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John Milo "Mike" Ford (April 10, 1957 – September 25, 2006) was an American science fiction and fantasy writer, game designer, and poet.

John Milo Ford
John M. Ford portrait 2000
John M. Ford portrait 2000
Born(1957-04-10)April 10, 1957
East Chicago, Indiana, USA
DiedSeptember 25, 2006(2006-09-25) (aged 49)[1]
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
OccupationNovelist, writer, game designer
GenreScience fiction, fantasy, cyberpunk
PartnerElise Matthesen
Dr. Mike at Minicon 38 in 2003

A contributor to several online discussions, he composed poems, often improvised, in both complicated forms and blank verse, notably Shakespearean pastiche; he also wrote pastiches and parodies of many other authors and styles. At Minicon and other science fiction conventions he would perform "Ask Dr. Mike", giving humorous answers to scientific and other questions in a lab coat before a whiteboard.



Ford was born in East Chicago, Indiana, and raised in Whiting, Indiana.[2] In the mid-1970s he attended Indiana University Bloomington, where he was active in the IU science fiction club and Society for Creative Anachronism (using the name Miles Atherton de Grey); while there, he published his first short story "This, Too, We Reconcile" in the May 1976 Analog.

Ford left IU and moved to New York to work on the newly founded Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine,[2] where, starting in mid-1978, he published poetry, fiction, articles, and game reviews. Although his last non-fiction appeared there in September 1981, he was tenth most frequent contributor for the 1977–2002 period.[3] About 1990, he moved to Minneapolis.[2] In addition to writing, he worked at various times as a hospital orderly, computer consultant, slush pile reader, and copy editor.[4]

Ford suffered from complications related to diabetes since childhood and also had renal dysfunction which required dialysis and, in 2000, a kidney transplant, which improved his quality of life considerably. He was found dead from natural causes in his Minneapolis home on September 25, 2006,[5] by his partner since the mid-1990s, Elise Matthesen.[2] He was a prominent member of the Friends of the Minneapolis Public Library, which established a John M. Ford Book Endowment after his death with the donations to be used as interest-generating capital for yearly purchase of new books.[6]


Though Ford's novels varied in setting and style, several were of the Bildungsroman (coming-of-age) type: in Web of Angels, The Final Reflection, Princes of the Air, Growing Up Weightless, and The Last Hot Time, Ford wrote variations on the theme of growing up, learning about one's world and one's place in it, and taking responsibility for it – which involves taking on the power and wisdom to influence events, to help make the world a better place.

Ford's 1983 book The Klingons for FASA's Star Trek role-playing game influenced later Paramount productions.[7]:121 Ford authored the award-winning adventure The Yellow Clearance Black Box Blues (1985) for West End Games' Paranoia role-playing game.[7]:189

Otherwise, Ford's works are characterized by an aversion to doing things that have been done before. This is perhaps most notable in his two Star Trek novels, The Final Reflection (1984) and How Much for Just the Planet? (1987).[8] The Final Reflection is the story of a small group of Klingons who prevent a war between the Klingon Empire and the Federation while the regular series characters are relegated to cameo appearances. (This novel introduced the fictional language Klingonaase.)[8] In the comedic How Much for Just the Planet?, the Enterprise crew compete with a Klingon crew for control of a planet, whose colonists are not happy with this and defend their peace in inventive ways, which soon make everything a farce, including a Vaudevillian pie fight. The book includes song lyrics that satirize many 20th century stage musicals. Both novels present the Klingons in a more positive light, not just as the token evil menace of the week.

Ford avoided repetition not only of the work of others, but also of his own work. Where many writers make a name for themselves by developing a known style that repeats in many books, Ford always surprised with his ability to use a variety of styles that best suited the world, characters, and situations he had chosen to write about. (John Clute expressed this in 1993 The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction as "Two decades into his career, there remains some sense that JMF remains unwilling or unable to create a definitive style or mode; but his originality is evident, a shifting feisty energy informs almost everything he writes, and that career is still young.") This might have limited his readership, however he was much respected by his fellow writers, editors, critics and fans. Robert Jordan, Ford's lifelong close friend, called Ford "the best writer in America – bar none." Neil Gaiman called Ford "my best critic … the best writer I knew." Patrick Nielsen Hayden said "Most normal people had the slight sense that something large and super-intelligent and trans-human had sort of flown over ... There would be a point where basically the plot would become so knotted and complex he would lose all of us."[2]

