Thomas Ligotti Bibliography Mla

“A man awakes in the darkness and reaches over for his eyeglasses on the nightstand. The eyeglasses are placed in his hand.” This is the bare bones of so many tales that have caused readers to shiver with a sense of the weird… To perceive, even if mistakenly, that all one’s steps have been heading toward a prearranged appointment, to realize one has come face to face with what seems to have been waiting all along — this is the necessary framework, the supporting skeleton of the weird…

— Thomas Ligotti, from “In the Night, in the Dark: A Note on the Appreciation of Weird Fiction” (foreword to Noctuary)

The Washington Post once called Thomas Ligotti “the best kept secret in contemporary horror fiction” — but that’s less the case these days. On October 6, 2015, Penguin Classics published Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe. This in itself is a noteworthy event, but all the more so because Ligotti is only one of ten living writers published by Penguin Classics.

As much as is possible, I want The Lovecraft eZine to represent the weird fiction community, and not just my own thoughts and opinions. With that in mind, I decided to do something different with this interview: I asked a few weird fiction writers and editors to send me one question each for Thomas Ligotti. I think the result made for a fascinating “interview”, and I hope you will, too.

John Langan: Is there a particular story that represented a breakthrough for you as a writer, an instance where you found yourself at or at least closer to your goals for your fiction?

Thomas Ligotti: I consider my breakthrough story to be “The Chymist,” which was also my first story to be published when it appeared in Harry Morris’s fanzine Nyctalops in 1981. Before that time, I had submitted only a few stories to other small-press horror publications. These were rejected. I agreed with the editors who rejected them and, like every other story I wrote in the 1970s, with one exception, I threw them away. The one exception of a story that I didn’t trash from that period was “The Last Feast of Harlequin.” I didn’t think much of that story, but there was something in it that kept me from tossing it in the garbage. While I dedicated “The Last Feast of Harlequin” to H. P. Lovecraft, I didn’t think of it as a Lovecraftian when I was writing it. That was an addendum added before it appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1990, believe it or not. It definitely reads like a Lovecraftian story, which is probably why I dedicated it to him. However, it also reads like non-Lovecraftian stories I later wrote, that is, as a first-person confessional account of a nightmarish supernatural encounter with or without monsters or something monstrous. That’s the kind of supernatural story I wanted to write. In my later story “Notes on the Writing of Horror: A Story,” the narrator makes this point. This was also how Poe, Machen, Blackwood, and other horror authors I liked best wrote all their best works, or so it seemed to me then. However, as much as I was influenced by these canonical figures of the genre in question, most of my reading was not composed of horror fiction. Primarily, what I read were works that would be considered experimental or postmodernist, whether or not they were written before or after the postmodern era at its height, roughly from the fifties and into the eighties. These works were all in some way more off the path of conventional fiction so to speak. They were more complex, more devious in their literary design, more thematically remote from the life of average persons, and more stylistically flashy or peculiar in their prose styles, qualities that also describe Lovecraft’s fiction. Some of the later, postmodern figures known for practicing this manner of writing were Vladimir Nabokov, William Burroughs, Donald Barthelme, minor “death of the novel” authors like Ronald Sukenick, Alain Robbe-Grillet and other French nouveau roman luminaries as well as writers associated with modern-era trends like Symbolism and Surrealism, and various foreign writers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. There are really too many to name, and, more or less as a literary collective, they worked far outside the bounds of literature as seen in the works of the vast majority of modern horror writers, even though I always returned to horror for my subject matter, because I couldn’t be or didn’t want to be a member of the world-historical literary class. I wanted to be a horror writer and only a horror writer in the sense I conceived such a thing, which for the most part had gone out of style with Lovecraft and descendants of other genre masters such as M. R. James. The ultimate product of all these influences from two different literary worlds, horror and non-horror, was “The Chymist.” In that story, I felt I was finally expressing myself in a way I felt most at ease and that flowed rather than lumbered in the traditional way of both classic horror genre and mainstream literature as I perceived how these forms manifested themselves in large part since their inception sometime in the eighteenth century. With few exceptions, I’ve had no love for the classics of literature as commonly regarded. They practically never address anything that has meaning for me as an admittedly outsider type of person. When the voice of the narrator of “The Chymist” began pouring out of me and rambling about his fascination with a corrupt world of ever-mutating decay, I felt as if I had spoken my first words. “The Last Feast of Harlequin” had a similar foundation in its corrosive view of life, its theme of antinatalism avant la lettre, and the fatal depression of its narrator . . . but its perspective on these subjects was simply frightened and appalled. “The Chymist” delivered the same message, because life is unquestionably frightening and appalling, if I may say so without inviting too much abuse from optimistic persons. But there were other ways of conveying this view—twisted and perverse ways that derived as much from the world within us as they did from the world around us. That was how it seemed to me anyway. These ways were also more inventive and interesting to me. So, to answer the question with emphasis, it was indeed with “The Chymist” that I felt I had broken through as a writer and was closer to my goals as a writer.

