Oliver Onions – a forgotten weird fiction classic

Oliver Onions didn’t believe in ghosts or any kind of mysterious cults. He was a pragmatist, always looking for a logical, rational explanation. Nevertheless, his favorite literature genre, surprisingly, was weird fiction. Should the ghost stories written by Oliver Onions be considered among the most celebrated horror classics such as H.P. Lovecraft, M.R. James, or Algernon Blackwood? Let’s find out.  

Oliver Onions - a forgotten weird fiction classic

British writer Oliver Onions (1873-1961) gained recognition and popularity among readers as well as critics almost immediately after his debut. Most other horror authors of his era could only dream about such a start and sometimes became famous only a long time after their deaths. Wait a second, though – I bet that some of you have never heard about Oliver Onions. It comes as a no surprise, as this great writer somehow got forgotten by the wider public and is now mostly read by weird fiction passionates.

One of the reasons for this is quite apparent – many artists who tried to create literature from somewhere between belles-lettres and popular fiction, failed to go down in history. And so did Oliver Onions. His works were too experimental for the commercial taste and too conservative when it comes to narrative, which resembles the one we know from famous Victorian ghost stories. I hope that this article will encourage at least some of you to give short stories by Oliver Onions a chance. 

From Ghaisttes, Ghoulies and long-leggity

Beasties and Things that go

Bump in the night—

Good Lord, deliver us!

This traditional Scottish prayer opens up the short story collection written by Onions – Widdershins. Why? In my opinion, choosing it as the motto of the whole anthology was both perverse and cynical. The text contains pretty much everything that man has come up with to postpone confronting his demons. Actually, madness is the main subject of this short story collection, but supernatural beings are by no means its cause. The true problem lies in suppressed human instincts and the fear of things we don’t understand, the unknown. 

The first text contained in the Widdershins is also the most famous story written by Oliver Onions. Algernon Blackwood, another weird classic horror writer, considered it to be a true weird fiction masterpiece – The Beckoning Fair One. It makes a stunning impression on the reader thanks to the gradually built tension and very intimate insight into the main character’s psychosis. 

 Onions chose the main character – a writer who moves into a comfortable and cheap apartment, where he must finish his novel. When the man is acclimatizing in the new space, strange things begin to happen.

Although Oliver Onions uses the haunted house theme, which is a typical one when it comes to classic ghost story, he also enriches it with the psychological perspective. And that’s precisely what makes this short story unique. The author focuses on the shadows and secrets of human subconsciousness, achieving it not only bye using the plot of the story, but its composition too. The apartment in which The Beckoning Fair One takes place is gradually getting darker and more dangerous. With time even colors and smells change. This modernist literary experiment goes nicely with Victorian stylistic used by the author. 

Another great weird fiction piece by Oliver Onions is Hic Jacet. A Tale of Artistic Conscience. It tells us the story of a writer planning to write the biography of a deceased painter. Should he comply with the requirements of the publisher or follow his artistic instinct?

The creative process is the main subject of both The Beckoning Fair One and Hic Jacet. That is why they were placed respectively at the beginning and the end of Widdershins collection – which creates a closed composition. In the latter, Oliver Onions gave up supernatural elements and focused on the problems harassing the artist-craftsman. This way, the author shares his dilemmas as an artist with the readers and also shows us how imagination and madness affect artists.

While reading Onion’s stories we will experience not only the hardships connected with being a writer, but also the gradual collapse of characters’ personalities, which happens when they realize the true source of their terror. This disturbing, seemingly supernatural power doesn’t come from old castles and cursed artifacts but develops right next to them in their everyday lives. What’s interesting, Onions, similarly to, for example, Robert Aickman, lets the reader decide if the events presented can be explained by psychological tools or are they really supernatural.

