Thomas Ligotti

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Thomas Ligotti
Born (1953-07-09) July 9, 1953 (age 60)
Detroit, Michigan, United States
Occupation Short story writer
Nationality American
Period 1981–present
Genres Horror fiction, dark fantasy

Thomas Ligotti (born July 9, 1953) is a contemporary American horror author and reclusive literary cult figure. His writings, while unique in style, have been noted[by whom?] as major continuations of several literary genres – most prominently Lovecraftian horror – and have overall been described[by whom?] as works of "philosophical horror", often written as philosophical novels with a "darker" undertone which is similar to gothic fiction. The Washington Post called him "the best kept secret in contemporary horror fiction."[1]


Ligotti attended Macomb County Community College between 1971 and 1973 and graduated from Wayne State University in 1977.

Ligotti started his publishing career in the early 1980s with a number of short stories published in various American small press magazines. He was contributing editor to Grimoire from 1982-1985. [2]

His unique and affecting tales gathered a small following. Ligotti's relative anonymity and reclusiveness led to speculation about his identity. In an introduction to a 1996 collection of Ligotti fiction, The Nightmare Factory, Poppy Z. Brite mentioned these notions with a rhetorical question: "Are you out there, Thomas Ligotti?"

In recent years, Ligotti has conducted interviews and disclosed some details of his background. For twenty-three years Ligotti worked as an Associate Editor at Gale Research (now the Gale Group), a publishing company that produces compilations of literary (and other) research. In the summer of 2001, Ligotti quit his job at the Gale Group and moved to south Florida. His favorite music is generally instrumental rock.

Ligotti's worldview has been described[by whom?] as profoundly nihilistic (though he is wary of the label, stating: "'Nihilist' is a name that other people call you. No intelligent person has ever described or thought of himself as a nihilist."[3]), and has stated he has suffered from chronic anxiety for much of his life; these have been prominent themes in his work.

Ligotti avoids the explicit violence common in some recent horror fiction, preferring to establish a disquieting, pessimistic atmosphere through the use of subtlety and repetition. He has cited Vladimir Nabokov, Thomas Bernhard, Edgar Allan Poe, Bruno Schulz, Emil Cioran and William S. Burroughs as being among his favorite writers. There are similarities between some of Ligotti's work and the stories of Robert Aickman as well. H. P. Lovecraft is also an important touchstone for Ligotti: a few stories, "The Sect of the Idiot" in particular, make explicit reference to Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos, and one, "The Last Feast of Harlequin," was dedicated to Lovecraft. Also among his avowed influences (as cited in an early interview with the fanzine Dagon) are M.R. James, Algernon Blackwood, and Arthur Machen, all fin de siécle horror authors known for their subtlety and implications of the cosmic and supernatural in their stories.

Ligotti has stated he prefers short stories to longer forms, both as a reader and writer,[citation needed] though he has written a novella, My Work Is Not Yet Done.

Ligotti collaborated with the musical group Current 93 on the albums In a Foreign Town, In a Foreign Land (1997, reissued 2002), I Have a Special Plan for This World (2000), This Degenerate Little Town (2001) and The Unholy City (2003), all released on David Tibet's Durtro label. Tibet has also published several limited editions of Ligotti's books on Durtro Press. Ligotti also played guitar on Current 93's contribution to the compilation Foxtrot, an album whose proceeds went to the treatment of musician John Balance's alcoholism.

Critical analyses of Ligotti's work can be found in S. T. Joshi's book The Modern Weird Tale (2001), as well as in a critical anthology assembled by Darrell Schweitzer, a fan of Ligotti.

In September 2007, Fox Atomic Comics released The Nightmare Factory, a graphic novel based on Ligotti's stories. The book received very strong reviews, and consequently a second volume was published in September 2008.

Wonder Entertainment released The Frolic Collector's Edition DVD and Book set, which contains a short film adaptation of Thomas Ligotti's short story "The Frolic". This collector's edition contains the following: commentary tracks and behind-the-scenes by director Jacob Cooney, producer Jane Kelly Kosek, and actor Maury Sterling; a new interview with screenwriters Thomas Ligotti and Brandon Trenz; a newly revised version of the short story, with a new introduction by Thomas Ligotti; and the screenplay, with a new introduction by Brandon Trenz. Only 1,000 copies were made available of this collector's edition. The book, which contains the revised "The Frolic", is exclusive to this set.

Ligotti gives a favorable quote in the introduction to Nova Scotia, Canada, fiction writer Barry Wood's short story "Nowhere to Go" published in England's Postscripts #14 in 2008. Ligotti has also provided blurbs for books by Eddie M. Angerhuber, Matt Cardin, Michael Cisco, John B. Ford, Thomas Wiloch, and the philosopher Eugene Thacker. Scottish philosopher Ray Brassier wrote the Foreword to Ligotti's The Conspiracy against the Human Race. [4]

Subterranean Press has begun to release definitive revised editions of some of Ligotti's earlier collections, including Grimscribe. In 2014 the publisher was also scheduled to publish two new works by Ligotti: The Spectral Link, containing two brand new stories (the first from Ligotti's pen in more than a decade), and Born to Fear: Interviews with Thomas Ligotti, edited by Matt Cardin and bringing together interviews with Ligotti spanning the previous 25 years, including several that had not previously appeared in English.

