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Thomas Disch; Sci-Fi Writer Was Part of 'New Wave'

In addition to science fiction, Thomas M. Disch wrote poetry and criticism. His children's book
In addition to science fiction, Thomas M. Disch wrote poetry and criticism. His children's book "The Brave Little Toaster" was turned into an animated film in 1987. His latest book, "The Word of God," is being published this month. (By Jamie Spracher)
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Thomas Michael Disch was born Feb. 2, 1940, in Des Moines and grew up mostly in Minnesota, completing high school in St. Paul. He had three brothers and a sister, who survive him.

He left for New York at 17, served briefly in the Army, where, he said, he spent months in the brig. He attended Cooper Union and New York University and held a series of odd jobs while trying to establish his writing career.

Mr. Disch had been openly gay since 1968 but only occasionally touched on gay themes, saying, "I'm gay myself, but I don't write 'gay' literature."

In the 1993 edition of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, writer John Clute summed up Mr. Disch's peculiar standing, in which he was widely admired without becoming widely popular: "[Disch] has been perhaps the most respected, least trusted, most envied and least read of all modern first-rank [science fiction] writers."

Within the past three years, his home in Barryville, N.Y., was flooded and developed severe mold. After Naylor died, a fire damaged Mr. Disch's Manhattan apartment. His health was failing from diabetes, he had little income and he was recently threatened with eviction.

"The last time I saw him, in May," Weisman said, "he actually said that if he lost the apartment, he would shoot himself."

Mr. Disch maintained a blog until two days before his death.

On June 17, he wrote:

What is so tragic as the lethal blast

Of thunderbolt or .38

That turns what had been present

Into past? There he stood

And here he lies at last.

Will you not shed a single tear

For any such? Is that too much to ask?


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