John M. Ford (1957 - 2006) was an SF writer, game designer, and poet, noted for his intelligence, wit, and originality. This last was in a sense also his greatest weakness, since a writer who never repeats himself can be very hard to market effectively, and he never achieved the fame many feel he deserved.
Probably his widely-known work is in a sense his least original — two novels in the Star Trek Expanded Universe
, but even here he broke new ground: The Final Reflection
is a historical novel of the early years of Federation-Klingon interaction, with a Klingon as its hero, and How Much for Just the Planet?
is a musical comedy. He also co-wrote the Klingons sourcebook for FASA's Star Trek Tabletop Roleplaying Game
, which was for a time the most complete and in-depth source on Klingon language and culture available. Much of it has been Jossed
since the screen canon got serious about exploring Klingon culture, but there are still fans who think Ford's version was better, and not just in the sense that there will always be fans who think the old version was better. Even so, many feel that Ford's explorations directly influenced the evolution of the canon Klingons into their modern, honor-driven pseudo-Samurai form.
Ford's other work in the realm of RPG design includes several sourcebooks for GURPS
, and the classic Paranoia
supplement, The Yellow Clearance Black Box Blues
Notable poems include the sonnet "Against Entropy
" ("Regret, by definition, comes too late; / Say what you mean. Bear witness. Iterate."), the multi-award-winning narrative poem "Winter Solstice, Camelot Station", and the September 11 tribute "110 Stories
And we haven't even scratched the surface of his original novels, which include Web of Angels
, which did cyberpunk
before cyberpunk was cool; The Princes of the Air
, a Space Opera
featuring a trio of con men; The Dragon Waiting
, an Alternate History
political thriller that won a World Fantasy award; The Scholars of Night
, a Cold War
thriller; Growing Up Weightless
, a Philip K. Dick Award winner that's been described as one of the best Heinlein juveniles Robert A. Heinlein
never wrote; and The Last Hot Time
, a Chicago
gangster story set Twenty Minutes into the Future
in which half the characters are elves.
Works by John M. Ford with their own pages include:
John M. Ford's other works provide examples of:
- Alternate History: The Dragon Waiting
- Amnesiac Dissonance: Self-inflicted in the short story "Erase/Record/Play", in which the scientists experimenting on prisoners in a concentration camp give everyone - victims, guards, and tormentors - the same experimental memory-wiping drug, and mix themselves into the general population to avoid punishment when the liberators come. They can't be coerced or tricked into revealing their guilt, because even they don't know if they're guilty.
- Anachronism Stew: In "Winter Solstice, Camelot Station"
- Body Double: Queen Rachel in The Princes of the Air has several, of which at least one is an android and one is a male relative who has the same build and shares the distinctive family eye colour.
- Chained to a Railway: In "Winter Solstice, Camelot Station"
- Con Man: The heroes of The Princes of the Air
- Eyepatch of Power: The sorcerer Peredur in The Dragon Waiting
- Eye Scream: In The Dragon Waiting
- The Fair Folk: In The Last Hot Time
- Feudal Future: In The Princes of the Air; it turns out to be important to the plot, and not just set-dressing.
- Fictionary: "Klingonaase", the Klingon language featured in The Final Reflection and the FASA role-playing game.
- Historical-Domain Character: Richard III and many others in The Dragon Waiting
- Human Subspecies: One of the planets in The Princes of the Air is an ocean world with no dry landmasses, so the people who live there have been modified to be able to live underwater.
- In Spite of a Nail: In The Dragon Waiting Christianity never took hold in the Roman Empire, Constantinople didn't fall to the Turks, and France was partitioned between England and Byzantium sometime in the 12th century. The Wars of the Roses still seemingly happen exactly as they do in reality up through the crowning of Edward IV, with the exception of one relatively insignificant death.
- Magic Powered Pseudoscience: In "Yellow Clearance Black Box Blues", R&D scientist Willis-G-EEP-4's inventions work well on the test bench, but fail when used in the field when he isn't around. That's because their success depends on his mutant powers of Minor Telekinesis and Luck.
- Meaningful Rename: All the human characters in The Last Hot Time have one in their backstory, except the protagonist, who being the Na´ve Newcomer gets his during the course of the story. (Interestingly, the narration continues to refer to him by his old name for a couple more chapters, until he's settled in to his new identity.)
- Na´ve Newcomer: The protagonist of The Last Hot Time
- Public Domain Character: King Arthur and co. in "Winter Solstice, Camelot Station"
- Safe Word: Appears in The Last Hot Time, as the hero learns about BDSM.
- Scrabble Babble: The short story "Scrabble With God" uses this trope with a twist. "It isn't that He cheats, exactly." But any word He plays is a real word — even if it wasn't a minute ago. And He's not above uncreating things in order to be able to challenge His opponents' words, either...
- Starbucks Skin Scale: In The Princes of the Air there's a scene where the protagonist and a woman he's interested in are having coffee together, and it's noted in passing that her skin tone matches the coffee-with-cream they're drinking.
- Subspace or Hyperspace: The Princes of the Air has a unique version
- Treacherous Advisor: In The Dragon Waiting:
"Your Grace." He reached into his bag, produced the translation of Mancini's letter. "We have a great deal of trouble. I hope that these are men you can trust."
"Yes, Professor, they are absolutely loyal to me," Buckingham said, and signaled for his men to close the door.
- Twenty Minutes into the Future: The setting of The Last Hot Time.
- The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask: Queen Rachel in The Princes of the Air turns out to be this.