Thomas Ligotti

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Thomas Ligotti
Born (1953-07-09) July 9, 1953 (age 66)
Detroit, Michigan, United States
GenreHorror fiction, weird fiction, dark fantasy

Thomas Ligotti (born July 9, 1953) is a contemporary American horror writer.[1] His writings have been noted as being rooted in several literary genres – most prominently weird fiction – and have overall been described by many critics as works of philosophical horror, often formed into short stories and novellas in the tradition of gothic fiction.[1] The worldview espoused by Ligotti in his fiction and non-fiction is pessimistic and nihilistic.[1][2] The Washington Post called him "the best kept secret in contemporary horror fiction."[3]


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 to 1985.[4] In 2015, Ligotti's first two collections, Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe: His Lives and Works, were republished in one volume by Penguin Classics as Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe.[5] Michael Calia of The Wall Street Journal wrote of the reprint that "Horror writer Thomas Ligotti is about to enter the American literary canon. Penguin Classics published a volume of Mr. Ligotti’s short stories, making him one of 10 living writers, including Thomas Pynchon and Don DeLillo, among the hundreds the imprint has published in the U.S." [6] Ligotti's work received high praise following the publication from the likes of The New York Times Book Review,[7] the Los Angeles Review of Books,[8] The Washington Post,[9] and The New Yorker.[10] Terrence Rafferty contrasts Ligotti with Stephen King, observing, "King, the great entertainer, needs the story as the comedian needs the joke, and when he can’t quite deliver it he dies (in the comedian’s sense). King is a master of horror, though. When inspiration fails, he has the technique to fake it. Thomas Ligotti is a master of a different order, practically a different species. He probably couldn’t fake it if he tried, and he never tries. He writes like horror incarnate."[7]

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.[11]

Personal life[edit]

He has cited Thomas Bernhard, William S. Burroughs, Emil Cioran, Vladimir Nabokov, Edgar Allan Poe, Giacomo Leopardi, Samuel Beckett, Franz Kafka, 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 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.[1] He has also invoked the influence of philosophers such as Arthur Schopenhauer and Peter Wessel Zapffe.[1]

Ligotti has suffered from chronic anxiety and anhedonia for much of his life; these have been prominent themes in his work.[1] 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. Ligotti has stated he prefers short stories to longer forms, both as a reader and as a writer,[1] though he has written a novella, My Work Is Not Yet Done (2002)[12]

Ligotti's ancestry is three-quarters Sicilian, one-quarter Polish, a genetic combination he likes to think "contributed to the bizarre quality of my imagination and to what has been called its 'universality'." He says that his Polish grandmother's stories, though not horrific, "put me in touch with an older and stranger world than I would otherwise have known and that emerged when I started writing stories so many years later".[13]

Ligotti attended Macomb County Community College between 1971 and 1973 and graduated from Wayne State University in 1978.[14] 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. He politically identifies as socialist.[15][16]


In July 2015 Born to Fear: Interviews with Thomas Ligotti, edited by Matt Cardin, was announced as one of the nominees for that year's World Fantasy Awards.[23]


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. After[24] accusations that dialogue from Cohle's character in True Detective were lifted from The Conspiracy Against the Human Race,[25][26] the series' writer, Nic Pizzolatto, confirmed in The Wall Street Journal[27][28][29] 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".[29] On the topic of hard-boiled detectives, he asked: "What could be more hardboiled than the worldview of Ligotti or [Emil] Cioran?"[29]



  • 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)
  • The Unholy City (2002, 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
  • Songs of a Dead Dreamer & Grimscribe (2015)