Summing up:

If you liked stories written by Arthur Machen or M.R. James, I believe that you should also give Oliver Onions a chance. Some of his works, such as The Beckoning Fair One, Hic Jacet, or Rooum are true weird fiction masterpieces, while others provide interesting insight into the development of this genre. Good read for a long autumn evening. 

If you are looking for some other good scary stories, you might want to take a look at our list of interesting horror books and our reading propositions for Halloween.

Have you read any short stories written by Oliver Onions? What do you think about them? Please let me know in the comments.

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“The Secret of Ventriloquism” Jon Padgett – book review

I’ve recently written about excellent weird fiction short story collection Teatro Grottesco written by Thomas Ligotti, whereas this time I decided to take a closer look at Jon Padgett’s The Secret of Ventriloquism. Is it really a must-have for any fan of the genre? Let’s find out.

"The Secret of Ventriloquism" Jon Padgett - review

Jon Padgett

I think that before we move on to the short stories included in The Secret of Ventriloquism, the author himself deserves a few words. Jon Padgett, a rising start of weird fiction literature, is also the creator of a popular website dedicated to Thoms Ligotti and an editor of “Vastarien” magazine. Also, it’s worth to mention that the writer has experience in ventriloquism, which is one of the main topics of this short story collection. You can learn more about Jon Padgett’s works and inspirations in a fascinating introduction by another well-known writer – Matt Cardin.

Horror of ventriloquism

Finding examples of haunted dolls in pop-culture, especially when it comes to horror is a fairly simple task. For instance, The Conjuring series in cinemas, LORE Podcast and its great episode Unboxed or Goosebumps’ classic cycle The Night of The Living Dummy. The time I’ve watched Child’s Play without my parents’ permission is probably the biggest trauma of my childhood. But why is this kind of toy such a great material for horror producers?

The order of things in relationship with a doll is, or at least should be, pretty simple – we are the ones who give it name, character etc. However, the horror occurs, when these roles are reversed. In such a case, we are confronted with some unknown power, something which just doesn’t fit the reality as we know it. I have to admit that I expected a similar approach from the short story collection The Secret of Ventriloquism. I couldn’t be more wrong though – Jon Padgett followed completely different and surprising path.

In the stories written by the American author, dolls are shown in their original role – props, and the ventriloquism itself becomes the true source of horror. The author repeatedly draws our attention to the similarities between the toy and its owner, suggesting, that in fact, maybe we are also not fully responsible for our actions. This way, Jon Padgett breaks the boundaries that usually exist between a human and a doll, but instead of giving life to the latter, he questions our free will. What if there is some mysterious power behind our actions? Some peculiar ventriloquist controlling human dummies?

Accept as the days and nights go by that you are a walking skeleton, an ambulatory miracle of meat. New thoughts come, but they arrive from beyond the foam, beyond the foamy sponge of your brain. Now open your eyes.

Like some of the best writers of weird fiction genre, Jon Padgett also managed to find his original style. Thanks to which it would be difficult to confuse his works with those of some other artists.

The Secret of Ventriloquism

Now let’s take a closer look at the stories presented in JonPadgett’s short story collection The Secret of Ventriloquism. The first – The Mindfulness of Horror Practice is a disturbing instruction to guided meditation. It was inspired by Bodhipaksa’s Mindfulness of Breathing sessions. However, the conclusion here is surprising, in a dark way.

After this kind of preparation for further reading, we can move on to Murmurs of Voice Foreknown. Interestingly the title comes from the poem Warning written by another weird fiction classic – Clark Ashton Smith. In the story, we get to know two brothers. The older boy constantly abuses the younger one mentally, threatening him with an unsettling vision of a weird entity called Sam, who wants to over the child’s body. What’s more, the whole family seems to be hiding a secret. The story focuses on the personal nightmare of the younger brother and how it affects him. If you like this story, I recommend you also reading Sredni Vashtar by British writer Saki – the atmosphere there is pretty similar to Murmurs of Voice Foreknown.

