Thomas M. Disch

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Last Updated on May 10, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 86

Thomas M. Disch was as versatile as he was prolific, having published, in addition to his short fiction, novels, poetry, and children’s books. Among his nonfiction works is The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of: How Science Fiction Conquered the World (1998). He wrote theater criticism, lectured at various universities, and created a computer-interactive novel entitled Amnesia (1985). His other novels include On Wings of Song (1979) and The M.D. (1991), a fable about a boy’s use of supernatural powers to accomplish good deeds and punish evil.


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Though known primarily as a science-fiction writer, Thomas M. Disch is hard to categorize. He was part of the New Wave science-fiction writers of the 1960’s, many of whose works appeared in the English magazine New Worlds, under the editorship of Michael Moorcock and might be said to belong to an “absurdist” tradition within science fiction. With three titles included among editor David Pringle’s list of the one hundred best science-fiction novels—Camp Concentration (1968), 334 (1972), and On Wings of Song—Disch was one of the serious writers who brought science fiction a little of the intellectual respectability long denied works of popular culture. Two stories won Disch the O. Henry Prize, in 1975 and 1979. The novella The Brave Little Toaster won nominations for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards in 1980 and won a British Science-Fiction Award in 1981. In 1999 Disch won the Michael J. Braude Award for light verse.


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Ash, Brian. The Visual Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. London: Trewin Copplestone, 1977. Despite its title, this compendium of science-fiction information contains brief essays by well-known science-fiction writers on themes and concepts in the genre. Disch is mentioned several times, though this volume is more useful as a general introduction to science fiction. Illustrations.

Clemons, Walter. “The Joyously Versatile Thomas Disch.” Newsweek 112 (July 11, 1988): 66-67. A biographical account that claims Disch is one of America’s most gifted writers whose work is hard to categorize.

Crowley, John. “Fiction in Review.” The Yale Review 83 (April, 1995): 134-146. A summary survey of Disch’s work in various genres, including his short stories; suggests that Disch was wearying of the constraints of the horror genre.

Delany, Samuel R. The American Shore: Meditations on a Tale of Science Fiction by Thomas M. Disch. Elizabethtown, N.Y. : Dragon Press, 1978. The renowned science-fiction author writes about “The Asian Shore.”

Delany, Samuel R. Introduction to Fundamental Disch. New York: Bantam Books, 1980. A master of science fiction introduces his own selection of eighteen Disch stories, with brief commentaries on “Slaves” and “The Asian Shore.” This volume also contains several appendices.

Finkle, David. Publishers Weekly 238 (April 19, 1991): 48-49. A sketch of Disch’s literary career and an informal interview in which Disch talks about his horror fiction and his plans for work in the future.

Stableford, Brian. “Thomas Disch.” In Science Fiction Writers: Critical Studies of the Major Authors from the Early Nineteenth Century to the Present Day, edited by Richard Bleiler. 2d ed. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1999. An overview of Disch’s life and writings, updated from the first edition (1982). Of particular interest are brief selections of Disch’s commentaries on science fiction. Bibliography.

Wolfe, Gary K. The Known and the Unknown: The Iconography of Science Fiction. Kent, Ohio: The Kent State University Press, 1979. This study explores the images that have developed into the icons of science fiction. The book is divided into three major sections. References to Disch are limited to the novel 334 in the chapter titled “Icon of the City.” Supplemented by a preface, an afterword, notes, and an index.

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