A melancholy beginning to my morning. I log on to LibraryThing and find a thread discussing the death, apparently by suicide, of author Tom Disch. Someone considerately posts a link to Disch's Livejournal site and I scroll through it, reading some of his comments, his poetry. What quickly becomes apparent is the level of the man's bitterness--and who can blame him? He wrote terrific SF-oriented novels like On Wings of Song, Camp Concentration, 334, earning himself a reputation as a "writer's writer", which, of course, is the closest thing to a death sentence for a scribbler. It means your work is "difficult" or "challenging" or "too smart". Editors would rather publish a known and active pedophile than sponsor fiction of such calibre. Brilliant writing, innovative themes and styles, literary...no money in that!
And so Disch's work languished, some of his best offerings unavailable, out of print or difficult to find. He tried other genres, other modes of writing. His journalism and reviews are consistently first-rate, revealing a first class mind--check out his evisceration of Whitley Streiber in The Nation some time. In all honesty, I have to say I avoided his horror novels, just didn't think that was the right field for him.
Never met Mr. Disch, never corresponded with him. Had I been aware of his Livejournal blog, I might have popped by to pass along my respects. Now I'll never get a chance. Prickly, pompous, sharp-tongued, furious,depressive. His obstreperousness worked against him but it was his intelligence and talent that were his downfall.
He was too good for SF, too good for genre fiction. Let's hope discerning readers of the future will unearth and rediscover his finest works and realize they transcend easy categorization, defy description. Literate, prophetic, admonitory, Thomas Disch's body of work should be the envy of good writers everywhere. Seek out his books wherever you can find them, see for yourself why folks like me are singing his praises...and regretting his untimely passing.
Causes Cliff Burns Supports
The Stephen Lewis Foundation, Community Radio