Next, we can read The Indoor Swamp, which is a description of a bizarre attraction straight from some nightmarish amusement park. The thing is though, that even though no one wants to visit it, in the end everyone gets there – It’s a ride you can’t miss… no matter how terribly you wish you could. The fake, disturbing world created by Jon Padgett resembles a nightmare from some of David Lynch’s works. Great short story.

Everything that makes the world like it is now will be gone. We’ll have new rules and new ways of living. Maybe there’ll be a law not to live in houses, so then no one can hide from anyone else… – we can read this quote by Shirley Jackson at the beginning of the story Origami Dreams, and it fits the text perfectly. The narrator finds mysterious notes describing someone’s bizarre dream, or at least that’s what he wants to believe. Similarly to The Town Manager by Thomas Ligotti, also in Origami Dreams the nightmare logic of the events is the true source of horror. In this short story, we also get to know the town of Dunnstown, which will also appear in the next texts.

The instruction attached to the dummy Jon Padgett got in childhood was the inspiration for the 20 Simple Steps to Ventriloquism – although it had only seven steps and they were rather harmless. The first eight of them are just useful tips for anyone who would like to become a ventriloquist. Then the author gives us a choice – stop reading with basic knowledge of the art or try to explore its dark side and become so-called Greater Ventriloquist. It’s worth to mention that the manuscript of 20 Simple Steps to Ventriloquism will play a major role in the next texts.

Although I liked all the stories included in The Secret of Ventriloquism, The Infusorium is, without a doubt, my favorite. The description of the fallen city of Dunnstown, most of the time covered in black fog is a true weird fiction masterpiece. The protagonist here of the story is detective Tosto, who begins an investigation concerning strange events, which took place on the premises of the factory, which was closed for years. The story was inspired by the book When Smoke Ran Like Water: Tales of Environmental Deception and The Battle Against Pollution by Devra Davis and Berton Rouche’s article The Fog – both worth reading. The Infusorium is even more terrifying when we realize that the nightmarish black fog harassing Dunnstown is not just a literary fiction.

Organ Void, the next text included in The Secret of Ventriloquism, tells the story of a woman, who decided to buy a cardboard sign from a homeless person, having no idea what terrible consequences this decision would have. Quotes mentioned there usually come from the lecture of Eckhart Tolle, whose work had a significant impact on Jon Padgett’s book.

Now it’s time for one more weird fiction gem – The Secret of Ventriloquism itself. The story is a theater play, neatly linking all other stories together. The main character decides to use 20 Simple Steps to Ventriloquism and become a Greater Ventriloquist. It’s definitely one of the most unsettling texts I have ever read, and I’m sure that no weird fiction fan will be disappointed with it. The next story, inspired by one of Thomas Ligotti’s works, Escape to Thin Mountain gracefully closes the whole book.

I think that to fully appreciate The Secret of Ventriloquism, you should consider reading it once again, already knowing the connections between the elements of the world masterfully created by Jon Padgett. As with Gene Wolfe’s Peace – it’s worth the effort.

Summing up:

The Secret of Ventriloquism is a real gem of weird fiction genre. The constant feeling of anxiety accompanying the reader throughout the whole book and unique description of the fallen Dunnstown will surely stay in the readers” memory long after putting the short story collection back on the shelf. I must admit that Jon Padgett joined my favorite weird fiction authors, and I’m looking forward to read his next works.

Have you read The Secret of Ventriloquism by Jon Padgett? Which short story is favorite? Please let me know in the comments.

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“The Secret of Ventriloquism” Jon Padgett

I’ve recently written about excellent weird fiction short story collection Teatro Grottesco written by Thomas Ligotti, whereas this time I decided to take a closer look at Jon Padgett’s The Secret of Ventriloquism. Is it really a must-have for any fan of the genre? Let’s find out.

