Linda Castellani (castle) Sun 28 Oct 01 18:24
Now you've got me curious: what DOES draw hate mail?
John M. Ford (johnmford) Sun 28 Oct 01 19:12
Linda -- what you got? Someone started DRAGON, discovered that the introductory note (not, obviously, the novel) had used the construction "CE" instead of "AD," and decided not to proceed further lest he be contaminated by secular humanism or something. And then decided to tell me all about it at considerable length. No, I don't still have the letter. I know someone who got a quite vile letter because one of her books was the first of a series, and this was not stated on the dust jacket. As if authors decide these things. (Many readers assume that the author paints the cover, sets the type -- doubtless after casting it -- and hand-stitches the signatures.) There are worse tales, but give them the oblivion they deserve. It's still a pretty swell job, though.
double-axled haywains and Harpo Marx going honk-honk (lioness) Sun 28 Oct 01 22:36
Speaking of jobs, how many different spot on the food chain have you occupied in the publishing world? And what was good about 'em?
John M. Ford (johnmford) Mon 29 Oct 01 00:11
Well, let's see. I was an associate editor (that sounds nicer than "assistant" at Asimov's and Amazing (working for the same editor). I believe I said something earlier about how that was a What Needs Doing rather than a What's the Job Description spot. I helped deal with overflow slush at Tor (slush always overflows, as Midwesterners all know), and was one of two paid readers for the SF Book Club. (The latter was to-be-published books, usually in manuscript, though once in awhile one had to remind oneself that it -wasn't- slush. No titles. On the other hand, I got to read some fine books, like NEUROMANCER, ahead of schedule.) I did black-and-white art (maps and graphics, not "illustrations"). The odd job there was a book that had several pages of maps and family-tree charts. So I did those, and then the author changed the family names (this was supposedly a finished book). A number map names were also changed, but that could be fixed with overlays. I did a certain amount of editorial work for Owlswick Press -- as usual with small presses, this had an extremely broad charter, including being the shipping and warehousing department from time to time. Over on the game end of things, I've worked on (other people's) manuscripts for more than one company. This is usually a sort of consulting detec -- uh, designer job, less than rewriting but more than copyediting, often adding modest amounts of material without claiming co-writer credit. I suppose if I had a business card for this sort of thing, it would read "Hired Gun." Though nobody is -ever- going to mistake me for Richard Boone.
Linda Castellani (castle) Mon 29 Oct 01 13:33
E-mail from Rachael Brown: Are there any plans for Tor to reprint "The Dragon Waiting," maybe as an Orb trade paperback? It's a brilliant book, and very hard to find. It took me years to find a copy. I was especially impressed by the intensely creepy opening chapter, and by the scene later on in which we find out just how bad the effects of backfiring magic can be. I am literally shivering just remembering it. Speaking of that book and your writing in general, do you have a degree in history, or do you just read a lot and never forget any of it? And what will appear in your upcoming collection? How far back will the stories date? Any poetry? Rachel She was a vixen when she went to school, And though she be but little, she is fierce. William Shakespeare, "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
Linda Castellani (castle) Mon 29 Oct 01 13:35
This is a first. We've never had someone send a single e-mail to two different interviewees before. I'm going to post a copy in each topic and see how that goes. E-mail from Ed Prell: this message is directed to John M. Ford and Harry Henderson. you two could do an incalculable service to humanity by collaborating to write, lickety-split, a gripping novel that would reach out to the america snoozing in the pickup-truck belt and other places and grab them where it hurts. the essential message i have in mind is that rednecks and similar types will be dead meat after their usefulness to the rightwing junta in amerika has run its course. this novel would get to the present moment (early 2002) about 1/3 or halfway through the book. this story line would follow true to history but add in very plausable but unproven dirty tricks. from the present we are taken, again very plausably, into a future that could be best described as a worse-case scenario. the fictional characters could be for instance a dysfunctional family in which the patriarch runs a material yard or trucking firm in birmingham or butte or points between. his sons assume the roles we would expect, except for the black sheep that becomes a radical labor organizer. as the big historical events take their twists and turns, our rednecks take and give some punches, often with heavy metal objects being thrown about. and eventually in their own way, they twist in the wind. done in by the very folks they aspired so much to be like. i am completely unqualified to write such a book. i hope a talented and knowledgable author(s) can produce a piece that reaches and wakes up huge numbers of folks. we, the already aware, do not have anywhere near the numbers to make a difference. thanks for your attention.
