Yesterday was John M. Ford (Mike Ford's) memorial service. I must say, it was one of the best I've ever had the privilege to attend. Many of Mike's friends spoke and provided music, and excerpts of his writing were read. As the pastor says, it really helps when most of the best things said were written by the departed himself.
Eulogies were offered by Jim Rigney (who writes books under the name Robert Jordon), who considered Mike a brother of the heart, Victor Raymond (badger2305), Lynn Litterer (lynnal), Teresa Nielsen Hayden (tnh), Neil Gaiman, and his aunt, Jane Starner. Many, many of Mike's friends were there, including quite a few from out of town, dozens of whom are on LJ. Some things said and read: Mike's sonnet, "Against entropy. Jo Walton (papersky) read the Janus sonnet. Steve Brust (skzbrust) read the villanelle "I am the king and I want a sandwich."jonsinger read the list of new items from Acme Food Enhancement, "Dining for the Posthuman Era," which you will find among the samples of his writing here. tnh read his recipe for cooking Hot Gingered Pygmy Mammoth & Jumbo Shrimp Salad:
Hot Gingered Pygmy Mammoth & Jumbo Shrimp Salad
Feeds your whole tribe.
1 pygmy mammoth, boned and cubed (about ½ ton) ½ ton jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined (many many ordinary shrimps, or one Ebirah claw) 10 buckets sesame seeds 60 pounds bean thread noodles if you are an Eastern tribe, whatever your tribe uses for noodles otherwise. If you have not yet invented the noodle, this might be a good time to do so. 1 bucket vegetable oil 1 bucket sesame oil Salt 10 buckets minced fresh ginger 6 buckets minced garlic 15 buckets dry Sherry 15 buckets rice wine vinegar 60 pounds sugar 60 buckets diced fresh mangoes 15 buckets chopped green onions Big Snorgul’s helmet full of red pepper flakes 10 buckets chopped fresh cilantro, plus 5 Big Snorgul’s helmets fresh cilantro, garnish 1000 large heads lettuce, cored and leaves separated (a raid on the People Who Grow Stuff may be necessary) 30 buckets thinly sliced, peeled, seeded, drained cucumbers, or just chop up the damn cucumbers and say “Fie to thee!” a lot All the chives you got
Preheat a giant turtle shell over a fumarole. A big giant turtle. Put some oil in there. Make sure no other giant turtles are around to see you do this.
On a flat rock, stirring with your Stick of the Dining God, dry cook the sesame seeds over medium heat until they are brown and smell good. Remove from the heat. Add the noodles to the turtle shell and fry fast until puffy and the color of sunrise. Remove from the oil and drain on non-itchy leaves. Throw salt. Set aside.
Sear the mammoth meat on the flat rock. Salt but don’t overdo it, you remember what happened to the Chest-Clutching Tribe of the Plains. Drain.
Get a less giant turtle shell. Okay, think of this as a celebration dish for a good turtle hunt and shrimp catch. Make the vegetable oil and most of the sesame oil dance. Add the shrimp, mammoth, ginger, and garlic, and cook fast, stirring, until the shrimp are just pink and firm. Doom of Ten Thousand Wretched Canape’s awaits those who overcook shrimp. Remove from the shell with pole weapons. Add the sherry and vinegar, and sing the Song of Deglazing over medium heat. Add the sugar and stir until it is one with the sauce. Cook until half the fluid is gone. Feed anybody who thinks this is waste to the giant turtles. Add the rest of the sesame oil, mangoes, green onions, and pepper flakes, and stir to warm through and wilt. No, this wilt is good. Tell the people it is the wilt of the Wilt God. You need all the mojo you can get. Remove from the heat and add the shrimp and ginger, and the cilantro. Stir to warm through and do the Highly Dramatic Ritual of Adjusting the Seasoning to Taste.
Now your tribal status is on the thin edge of the cleaver. Have everybody bring what they eat off of. You know your tribe. Put lettuce on whatever they hold out and spread the hot stuff on it. Those who have no eating platters should be used to the drill by now. Arrange cucumber slices on top in whatever symbolic pattern seems propitious to you and sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds. If you have a really tough tribe, yell ‘Bam!’ until they get a groove going. Add fried noodles, cilantro sprigs, and chives, and watch for any signs of people keeling over that can’t be blamed on strong drink.
casacorona read from his unfinished novel Aspects and Emma Bull coffeeem read from "Shared World." She and Adam Stemple played a song that he had written, "Madonna of the Midway."
Some of the things said during the eulogies:
Neil Gaiman: "He was my best critic because he was the smartest. You'd give him something to read, and he'd say, 'That's brilliant. It just needs this one line.' And you'd say, 'You're right,' and put it in. And then it would win awards. And just you and he would know." He told a story of once sending out an invitation to a party which included a typographical error. Mike build an entire musical play around that typographical error. And then he would perform it.
Another time, Neil sent an invitation out with just a flat listing of directions to his address, and he added at the end, "I'd like to see Mike Ford make literature out of this." And Mike did. He made a sonnet cycle out of the directions to Neil's home.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden (tnh) said, "He wasn't the sort of smart person who made you feel stupid. He made you feel smarter just knowing him. He told me once, 'I have a horror of being obvious.' I told him, 'Mike, you have no clue what other people consider obvious."
Since Mike loved cheese, there were exquisite cheeses from the Wedge Co-op served in the fellowship hall afterwards. The wake was held that night at the Sheraton, the hotel where innumerable Minicons have been held, and really, with all the old familiar faces, many of them gone from Minneapolis for years, it felt like a night in the green room at Minicon ten or fifteen years ago. A music circle formed, of course. I came in when Emma Bull was singing "Signal to Noise" and stayed, happy listening, for hours. jbru reminds me of one memorable moment of music and laughter being the singing of "Puking in the Heather," an Irish folk song inspired by an off-hand comment of Mike's at a convention a long time ago--proof, as skzbrust put it, that not all of Mike's legacies were positive ones. fredcritter sang "Ripple," which made the tears flow again. People brought wonderful food, potluck: cheese (again) chocolate, ham and other meats, cake and pies and sweets and nuts and several different kids of scotch. . . pameladean brought her gingerbread, which brought tears to my eyes, because it reminded me of the Shakespeare reading group meetings where Mike would dazzle us all with his readings.
I stayed late. We thought of Mike with love and toasted his memory. May it remain ever green.
Edited to add again: The UK's Guardian article. pameladean's report here. She mentioned, which I didn't know, that gerisullivan did the programs. And if you haven't seen it yet, here is Mike's Wikipedia entry.