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.
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?"
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."), and has stated he has suffered from chronic anxiety for much of his life; these have been prominent themes in his work.
Ligotti has stated he prefers short stories to longer forms, both as a reader and as a writer, though he has written a novella, My Work Is Not Yet Done (2002)
Influences in other media
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, when evidence of lines of dialogue taken word for word from The Conspiracy Against the Human Race surfaced in The Wall Street Journal, 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?".
Collaborations with musicians
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.
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. He politically identifies as socialist.
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).
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.