In 2014 the HBO television series True Detective attracted attention from some of Ligotti's fans because of the striking resemblance between the pessimistic, antinatalist philosophy espoused in the first few episodes by the character of Rust Cohle (played by Matthew McConaughey) and Ligotti's own philosophical pessimism and antinatalism, especially as expressed in The Conspiracy against the Human Race. The writer of the series, Nic Pizzolatto, ended up confirming that Ligotti, along with several other writers and texts in the weird supernatural horror genre, had indeed influenced him. Pizzolatto said he found The Conspiracy Against the Human Race to be "incredibly powerful writing." On the topic of hard-boiled detectives, he asked, "What could be more hardboiled than the worldview of Ligotti or [Emil] Cioran?"[5]


Ligotti has received numerous awards and nominations for his work:

  • 1982: Small Press Writers and Artists Organization, Best Author of Horror/Weird Fiction: The Chymist
  • 1986: Rhysling Award, from Science Fiction Poetry Association (nomination): One Thousand Painful Variations Performed Upon Divers Creatures Undergoing the Treatment of Dr. Moreau, Humanist
  • 1991: World Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction (nomination): The Last Feast of Harlequin
  • 1992: World Fantasy Award for Best Collection (nomination): Grimscribe: His Lives and Works
  • 1997: World Fantasy Award for Best Collection (nomination): The Nightmare Factory
  • 1995: Bram Stoker Award for Best Short Fiction (nomination): The Bungalow House
  • 1996: Bram Stoker Award for Best Fiction Collection: The Nightmare Factory
  • 1996: Bram Stoker Award for Best Long Fiction: The Red Tower
  • 2002: Bram Stoker Award for Best Long Fiction: My Work Is Not Yet Done
  • 2002: International Horror Guild Award, Long Form Category: My Work Is Not Yet Done


By him[edit]

  • Songs of a Dead Dreamer (1986, rev. & exp. 1989)
  • Grimscribe: His Lives and Works (1991)
  • Noctuary (1994)
  • The Agonizing Resurrection of Victor Frankenstein and Other Gothic Tales (1994)
  • The Nightmare Factory (1996). Essentially an omnibus of selections from Ligotti's first three collections, with a concluding section containing new stories.
  • In a Foreign Town, in a Foreign Land (1997, accompanying CD by Current 93)
  • I Have a Special Plan for This World (2000, accompanying CD by Current 93)
  • This Degenerate Little Town (2001, accompanying CD by Current 93)
  • My Work Is Not Yet Done: Three Tales of Corporate Horror (2002)
  • Crampton: A Screenplay (2003, with Brandon Trenz)
  • Sideshow, and Other Stories (2003)
  • Death Poems (2004)
  • The Shadow at the Bottom of the World (2005)
  • Teatro Grottesco (2006, reprinted in 2008)
  • The Conspiracy against the Human Race (2010)
  • The Spectral Link (2014)
  • Born to Fear: Interviews with Thomas Ligotti (2014), edited by Matt Cardin

About him[edit]

  • The Thomas Ligotti Reader: Essays and Explorations (2003), edited by Darrell Schweitzer. A collection of essays about Ligotti's work, which includes one by Ligotti on the horror genre, a Ligotti interview, and a bibliography of his published works.
  • Studies in Modern Horror, issue #2 (2004), edited by N. G. Christakos. This issue of the scholarly journal concerning contemporary weird tales includes Nick Curtis' essay "Notes on Time Displacement and Memory Loss in Crampton" and the first printed version of The Unholy City poem cycle by Ligotti.
  • Studies in Modern Horror, issue #4 (2006), edited by N. G. Christakos. This issue of the scholarly journal concerning contemporary weird tales includes Stephen Tompkins' essay, The Nemesis of Mimesis: Thomas Ligotti, Worlds Elsewhere, and the Darkness Ten Times Black.
  • The Grimscribe’s Puppets edited by Joseph S. Pulver, a collection of tales in tribute to and based upon Ligotti (Miskatonic Press 2013).

Comics adaptations[edit]


  1. ^ Blurb from Ligotti's The Nightmare Factory.
  2. ^ Darrell Schweitzer (ed). The Thomas Ligotti Reader Holicong, PA: Wildside Press, 2003, p. 178.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Darrell Schweitz<er (ed), The Thomas Ligotti Reader, Holicong PA: Wildside Press, 2003, pp.178-79.
  5. ^ "Writer Nic Pizzolatto on Thomas Ligotti and the Weird Secrets of 'True Detective,'" Michael Calia, The Wall Street Journal, February 2, 2014.

External links[edit]