Thomas Michael Disch, 1940-2008

Tom Disch committed suicide on July 4.

I haven’t been able to get that sentence out of my head the last few days. I didn’t know the man personally and I can’t even begin to understand what pain he must have been going through to take that action, but I respected the hell out of his writing and the whole thing makes me really, really sad. One of the strongest, most thoughtful voices of the New Wave is gone.

Disch didn’t only wear an sf hat, he was also a poet, essayist, and children’s book author. He wore an image of a tough-as-nails New Yorker, though he was born and raised in the Midwest. He’s probably best known for Camp Concentration and 334 (both of which appear on Pringle’s list, along with On Wings of Song), two pieces of literature I’d gladly put in the hands of any reader. But my favorite book by him is his first novel, The Genocides. On the face of it, it’s just a simple horror fantasy about giant plants taking over the Earth. Underneath that, a brilliant study of human nature and our relationship to the environment lurks–Disch was always a cogent critic of society and culture. He even took sf as a whole to task in Dreams Our Stuff is Made Of, one of the best social histories/critiques of the genre I’ve ever read, if rather angry and presumptuous at times.

In the last years, Disch was a moody, darkly insightful writer on his web journal Endzone. And friends have suggested that he was particularly so because of the death of his longtime partner Charles Naylor in 2005. He was apparently living a meager life in a rent-controlled apartment in New York when he took his life. I don’t know what else to say. The whole thing just sucks.


One response to “Thomas Michael Disch, 1940-2008

  1. Being a Canadian I didn’t even catch the signifigance of the date. Satire till the very end.I haven’t read his stuff yet but I am working my way through the list and look forward to reading it