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The Ligotti Outtakes
The Ligotti Outtakes
Interview Excerpts Not Published
Published by Dr. Bantham
08-13-2005
The Ligotti Outtakes

"Human beings are the most retarded organisms on the planet" or The Incomplete Nihilist

The Ligotti Outtakes - From Correspondence 06/2004 - 09/2004
By: Neddal Ayad & Thomas Ligotti

[On evolution]
A mistake or a fluke? A mistake would imply that there was some sort of force directing nature or evolution.

Fluke is more accurate but mistake is more deprecatory, which is why I prefer it. It's also how the term is translated from the Zapffe essay. And Lovecraft attributes the existence of the human race to a "mistake or a joke" on the part of the Old Ones. Schopenhauer talks about human consciousness as the result of human beings "abusing" their brains and the Buddhists simply want to eliminate it. As for Cioran, he condemned the whole of Creation, in so many words, as a flaw in the natural order of nothingness. I couldn't agree more.

--

I don't know how much good it does to speculate on people's motives in the past, especially going back to prehistoric times. Those were different people. They were human beings, obviously, so there would be certain commonalities but think about it. Look at the difference between the world view of someone from say...Mexico and the U.S., or even the U.S. and Canada. Now consider the world view of someone living even 100 years ago.

I think you're looking at human beings from the perspective of a marketing executive trying to place a product where it will sell the most or a politician hawking a program of positions on various so-called issues. On that level, there are important differences for a manipulative person or persons to play on. But it's also a very superficial level, even if it's where most people spend most of their time as they sleepwalk through their lives. That's a very crazy place, and it just compounds the craziness to give any importance to the tastes, opinions, mythologies, religions, philosophies, or cultural products of a given people in a given geographical region or time. I don't see any difference between humans and, for the sake of example, chimpanzees--except perhaps that chimpanzees generally behave in a certain way for readily apparent reasons. In a laboratory, you can condition a chimp to behave in inscrutable ways, just as people do, through a regimen of conditioning based on punishment and reward. Human beings go through the same process of conditioning, although they don't recognize it as such. They're born into certain society, and they tend to suck up that society's craziness for the sake of their own psychological and physical well being. That isn't what I would call a world view. In fact, there's really no reason to speak in terms of world views if you're not a marketing exec or politician, who are experts in conditioning the chimps, I mean consumers or constituents, to behave as they want them to behave. World views are just adornments that we wear to disguise the fact that we have only one suit in our closet . . . and it's made of flesh and bones. When you're alone in the wilderness, opinions or beliefs of any kind are dropped immediately because they're absurd and useless. This is why the earliest Buddhist texts advice anyone who wants to liberate themselves from their conditioned existence to go out into the wilderness. It's the place to be. And, really, it's the only place there is . . . if we would just admit it.

--

[From an exchange on music]

Whoever called music the universal language was unbelievably full of ####. Of course, when you consider the heinous uses to which language is often put, I suppose music qualifies is an equally effective means of alienating people from one another, taking their money, and arousing them artificially like some form of emotional pornography. Oscar Wilde said something to the effect that listening to music made you feel as if you had experienced sufferings and joys that you never knew in your actual life. I think that's one of the most astute observations ever made on music.

--

What about school?

I hated school, and I hate work. The tolerance that people have for bull#### at school, work, and in life as a whole gives one some sense of why our masters have such contempt for us and feel that they can very much have their way in whatever villainies they choose to perpetrate.

You sound like some sort of subversive there.

I guess I would sound subversive if I were advocating that any change in this situation were possible . . . or even desirable. I think of myself as both a victim and a parasite of the system.

I don't understand why more people don't realize that they should be in control?that governments are supposed to serve the people, not the other way around.

Question: Who says that governments are supposed to serve the people? Answer: Governments. It's like that Twilight Zone episode that ends with the revelation that a book titled To Serve Man is a cookbook. And what are governments anyway? They?re just a group of people who want to run the show. They talk about public service, but with rare exception they don?t want to serve anyone but themselves. It?s the same thing with corporations, which is why they go hand-in-hand with governments. A corporation is a little government with a little president and a little legislature. There are just some people who grow up and find that they want to pursue this career path because they have a talent for it and really like being the boss or the prime minister or the king or whatever. What was the American Revolution all about? It was about a small band of rich WASPs who didn?t want to pay their taxes. The English made a real mistake when they planted so many of themselves on North American soil. They didn't stand a chance against the craziest and most opportunist members of their own society. And after the revolution, the English mutated into Americans, whatever those are.

