Skip to main content

Thomas Ligotti and First Impressions

Finishing a collection from Thomas Ligotti is a strange experience. Firstly, one isn't entirely certain what you have just read. Ligotti is known as a horror writer and an influence of Nic Pizzolatto, creator of True Detective. From those two facts you might imagine that Ligotti takes a bleak look at humanity and its role within the universe. In that respect you would be correct. You might also imagine that Ligotti's stories revolve around monsters, serial killers, and other standard motifs of pulp fiction. Here, you might be surprised.



Ligotti's "Noctuary" begins with a very astute essay on the nature of 'weird fiction,' tracing its power to the observation that the victims of horror fiction tend to meet a 'tailored fate,' a coffin specifically measured and prepared for them. The succeeding stories each sketch a situation where a protagonist meets some 'weird fate.' At times this fate might be horrific, in that it inspires within the reader a sense of futility, revulsion, and terror. At other times, that fate seems merely depressing and obscure. 

Ligotti inspired a current weird fiction writer Laird Barron, whose collection I also read recently, also because I heard it was an influence on 'True Detective.' Both writers focus in on this question of fate, of predestination. But where Barron's tales typically conclude with something visceral and terminal, Ligotti stories tend to trail off. To be sure, in Noctuary, there are stories with a clear resolution, such as 'The Medusa,' or 'Conversations in a Dead Language,' but the bulk of the stories in Noctuary end on a more existential note. The protagonist delivers some essential grim fact about reality and then wanders off into the gloom.

Considering Ligotti's nihilism and anti-natalism, these stories do strike me as reflecting his pessimism without either explaining or expounding upon it. Ligotti is often described as a disciple of Lovecraft, but where HP used his sense of a vast and impersonal universe to fuel an increasingly baroque and intricate mythos, Ligotti would rather sit with that essential and bleak epiphany in Noctuary. Describing no external monsters, the focus then of Ligotti's horror lies within. We are the monsters, it whispers, we are the nightmares.
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Review of I Wish I Was Like You by S.P. Miskowski

Even 23 years later, I remember 1994 and Kurt Cobain's death. I experienced that moment as a kind of inside out personal crisis. I felt ashamed by his death. As though his exit in someway indicted my own teenage miseries. "I wish I was like you," goes the verse in 'All Apologies,' "Easily amused." I felt as though a check I hadn't remembered writing had just been cashed. 


SP Miskowski's book, named after the first half of that line, is in the words of another reviewer, a novel that shouldn't work. The narrator is unlikeable, unreliable, and dead. The plot is almost entirely told as a flashback and long sections of the novel concern the inner processes of the writer. The daily grind to summon up enough self-esteem to carry a sentence to its logical conclusion is a real struggle, people, but it ain't exactly riveting.

But the thing is, this novel works. It is one of the best things I've read all year and a real achievement in weird ficti…

"A Breath from the Sky" Story Announcement!

I am thrilled to share the news my story, "Promontory," will appear in an upcoming anthology of unusual possession stories published by the incredible Martian Migraine Press. The anthology, "A Breath from the Sky,"puts together a classic H.P. Lovecraft tale and twenty other atypical stories of possession. Judging from the cover and the list of impressive authors, I'm anticipating pure awesomeness. "Promontory" is a possession story and one of my more overtly horror tales, so I'm overjoyed that it found a host, er, home here. I am sharing the Table of Contents below, as well as a link to the announcement on the Martian Migraine website to provide a sense of what this collection will be about. The cover is amazing, the other authors selected for the collection are amazing, and I have to say, having a story appear alongside a classic tale like HP's "Colour Out of Space," feels pretty darn amazing. I hope to provide more information abou…

In Defense of Brevity

As a writer of short speculative fiction, I am also a reader. I was a reader first and my love of the genre leads me to want to write short fiction. I think one of the most important things a writer can do is read contemporary's work. If nothing else, you're likely to be entertained - there's a great amount of stupendous short fiction available out there for exactly nothing. But it also tends to helps to develop craft. 
Long-time readers of this blog know I write up recommendations of a few short stories each month I really enjoyed. "Sic Semper, Sic Semper, Sic Semper by Carl Wiens" was my favorite story of the year. The first line of this story pretty much sums it up: "The time traveler set up a studio apartment in Abraham Lincoln’s skull in the frozen moment before Booth’s bullet burst through and rewired history," but I also enjoyed "The Girl Who Escaped from Hell" By Rahul Kanakia and "Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies," by Brooke Bol…