John M. Ford (johnmford) Mon 29 Oct 01 14:21
Rachel -- DRAGON will be republished by Gollancz next spring, as part of their Pretty Good Fantasy series. They will -not- be doing the American edition, and I believe there's been discussion of a complementary US Tor/Orb edition, but Patrick would know much more about that than I do. I don't have a degree in anything (though sometimes I figure that if a book is the equivalent of a thesis, I'm eligible for tenure now); my college work was mainly in systems analysis/numerical methods. And I certainly forget things, but then you get to reread books, which is nice. I don't know what will be in the collection. Beth Meacham is the editor, and while we'll certainly have a discussion when the time comes, I trust her judgement. There's no limit on date of stories, though I doubt much very early material will appear, for the reason lots of authors don't want their dawn-era stuff reprinted. I would certainly expect there to be some poetry. Beth compared notes with NESFA when 20th CENTURY was being assembled, and there probably won't be overlap. (The NESFA hardcover will never be reprinted in that form -- it's a limited edition -- but it could be reprinted in a different edition; NESFA itself did this with Lois Bujold's Boskone book.) While I'm thinking of 20th CENTURY, someone earlier was talking about finding used copies -- NESFA still has between two and three hundred in stock, and Dreamhaven has a quantity of signed copies as well (and if they run out, it's easier for me to walk to Dreamhaven and sign more than fly to the NESFA Clubhouse). The simplest response I can give Ed Prell is to say that I don't enjoy reading overtly polemical fiction, and therefore would be a poor choice to write it. Thank you for the proposal, however.
Rob Yale (robert-yale) Mon 29 Oct 01 19:29
Hi John, I'm not finished the book yet, but I'm enjoying it thoroughly. I especially like the notion of magic afoot in the world, and the way that the non-magic characters are dealing with this new shape to reality. Although the book is clearly a fantasy, I find that it also contains an element of science fiction. This seems to emerge in the way that the characters exhibit an awareness of the weirdness of magical occurrences, and that they are learning how to cope with them as well. I've also been thinking about the above points, and contrasting "The Last Hot Time" with Tim Powers' "Last Call", where there is an air of inconsequence with respect to supernatural events that begin to occur. Looking forward to the rest of the book!
Linda Castellani (castle) Mon 29 Oct 01 23:22
Mike, have you thought about how the events of Sept 11 might shape your future work? I keep wondering what kind of fiction fabulously creative minds like yours will come up with in the aftermath.
a fine woman but a very poor private soldier (pamela-bird) Tue 30 Oct 01 14:28
>DRAGON will be republished by Gollancz next spring, as part of their >Pretty Good Fantasy series Ahem. Despite the man in the hat's blushes, that would be the Fantasy Masterworks series by Orion Publishing Group (UK), with an alleged due date of May 2002. A Google search found this page: http://silver-oak.com/fantasy/masterworks.asp -P who really hopes that therell be a Tor edition, or shell be shelling out cross-pond shipping charges again
John M. Ford (johnmford) Tue 30 Oct 01 17:07
Pamela -- yeah, that's the series, whatever they call it. (And Orion is a division of Gollancz.) Linda -- I'm not sure that 9/11 will have any direct effect on what I do. Partly, of course, it's that I don't do very much contemporary/mundane fiction, and while this was a major event in "our" world, it is not felt in Atlantis or Cockaigne. (Islandia, maybe.) This is inevitably going to be misinterpreted, and I'll say up front that I am in no way dismissing or trivializing the event, but this is not the first major disaster, or even the first major urban man-made disaster. It has its unique features; all of them do. We learned some important things about how people respond to such events, but the lessons are not all that different from those of the London Blitz or the San Francisco earthquake. People have always wanted to believe that their era is unique, that the big events of their time "change history." Well, no event changes history, because history, having already taken place, is immutable. (Obviously I'm not talking about attempts to correct historical myths.) And the future exists only in possibility. What changes are individual human perceptions -- you suddenly see your future, and sometimes your past, in a different way. And, again without in any way diminishing the impact of this particular incident, with time those altered perceptions become "normal," either by assimilation or forgetfulness. Until the next Lisbon earthquake. Near-future SF will have to absorb the event, as it does any other (one thinks of all those stories that tossed off a line like "the glowing ruins of San Diego" as local color). Something set a hundred years down the line probably shouldn't mention it, unless the story is specifically set in Lower Manhattan ("We docked at the Trans-Solar Trade Tower, two thousand meters above Battery Park") or involves terrorism. In five hundred years, it will be at the same remove as the fall of Byzantium, which does still obsess some people, but rarely makes the tabloids.
