FROM THE END OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
John M. Ford
Edited by Paul J. Giguere
NESFA Press / 313 pages / February 1997
Sometimes, reading a book requires a period of adjustment. Sometimes, it’s necessary to get acclimatised to the author’s style before you can really dig into meat of the material. Sometimes, though, the process can be more like a conversation with an old, but distant friend; you don’t know exactly what’s coming, but you feel warm and comfortable and you just want to sit back and listen to them talk for awhile.
John Ford is your close companion, and you may never have even heard of him. That’s all right — he’s been patiently waiting for you to discover him. And, he knows he is worth the wait.
From the End of the Twentieth Century is the product of the 1997 Boskone, where the New England Science Fiction Association was fortunate enough to have Ford as their Guest of Honour. This strange and wonderful collection is a cross-section of the considerable talents of the man. The pieces stretch over a 20-year time span, covering essays, poems, short fiction, a game scenario, and even a hauntingly elegant song (call it the love theme from How Much For Just The Planet?).
Travel figures into a large part of Ford’s work — some of it train travel, some of it time travel, and some of it between realities. One thing all these travelling stories share is the promise at the end of the trail of a destiny unanticipated. And, yes, sometimes at that trail’s end is death, but more often it is just another trail. Witness the stalwarts on the road to “Mandalay.” Climb up into the cab of old steam engines and spend the lonely nights “Riding the Hammer” with Copper. Make the heart-wrenching decision of a lifetime to venture between the stars on the good ship Myrddin.
And follow Ford down whichever path he takes, because he has a way with laughter, and anger, and sorrow. He touches upon an astronomer’s ultimate personal loss in “The Dark Companion,” and you know that he could show you the exceptional tragedy and the greatest joy of every person who walked through his imagination.
So, though, could Alternities Corporation which exists to make those very moments a reality. When, that is, everything’s working properly. Even then, it isn’t a dream come true for the staff of Alternities Corporation; people only have so much imagination and so many dreams — then it all becomes an endless loop. Or, maybe it will all work out all right when Ford finishes the Alternities story and shows the last pieces of the puzzle. For that, we’ll have to wait and see.
Fiction, non-fiction, poetry and prose — Ford turns his deft touch to all of them. And the results are a wide range that you should explore. Besides, like “Amy, at the Bottom of the Stairs,” you may have no choice, no choice in the matter at all.