Much of his work is out of print, despite accolades; this appears to be a deliberate effort by his heirs, who did not approve of his writing.[citation needed]



With Darrell Schweitzer and George H. Scithers, Ford co-authored On Writing Science Fiction (The Editors Strike Back!) (1981, Owlswick Press, ISBN 0-913896-19-5; Wildside Press 2000, ISBN 1-880448-78-5), a writers' manual with advice illustrated by short stories that were first sales to IASFM.[10]

Some shorter worksEdit


  • "A Cup of Worrynot Tea" in Liavek: The Players of Luck (1986, edited by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly)
  • "Green Is the Color", "Eel Island Shoals" (song), "Pot-Boil Blues" (song) in Liavek: Wizard's Row (1987, edited by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly)
  • "Riding the Hammer" in Liavek: Spells of Binding (1988, edited by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly)
  • "The Grand Festival: Sestina" (poem), "Divination Day: Invocation" (poem), "Birth Day: Sonnet" (poem), "Procession Day/Remembrance Night: Processional/Recessional" (poem), "Bazaar Day: Ballad" (poem), "Festival Day: Catechism" (poem), "Restoration Day: Plainsong" in Liavek: Festival Week (1990, edited by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly)
  • "Scrabble with God", IASFM October 1985, reprinted in From the End of the Twentieth Century


  • Ford wrote extensively for the Traveller (role-playing game). His works are still much beloved.
  • Ford published a variety of short fiction and poetry, from short short stories that are essentially fantastic jokes, to novellas revealing a deep understanding of human frailties and emotions. His poem "Winter Solstice, Camelot Station" won the World Fantasy Award for Short Fiction in 1989.
  • Ford published some children's fiction under pseudonyms that he did not make public, and two children's gamebooks under house names Michael J. Dodge (Star Trek: Voyage to Adventure, 1984) and Milo Dennison (The Case of the Gentleman Ghost, 1985).
  • Ford plotted three issues of the Captain Confederacy alternate history comics in the late 1980s and wrote issue number 10, "Driving North."
  • Ford also contributed to The World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time (2001, Tor Books, ISBN 0-312-86936-3), drawing some of the maps.





  1. ^ "John Milo Ford, September 25, 2006". United States Social Security Death Index. Retrieved February 16, 2013 – via FamilySearch.
  2. ^ a b c d e Vezner, Tad (October 28, 2006). "Crafters of sci-fi attend obscure writer's eulogy: Peers laud Minneapolis author for his unpredictable works". St. Paul Pioneer Press. (Discussion by fans of the article and a few factual errors in it.)
  3. ^ Kelly, James Patrick (April 2003). "On the Net: Frequent Fliers". Asimov's. Archived from the original on August 6, 2006. (See also Ford's entries Archived April 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine in the Asimov's index.)
  4. ^ "Ford's comment at a "four things" meme blogpost". Making Light. December 25, 2005.
  5. ^ Matthesen, Elise (September 25, 2006). "John M. Ford, 1957–2006". Making Light.
  6. ^ Matthesen, Elise (October 2, 2006). "The John M. Ford Book Endowment". Honour Your Inner Magpie. Archived from the original on April 25, 2015. Retrieved April 29, 2015.
  7. ^ a b Shannon Appelcline (2011). Designers & Dragons. Mongoose Publishing. ISBN 978-1-907702-58-7.
  8. ^ a b c Burns, Eric (September 25, 2006). "Requiescat in Pace: John M. Ford".
  9. ^ "From the End of the Twentieth Century". NESFA Press. August 5, 2006. Retrieved April 5, 2011.
  10. ^ "On Writing Science Fiction (The Editors Strike Back!)". WorldCat. 1981. Retrieved April 5, 2011.
  11. ^ "Against Entropy". January 20, 2007. Archived from the original on January 5, 2011.
  12. ^ "1998 Minnesota Book Awards Nominees and Winners". St. Paul, MN: The Minnesota Humanities Commission. Archived from the original on August 19, 2002.

External linksEdit

Texts by Ford onlineEdit

About FordEdit