Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Thomas Disch RIP, Thanks For Putting PKD In Your Last Book

Many Dick-heads and other sci-fi margin walkers are mourning the loss of writer Thomas Disch. Of Disch's fiction, I only ever read The Genocides, which I thought kind of sucked, but of Disch's non-fiction The Dreams Are Stuff is Made Of is essential reading and includes some very perceptive insights into Dick's work, not to mention sci-fi as a whole.

But wait, Disch's last book, The Word of God; Or, Holy Writ Rewritten is going to feature Philip K Dick. John Clute makes the book sound interesting in a column for

" its 175 pages The Word of God constructs a more complex relationship between the reader and what is read, between the implied author and the real author and the implied reader and the real person with tired eyes staying awake and laughing hard, between reportage and fictionality, between text and pretext, than any book I can remember encountering."

But it gets better:

"After a short episode in which Jesus (one of Tom's Versions) goes down to earth to watch Mel Gibson in The Passion of the Christ, we segue back in time to Minneapolis in 1939, where a mysterious stranger, who turns out to be Thomas Mann in regal exile, decides he would like to sleep with a young woman who (as we learn) should be giving birth to Thomas M. Disch in about nine months. In hell, meanwhile, Philip K. Dick—whose belief that Thomas M. Disch was a Communist agent has been well documented, his 1974 letter to the FBI denouncing Tom now being a matter of public record—has been reverted into the body of a 12-year-old kid, and is given the task of manifesting himself on Earth and assassinating Mann before he can become Tom's father. Beyond stirring up the god-stakes, this event will cause FDR sufficient grief that he will miss beginning to win World War II for the good guys, and The Man in the High Castle (1962), which Dick is sufficiently demented to think describes a genuine Hitler Wins world, will come true.

Dick is thwarted by our god."

Wow, cool. Disch seemed like a super nice guy. Anne Dick was a close friend of his and they wrote and spoke often. Disch was always very complimentary of PKD (as PKD was of Disch, see the recently posted Vertex article for proof). Disch told Anne that while other science fiction writers have interesting gadgets and characters, Philip K Dick was able to create an entire world for the reader to step inside and inhabit completely.

I'm adding Disch's Camp Concentration to my summer reading list, but it's a long list and a short summer.

The LA Times has a good obituary about Disch here.

Thanks Jerry Kutner!


Anonymous said...

That should be "The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of"

Robert Cook said...

I just learned of Disch's tragic death today. The only fiction of his I have read is ON WINGS OF SONG, and it was wonderful. I have his CAMP CONCENTRATION and 334 stashed among my shelves of books, so I'll have to dig them out and read them.

I have read and do own THE DREAMS OUR STUFF IS MADE OF and it is a fine book; I also recommend his more recent DISCH ON SF.

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