Richard Gavin: Greetings, Tom. In past interviews you’ve mentioned how you experienced nightmares quite frequently throughout your life. Given that many of your tales are imbued with an authentically nightmarish air, it seems safe to assume that your dream life holds (or held) some connection to your creative life. With your fictional output being reduced in recent years, do you still experience unworldly dreams as you once did?

Thomas Ligotti: I would rather live in a persistently vegetative dreamless state than have to look forward to the dreams I have every night, even if they’re not nightmares of a wake-up-screaming nature or, just as bad, night terrors in which I’m conscious of being asleep but unable to move. In order to emerge from these states, I do have to scream myself awake and then get out of bed or off the couch as soon as possible to avoid sinking back another round of night terrors. In 2012, I went under anesthesia three times in connection with an acute episode of diverticulitis. The first time, I recall awakening and immediately asking what time it was in order to orient myself. But I didn’t have any special feeling about emerging from an encounter with death of which I was not even aware. The next two times, I remember both going under anesthesia and emerging from it. When I went under on those occasions, I dearly hoped I wouldn’t regain consciousness. When I did, however, it was both wonderful and terrible. Being anesthetized, as anyone knows who has undergone this experience, is in retrospect as if you had been dead. There’s nothing to remember—no dreams, no feelings, nothing but a vague sense of resting in utter blackness. This is the wonderful part. The terrible part is the resentful disappointment I felt of being brought back to life. I know this may sound affectedly morbid, or even a complete put on by someone working on his image as a creepy outsider horror writer. If someone happens to think this, and I can understand why they might, I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be belligerent, but I know what’s true for me, even if no one else can conceive of it. This absence of understanding on the part of others is something that a great many people must live with. There are plenty of forms of suffering for which an individual is accorded all kinds of concern and benefits. The reason for this is that most people have suffered in a multitude of the same or similar ways, even it’s just a broken bone. Others get nothing simply because what they suffer is relatively rare. I’m not saying that this state of affairs is just or unjust, deserved or undeserved. It’s just the way it is. Ultimately, it works out for the perpetuation of the species. If no one could comprehend another’s suffering, everyone would exist in a condition of frustrated misery for which they received no empathy. What they experience could only be known by report and recorded in medical and psychiatric manuals, which is exactly how much of the worst pain in the world is in fact understood. This works out relatively well sometimes. A surgeon doesn’t need to know what it’s like to have his colon cut out to do a fine job of cutting out someone else’s colon. It can be trying, however, when your psychiatrist only knows the particulars of some emotional malady you’re experiencing because he read about it in the DSM. You may receive some concern and benefit because in appearance you’re obviously a mess, and it doesn’t seem that you’re faking it. But this isn’t always the case. As a society, we would probably not be well served if it were always the case. It would be quite demoralizing, and those who otherwise wouldn’t be burdened with pity or sympathy for others, as they often are for starving strangers or victims of mass murders, would barely be able to get out of bed in the morning. Mass empathy for pain quite obviously isn’t in the interest of survival. A certain amount of empathy is necessary. Too much empathy on the part of more complex organisms would have thwarted evolution at some pre-human phase of progress. No one should wonder why some people reject evolution as the explanation for human life. Evolution is creepy and merciless.

Rick Lai: Was the Great Black Swine from My Work Is Not Yet Done inspired by William Hope Hodgson’s pig-like monsters in The House on the Borderland  and “the Hog?”

Thomas Ligotti: No. It was inspired by Schopenhauer’s idea of the Will-to-live, which functioned in My Work Is Not Yet Done as much as a monstrous entity as it did a non-human force that determines our behavior and invisibly intervenes in the world. The Great Black Swine was the supernatural villain of the book. It made everything happen as it happened in the narrative because that is its nature and tendency. It doesn’t mean to be evil, but from a human perspective it is.

Nicole Cushing: Let’s talk about poetry. I’ve read Death Poems and The Unholy City. I’ve also read several of your vignettes (which some might think of as prose poems). I’m struck by the range of these works–how they address similar themes with quite different styles and tones. What led you to explore varying styles and tones in your poems? What led you to use poetry to explore some ideas, emotions, and images rather than short fiction? I know you admire the poetry of George Sterling, but it seems–at least in form–much different from yours. Are there any poets you consider to be significant influences?