  • The Agonizing Resurrection of Victor Frankenstein, Citizen of Geneva
  • Alice's Last Adventure
  • Allan & Adelaide: An Arabesque
  • Allan and Adelaide—An Arabesque
  • Autumn Horror
  • 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 [Part of The Nyctalops Trilogy]
  • The Clown Puppet
  • The Cocoons
  • The Complete Madman [under the pseudonym Charles Miguel Riaz]
  • The Consolations of Horror
  • 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]
  • Discourse on Blackness
  • Dr. Locrian's Asylum
  • Dr. Voke and Mr. Veech
  • Dream of a Mannikin
  • The Dreaming in Nortown
  • Drink to Me Only with Labyrinthine Eyes [Part of The Nyctalops Trilogy]
  • 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
  • Envoi
  • The Excruciating Final Days of Dr. Henry Jekyll, Englishman
  • Eye of the Lynx [Part of The Nyctalops Trilogy]
  • The Fabulous Alienation of the Outsider, Being of No Fixed Abode
  • Flowers of the Abyss
  • The Frolic
  • Gas Station Carnivals
  • Ghost Stories for the Dead
  • The Glamour (Short Story)
  • 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]
  • Horror Stories: A Nightmare Scenario
  • In the Night, in the Dark
  • In the Shadow of Another World
  • The Inquisitor
  • 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 (The Agonizing Resurrection of Victor Frankenstein and Other Gothic Tales)
  • "Introduction" [to Grimscribe]
  • Invocation to the Void
  • The Journal of J. P. Drapeau
  • The Last Feast of Harlequin
  • Les Fleurs
  • The Library of Byzantium
  • The Lost Art of Twilight
  • Mad Night of Atonement
  • Mad Night of Atonement: A Future Tale
  • 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
  • Metaphysica Morum
  • 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 Name Is Nothing
  • The Nameless Horror
  • Nethescurial
  • New Faces in the City
  • The Night School
  • The Nightmare Network
  • No One Knows The Big News
  • Nobody Is Anybody
  • Notebook of the Night
  • Notes on the Writing of Horror: A Story
  • Oneiric Horror
  • 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
  • The Player Who Takes No Chances
  • Postscript [under the pseudonym Charles Miguel Riaz]
  • The Premature Death of H. P. Lovecraft, Oldest Man in New England
  • The Premature Transfiguration
  • 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
  • Selections of Lovecraft
  • Severini
  • The Shadow, The Darkness
  • The Shadow at the Bottom of the World
  • Sideshow and Other Stories
  • The Small People
  • 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]
  • Studies in Horror
  • Studies in Shadow
  • Suicide by Imagination
  • The Superb Companion of Andre de V., Anti-Pygmalion
  • Teatro Grottesco
  • Ten Steps to Thin Mountain
  • Things They Will Never Tell You
  • 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 Unnatural Persecution, by a Vampire, of Mr. Jacob J.
  • Vastarien
  • The Voice in the Bones
  • Welcome To The Unholy City
  • 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
  • You Do Not Own Your Own Head



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, Sarah Perry, Michael Cisco, Peter Sotos, the philosopher Eugene Thacker, and Thomas Wiloch. Thomas Ligotti served as editor for the revised edition of “Haunted Universe: The True Knowledge of Enlightenment” by Steven Norquist. Ligotti also approved an excerpt from “Professor Nobody’s little lectures on Supernatural Horror” to be used in the introduction. Ligotti is mentioned and thanked in the acknowledgements of the book for challenging the author to present “Haunted Universe in its most pure and powerful form.”

