The No B.S. Ford
It started in South Carolina, at the South Carolina Book Festival. I was moderating a panel on Fantasy with Michael Bishop, Karen Joy Fowler, and Jeff. I'd scrupulously prepared questions ahead of time and sent them out to Mike, Karen, and Jeff. I'd even asked them if they thought there should be other questions or if the questions I had were stupid. No, no--they're great was the consensus. For some reason I was still nervous.
The night before the panel, I had traded in my preparedness for about seven vodka-and-orange-juices at the open bar at the reception. I had spent most of the next morning turning a rather violent shade of red and feeling horribly sick. Still, everything was going well until I asked a question about metaphysical landscapes in fantasy and how some fantasy landscapes don't need a map.
Despite having okayed the question before, the panel turned on me like a pack of wolves, culminating in Jeff Ford saying "I think that's bullshit." After which he gave a very articulate answer that I can't remember.
The point of this story is that the reaction to "bullshit" was so overwhelmingly positive that for awhile it became a catch phrase for Jeff. And for some reason, I was always around when it was said. We had books coming out from Pan Macmillan at the same time and so we did a few events in England together. In London, I can't remember the exact context, but the scene itself must have been classic. We were sitting on this leather couch at a Borders as part of the Cadigan reading series. Jeff had perched strategically on the edge of the monstrosity, while I'd sat back and was now trapped in the folds of the damn thing. A question was asked. I gave a thoughtful, long, probably a bit precious response. Jeff's answer to the same question was "I think that's bullshit." Again to enthusiastic reaction.
Blackpool. EasterCon. Engelbert Humperdink and David Cassidy were going to be doing a dual concert in the same convention center as the convention. We were on a panel on magic realism. It wasn't going well. I'd lost my research on the origins of magic realism. John Clute asked a question that was just a statement. And I could see it coming. I could see from the look in Jeff's eyes what he was going to say. And, of course, he was sitting right next to me. And, of course, I still answered the question that came at us with a longish, serious answer.
I turned to Jeff and handed him the microphone and, as if in slow motion, Jeff's mouth opened and out came the words, "I gotta say--I think that's bullshit." The question, not my response. But, still. Why was I bothering? Jeff's bullshit was getting a great response. Even more important--he was right! He was absolutely right. In each case--it was bullshit. Total, utter, unadulterated bullshit.
It got to the point that every time he said the word bullshit I broke into spontaneous laughter. I sent him On Bullshit, a book by an Ivy League professor. I sent him a postcard of a frog in a classroom raising its arm and shouting "That's bullshit!"
And, ultimately, I appropriated his response. At the end of a panel on New Weird at WorldCon in Boston, I said, "I think something Jeff Ford says a lot is appropriate here." Hopeful glances from the other panelists (I'd been a little cranky about the term "New Weird".). Surely Jeff Ford had something erudite to say.
And from my mouth came the words, "It's all a load of bullshit."
Except, it didn't work for me.
Because Jeff Ford is the Lord of Bullshit and his reign is eternal.
-- Jeff VanderMeer, author of Shriek: An Afterword (and many other fine books)