Patrick Nielsen Hayden (pnh) Tue 30 Oct 01 17:16
It is that kind of abrupt frameshift -- oh, right, this thing I think is important really isn't quite as important, whereas this other thing may be more important -- that's one of the aesthetic pleasures of SF. I wonder what Mike Ford would be in an alternate world in which he didn't float eastward and become a fantasy and SF writer. I also wonder what it was like to be Mike Ford growing up as a Southern Baptist in Indiana.
Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 31 Oct 01 15:44
E-mail from Kate Nepveu: I'm surprised at so many people saying that _The Dragon Waiting_ is very hard to find; in the few years since I've been aware of its existence, I must have found ten or so copies in used bookstores, enough that I've _stopped_ buying copies on the theory that "someone will want this"... Are y'all telling me I should start up again? Kate
Patrick Nielsen Hayden (pnh) Wed 31 Oct 01 19:05
(Aside to Kate Nepveau: As I recall, Avon's mass-market package for THE DRAGON WAITING said "historical romance" more loudly than "offbeat alternate-world fantasy." So I wonder if people just aren't registering it.) (Of course, the canonical indicator of "offbeat alternate-world novel" is a zeppelin. Obviously Mike's mistake was neglecting to put Richard III into one.) I'm dithering about what to ask Mike in order to get him to talk about poetry, since it seems to me that he's one of the very few writers of any sort to successfully address and encompass the aesthetic effects of SF and fantasy -- as opposed to their mere furniture -- in actual serious verse. I'm hampered a bit by the fact that a mutual friend just forwarded me his most recent piece, which he may not consider finished work. Actual professional interviewers don't get themselves into these tangles, of course.
double-axled haywains and Harpo Marx going honk-honk (lioness) Wed 31 Oct 01 23:00
The science fiction poetry has a different flavor... Drat. Cannot find words. Kinda like... no, there is no comparison I could make. But it is no less poetry than science fiction, and no less science fiction than poetry, and the intersection goes someplace very worth going. It's not... limited by either, although that's the wrong way to say it. (Drat. Double drat. Somebody else figure out what the useful words there would be, please?) Have you spent any time in the poetry community? And is "All Our Propagation" out anywhere? (There are two lines in that poem that rank up there with a poem by Ono no Komachi, in terms of talismanic words, words of opening.) Does writing the science fiction poetry feel different than writing the fantasy poetry, or do the buckets come up out of the same well?
Linda Castellani (castle) Thu 1 Nov 01 22:51
E-mail from Kathy Li: Elise, "All Our Propogation" is in FROM THE END OF THE 20TH CENTURY, and yeah, it takes my breath away, too, and no, I have no words, either. Ok, here's questiony sorts of thingies for Mike. What is it, do you think, that has caused a seeming schism between art and science in this century so that when a writer is capable of combining the two together into a work where the concept of the piece is bound in a scientific idea, such as in "All Our Propogation" or Stoppard's ARCADIA, it is a rarity? Is it really that rare for an artist to use scientific/mathematical material as an aesthetic basis or for a mathematician/scientist to have no appreciation for aesthetics? (I can't help thinking that it's the lack of that schism that gives Elizabethan/Jacobean literature/poetry some added fascination for me). And, what's the difference between writing poetry and writing song lyrics that don't have tunes (e.g., "Monochrome")? And, have you ever written a play? (and is it/would it be in verse or prose?) --Kathy
Linda Castellani (castle) Thu 1 Nov 01 22:52
E-mail from Kate Nepveu: Patrick, you're right about the paperback cover; I have the hardback with the nifty picture of the medal on it. But I've had quite a few copies of that (probably more than the paperback) pass through my hands, too. lioness--nice to meet someone else who loves "All Our Propagation." It's in the NESFA collection _From the End of the Twentieth Century_ and it's my favorite thing in it, notwithstanding such wonders as "Troy: The Movie" and "Walkaway Clause." And an actual question for Mike (go figure...). I see someone upthread mentioned _Last Call_, a fabulous book, though not one that _The Last Hot Time_ reminds me of. Anyway, I once mentioned it to an author who was working on something about poker, who responded that it was now off-limits _because_ it was about poker. I've seen a number of other authors say similar things--that they can't, or don't want to, read things close to what they're doing. And not just on the same topic; I believe Terry Pratchett has said that he mostly reads things other than fantasy. Do you find yourself doing something similar? (And regardless of what genre, anything in particular you'd like to recommend?)