Literary criticism[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).
  • Scottish philosopher Ray Brassier wrote the Foreword to Ligotti's The Conspiracy Against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror (2010).[30][31]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Interview with Thomas Ligotti – web interview from Published in The New York Review of Science Fiction Issue 218, Vol. 19, No. 2 (October 2006).
  2. ^ "Thomas Ligotti". Dark Moon Rising. Archived from the original on 2007-09-29.
  3. ^ Blurb from Ligotti's The Nightmare Factory.
  4. ^ Schweitzer, Darrell, ed. (2003). The Thomas Ligotti Reader. Holicong, PA: Wildside Press. p. 178.
  5. ^ Ligotti, Thomas (2015). Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe. New York, NY: Penguin Classics. ISBN 0143107763.
  6. ^ Calia, Michael (September 21, 2015). "Penguin Classics to Publish Ligotti Stories". The Wall Street Journal.
  7. ^ a b Rafferty, Terrence (October 29, 2015). "Stephen King's 'The Bazaar of Bad Dreams' and More". The New York Times Book Review.
  8. ^ Clune, Michael W (January 27, 2016). "Loving the Alien: Thomas Ligotti and the Psychology of Cosmic Horror". Los Angeles Review of Books.
  9. ^ Dirda, Michael (October 27, 2015). "Michael Dirda's picks for Halloween chillers: Get ready to be grossed out". The Washington Post.
  10. ^ Bebergal, Peter (October 29, 2015). "The Horror of the Unreal". The New Yorker.
  11. ^ Smith, Richard (11 December 2004). "Obituary: John Balance". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 10 January 2014.
  12. ^ Ligotti, Thomas (2002). My Work is Not Yet Done. Poplar Bluff, MO: Mythos Books. ASIN B003U2ENPI.
  13. ^ "An Interview with Thomas Ligotti Born to Fear". The Teeming Brain. February 23, 2015. Retrieved March 2, 2017.
  14. ^ Thomas Ligotti (24 November 2009). Teatro Grottesco. Ebury Publishing. pp. 3–. ISBN 978-0-7535-2517-3.
  15. ^ "The Damned Interviews » Blog Archive » Author Thomas Ligotti - Bringing you the best interviews and latest news". July 16, 2011. Archived from the original on July 16, 2011.
  16. ^ Hall, Tina (April 4, 2015). "The Damned Book of Interviews". Crossroad Press – via Google Books.
  17. ^ "Ligotti, Thomas (Robert) 1953- - Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series | HighBeam Research". September 24, 2015. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015.
  18. ^ "Rhysling Anthology and Awards: 1986". 2003-11-08. Archived from the original on 2016-03-05. Retrieved 2015-09-19.
  19. ^ a b c "World Fantasy Awards - Complete Listing". Archived from the original on 2013-10-15. Retrieved 2015-09-19.
  20. ^ a b c d e "Horror Writers Association - Past Bram Stoker Award Nominees & Winners". 2011-06-13. Retrieved 2015-09-19.
  21. ^ "The Locus Index to SF Awards: British Fantasy Awards Winners By Year". Archived from the original on 2002-04-24. Retrieved 2015-09-19.
  22. ^ ":: ihg :: International Horror Guild :: ihg ::". Retrieved 2015-09-19.
  23. ^ "World Fantasy Awards Home Page". Archived from the original on 2015-07-11. Retrieved 2015-09-19.
  25. ^ CNN, By Todd Leopold. "'True Detective' writer accused of plagiarism -". CNN. Retrieved 2016-05-26.
  26. ^ Davis, Mike (2014-08-04). "Did the writer of "True Detective" plagiarize Thomas Ligotti and others?". Lovecraft eZine. Retrieved 2016-05-26.
  27. ^ Calia, Michael (January 30, 2014). "The Most Shocking Thing About HBO's 'True Detective'". WSJ Speakeasy.
  28. ^ "The Arkham Digest: Interview: Nic Pizzolatto, creator/writer of HBO's True Detective". Retrieved 2016-05-26.
  29. ^ a b c Calia, Michael (February 2, 2014). "Writer Nic Pizzolatto on Thomas Ligotti and the Weird Secrets of 'True Detective'". WSJ Speakeasy.
  30. ^ Ligotti, Thomas & Brassier, Ray (2010). The Conspiracy Against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror. Hippocampus Press. ISBN 978-0982429693.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  31. ^ Schweitzer, Darrell, ed. (2003). The Thomas Ligotti Reader. Holicong, PA: Wildside Press. pp. 178–79.

External links[edit]