The Dragon Waiting, by John M. Ford

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Dear Mike,

I miss you. There are signs of life in the atmosphere of Venus, the American West is on fire, and the world in general is in a state that would have gotten us at least four of your poems, maybe more. I don’t expect you could have fixed any of it, but it’d still be better to face it with you.

But we have your stuff. We have that. So I read The Dragon Waiting for the fourth time this week, in its new edition. Scott Lynch wrote a lovely introduction for it, and I had to go off and cry and swear like four times while reading it, because Scott didn’t get to know you, he’s very clear about that in the introduction, and he’s just the very tip of the amazing ship-shattering iceberg of people who should have gotten to know you. But he has The Dragon Waiting. Not the same as getting to talk to you about EMT/firefighter geekery or caper stories or whatever it is that you’d know in common that I don’t even know yet, but it sure isn’t nothing.

In some ways your books are where I left them, Mike. There are bits that I always remember, and I’ve never found them to pale on rereads. The parts I love, the horrible moment of the doctor realizing about the young prince, or the scene where [spoiler] is deliberately horrible to [spoiler] for strategic reasons, or the way that it all unfolds by implication–they’re all still there.

But they also change on the rereads. There are always things that hit me harder later. The line about how if Dimi’s father could die, so could any god: my dad was alive the last time I read that, so it was a softer blow, more bearable. But also I think of you when I read that, though you were neither father nor god to me. If Mike could die so could any friend. If Mike could die so could any mentor. If Mike could die so could any artist. You left us so many of the things we’d need in your absence, but friend, you never intended that they should sit easy, and they don’t.

The things you did with this different world were more graceful, more compact, more allusive than–my God, you wrote this in 1983. 1983. Some of it might look a little less astonishing now that other people have come along and said, hey, yeah, I think I’ll do that too, but it’s like our friend’s kid saying Hamlet was a lot of common quotes strung together. You were there first and best. Your Byzantium, your Margaret of Anjou, your Lord Rivers, the things you think to do that other people still don’t think of…backwards, on schees.

It’s September, which makes it 14 years since we lost you. That math is very hard to understand. And now there’s this new edition, so instead of scouring used bookstores we can just…tell people to pick up a copy. Just casual-like. At their favorite bookstore, if they can go there in this plague; online if not. It’s such a relief, Mike. We’re doing the best we can, but a new copy of The Dragon Waiting sure doesn’t make anything harder. I’ve written you a whole series of Nature stories, Jo’s got Richard and Savonarola and Ficino in Lent, so many others, we haven’t stopped wanting to talk to you. It’s just that now it’s going to be easier to ask more people into the conversation.

Thanks. For all of it.
Marissa

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