Science fiction writer Elizabeth Hand has written a thoroughgoing and thoughtful eulogy for Thomas M Disch for Salon today; Disch, one of the grand talents of science fiction, committed suicide on July 4.
Few people make a successful career of contemplating death and suicide; fewer still approach the subject with the genuine ebullience and elegant despair of the prolific, criminally underappreciated writer Thomas M. Disch, who shot himself in his Union Square apartment, in New York, on the Fourth of July. Disch was a seminal figure in science fiction's New Wave, the iconoclastic 1960s movement that gave the genre a literary pedigree and popularized the term "speculative fiction." His books influenced writers such as William Gibson and Jonathan Lethem; his dystopias "Camp Concentration" and "334" are considered science fiction classics, along with his greatest novel, "On Wings of Song," a beautiful, dark meditation on the power and limits of transcendence through art.
An openly gay man for most of his working life, Disch wrote mysteries, historical novels and neo-gothic satires; children's books, including "The Brave Little Toaster" and its sequel; at least five collections of short fiction; 15 volumes of poetry, always as Tom Disch; plays and libretti; four volumes of nonfiction; screen adaptations, novelizations and one of the first interactive computer games. He edited anthologies; he wrote book reviews, theater reviews, art reviews, music reviews. He wrote collaboratively and pseudonymously; he kept a popular blog, Endzone, in which he shared new poems, some unpleasant post-9/11 screeds, and witty discourses on the meaninglessness and minutiae of life. In his most recent novel, he wrote in the voice of God, and on his publisher's Web site answered questions from readers. He wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote, for the sheer joy of it and for an even more primal impulse: to tell a story to the dark.
See also: RIP, Thomas M Disch