Like every other form of life, politicians and captains of industry can?t help being what they are. They just swim and eat and make little politicians and CEOs. Of course, I?m just raving to no point. It's a symptom of the powerless and the disenfranchised. Someday the government will find a cure for it. Oh, I forgot, they already have, at least in the United States. They call the cure "values"--religion, country, family, and all that sort of excrement. People love them. And if they don't, then they're sick and should undergo cognitive therapy. 1984 was a long time ago. The system is set up to create thieves, liars, and hypocrites. There's a TV commercial that asserts: "Owning your own business is part of the American dream." This was the mantra during the 1990s. My father owned his own business. I worked for a decade in that business, from the time I was eleven years old, and I just never caught the bug. To this day, I have nightmares about working in that place, although I can't blame my father for this--he was a good man. I also have nightmares about other jobs that I've worked for any length of time. Working for yourself or anyone else is a traumatic experience. It's like combat in slow motion, and the result is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Any reform in the way human life is lived has got to start by eliminating the option of either entering the ranks of forced labor or living on the streets. For pity's sake, those in power could at least give us the third option of euthanasia. But I understand why that wouldn't go over too well with the masses, with their reverence for the value of human life and all that. Not to mention their dreams of owning their own business.

I hated school, too, especially elementary school and Jr. High.

I skipped school about once a week and got drunk and stoned with my friends. Only once did I get caught and my punishment was . . . three days suspension from school. What idiots. Why didn't they make me serve extra time in school? Why didn't they do anything that might have made me take an interest in my studies? It was as if they designed the whole curriculum from K-12 were designed to put me into a thirteen-year coma. I wasn't a stupid kid by any means. I simply didn't know what was out there in the world. And my teachers sure weren't going to disclose anything that might stimulate me. My friends and I were like Sherlock Holmes when he didn't have an interesting case to investigate. We were bored and took drugs. Speaking of which, I was a big fan of the Sherlock Holmes movies with Basil Rathbone for as long as I can remember. It would have been nice if someone had asked just once in all those years in school what interested me. Perhaps then I could have found out in my early school years that those movies were inspired, and some of them even based, on the writings of Arthur Conan Doyle. After I had a breakdown between eleventh and twelfth grades, I couldn't take drugs anymore. I hardly left the house, except to attend school, because my panic attacks and agoraphobia were very severe and frequent. So I began to cast about for some other form of distraction, which I discovered one day in the book section of a department store. It was a complete collection of Sherlock Holmes stories. I still have the book. Later I found a collection of Arthur Machen's stories in a drugstore. I loved them immediately because they reminded so much of the Holmes stories. And even better--they were horror stories. More than Sherlock Holmes movies, I loved horror movies. But I had no idea there was such a thing as horror fiction. Unless you grow up in a literate household, which I didn't, although my family was fairly affluent, there was no way for me to learn about anything that suited my interests other than how to make a hash pipe out of the cardboard tube inside of toilet paper or how many milligrams of Dexedrine I needed to take to get high without giving myself a heart attack. H. P. Lovecraft was fortunate that was raised in a home where he had access to his grandfather's library.

What really pissed me off about school is that it's obvious to anyone with half a brain that the whole schooling process is set up to indoctrinate, I mean "prepare," you for the straight world. If you're not an obedient, goal oriented, validation seeking little drone, then forget it.

Right. As soon as I discovered Lovecraft, about two weeks after Machen, it was revealed to me why I couldn't be allowed to follow my interests. No one in the world of normal folks wants you to know that there is any other way of looking at the world except their way. I mean, drugs got my mind off the normal track from the time I was fourteen years old. I had already been drinking a lot for a couple years before that, but it wasn't until I took drugs that I actually began to think about things in a serious way. This, of course, made me depressed, as thinking tends to do. So I knew what kind of lousy, nightmarish world I was doomed to live in. Some of this was bolstered by the whole hippie thing that was happening at the time. But this wasn't the same as reading what Lovecraft had to say about the universe in his stories and letters. Now I had an authority, someone who was intelligent enough to be a writer, in which I found an echo of all the things that depressed and terrified me about being alive. The horror and nothingness of human existence--the cozy facade of a world behind which was only a spinning abyss. The absolute hopelessness and misery of everything. I loved it. Lovecraft really gave me a reason to carry on. And that reason was to communicate, in the form of horror stories, my outrage and panic at being alive in this particular world.