"The Secret of Ventriloquism" Jon Padgett - review

Jon Padgett

I think that before we move on to the short stories included in The Secret of Ventriloquism, the author himself deserves a few words. Jon Padgett, a rising start of weird fiction literature, is also the creator of a popular website dedicated to Thoms Ligotti and an editor of “Vastarien” magazine. Also, it’s worth to mention that the writer has experience in ventriloquism, which is one of the main topics of this short story collection. You can learn more about Jon Padgett’s works and inspirations in a fascinating introduction by another well-known writer – Matt Cardin.

Horror of ventriloquism

Finding examples of haunted dolls in pop-culture, especially when it comes to horror is a fairly simple task. For instance, The Conjuring series in cinemas, LORE Podcast and its great episode Unboxed or Goosebumps’ classic cycle The Night of The Living Dummy. The time I’ve watched Child’s Play without my parents’ permission is probably the biggest trauma of my childhood. But why is this kind of toy such a great material for horror producers?

The order of things in relationship with a doll is, or at least should be, pretty simple – we are the ones who give it name, character etc. However, the horror occurs, when these roles are reversed. In such a case, we are confronted with some unknown power, something which just doesn’t fit the reality as we know it. I have to admit that I expected a similar approach from the short story collection The Secret of Ventriloquism. I couldn’t be more wrong though – Jon Padgett followed completely different and surprising path.

In the stories written by the American author, dolls are shown in their original role – props, and the ventriloquism itself becomes the true source of horror. The author repeatedly draws our attention to the similarities between the toy and its owner, suggesting, that in fact, maybe we are also not fully responsible for our actions. This way, Jon Padgett breaks the boundaries that usually exist between a human and a doll, but instead of giving life to the latter, he questions our free will. What if there is some mysterious power behind our actions? Some peculiar ventriloquist controlling human dummies?

Accept as the days and nights go by that you are a walking skeleton, an ambulatory miracle of meat. New thoughts come, but they arrive from beyond the foam, beyond the foamy sponge of your brain. Now open your eyes.

Like some of the best writers of weird fiction genre, Jon Padgett also managed to find his original style. Thanks to which it would be difficult to confuse his works with those of some other artists.

The Secret of Ventriloquism

Now let’s take a closer look at the stories presented in JonPadgett’s short story collection The Secret of Ventriloquism. The first – The Mindfulness of Horror Practice is a disturbing instruction to guided meditation. It was inspired by Bodhipaksa’s Mindfulness of Breathing sessions. However, the conclusion here is surprising, in a dark way.

After this kind of preparation for further reading, we can move on to Murmurs of Voice Foreknown. Interestingly the title comes from the poem Warning written by another weird fiction classic – Clark Ashton Smith. In the story, we get to know two brothers. The older boy constantly abuses the younger one mentally, threatening him with an unsettling vision of a weird entity called Sam, who wants to over the child’s body. What’s more, the whole family seems to be hiding a secret. The story focuses on the personal nightmare of the younger brother and how it affects him. If you like this story, I recommend you also reading Sredni Vashtar by British writer Saki – the atmosphere there is pretty similar to Murmurs of Voice Foreknown.

Next, we can read The Indoor Swamp, which is a description of a bizarre attraction straight from some nightmarish amusement park. The thing is though, that even though no one wants to visit it, in the end everyone gets there – It’s a ride you can’t miss… no matter how terribly you wish you could. The fake, disturbing world created by Jon Padgett resembles a nightmare from some of David Lynch’s works. Great short story.

Everything that makes the world like it is now will be gone. We’ll have new rules and new ways of living. Maybe there’ll be a law not to live in houses, so then no one can hide from anyone else… – we can read this quote by Shirley Jackson at the beginning of the story Origami Dreams, and it fits the text perfectly. The narrator finds mysterious notes describing someone’s bizarre dream, or at least that’s what he wants to believe. Similarly to The Town Manager by Thomas Ligotti, also in Origami Dreams the nightmare logic of the events is the true source of horror. In this short story, we also get to know the town of Dunnstown, which will also appear in the next texts.

