John M. Ford, Community Treasure
John M. Ford was a man I barely knew, but admired greatly. I knew him as a gentle, quiet man with a razor sharp wit. The depth and breadth of his knowledge was astounding, as was his ability to spin complicated and breathtakingly beautiful poems off the top of his head. He was funny, he was charming, and he was kind.
Here is one of my memories of Mike:
When I had my first reading at Minicon as a new author, I made a horrified realization. First, they had left my reading out of the program book. Second, it was at the very start of the Con, so there was no time to flyer. Third, they had scheduled me in the worst slot imaginable. My reading was at the same time as "Ask Dr. Mike".
Ask Dr. Mike was a question and answer show, where Mike would don a white lab coat and take questions from all comers on just about any topic at all. The answers he gave were brilliant, funny and intricate. They often only made sense while Mike was there, explaining them to you. If you later tried to repeat what he said to someone else, you would end in a jumble of confusion and have to say, "Well, you had to have been there."
Needless to say, "Ask Dr. Mike" was a standing room only show. Anything scheduled against it was doomed. I resigned myself to read in an empty room.
But Mike made an announcement about my reading in his show, and asked people to come see me, and got me my audience. He was always generous.
I have been thinking about why so many of us who knew him only peripherally are grieving so hard over his loss, and here is the best answer I can give. Mike was a community treasure. Everything he touched, he turned to art: novels, poems, song lyrics, cartography, and even gaming modules like the Yellow Clearance Black Box Blues -- the funniest and most ridiculously complicated Paranoia module ever written.
We loved having his brilliance, like a shining star, in our midst. We felt a community ownership of him, though we knew in our hearts that he belonged only to himself and his life partner, Elise. He gave of his genius freely and generously. He was irreplaceable.