Daily Illuminator

September 26, 2006: John M. Ford

. . . who wrote a great many brilliant things, died early Monday morning.

Mike had never been in good health. He didn't expect to live to 40. He made it nine years past that mark. And every year he had was a gift to the world.

He was, and I do not say this lightly, one of the most brilliant writers I have ever read. But he never became well-known. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that he was widely known in a number of different fields and, there being only 24 hours in the day, never truly prolific in any of them. Too often, the readers waiting for his next work in one genre never knew about his other, completely unrelated yet still dazzling, works. Many people didn't realize that the author of the World Fantasy Award-winning The Dragon Waiting was also the author of both the best serious Trek novel ever created and the only intentionally humorous one. And the prolific poster of mordantly witty comments on Making Light, the Pyramid newsgroups, and other venues. And won three Origins awards, writing for different companies: first for "Yellow Clearance Black Box Blues" for Paranoia and then for our own GURPS Time Travel. And much of the latter book carried over into the GURPS Infinite Worlds, which won for 2005. And created a small body of poetry, often in exacting forms, that makes me grin, and weep, and marvel, often on the same page. He seemed to know something about everything, and a great deal about a lot of things, and he had the gift of phrasing. He was also erudite in some truly geeky ways: Klingon, Tsolyani, SCA heraldry. And he could make an acronym out of absolutely any word you gave him.

In his writing and in the flesh, Mike was a truly joyful person. Not noisy: he was slight, usually quiet, and quite modest. (Oh, he knew he did good work, but he was always genuinely happy and a tiny bit surprised when people liked it.) But he was a joyful man. He knew that the world was a neat and complex place, and that people were a neat and complex part of the world, and everything he did was a celebration of that.

In all the years I knew Mike, I probably got to spend fewer than 24 hours actually in his company. Once in a great while we talked on the phone. Mostly, we just exchanged e-mail. And I am sorry for myself that I won't get to enjoy his company, however attenuated by distance and phosphor dots, ever again. And I am sorry for everyone who loves to read, because there won't be any more Ford, ever. And I am sorry for Mike, because he got to be Mike Ford for 49 years, and he burned bright, and he knew it could stop at any time, but oh, he deserved more.

And I miss him so much.
-- Steve Jackson

Post scriptum: There's a Making Light thread with a great number of tributes to Mike and links to his work, including many brilliant posts that were, to him, just throwaways. Maybe someone will create a permanent archive. He'd laugh at the idea, but I hope it happens.

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