The instruction attached to the dummy Jon Padgett got in childhood was the inspiration for the 20 Simple Steps to Ventriloquism – although it had only seven steps and they were rather harmless. The first eight of them are just useful tips for anyone who would like to become a ventriloquist. Then the author gives us a choice – stop reading with basic knowledge of the art or try to explore its dark side and become so-called Greater Ventriloquist. It’s worth to mention that the manuscript of 20 Simple Steps to Ventriloquism will play a major role in the next texts.

Although I liked all the stories included in The Secret of Ventriloquism, The Infusorium is, without a doubt, my favorite. The description of the fallen city of Dunnstown, most of the time covered in black fog is a true weird fiction masterpiece. The protagonist here of the story is detective Tosto, who begins an investigation concerning strange events, which took place on the premises of the factory, which was closed for years. The story was inspired by the book When Smoke Ran Like Water: Tales of Environmental Deception and The Battle Against Pollution by Devra Davis and Berton Rouche’s article The Fog – both worth reading. The Infusorium is even more terrifying when we realize that the nightmarish black fog harassing Dunnstown is not just a literary fiction.

Organ Void, the next text included in The Secret of Ventriloquism, tells the story of a woman, who decided to buy a cardboard sign from a homeless person, having no idea what terrible consequences this decision would have. Quotes mentioned there usually come from the lecture of Eckhart Tolle, whose work had a significant impact on Jon Padgett’s book.

Now it’s time for one more weird fiction gem – The Secret of Ventriloquism itself. The story is a theater play, neatly linking all other stories together. The main character decides to use 20 Simple Steps to Ventriloquism and become a Greater Ventriloquist. It’s definitely one of the most unsettling texts I have ever read, and I’m sure that no weird fiction fan will be disappointed with it. The next story, inspired by one of Thomas Ligotti’s works, Escape to Thin Mountain gracefully closes the whole book.

I think that to fully appreciate The Secret of Ventriloquism, you should consider reading it once again, already knowing the connections between the elements of the world masterfully created by Jon Padgett. As with Gene Wolfe’s Peace – it’s worth the effort.

Summing up:

The Secret of Ventriloquism is a real gem of weird fiction genre. The constant feeling of anxiety accompanying the reader throughout the whole book and unique description of the fallen Dunnstown will surely stay in the readers” memory long after putting the short story collection back on the shelf. I must admit that Jon Padgett joined my favorite weird fiction authors, and I’m looking forward to read his next works.

Have you read The Secret of Ventriloquism by Jon Padgett? Which short story is favorite? Please let me know in the comments.

You can buy the book here:

Best short stories by H.P. Lovecraft

Recently I have written about great weird fiction short stories by Thomas Ligotti, whereas this time I take a closer look at another classic of this genre – H.P. Lovecraft himself. It won’t be a book review, though, but a ranking of my favorite works created by this author. How would your list look like? Please let me know in the comments. Enjoy.

Best short stories by H.P. Lovecraft - Weird Pond

15. At the Mountains of Madness

A group of scientists entrapped in the frozen Antarctic world, which hides a terrible mystery deep beneath the ice – it sounds a bit like the excellent movie by John Carpenter The Thing, doesn’t it? Well, I think that the atmosphere of the story is pretty similar, but the sheer scale of the presented history is far greater in Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness. The fact that the list starts with such an excellent text is fitting testament to the greatness of this author.

14. The Doom that Came to Sarnath

This story shows a different aspect of Lovecraft’s works – a more fantastic one. The description of the magnificent Sarnath located on the ruins of gray city Ib is particularly impressive here and will stay with you long after finishing the read. If you want to see another face of the writer from Providence, you shouldn’t miss on this short story. 

13. The Thing on the Doorstep

An exciting short story full of references to, for example, Shadow over Innsmouth (which is also going to appear on the list). The disturbing atmosphere and suggestive descriptions make the reader feel uncomfortable from the very beginning of the text. 

