Unhappy News: Mike Ford
current mood: missing
current song: "Computerworld", Kraftwerk
I don't have much energy for writing here during the week, so I probably am not the first person to tell you that John M. "Mike" Ford died on Monday. His death was a shock, but alas not a surprise.
I didn't know Mike well, but I knew him off and on for a long time--I first met him at a fannish party in 1986; worked with him at Crossover in the 1990s; and ran into him occasionally online and off in the years following. Here are a couple of my anecdotes, and what i wrote about him for the Unplugged Games mailing list.
What I said on the Unplugged Alums list
Some of you might not have heard that John M. "Mike" Ford died last night, of causes as yet unknown. (He was a life-long diabetic and had many complications from it.)
Mike was a novelist, poet, game designer, and all-around shiningly beacon of brilliance. More importantly, he was a good friend of the Crossover family; he knew Eric [Goldberg] and Greg [Costikyan] at least from the West End days and possibly before, and he would occasionally come in and brainstorm ideas. Several of the races of Fantasy War were his. I don't think he ever had a chance to work with Unplugged directly, but you would have all liked him.
Making Light has some remembrances, appreciations, and links to posts by and about him.
Anecdote the first:
I can identify the summer I met him because I remember a fragment of conversation. Peter Gabriel's album So was still fairly new, and I mentioned a comment from a reviewer who was wrestling with the ethics of acting like he had understood the song "We Do What We're Told (Milgram's 37)" just from the title when, in fact, he only knew that it was a reference to Stanley Milgram's "guards and prisoners" experiment because there was a discussion of the experiment in the press kit that came with the review copy. Sure, it would be cheating, but he could act all superior.
Mike shook his head and said, sorrowfully, "That's a dangerous approach to music. The back-of-the-book answers to 'Subterranean Homesick Blues' were sent to only three reviewers and lost by the post office. The true meaning is now lost to time."
Anecdote the second:
Mike was visting Crossover for a week and need a computer he could work at. (I don't remember if this was during the ramp-up to Fantasy War or for an earlier project.) I was helping him get a printer set up, and it was being recalcitrant. I muttered, unthinkingly, "You are mistaken. No one is screaming"--a "Message from The Computer" icon from Yellow Clearance Black Box Blues. Mike sighed and said, "It's good to know something I wrote will live past me."
Anecdote the third, just from today.
Over on rasff, kip_w and davidgoldfarb were discussing Jerome K. Jerome, and David mentioned his book Idle Thoughts. I posted this reaction:
I saw this title and immediately conflated it with "Idle Days on the Yann", which made me quickly wonder if anyone had ever done a Jerome/Dunsany crossover/mashup/homage, which made me miss Mike Ford.
I suspect I will miss him more and more as the years go by.