In Memoriam: Tom Disch, science-fiction master and poet
The extraordinary science-fiction writer, poet, and essayist Thomas M. Disch has died, reportedly by suicide, on the 4th of July. He was 68.
You may know his best-known work, the novella The Brave Little Toaster (pictured), which was adapted to film as the acclaimed 1987 Disney cartoon. But Disch also wrote ten science fiction novels and scores of short stories that placed him at the center of the genre for their uncommon literary adroitness, dry wit and clear-eyed skepticism. Go read the lyrically beautiful On Wings Of Song (1979) immediately, please.
Disch’s primary calling, however, was as a poet. He published a half-dozen collections characterized by a mastery of poetic forms, and in 1995 published a collection of essays, The Castle of Indolence: On Poetry, Poets, and Poetasters, that was positively inspirational in its glowing appreciation and ruthless criticism of what he considered the best and worst tendencies in modern poetry. I kept it on my bedside table for periodic rereading and inspiration.
Finally, close to home here: Disch wrote numerous book reviews for Entertainment Weekly in its early days. You can find his witty takes on everything from the Random House Encyclopedia to an appreciation of Dr. Seuss.
A prodigiously talented writer,Disch never received the mainstream credit he was due. I don’t doubt this was one cause of his sad, all-too-early death.