12. The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath

Similarly to The Doom that Came to Sarnath this story also shows us more fantastic Lovecraft. Randolph Carter’s journey through the Dreamlands is an unforgettable experience for any weird fiction fan. 

11. The Rats in the Walls

The nightmares presented in this story are true masterpieces of horror literature, and there is a chance that they will stay in your memory for good. Its plot is intriguing, and the surprising ending surely will give you goosebumps. In my opinion, The Rats in the Walls is undoubtedly one of the best Lovecraft’s works. 

10. The Case of Charles Dexter Ward

One of the best known short stories, written by Lovecraft. We get necromancers, possessions, dreadful experiments, and an excellent, climactic confrontation at the end of the text. While some people say that there are a few dull and too long fragments in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, I still think that it’s an excellent horror story, definitely worth the time invested in it. 

9. The Outsider

I have to admit that for some time I considered placing The Outsider a little higher, because it’s one of the unique stories written by H.P. Lovecraft. In this case, we no longer look at the world through the eyes of some scholar, who discovers a terrible secret, which starts slowly driving him mad. Instead, we have an opportunity to get to know the story from the monster’s perspective. One of my personal favorites.

8. The Haunter of the Dark

A young painter, during exploration of some abandoned church, which used to be a home for sect conducting ungodly rituals, gets tangled up in a terrifying story. The Haunter of the Dark is a true masterpiece when it comes to disturbing atmosphere and keeping the reader on the edge of the seat. 

7. The Whisperer in Darkness

After a massive flood somewhere around Vermont, the river begins to wash out bizarre creatures, which don’t resemble anything know to humans. One of the professors from Miskatonic University, at first very skeptical, begins to correspond with Henry Akeley – another researcher who experiences some disturbing events on his skin. I think that it’s worth to mention that one of the inspirations for The Whisperer in Darkness was the discovery of Pluto, which Lovecraft associated with Yuggoth – a planet inhabited by mysterious beings. 

6. The Shadow Out of Time

In The Shadow Out of Time H.P. Lovecraft allows us to get to know a big part of his universe’s lore – the history of the Great Race of Yith. One of the themes often appearing in the writer’s texts – the shallowness and pointlessness of the human race in the face of great powers lurking somewhere in space – is even more overwhelming than usual. 

5. The Dreams in the Witch House

The main character, Walter Gillman, decides to rent an attic room which previously was inhabited by a witch, who mysteriously disappeared from Salem jail in 1692. He soon discovers that many of people he moved into the apartment before him, died in strange circumstances. 

The vision of demonic Brown Jenkin, witch’s companion is haunting, and the same goes to Gillman’s nightmares. The way in which Lovecraft builds tension up to the terrifying finale is just breathtaking. The Dreams in the Witch House is definitely one of my favorite horror short stories.

4. The Shadow Over Innsmouth

A story that later inspired, for example, creation of great horror video game Call of Cthulhu – Dark Corners of the World is, no doubt, a true horror literature icon.

Robert Olmstead tells us a story, when he accidentally found himself in the infamous city of Innsmouth. The suggestive descriptions of ghostly, crumbling town inhabited by fallen creatures who once were humans, is a disturbing experience you won’t forget.

3. The Call of Cthulhu

The Call of Cthulhu is a collection of notes written by the narrator – Francis Wayland, who is trying to unravel the mystery behind some alarming events. The scale of the history is enormous – the story takes us on a trip around the world, we visit the United States, China, New Zealand, and even Antarctica, while the Cthulhu cult threatens whole humanity. In my opinion, The Call of Cthulhu is a great pick to start one’s adventure with H.P. Lovecraft’s stories.

