Ellen Datlow reports that Thomas Disch has committed suicide. This is really sad, sad news about a very talented individual–an icon of the New Wave.
…and having thought about it some more and being both sad about this and somewhat appalled at the coverage in certain quarters dwelling on Disch’s cantankerous nature, a few additional observations.
Yes, he could be a pain in the ass. Yes, he was paranoid at times. So what? Who among us hasn’t been either of those things at various times in our lives? But he always spoke his mind, he was a true original, and I never read a novel by him that I didn’t think was deeply felt and fiercely intelligent. That includes his last, from Tachyon, out this month, which is at times by its nature self-indulgent, but has his trademark qualities: incisive wit, absurdist dark humor, stark intellectual curiosity. These are qualities you find in too few modern novels.
Disch had lost his partner of three decades, was having trouble with his apartment, and I guess it was just ultimately too much for him. Look, being a writer isn’t as tough as some jobs, but it can be lonely, it can be the equivalent of working without a safety net, and it has the ability to take a lot out of a person. On top of the blows life can deal to you.
I’m very sad at this moment, in part on a personal level and in part knowing how many of my close friends were friends of his and thus are mourning his loss right now. I never spoke to Disch–I just read his books, read his blog, and admired him for the very quality a few others didn’t like: he was himself. Sometimes I think we want writers to be sanitized, polite, get-with-the-program clones of each other in terms of their personalities. There was never any danger of that with Disch.
I didn’t actually know him in a personal sense, as I’ve said, but I already miss him very much. And I hope wherever he is now he’s at peace.