When you say you hate work, I take it you mean work as in a day job?

Yes. It's been my feeling for quite some time that the world owes me a living. Although only two people were directly responsible for my coming into this life, they were egged on by thousands of years of breeders who never stopped humping long enough to think that maybe they were being suckered into saddling themselves with children. If I were to father a child, I couldn't look the kid in the eye. I would be responsible for dragging it into this land of decaying flesh. I would have to explain that it was sentenced to suffer so many years of school and a lifetime of toil before it could rest a bit, with any luck, in the latter years of its term on this pretty blue planet. If people are going to reproduce, they should at least set up a system that will provide all material wants of their offspring for the life of the product. Of course, I understand the urge of pedophiles--this term has really been misused--who just can't resist the idea of a cute little baby or someone to carry on the family name or who knows what rationale. I understand that for people to become full-fledged members of their society, they must offer a sacrifice by birth. I also understand that all of this is completely insane. And I understand that these insane creatures are not about to grant me an independent income.

[On drugs/medication/depression]

The only thing that will keep the human race from seeking intoxication is fear. That's the basis of the so-called war on drugs, which makes about as much sense as the war on terrorism. People have always been suckers for diversionary language, that is, lies.

I will admit that I've always been curious about opiates, but nothing
else really interests me.


If you have to be a drug addict, opiates are the way to go. Although I have to say that the only class of drug that I never cared were barbiturates. Stuff like Seconal and Phenobarbital was liking drinking over-the-counter cough medicine, which I sometimes resorted to.

As for LSD, it never seemed like a good match for me.

I mostly had a great time on LSD, with exception of the last few hours, which I always though of as the "descent into hell" phase of the
experience. This was a forecast of my anxiety-panic disorder to come. I wish my parents had told me that this disorder ran in the family. Before I took LSD, I was looking for a reason not to . . but none ever came along.

Was it (anxiety/panic) even recognized at the time?

Yes. My father was instutionalized for a while, and afterward he attended "recovery" meetings--the group was actually called Recovery--that had a book he gave me by Dr. Abraham Low. The book perfectly described all the symptoms I was experiencing. Unfortunately, it didn't do me any good. I thought I was suffering from acid flashbacks and was going insane. My doctor actually encouraged this delusion and let me go on for years thinking that it was the LSD. He was a rich, moralistic mother####er.

[Antidepressansts & creativity]

If the AD is working, there's no reason it should affect one's creative drive. It's just that they so seldom do anything but keep you going as a productive member of commercial society.

Do you think that's more a function of the drugs or of the psychiatric profession?

Drugs are tools that the psychiatric profession uses to keep people in a functioning mode and thereby support the status quo. No shrink gives the least credence to the attitudes and views of a depressed patient, even though there are studies suggesting that depressives have a more realistic grasp of themselves and the world around them than so-called normal people, who could easily be diagnosed as hyperthymic, or temperamentally upbeat personalities. I'm all for feeling good rather than feeling bad, but that doesn't mean we have to lie to ourselves about the human condition. This self-deception ultimately makes things worse rather than better. In order for human beings to make the best of the bad situation into which we were born, four things have to be exterminated: Gods, Nations, Families, and those Egos of ours that we wear around and encase our heads in a helmet of utter bull####. I should say that I'm well aware that none of this is ever going to happen and that I'm just indulging my own impulse to be preachy, which is pretty deplorable. If I had any sense, I wouldn't even think about any of this stuff, let alone voice it to other people.

Have you tried cognitive therapy?

I've read Orwell's 1984, which is the handbook for cognitive therapy. I confess that I'm a thought criminal. The world is not double-plus good and never will be. I believe that anyone is better off dead than alive. What's a cognitive therapist going to say to that except that I don't have my mind right? My opinions are not sanctioned by institutions of authority or by the common run of humanity, and therefore what I think is invalid, inauthentic, or whatever dismissive term you care to use.

Please don't take this the wrong way, but you're still here. And fighting. If everyone is better off dead or at least if you believe that, in general, people are better off dead, then why not commit suicide? (I'm sure you've been asked this before but, man, I hope I don't see a news blurb on some site saying: Cult author, Thomas Ligotti was found... Sources say that he was in the middle of an email interview when...)

