Disch, Thomas M. 1940–2008

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Disch, Thomas M. 1940–2008

(Thom Demijohn, a joint pseudonym, Thomas Michael Disch, Tom Disch, Leonie Hargrave, Victor Hastings, Cassandra Knye, a joint pseudonym)


See index for CA sketch: Born February 2, 1940, in Des Moines, IA; died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, July 5, 2008, in New York, NY. Novelist, short-story writer, poet, critic, children's writer, playwright, librettist, editor, and author. Among the prominent judges of science fiction, Disch was respected as one of America's most talented authors of speculative fiction, as he insisted upon calling it. Yet he was better known in England than his homeland and was most often recognized on both sides of the Atlantic for his children's stories. One of them, The Brave Little Toaster: A Bedtime Story for Small Appliances (1986), won a British science fiction award and nominations for both the Hugo Award of the World Science Fiction Convention and a Nebula Award from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. It was later adapted as a popular animated film. Disch's adult novels and short stories were not for everyone, critics said, for they were often dark and troubling, bleak and foreboding, verging on horror or crossing altogether into the gothic genre, such as the novel The Priest (1994). The same critics, however, praised his imagination, social conscience, and especially his literary approach to a genre often considered merely escapist or frivolous. He employed surrealist "new wave" elements in work like the novel On Wings of Song (1979), for which he received a John W. Campbell Memorial Award from the World Science Fiction Convention and an American Book Award nomination. Disch was, in fact, a highly versatile author. He wrote mainstream fiction, poetry, plays and opera librettos. He worked as a theater and arts critic for periodicals ranging from the Nation to the New York Daily News. He published under a variety of pseudonyms and worked with other authors under joint pseudonyms, and he edited anthologies of writings by his colleagues and other authors whose work he admired. His short stories, which are often the lifeblood of science fiction writers, appeared in magazines from Amazing Stories to Harper's to Playboy. Disch also wrote award-winning nonfiction. The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of: How Science Fiction Conquered the World (1998) received a Hugo Award in the nonfiction category. Disch never stopped writing. The satirical novel The Word of God: Or, Holy Writ Rewritten (2008) was published only days before his unexpected death.



Contemporary Poets, 7th edition, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2001.

St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost, and Gothic Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1998.

St. James Guide to Science Fiction Writers, 4th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.


Chicago Tribune, July 9, 2008, sec. 2, p. 9.

Los Angeles Times, July 8, 2008, p. B6.

New York Times, July 8, 2008, p. A19.

Times (London, England), July 18, 2008, p. 58.