Thomas Ligotti

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Thomas Ligotti
Born (1953-07-09) July 9, 1953 (age 70)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Alma materWayne State University
GenreHorror fiction, weird fiction, dark fantasy

Thomas Ligotti (born July 9, 1953) is an American horror writer. His writings are rooted in several literary genres – most prominently weird fiction – and have been described by 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 has been described as pessimistic and nihilistic.[1][2] The Washington Post called him "the best kept secret in contemporary horror fiction."[3]


Ligotti started his professional writing career in the early 1980s with short stories published in 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. Politically, he identifies as socialist.[15][16]


He has been influenced by the "first-person voice in which Nabokov wrote" and the "densely metaphorical style of Bruno Schulz".[17]

In 2003, Wildside Press published The Thomas Ligotti Reader: Essays and Explorations, a collection of essays about Ligotti's work edited by Darrell Schweitzer.

Author Jeff VanderMeer has penned numerous pieces praising Ligotti's writing, including the introduction to the Penguin Classics edition of Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe.[18][19][20]

In 2014, the HBO television series True Detective attracted attention from some of Ligotti's fans because of the resemblance of 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 accusations that dialogue from Cohle's character in True Detective were lifted from The Conspiracy Against the Human Race,[21][22] the series' writer, Nic Pizzolatto, confirmed in The Wall Street Journal[23][24][25] 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".[25] On the topic of hard-boiled detectives, he asked: "What could be more hardboiled than the worldview of Ligotti or [Emil] Cioran?"[25]

The writing of Ligotti and Eugene Thacker is cited as an influence on the 2021 album The Nightmare of Being by the Gothenburg melodic death metal band At the Gates.[26]



Graphic novels



  1. ^ a b c d e f 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 978-0143107767.
  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. ^ "Author Thomas Ligotti". The Damned Interviews. July 16, 2011. Archived from the original on July 16, 2011.
  16. ^ Hall, Tina (2015). The Damned Book of Interviews. Crossroad Press.
  17. ^ "Wonderbook Interview with Thomas Ligotti". Wonderbook. 2013-10-11. Retrieved 2024-03-08.
  18. ^ Jeff VanderMeer (13 August 2014). "Thomas Ligotti 101: A Guide to the Cult Writer Now Linked to True Detective". Vulture. Retrieved 8 October 2020.
  19. ^ Ligotti, Thomas (October 6, 2015). Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe. London: Penguin Classics. p. xiv. ISBN 978-0143107767.
  20. ^ Jeff VanderMeer (5 October 2015). "The Legacy of Thomas Ligotti". Jeff VanderMeer. Retrieved 8 October 2020.
  21. ^ Todd Leopold (8 August 2014). "'True Detective' writer accused of plagiarism -". CNN. Retrieved 2016-05-26.
  22. ^ Davis, Mike (2014-08-04). "Did the writer of "True Detective" plagiarize Thomas Ligotti and others?". Lovecraft eZine. Retrieved 2016-05-26.
  23. ^ Calia, Michael (January 30, 2014). "The Most Shocking Thing About HBO's 'True Detective'". WSJ Speakeasy.
  24. ^ "The Arkham Digest: Interview: Nic Pizzolatto, creator/writer of HBO's True Detective". Retrieved 2016-05-26.
  25. ^ a b c Calia, Michael (February 2, 2014). "Writer Nic Pizzolatto on Thomas Ligotti and the Weird Secrets of 'True Detective'". WSJ Speakeasy.
  26. ^ "At the Gates: The Nightmare Of Being". 8 July 2021. Retrieved 14 August 2021.
  27. ^ "Ligotti, Thomas (Robert) 1953- - Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series | HighBeam Research". September 24, 2015. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015.
  28. ^ "Rhysling Anthology and Awards: 1986". 2003-11-08. Archived from the original on 2016-03-05. Retrieved 2015-09-19.
  29. ^ a b c "World Fantasy Awards - Complete Listing". Archived from the original on 2013-10-15. Retrieved 2015-09-19.
  30. ^ a b c d e "Horror Writers Association - Past Bram Stoker Award Nominees & Winners". 2000-06-15. Retrieved 2019-10-18.
  31. ^ "The Locus Index to SF Awards: British Fantasy Awards Winners By Year". Archived from the original on 2002-04-24. Retrieved 2015-09-19.
  32. ^ ":: ihg :: International Horror Guild :: ihg ::". Retrieved 2015-09-19.
  33. ^ "HWA announces 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award winners Owl Goingback and Thomas Ligotti". Retrieved 2020-04-17.

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