Thomas Ligotti

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Thomas Ligotti
Born (1953-07-09) July 9, 1953 (age 61)
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 career as a published writer 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 collection of Ligotti fiction, The Nightmare Factory (1996), Poppy Z. Brite mentioned these notions with a rhetorical question: "Are you out there, Thomas Ligotti?"[3]

In recent years, Ligotti has conducted interviews and disclosed some details of his background. For 23 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.[citation needed]

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."[4]), and has stated he has suffered from chronic anxiety for much of his life; these have been prominent themes in his work.[citation needed]

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 Thomas Bernhard, William S. Burroughs, Emil Cioran, Vladimir Nabokov, Edgar Allan Poe, and Bruno Schulz as being among his favorite writers. 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[when?]) are Algernon Blackwood, M.R. James, and Arthur Machen, all fin de siècle horror authors known for their subtlety and implications of the cosmic and supernatural in their stories.[citation needed]

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 (2002)[5]

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. Additionally, Ligotti played guitar on Current 93's contribution to the compilation album Foxtrot, whose proceeds went to the treatment of musician John Balance's alcoholism.[6]

Critical analyses of Ligotti's work can be found in S. T. Joshi's book The Modern Weird Tale (2001)[7] as well as in a critical anthology assembled by Darrell Schweitzer, a fan of Ligotti's.[citation needed]

In September 2007, Fox Atomic Comics released The Nightmare Factory, a graphic novel based on Ligotti's stories. The book received very strong reviews,[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

Ligotti gives a favorable quote in the introduction to Nova Scotia, Canada, fiction writer Barry Wood's short story "Nowhere to Go" (2008) published in Postscripts #14. Ligotti has also provided blurbs for books by Eddie M. Angerhuber, Matt Cardin, Michael Cisco, John B. Ford, the philosopher Eugene Thacker, and Thomas Wiloch. Scottish philosopher Ray Brassier wrote the Foreword to Ligotti's The Conspiracy Against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror (2010).[8][9]

Subterranean Press has begun to release definitive revised editions of some of Ligotti's earlier collections, including Grimscribe.[10] In 2014, the Subterranean Press also published two new works by Ligotti: The Spectral Link,[11] which includes 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.[12]

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 series' writer, Nic Pizzolatto, confirmed 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?"[13]


