Thomas Ligotti

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Thomas Ligotti
Born(1953-07-09) July 9, 1953 (age 61)
Detroit, Michigan, United States
OccupationShort story writer
GenreHorror fiction, dark fantasy
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Thomas Ligotti
Born(1953-07-09) July 9, 1953 (age 61)
Detroit, Michigan, United States
OccupationShort story writer
GenreHorror 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 short stories and novellas 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 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]

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 as a writer,[citation needed] though he has written a novella, My Work Is Not Yet Done (2002)[5]

Influences in other media[edit]

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,[6] 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?".[7]

Collaborations with musicians[edit]

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.[8]

Personal Life[edit]

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

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] He politically identifies as socialist.[9]


Ligotti has received numerous awards and nominations for his work:


By him[edit]



About him[edit]

Comics adaptations[edit]

Other works[edit]

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.


  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. ^ Calia, Michael (January 30, 2014). "The Most Shocking Thing About HBO’s ‘True Detective’". WSJ Speakeasy. 
  7. ^ Calia, Michael (February 2, 2014). "Writer Nic Pizzolatto on Thomas Ligotti and the Weird Secrets of 'True Detective'". WSJ Speakeasy. 
  8. ^ Smith, Richard (11 December 2004). "Obituary: John Balance". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 20 November 2013. 
  9. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^ Ligotti, Thomas & Brassier, Ray (2010). The Conspiracy Against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror. Hippocampus Press. ISBN 978-0982429693. 
  11. ^ Schweitzer, Darrell, ed. (2003). The Thomas Ligotti Reader. Holicong, PA: Wildside Press. pp. 178–79. 

External links[edit]