2. The Dunwich Horror

The story takes place in a ghastly, ruined town of Dunwich, haunted by ungodly creatures out of this world. Abominable rituals, forbidden books, and overwhelming dark atmosphere – that’s a very good description for this story. If you liked this one, I think that you might also want to take a look at the card game The Dunwich Legacy.

1. The Colour Out of Space

After the fall of a meteor, people and animals inhabiting the nearby area start to descend into madness, while at night, strange otherworldly lights come out of a particular well. The dark climate of the story, its suffocating atmosphere of dread and terror and the feeling of helplessness that accompanies us from the very beginning of the story is simply unique. If I had to choose one story which might encourage people to read H.P. Lovecraft’s stories, I would pick The Colour out of Space

So, that’s it – my favorite short stories written by H.P. Lovecraft. How would your list look like? Which horror story written by this author is your favorite? Please let me know in the comments.

If you would like to start your adventure with H.P. Lovecraft’s short stories, we recommend buying, for example, this collection:

Thomas Ligotti "Teatro Grottesco"

“Teatro Grottesco” Thomas Ligotti

I have recently written posts about weird fiction novels such as The Fisherman by Joseph Langan, Borne by Jeff VanderMeer and Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany. This time I decided to take a closer look at Thomas Ligotti’s short story collection – Teatro Grottesco. Is it really a masterpiece of weird literature? Let’s find out. 

"Teatro Grottesco" Thomas Ligotti - Weird Pond review

Thomas Ligotti

I think that for starters, we should mention a few words about Teatro Grottesco’s author and also the weird fiction genre itself. As a teenager, Ligotti liked to read horror stories written by famous writers like Algernon Blackwood or M.R. James. He admits though that Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft and Brunon Schulz had a bigger influence on his works. Now he is considered to be one of the leading authors when it comes to philosophical horror, and his stories are slowly beginning to gain recognition also in the eyes of readers, who are not weird fiction passionates. Interestingly, you can find references to Ligotti’s works in top-rated TV series – True Detective

Nothing belongs to us. Everything is something that is rented out. Our very heads are filled with rented ideas passed on from one generation to the next.

Weird fiction literature 

What makes weird fiction different from ordinary horror? Well, the main goal of authors creating in this genre is not to simply frighten the reader, but to evoke in him feeling of anxiety, usually caused by confrontation with the unknown. I think that Ligotti’s works perfectly fit this definition. Their task is to draw the reader into a surreal, nightmare-like world, which will stay in his imagination long after finishing the book. If you would like to learn more about the weird fiction genre, I can recommend, for example, reading this article by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

Ligotti’s short stories

The attic is not haunting your head – your head is haunting the attic. Some heads are more haunted than others, whether they are haunted by ghosts or by gods or by creatures from outer space.

Unlike authors such as H.P. Lovecraft or Robert E. Howard, Ligotti did not create one consistent universe for works. While reading, however, you can see some similarities between places mentioned in his stories – they are usually degenerated, fallen towns. The “town near the northern border” and its grotesque inhabitants are a perfect example of this.  

While taking a closer look at characters in Ligotti’s stories, it’s easy to notice that we usually don’t get much information about them – only that they suffer from some physical or mental ailments and are social outcasts. Then, suddenly, in one way or another, they are confronted with some distortion of reality – stranger recordings, peculiar amusement park or a mysterious organization hunting artists. If we take under consideration the fact, that Ligotti’s characters are ofter on the verge of madness from the get-go, we can never be really sure whether the encounter with the unknown actually took place or whether it was merely a delusion of sick person. I think, however, that this issue if of marginal importance when it comes to this writer’s works. In his stories, the human psyche and how it reacts when collided with the weird take the spotlight. 

There is no way out of the nightmare once you have gone so far into its depths.

I think that it’s also worth to notice, that Ligotti’s character’s mental states, usually correspond with the distortions of reality around them. To some extent, it even reflects their minds. 