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


  • The Agonizing Resurrection of Victor Frankenstein, Citizen of Geneva
  • Alice's Last Adventure
  • Allan and Adelaide—An Arabesque
  • Autumnal
  • The Bells Will Sound Forever
  • The Blasphemous Enlightenment of Prof. Francis Wayland Thurston of Boston, Providence, and the Human Race
  • The Blonde: A Sonnet [under the pseudonym Frank Santino]
  • The Bungalow House
  • The Career of Nightmares
  • Charnel House of the Moon
  • The Christmas Eves of Aunt Elise:  A Tale of Possession in Old Grosse Pointe
  • The Chymist
  • The Clown Puppet
  • The Cocoons
  • The Complete Madman [under the pseudonym Charles Miguel Riaz]  
  • Conversations in a Dead Language
  • Crampton [by Thomas Ligotti and Brandon Trenz]  [Unproduced screenplay written 1998, for an episode of The X-Files]
  • Death without End
  • The Decayed Mystic [under the pseudonym Charles Miguel Riaz]  
  • The Demon Man
  • The Deranged Poet [under the pseudonym Charles Miguel Riaz]  
  • Dr. Locrian's Asylum
  • Dr. Voke and Mr. Veech
  • Dream of a Mannikin
  • The Dreaming in Nortown
  • Drink to Me Only with Labyrinthine Eyes
  • The Dwarf by Aloysius Bertrand, translated by Thomas Ligotti 
  • The Eternal Devotion of the Governess to the Residents of Bly
  • The Eternal Mirage
  • The Ever-Vigilant Guardians of Secluded Estates
  • The Excruciating Final Days of Dr. Henry Jekyll, Englishman
  • Eye of the Lynx
  • The Fabulous Alienation of the Outsider, Being of No Fixed Abode
  • Flowers of the Abyss
  • The Frolic
  • Gas Station Carnivals
  • The Glamour
  • The Greater Festival of Masks
  • The Heart of Count Dracula, Descendent of Attila, Scourge of God
  • His Shadow Shall Rise to a Higher House
  • I Have a Special Plan for This World [short story]
  • I Have a Special Plan for This World [verse]
  • In the Shadow of Another World
  • The Insufferable Salvation of Lawrence Talbot the Wolfman
  • The Interminable Equation
  • The Interminable Residence of the Friends of the House of Usher
  • The Intolerable Lesson of the Phantom of the Opera
  • "Introduction"  [to Grimscribe]
  • Invocation to the Void
  • The Journal of J. P. Drapeau
  • The Last Feast of Harlequin
  • The Library of Byzantium
  • The Lost Art of Twilight
  • Mad Night of Atonement
  • The Madman, by Aloysius Bertrand, translated by Thomas Ligotti
  • Masquerade of a Dead Sword
  • The Masters Eyes Shining with Secrets
  • The Mechanical  Museum [by John B. Ford and Thomas Ligotti]
  • The Medusa
  • Michigan Basement [by Thomas Ligotti and Brandon Trenz]
  • Miss Plarr        
  • The Mocking Mystery
  • Mrs. Rinaldi's Angel
  • The Murderer, by Gaston Danville, translated by Thomas Ligotti
  • The Music of the Moon
  • My Case for Retributive Action
  • My Work Is Not Yet Done
  • The Mystics of Muelenburg
  • The Nameless Horror
  • Nethescurial
  • New Faces in the City
  • The Night School
  • The Nightmare Network
  • Notes on the Writing of Horror: A Story
  • One May Be Dreaming
  • One Thousand Painful Variations Performed upon Divers Creatures Undergoing the Treatment of Dr. Moreau, Humanist
  • The Order of Illusion
  • Our Temporary Supervisor
  • The Perilous Legacy of Emily St. Aubert, Inheritress of Udolpho          
  • The Physic
  • Postscript [under the pseudonym Charles Miguel Riaz]
  • The Premature Death of H. P. Lovecraft, Oldest Man in New England
  • Primordial Loathing
  • The Prodigy of Dreams
  • Professor Nobody's Little Lectures on Supernatural Horror
  • The Puppet Masters
  • Purity
  • The Real Wolf
  • The Red Tower
  • Sailing into Night [A round-robin with sixteen other authors]
  • Salvation by Doom
  • Sardonic Mundane [as by Louis Miguel Riaz]   
  • The Scream:  From 1800 to the Present
  • The Sect of the Idiot
  • Severini
  • The Shadow, The Darkness
  • The Shadow at the Bottom of the World
  • Sideshow and Other Stories
  • A Soft Voice Whispers Nothing
  • Some Things They Will Never Tell You [verse]  
  • The Spectacles in the Drawer
  • The Spectral Estate
  • The Strange Design of Master Rignolo
  • The Striken Philosopher [under the pseudonym Charles Miguel Riaz]
  • The Superb Companion of Andre de V., Anti-Pygmalion
  • Teatro Grottesco
  • Ten Steps to Thin Mountain
  • This Degenerate Little Town
  • The Town Manager
  • The Transparent Alias of William Wilson, Sportsman and Scoundrel
  • The Troubles of Dr. Thoss
  • The Tsalal
  • The Unbearable Rebirth of the Phantom of the Wax Museum
  • The Unfamiliar
  • The Unholy  City [verse]
  • The Unnatural Persecution, by a Vampire, of Mr. Jacob J.
  • Vastarien
  • The Voice in the Bones
  • What Becomes of the Body [verse]
  • What Happens to Faces" [verse]
  • What Good Is Your Head?" [verse]
  • When You Hear the Singing, You Will Know It Is Time
  • The Worthy Inmate of the Will of the Lady Ligeia

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. ^ Schweitzer, Darrell, ed. (2003). The Thomas Ligotti Reader. Holicong, PA: Wildside Press. p. 178. 
  3. ^ Ligotti, Thomas & Brite, Poppy Z. (1996). "Foreword". The Nightmare Factory (Carroll & Graf). ISBN 978-0786703029. 
  4. ^ "Thomas Ligotti". Dark Moon Rising. 
  5. ^ Ligotti, Thomas (2002). My Work is Not Yet Done. Poplar Bluff, MO: Mythos Books. ASIN B003U2ENPI. 
  6. ^ Smith, Richard (11 December 2004). "Obituary: John Balance". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 20 November 2013. 
  7. ^ Joshi, S.T. (2001). The Modern Weird Tale: A Critique of Horror Fiction (First ed.). McFarland. ISBN 978-0786409860. 
  8. ^ Ligotti, Thomas & Brassier, Ray (2010). The Conspiracy Against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror. Hippocampus Press. ISBN 978-0982429693. 
  9. ^ Schweitzer, Darrell, ed. (2003). The Thomas Ligotti Reader. Holicong, PA: Wildside Press. pp. 178–79. 
  10. ^ Ligotti, Thomas (2011). Grimscribe: His Lives and Works. Subterranean Press. ISBN 978-1596064096. 
  11. ^ Ligotti, Thomas (2014). The Spectral Link. Subterranean Press. ASIN B00LE52256. 
  12. ^ Ligotti, Thomas & Cardin, Matt (2014). Cardin, Matt, ed. Born to Fear: Interviews with Thomas Ligotti (Deluxe Hardcover ed.). Subterranean Press. ISBN 978-1596066212. 
  13. ^ Calia, Michael (February 2, 2014). "Writer Nic Pizzolatto on Thomas Ligotti and the Weird Secrets of 'True Detective'". WSJ Speakeasy. 

External links[edit]