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Thomas M. Disch



Thomas M. Disch is one of the more eclectic American sf writers of the 1960s; he could almost be considered a member of the elite part of British "New Wave" school that was very entertaining and not "quite" incomprehensible (being perhaps closest to J. G. Ballard in his voice). His stories always surprise with their subject matter, and he writes very tastefully no matter what the storyline is. Did I mention that he is also a poet? This explains his perfectionist approach to style - in other words, his short fiction is very polished and highly recommended.


(art copyright: Vladimir Kush)

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"Angouleme"
© New Worlds Quarterly # 1, 1971
334, 1974

"The Birds"
© Best SF: 1973, ed H.Harrison
Getting Into Death, 1976

"The Brave Little Toaster Goes To Mars" (nv)
(Brave Little Toaster)
© F&SF, Aug 1980
book: Doubleday, 1988
--foreign short story : 1989 Hayakawa W

"Chanson Perpetuelle"
© Immortal, ed. J. Dann, 1978
--/ cool sf story

"The Contest"
© New Worlds, Mar 1967
Under Compulsion, 1968
--/ cool sf story

"Descending"
© Fantastic, Jul 1964
Under Compulsion, 1968
--/ fourth place f story
--/ idea award: existential, surreal escalator ride
--/ style award


"The Descent Of The West End"
© New Worlds, Mar 1967
White Fang Goes Dingo, 1968
--/ fourth place f story
--/ idea award
--/ style award


"Eggs And Chips"
© OMNI, 1989
--/ fourth place f story
--/ idea award
--/ style award


"The Empty Room"
© New Worlds, Mar 1967
Under Compulsion, 1968
--/ cool sf story

"His Own Kind"
© New Worlds Of Fantasy # 2,
ed. T. Carr, 1970


"In Xanadu"
© Redshift, ed. A. Sarrantonio, 2001
--short story : 2002 Locus Poll
--/ cool sf story
--/ idea award

"The Man Who Read a Book"
© Interzone, Sep 1994
--best Interzone selection
--/ cool sf story
--/ idea award

"Minnesota Gothic"
(as by Dobbin Thorpe)
© Fantastic, Jan 1964
Fundamental Disch, 1980
--/ fourth place f story
--/ wonder award
--/ idea: witch's familiar
--/ style award
--/ shock value

"Mystery Diet Of The Gods: A Revelation"
(with John Sladek)
© Swank, Oct 1976

"Nada"
© F&SF, Aug 1964
Under Compulsion, 1968

"Now is Forever"
© Amazing Stories, Mar 1964
Under Compulsion, 1968
--story: Best SF 1965 list
--/ third place time sf story
--/ wonder award
--/ idea award: cloning for "Last Day" effect
--/ style award
--/ rare find

"The Number You Have Reached"
© Sf Impulse, Feb 1967
Under Compulsion, 1968
--/ fourth place sf story
--/ wonder award
--/ style award
--/ emotion award
--/ rare find


"The Roaches"
© Escapade, Oct 1965
Under Compulsion, 1968
--/ fourth place f story
--/ idea award
--/ style award
--/ shock value


"The Santa Claus Compromise"
© Crawdaddy, Dec 1974
The Man Who Had No Idea, 1982

"The Shadow"
© F&SF, Dec 2001
--short story : 2002 Locus /14

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"The Squirrel Cage"
© New Worlds, Oct 1966
Under Compulsion, 1968
--foreign short story : 1970 Seiun W
--/ fourth place f story
--/ idea award
--/ style award


This story is so full of neat technical tricks and swell ideas that it feels more like a Japanese crazed robotics-produced steampunk-enhanced Victorian Faberge egg. OK, so maybe it's a bit less colorful, but once you read it, you'll see why it's just as memorable as these utterly unique Faberge creations. If you ever felt like you were in the proverbial "squirrel cage" of life, caught in a daily grind, this story will deeply affect your heart. You will become a better man, liberated, freshly-ground with an exhilarating smell, just like the Maxwell House coffee. You will have that extra spring in your step and a satisfied grin: "Oh my, that was quite a story I just read... almost as good as (fill the blank with whatever your kick is)". So, this is what the story is about: the writer sits at the keyboard and types away words... that he himself does not understand, unable to read, and not even sure if the machine registers what he types. His body is a slave to "tyranny of routine". His mind though is liberated in a very special, hilarious way, as he invents a zoo of characters specifically designed to combat futility. Who is this master which keeps the free-wheeling spirit in a squirrel cage? Could it be the same impersonal arrangement that Disch described in "Descending" (another awesomely morbid atmospheric piece), where a hero is caught in a succession of endless escalators - treadmill that extends so far that becomes the world itself? Only a poet could envision fiction like this.

But let one other fantasy giant speak: Peter S. Beagle thought that "this little story is... phenomenal stuff. Kafka, Beckett, or Duchamp — all of whom "The Squirrel Cage" owes a debt... Serious existential brain-bending. So I was all charged up for something modern, bright, and shiny, something that would put chrome on my eyeballs and neon in my hair." Yeah, and for me it just neatly took me out of the "squirrel cage", if only for a couple of days.
review: 01-Sep-07 (read in 1999)

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"Things Lost"
© 1972, Again Dangerous Visions

"Understanding Human Behaviour"
© F&SF, Feb 1982
The Man Who Had No Idea, 1982
--novelette : 1983 Nebula
--novelette : 1983 Locus /10
--novelette : 1983 SF Chronicle /2


"The Vengeance of Hera"
© Edges, ed. U. Le Guin, 1980
The Man Who Had No Idea, 1982

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"SF&F Reading Experience" is part of "Dark Roasted Blend / Thrilling Wonder" family of sites. We try to highlight the most entertaining and rewarding science fiction and fantasy, with emphasis on memorable reader experience, not necessarily general acceptance by the critics. Have fun, and delve into our extensive ratings and reviews!

Most reviews are written by Avi Abrams, unless otherwise noted. Reviews also appear on our unique historical retrospective page Wonder Timeline of Science Fiction. Feel free to submit your own review, if a particular story is not listed here.


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Also, there are our personal STYLE / GENRE SPECIFIC AWARDS. These reflect the story's content and the lasting impression on the reader:

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