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Fri 2 Nov 01 17:04
It's hard to believe two weeks have gone by already! It's been such a pleasure having you here, Mike. Thank you for joining us in Inkwell.vue. And thanks to you too, Patrick, for leading the conversation. You're both welcome to continue, of course, if you wish. The topic will remain open in case you'd like to carry on. Here's hoping you do!
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 2 Nov 01 21:31
John M. Ford (johnmford) Fri 2 Nov 01 22:02
Got way behind here, sorry. For poetry as real sf/fantasy, I suppose Id look at the negative definition: if its something else, what? Much of whats published as poetry in the field is light verse -- limericks about the young man from Centauri and so forth. Im not sneering at this; Ive done some of it. And then there are the pastiches, usually of Kipling or Robert W. Service. I think theres some resistance in the general sf/f magazines to difficult poetry. Its always hard to say how much of that resistance really reflects the readers views, but some of its real enough. (Ive seen reviewers simply sneer at blank verse, claiming its just prose with funny typesetting. These people are entitled to not like it, but they would seem disqualified from reviewing it.) One doesnt see many convention panels on poetry, and I cant think of one on interfaces between poetry and prose. There are certainly enough excellent poets in the field. To grab some names, Bruce Boston, Mike Bishop, Joe Haldeman. (And Ray Bradbury, but, well, Ray Bradbury.) I dont want to get too far into the so what is poetry anyway? arguscussion, but I do think that it differs from prose not just in rhyme and meter (which are optional anyway) but in the essential approach to language. A poem can be construced entirely out of the simple declarative sentences that waaaaay too many genre writers iconize, but in an authentic poem, they will have a cumulative effect far different from those simp. dec. sents -- even the same ones -- set out as the equally iconic clear expository paragraphs. The SF and fantasy verse doesnt seem much different in the production to me, but neither does the prose. Camelot Station is pretty crisp-edged for an Arthurian fable. while Propagation deals with literal electromechanical components in wildly nonliteral terms. Oh dear, C. P. Snow Falling on Cedars. Do the absolute art-bohemians and white-smock-scientists actually exist, outside of NEW YORKER cartoons? The people I know (possibly a biased sample, but whose isnt?) usually lean professionally one way or the other, but thats not an intellectual limitation. I would think the success of books like LONGITUDE and shows of industrial art indicate a broad audience for sci/tech artistically presented. I dunno about song lyrics that dont have tunes, because the lyrics all do. Unless you mean, is there a difference in writing a lyric thats intended to be read as part of a prose work, in which case there sometimes is -- a strongly metric verse will probably read better than something heavily syncopated or actually arrythmic (some of Ani diFrancos lyrics, for instance). Ive written short plays, and parts of longer ones. Amy, at the Bottom of the Stairs was originally conceived as a play, and could probably still be staged with a little adjustment. Ive tried a couple of times to write an sf (not fantasy) stage musical, but Ive never been happy with the books (some of the lyrics were okay). The do you avoid books that are too close to what youre doing? thing -- I suppose I do, but its not a deliberate avoidance. I read a lot more nonfiction than fiction (this was not always true). Many of the writers I admire most arent dangerous in this regard, because actually trying to imitate Gene Wolfe or John Crowley (for instance) is not a sensible notion. In a broader sense, Im not very worried that Ill do something thats too much like someone elses handling of the same topic or theme -- and of course the first refuge of the fields wannabe critics is looking for influences, it being a lot easier to notice that this and that author both had a funny sidekick with a disability than to figure out if either one brought anything interesting to the character, his jokes, or the viscera.
It would have made more sense over tea (wren) Mon 25 Sep 06 07:15
I'm sorry to do this, and not sure if this is the right way to do it, but John M. Ford died this morning. There is a little more information at www.nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/, but everyone is stunned. Those who knew him knew that Mike's health was never good, but it's still a shock.
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Wed 27 Sep 06 15:16
That's sad news. I'm sorry to hear it, wren.
Daniel (dfowlkes) Fri 29 Sep 06 15:19
It would have made more sense over tea (wren) Mon 30 Oct 06 08:06
Two articles: the first is about the memorial in Minneapolis, the second about the memorial in London: http://www.twincities.com/mld/pioneerpress/15868982.htm http://www.guardian.co.uk/wormseyeview/story/0,,1929491,00.html
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