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A Cherished Contributor, and Hard to be Friends With: Michael Moorcock on Thomas M. Disch

Wednesday, October 10th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

New Worlds August 1967 Camp Concentration-small New Worlds October 1967 Camp Concentration-small

Last month I wrote a brief feature on Thomas M. Disch and his 1968 dystopian SF novel Camp Concentration. Michael Moorcock, who serialized the novel in four issues of his magazine New Worlds (July -October, 1967), contacted me to share his own memories, and challenge my portrayal of Tom as “a tragic figure.”

Tom was a close friend. Sometimes hard to be friends with. He was given to depression and to taking offence over imagined insults. In spite of this, I and his other close friends loved him and I still wonder if I could have done more for him, as does Linda. She says that she loved being with us and never laughed so much as when we were together, so I don’t see him as a tragic figure. After Charlie died he became lonely and bitter on occasions but several substantial friends did all they could for him.

I serialised Camp Concentration in New Worlds and was flattered when he said he would not have aspired to make it as good as it was if he hadn’t known it was appearing there. He brought each episode in every month and I was increasingly grateful to have such a fine novel to run in the first of our large size issues. With Ballard, he was my most valued contributor. Camp Concentration was illustrated by our mutual friend, the fine artist Pamela Zoline. He brought John Clute and John Sladek into our circle and the 60s and 70s were wonderful thanks in considerable part to our mutual friendships. Politically, we rarely agreed, but we had so much fun together. I miss him terribly.

“Charlie” was Disch’s partner of three decades, poet Charles Naylor, who died in 2005. I asked Michael for permission to reprint his comments here, and he graciously granted it, and shared some additional memories of Disch.

[Click the images for large-size-magazine versions.]

Of course. Tom was sometimes a hard friend to have but Charlie said he thought I was Tom’s best friend and I was greatly moved by that. John Clute was his other old friend who remained loyal to Tom through thick and thin. We loved him, even when he was his own worst enemy on occasion…

Michael’s Elric novella “The Dreamthief’s Daughter” appeared in the very first issue of Black Gate magazine. His most recent book is the semi-autobiographical novel The Whispering Swarm (2015), the first book of The Sanctuary of the White Friars.

The Whispering Swarm-small Stories All New Tales Neil Gaiman-small

I asked Michael if he had any additional memories of Tom he’d care to share.

There are a few in The Whispering Swarm, my most recent novel in English… There will be some in my next novel, which is also autobiographical, The Woods of Arcady. Also a story I’m working on “Stalking Balzac” is mostly about Tom…. “Stories” in the Gaiman anthology Stories: All-New Tales was also to some degree about Tom.

I’m very pleased to have another opportunity to showcase the work of Thomas Disch, a very talented writer whose fiction deserves more attention. If there are other readers in the audience who’d like to share their experience of reading Disch’s novels and stories here, I’d be very happy to hear it.

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