I have been alternating between sadness and screaming FUCK! really loudly for the past 24 hours since hearing that brilliant, angry writer Thomas M. Disch killed himself on July 4. He was the author of some of the creepiest, most amazing SF-themed social satires I have ever read. I still get the crawlies when I think about his book The M.D., a contemporary twist on Frankenstein, and of course he's rightly famous for the book Camp Concentration. When I was first contemplating putting io9 together, one of the books I returned to again and again for inspiration was Disch's smart, entertaining book about the history of science fiction: The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of. Lucky for those of us who are mourning Disch's passing, literary blogger Ed "Bat Segundo Show" Champion has posted a podcast of the last interview Disch ever did. Champion interviewed him at home a few weeks ago.
Disch lived in an apartment with scant decor. There were books and a few paintings. But that was pretty much it. He told me that his other home in the country had been overrun with mildew. And he had nowhere else to go, no place to live other than this apartment. In the end, Disch lived entirely for his art and paid the terrible price for daring to stick to his guns . . . I remain extremely saddened that Disch, who merely wanted to be appreciated as a poet and who hoped that he could hold onto his apartment on Union Square West, felt that suicide was the only answer. Perhaps he was a lonely man still trying to come to terms with the death of his partner. Perhaps he had declared himself a deity so that the world would finally notice his literary contributions. I don't know if I'm really in the position to judge.
Champion's reference to Disch declaring himself a deity alludes to the author's latest novel, Word of God, or Holy Writ Rewritten, a strange collection of tales told from God's point of view. It's clear from his work that Disch had become mournful and fascinated with the afterlife (if still in a satirical way). Disch's partner Charles had been very ill before he died, and that sickness wiped out his savings and Disch's. Before he committed suicide, Disch had been struggling with his landlord to remain in his rent-controlled apartment, which the landlord claimed he couldn't keep because it was in his dead partner's name.
Thomas M. Disch, you will be missed. Photo by Houari B.
Thomas M. Disch Found Dead [Edward Champion's Reluctant Habits]