as by Michael J Dodge and How Much for Just the Planet? (1987) are Star Trek Ties, the last of which is audaciously cast in the mode of musical comedy. The Scholars of Night (1988) is an associational Technothriller featuring both advanced Communications and historical puzzles in the manner of espionage author Anthony Price (1928-2019). Casting Fortune (coll 1989), Fantasy set in the Liavek Shared-World enterprise, contains in "The Illusionist" a book-length tale of theatrical Magic. Fugue State (in Under the Wheel, anth 1987, ed Elizabeth Mitchell; rev 1990 dos) is a complex sf exploration of an imprisoned psyche. Ford's short fiction, like his novels, was exceedingly various in its use of generic tools and formal structures; it is perhaps best approached through his last collection, Heat of Fusion and Other Stories (coll 2004), which also contains notable verse.
Growing up Weightless (1993) – which tied for the 1994 Philip K Dick Award with Jack Womack's Elvissey (1993) – depicts life on the Moon in terms that seem realistic, for the human settlement there lives under strait conditions, and has a difficult relationship with Earth; but the rite of passage into adulthood at the tale's centre is not innovative. From around this time, the ill-health which had long plagued him began to slow Ford's output considerably, though not its quality: The Last Hot Time (2000) – a fantasy though it gestures towards a Parallel World sf explanation – is an Urban Fantasy [for this and Fantasy of Manners below see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below] set in an increasingly dislocated Chicago; in its refusal to resolve the discords opened through the complexities of the tales being told, it strikes a contemporary note. Ford was not a major sf writer, though he was one whose work constantly teased readers into dangerous realms; he is perhaps better remembered as a fantasy author, and his distinguished, formally complex Poetry may become increasingly well-known, though he won only one Rhysling Award. As a man he was quirky, humane, funny, widely loved. After his death, apparent confusions in his estate generated an assumption that his biological family, disapproving of his genre work, was suppressing any reprints; as of around 2020, this assumption has been denied, and reprints of his work, much anticipated, have begun to appear. Also released was his last novel Aspects (2022), which though left incomplete remains, at almost 500 sustained pages, a significant contribution to his oeuvre. Set in a Steampunkish world shaped by an intricate and bureaucratic use of Magic, the completed portion of the tale reads as an unusually detailed and consequential Fantasy of Manners, much of the discourse-heavy action being set in the country at Strange House, a Zone from which some radical change of plot (never to be known) may emerge. [JC]
see also: GURPS; Star Trek Games; Timescape Books.
John Milo Ford
born East Chicago, Indiana: 10 April 1957
died Minneapolis, Minnesota: 24/25 September 2006 [Ford died alone around midnight]
- The Final Reflection: A Star Trek Novel (New York: Pocket Books, 1984) [tie to Star Trek: pb/Boris Vallejo]
- The Hand of Kahless (New York: Pocket Books, 2004) [omni of the above and Kahless by Michael Jan Friedman: tie to Star Trek: Star Trek: pb/]
- Star Trek: Voyage to Adventure (New York: Pocket Books, 1984) as by Michael J Dodge [tie to Star Trek: pb/]
- How Much for Just the Planet?: A Star Trek Novel (New York: Pocket Books, 1987) [tie to Star Trek: pb/Enric]
Most poetry-only titles – including several privately printed chapbooks circulated as Christmas card substitutes – are not listed.
- Web of Angels (New York: Pocket Books, 1980) [pb/Terrance Lindall]
- The Princes of the Air (New York: Pocket Books/Timescape, 1982) [pb/Wayne Barlowe]
- The Dragon Waiting: A Masque of History (New York: Timescape Books, 1983) [hb/Howard Koslow]
- Blackstone's Magical Adventure: The Case of the Gentleman Ghost (New York: Tor, 1985) under the House Name Milo Dennison [tie: Blackstone's Magical Adventure: pb/Fran Stiles]
- The Yellow Clearance Black Box Blues: A Paranoia Adventure (New York: West End Games Inc, 1985) [chap: scenario for the Role Playing Game, Paranoia: illus/pb/James Holloway]
- The Scholars of Night (New York: Tor, 1988) [hb/Paul Stinson]
- Fugue State (New York: Tor, 1990) [dos: pb/Wayne Barlowe]
- Growing up Weightless (New York: Bantam Spectra, 1993) [pb/Pamela Lee]
- Another Part of the Trilogy (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The NESFA Press, 1999) [chap: song cycle parodying generic fantasy trilogies: first performed 15 February 1997: pb/nonpictorial]
- The Last Hot Time (New York: Tor, 2000) [hb/Tristan Elwell]
- Aspects (New York: Tor, 2022) [hb/]
- Casting Fortune (New York: Tor, 1989) [coll: tie to the Liavek Shared World: pb/Taylor Clanchard]
- From the End of the Twentieth Century (Framingham, Massachusetts: The NESFA Press, 1997) [coll: hb/Ron Walotsky]
- Heat of Fusion and Other Stories (New York: Tor, 2004) [coll: includes several poems: hb/Shelley Eshkar]
- TimesSteps+ ("Planet Earth, Sol System": Is There an Iguana in This Forest?, 2013) [poetry: coll: chap: unauthorized reissue – see final sentences of entry above – of Christmas-message verses and others: pb/]
- On Writing Science Fiction (The Editors Strike Back!) (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Owlswick Press, 1981) with George H Scithers and Darrell Schweitzer [nonfiction: anth: hb/]
- John M Ford remembered at Making Light (archived)
- Internet Speculative Fiction Database
- The Encyclopedia of Fantasy: Fantasy of Manners; Urban Fantasy.
- Picture Gallery
previous versions of this entry