No, no one has ever asked me that question before. You've answered part of it by your projected reaction of dismay to news of my death. And you don't really know me. There are a couple people who have to go ahead of me before I'll be free to do myself in, although sometimes it does feel that nothing matters more than getting the hell out of this life.

You seem to embrace the contradictions in your world-view - i.e. You have what many people would consider, to put it mildly, misanthropic and antisocial tendencies, yet you seem to be devoted to your family. A lot of people can't handle contradiction or at least try to gloss it over to fit into some social category.

Most people would dismiss the validity of anything I write because of that contradiction, which it is, just as they impugn the validity of Schopenhauer's pessimism because he rather enjoyed himself by normal standards. These are people who have been brainwashed into believing in the integrity of the so-called self, when in fact we're a mass
of crisscrossing wires of memories, sensations, impulses, and so on that do not make an enduring, continuous self but, because they're all happening inside the same bag of skin, trick us and others into thinking in terms of personalities, souls, individual identities, and what have you.

[On why so much horror writing blows...]

Back to horror writing. If Stephen King writes popular fiction and small press writers write for the "horror community" (whatever that is) then who are the King imitators writing for?

They write for King's audience, or the part of it that they have ability engage. Obviously, King?s writing appeals to a great many people. But this applies almost exclusively to his novels. This is the big difference between short stories and novels in the horror genre as well as in literary fiction.

The success of that sort of thing is an indictment, in a way, of genre readers, which is possibly a touchy subject given the sensitivity of genre readers and writers. They're either trying to defend a given genre as just as good as anything else or trying to escape, sometimes both at the same time.

I wouldn't for a second attempt to defend horror fiction from the Gothic era to the present day as anything but popular entertainment, which is fine if that's what engages you. I used to think that I was taken with horror fiction as such. The more of it I read, however, the more I realized that I was attracted to horror fiction by just a few writers. To me, they were the whole of horror fiction. But that, of course, wasn't the case. They were the aberrations, the ones who had only a cult following, usually after their death, and not a wide readership during their lifetime or posthumously. They were very much like the "real" authors that I admired--obscure writers, often foreign. They just happened, who knows why, to write in the horror genre. None of the horror writers I've ever admired were nice guys in a conventional sense. They were aliens to society.

A lot of horror writing (and writing in general) gets bogged down with needless description.

That's what popular novels are all about--needless description, needless
dialogue, needlesss characters, needless everything. Description, like every other element of fiction, can't be treated separately. A work of fiction has to work as an organic whole with no waste at all. If you start describing what a character you've just introduced looks like, you're just wasting your time unless the appearance of that character tells you something about him or her or is material to the story. If it's just for the sake of providing the reader with a image to hold in his mind, then it's just padding. Who can remember what these characters look like anyway unless a writer keeps reminding them over the course of hundreds of pages? A good example of effective description is one of Raymond Chandler's: "It was a blonde. A blonde who could make an archbishop put his foot through a stainglassed window." That kind of description permanently embeds this character into your mind and also serves as an occasion for Chandler to drill home the single most important aspect of all his works--the consciousness of Philip Marlowe.

Novels - Maybe I should have phrased it like this: Your stories are
dense and descriptive, yet concise. You've mentioned several time
that novels don't interest you, I was wondering if it had anything to
do with the potential for wasted words.


I have that experience a lot at the movies. I haven't been able to read horror fiction for a long time now for exactly the reasons you mention. The horror element is always extraneous to story. Almost any horror story or novel of the past 30 years or so could be rewritten as a straight novel, with all the painful everyday details and boring natter about jobs and relationships and all that Oprah Winfrey stuff.

Have you experimented with Burroughs' cut-up techniques at all?

No. And I wish Burroughs hadn't experimented with them either.

Have you read any of Oliver Sacks' writings about people with permanent perceptual disorders? They "taste" sound or "see" tactile sensations.

I've never read Sacks's book, but I'm familiar with them from seeing him on TV and hearing him interviewed on the radio. The phenomenon of synaesthesia was especially captivating to the French Decadent and Symbolist poems, and of course it emerged again when LSD became popular in sixties.

I would imagine there's someone out there who "hears" writing.

