The Man Who Had No Idea

"The Man Who Had No Idea" is a 1978 science fiction story by Thomas M. Disch. It was first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Plot summaryEdit

In a world where licenses are required in order to participate in conversation, Barry Riordan risks failing his exam because he cannot think of anything original.


"The Man Who Had No Idea" was a finalist for the 1979 Hugo Award for Best Novelette[1]

John Sladek considered it to depict "delightful problems".[2] Kirkus Reviews noted that it "say(s) a great deal about our expectations of ourselves and others."[3] John Clute, however, found it to be "unaccountably genial and without formal bite", such that its "potentially formidable idea gradually declines into doodle".[4]


In a 1984 interview, Disch described it as "a story about what our social relationships are really like" and "a springboard to the subject of what do we talk about when we talk about anything. What are all these social interactions about? What is the subject of them?"[5]


  1. ^ 1979 Hugo Awards, at; retrieved June 19, 2018
  2. ^ Four Reasons for Reading Thomas M. Disch, by John Sladek, originally published in The Stellar Gauge: Essays on Science Fiction Writers (Norstrilia Press, 1980); archived at Ansible Editions; retrieved June 19, 2018
  3. ^ THE BEST FROM FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION: 23rd Series, reviewed at Kirkus Reviews; originally published May 23, 1980; retrieved June 19, 2018
  4. ^ FSF7//Crowley/Elgin/Carr/Zebrowski, reviewed in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (April 1980); archived in Strokes (published November 24, 2016, by Orion Publishing Group)
  5. ^ Unearthing my 1984 interview with Thomas M. Disch, by Scott Edelman, originally published in Last Wave #5 (Winter 1986); excerpt archived at, March 1 2015; retrieved June 19, 2018