Thomas Ligotti: I’ve never considered myself a poet in any significant way. Relatively few authors are adept in both fiction and poetry. Poetry requires a specialized and arduous study that I had no interest in pursuing and was far afield from what I wanted to achieve as a writer. This is especially true since the late nineteenth century, when poetry began to grow into a practically an occult art demanding a vast knowledge of its history and methods. Today, few major poets are even readable by anyone except other poets. I have no criticism of that. There are exceptions, of course, and most of my favorite poets are among these: A. E. Housman, Thomas Hardy, and Philip Larkin, for example. At the same time, some of the poets I best love are incomprehensible in an ordinary sense, even to other poets and literary critics, and yet there’s something in their work that’s attractive to me on a level that has nothing to do with common understanding. The Symbolists and those influenced by these poets are excellent instances of such poets. The poems of Georg Trakl are impenetrable, completely resistant to any consensus reaction or understanding. Nonetheless, I love the poems of Trakl. I have no idea why. Poetry that I’ve particularly enjoyed and feel I understand in some nebulous way has been written by Chinese and Japanese poets influenced by Buddhism. I took their style, which is simple on its surface, as my model for most of the poems in my collection Death Poems, named after a genre of poetry composed by Buddhist monks on the occasion of their impending death. For this reason, I believe, my death poems seem meager and even childish to many readers. Other poems I’ve written, including those in Things They Will Never Tell You, I Have a Special Plan for This World, and This Degenerate Little Town are written in cycles that collectively tell a kind of story or convey a common view of life or some peculiar phenomena in life. The difference in the poems of these cycles is much like the difference between stories I’ve written that have divergent themes and styles. The influence on these works is that of poets like Charles Bukowski and E. E. Cummings, who wrote rather strung along, prosaic poetry. There is a definite cadence and structure in the titles I’ve cited, but it doesn’t resemble the kind of linguistically dense and cryptic writing of modern or postmodern poets, T. S. Eliot on the one hand or John Ashberry on the other. The Unholy City really isn’t composed of poems strictly speaking. It’s a collection of lyrics to be read with music that I wrote and badly recorded to accompany the screenplay Crampton. As far as the vignettes or prose poems I’ve written, most of which are collected in Noctuary, these are very much like stories from which plot is practically absent and a theme or mood predominates. They’re far more dense than I could have made a story and hence are shorter in length so as not to overtax the patience of the reader and retain a hint of narrative interest. Each has a point somewhat in the manner of an essay.

I admire George Sterling much for the same reason that I admire the poems of Clark Ashton Smith, at least more than I admire his stories. Both poets were quite conspicuously influenced by Charles Baudelaire, translator of one of the most unprolific yet important poets of all time, Edgar Poe, whom Baudelaire and a number of later poets of various nationalities have translated. Baudelaire’s influence is global and his mark is upon many of poets I have most cherished. I’ve never taken Poe as a model for my poems, mostly because so many of them are romantic and sentimental. And I’ve never taken Lovecraft as model either because of his obsession with writing poems in the style of the eighteenth century, with the exception of course of what I consider one of his greatest works,


\"The Conspiracy against the Human Race sets out what is perhaps the most sustained challenge yet to the intellectual blackmail that would oblige us to be eternally grateful for a \'gift\' we never invited.\" --From the Foreword by Ray Brassier \"The Conspiracy against the Human Race is renowned horror writer Thomas Ligotti\'s first work of nonfiction. Through impressively wide-ranging discussions of and reflections on literary and philosophical works of a pessimistic bent, he shows that the greatest horrors are not the products of our imagination. The worst and most plentiful horrors are instead to be found in reality. Mr. Ligotti\'s calm, but often bloodcurdling turns of phrase, evoke the dreadfulness of the human condition. Those who cannot bear the truth will pretend this is another work of fiction, but in doing so they perpetuate the conspiracy of the book\'s title.\" --David Benatar, author of Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence; Department of Philosophy, University of Cape Town, South Africa Thomas Ligotti is one of the foremost authors of supernatural horror literature. In this genre, he has been classed with Edgar Allan Poe and H. P. Lovecraft. His works include Songs of a Dead Dreamer, Grimscribe, My Work Is Not Yet Done, and Teatro Grottesco. Ligotti lives in Florida.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 248 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 13mm
  • 30 Apr 2011
  • Hippocampus Press
  • New York, NY, United States
  • English
  • black & white illustrations
  • 0984480277
  • 9780984480272
  • 28,263

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