I wrote something about this in my horror story The Bungalow House, although it was restricted to hearing a voice reading the writing. Most fiction, however, is written NOT to be heard. If the reader starts to become aware of the language in any way, they just tune out and look for a book that sounds like the voice of someone they could possibly have a conversation with. King is a great example of this.

That leads to this question: Are you a fan of audio books?

I don't drive much anymore, so I don't have any use for audio books. And
when I did drive a couple hours a day, it never occurred to me that I might enjoy listening to one. I can't imagine why anyone would listen to an audio book if they weren't blind or didn't drive long distances. One of my stories, Alice's Last Adventure, was read by a soap opera actress as part of a series of audio tapes based on the horror anthology Prime Evil. She did a nice job--better than I could have done. I received a couple free copies of the audio tapes made for that anthology, but I never listened to the others. I didn't read the stories either.

How much of an influence did the Decadents have on your work?

The Decadents were an extension of Poe. He was the writer who, through the translations of Baudelaire and others in France, really legitimized morbidity as a literary subject as well as a worldview. The French already had a tradition of cynicism, morbidity, and pessimism from the eighteenth-century works of authors like Sade, Chamfort, and La Rochefoucauld. I believe that this made them receptive to Poe's anti-life-affirming genius. He not only appealed to the negative spirit in French writers, but he did it with consummate artistry and technique, which are essential to transmitting one's attitudes. If Poe had been a bad writer, nobody would have taken notice of him. Even though there already existed a philosophical tradition of morbidity and pessimism going back to the Greeks in the Western tradition, it wasn't until Poe came along that poets and fiction writers could feel free to express these feelings in literary works. Take the first couple sentences of "Berenice"--"MISERY is manifold. The wretchedness of earth is multiform." Who in earlier Western literature would have dared to open a short story in this manner except perhaps for the purposes of parody? Poe's authority in the literary sphere inspired others throughout the world to align themselves with him under the same black flag. In the United States, it wasn't much of leap from Poe's declaration in "Berenice" to Lovecraft's opening of "Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family"--"Life is a hideous thing . . . ." This is the form of Decadence that has always interested me--the freedom, after thousands of years under the whip of uplifting religions and the tyrannical politics of the positive--which are nothing more than a means for crowd control--to speak to others who in their hearts could no longer lie to themselves about what they thought concerning the value, or rather lack of value, of human life.

What are your favourite Lovecraft stories?

I like his early stories best: "The Music of Erich Zann," "The Festival," "Dagon," "Arthur Jermyn," "Nyarlathotep," and so on.

Do you think that a Lovecraftian world-view can be expressed with a more minimal prose style or without elements of the supernatural?

Sure. Beckett's prose comes close to that description, especially his short fiction like Texts for Nothing and The Lost Ones. And Endgame presents a nice vision of a post-human, post-history world.

Do you still write longhand?

I started writing on a computer when I was working on My Work Is Not Yet Done. I hate typing and knew that MWINYD would be the longest thing I'd written. So I word-processed it.

[On being edited - How he's dealt with editors; if editors have had significant impact on the final versions of the stories, etc...]

Nobody at magazines or book publishers has edited anything for a long time. It slows down production and costs time and money. If I don't find the typos or grammatical screw-ups, they don't get found. Someone editing an anthology will read your story to see if he wants to buy it. But that's the last time it gets read until it hits the bookshelves. The case is different with big-name writers. Someone will read their stuff to keep it from being released in state that's more embarrassing than it needs to be.

It (editing) is also something I think a lot of aspiring writers seem to overlook.

Nabokov was once asked about the role of editors in the production of his books. He replied, in his usual haughty way, "You mean those people who go through a manuscript and look for typos." He was obviously talking about proofreaders, but his point was clear--"I'm too great a writer to need an editor." But if you read some of his books closely, you can see that they could have used some editing.

By the way, how do you feel about animals?

It depends on the animal. Like most people, I have a natural affection for small, furry mammals. Otherwise, I don't think too much about animals. I know in an abstract way that animals are gruesomely mistreated for the purposes of human beings and believe it would be one of the glories of our species if we could refrain from continuing this practice, whether it be for food or scientific advancement.
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Dr. Locrian (08-21-2014), Druidic (03-13-2014), hopfrog (01-01-2009), Lord Jim (03-13-2014), miguel1984 (07-12-2015), Solianis (11-19-2013), Solitude (09-22-2016), yellowish haze (02-05-2011)
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