John M. Ford is coming back into print

Friday, November 15, 2019

Comments: 1   (latest September 29, 2020)

Tagged: john m ford, mike, tor, isaac butler, dragon waiting

I woke up to the news that John M. Ford's books are coming back into print, starting next year. His unfinished opus Aspects will appear, as far as it exists, in 2021.

Mike Ford (so-called by all his friends) died in 2006, leaving SF fan communities shocked and in grief -- for the man and for the words we'd abruptly lost. I was not a personal friend. I'd met him at a couple of conventions; I'd donated to help cover his health care costs. I'd assumed he would write forever, which is an absurd thing to believe of a man whose kidney I helped replace, but that's how you think of such wellsprings.

Then Something Happened with his will and his literary estate. Everyone said: "His family got the rights. They didn't approve of his writing. They didn't approve of his partner. So they won't reprint his work." Some of the books remained in print for a while, or a long while, due to existing publishing contracts. Then it was mostly gone, except for his two Star Trek novels (rights owned by Paramount) and a fountain of archived blog comments and unpublished whimsy.

And that was it for John M. Ford. Except, it turns out, no story about him is that facile or that easily summarized. We should have known.

Journalist Isaac Butler went digging for the details. He found... some. Not everybody is talking and not everything they said has come out. The article is worth a read. Butler wound up talking to both Ford's family and his friends -- by which I mean Ford's other family. (His editors and publishers were family.) In finding the story, the journalist was able to connect everybody up.

[...] after a year of delicate back-and-forth spearheaded by Beth Meacham, Tor and the family have reached an agreement that will gradually bring all of his books back into print, plus a new volume of stories, poems, Christmas cards, and other uncollected material. First up, in fall 2020, is the book that introduced me to Ford, The Dragon Waiting. Then, in 2021, Tor will publish—at long last—the unfinished Aspects, with an introduction by Neil Gaiman.

-- The Disappearance of John M. Ford, Isaac Butler

I'm trying to express how much Ford's writing meant to me. I'm doing it slant and in the corner of your vision -- that's how it is. In 2007, I began a project to analyze The Dragon Waiting; I selfishly wanted to understand every word in that one novel, at least. I don't think I succeeded, but it helped.

I meant that project as a tribute, obviously. Everything else I've written has been a tribute also -- not just to Ford -- to many writers; Ford is always there. I still feel uncomfortable referring to him as just plain "Mike". As Butler says, his endings were always messy.

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