Thomas M. Disch, 1940-2008

By Neal Comment

thomas-disch-headshot.jpgAs the holiday weekend drew to a close, science fiction fans were saddened as the news spread online: Thomas M. Disch had died Friday morning, an apparent suicide. Speculation concerning his motive centered on prolonged depression following the death of his life partner, Charles Naylor, in 2004, and the fear that he was about to be evicted from his Manhattan apartment; his final LiveJournal entries contain several references to death, his own as well as others.

Disch’s literary reputation rested primarily on searing SF novels like Camp Concentration and 334, but he was also an insightful critic: His The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of is one of the best overviews of 20th-century science fiction available, just as The Castle of Indolence took a no-bullshit approach to contemporary poetry. The independent press Tachyon Publications had just published a new novel by Disch, The Word of God, which the author promoted online by answering letters in the deity’s voice, and in person at a reading at the South Street Seaport last month. A short story collection, The Wall of America, is due out in October.

(photo by Ariel Hameon, from the South Street Seaport event)