Teatro Grottesco

In this short story collection, we can find some of the author’s most famous works. The first one is Purity – a text, which in my opinion, inspired an excellent browser game My father’s long long legs. A family moves into a fallen town, and the father decides to start using the basement for his mysterious research.

The next story is The Town Manager. Shortly after the official mentioned in the title disappear, which, as it turns out, is nothing new for the local community, residents start to look for his successor. You can quickly notice that each next manager is more degenerated manifestation, brought to life by some unknown force whose one and only goal seems to sow chaos.  

One of my favorite short stories included in Teatro Grottesco is definitely The Clown Puppet. The main character has visions of a weird jester-like creature manifestations, and in the end, he has to confront his nightmare in a really disturbing finale. Truly a tremendous weird fiction story.

If asked to name the definitive image in Lovecraft, one might likely say its tentacles flailing from the body of a monster. For me, it would probably be puppets, manikins, and clown-like things, even though these are more often a matter of metaphor than a literal presence of a monstrous type. Nevertheless, if Lovecraft’s tentacle monsters and my puppets and so on fought each other, I think the monsters would win. Thomas Ligotti

However, I was impressed the most by Teatro Grottesco, Gas station carnivals, and The Bungalow House. Each of them is a true masterpiece when it comes to build a nightmarish, disturbing atmosphere. If I had to recommend someone a shorty story capable of showing what’s best in weird fiction, I would probably pick of the texts mentioned above. 

I think that it’s also worth to mention that Teatro Grottesco includes stories belonging to sub-genre called corporate horror. The author, for instance, tells us a story about a world which is being slowly taken over by a big pharmaceutical company. Actually the history presented in the text sounds disturbingly probable. All in all – every story included in this collection is definitely worth reading. 

Summing up:

Weird fiction stories by Thomas Ligotti are perfect examples showing, that horror, often associated with light entertainment, can be a really ambitious literature. In my opinion, Teatro Grottesco is a masterpiece that I can honestly recommend to any book lover, who is ready to plunge into a disturbing, surreal world of nightmares created by the author. 

Grade: 10/10

Have you read any short stories by Thomas Ligotti? Which one is your favorite, and why? Please let me know in the comments section.

You can buy the book here:

Thomas Ligotti "Teatro Grottesco"

“Teatro Grottesco” Thomas Ligotti – book review

I have recently written posts about weird fiction novels such as The Fisherman by Joseph Langan, Borne by Jeff VanderMeer and Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany. This time I decided to take a closer look at Thomas Ligotti’s short story collection – Teatro Grottesco. Is it really a masterpiece of weird literature? Let’s find out. 

"Teatro Grottesco" Thomas Ligotti - Weird Pond review

Thomas Ligotti

I think that for starters, we should mention a few words about Teatro Grottesco’s author and also the weird fiction genre itself. As a teenager, Ligotti liked to read horror stories written by famous writers like Algernon Blackwood or M.R. James. He admits though that Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft and Brunon Schulz had a bigger influence on his works. Now he is considered to be one of the leading authors when it comes to philosophical horror, and his stories are slowly beginning to gain recognition also in the eyes of readers, who are not weird fiction passionates. Interestingly, you can find references to Ligotti’s works in top-rated TV series – True Detective

Nothing belongs to us. Everything is something that is rented out. Our very heads are filled with rented ideas passed on from one generation to the next.

Weird fiction literature 

What makes weird fiction different from ordinary horror? Well, the main goal of authors creating in this genre is not to simply frighten the reader, but to evoke in him feeling of anxiety, usually caused by confrontation with the unknown. I think that Ligotti’s works perfectly fit this definition. Their task is to draw the reader into a surreal, nightmare-like world, which will stay in his imagination long after finishing the book. If you would like to learn more about the weird fiction genre, I can recommend, for example, reading this article by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

Ligotti’s short stories

The attic is not haunting your head – your head is haunting the attic. Some heads are more haunted than others, whether they are haunted by ghosts or by gods or by creatures from outer space.

Unlike authors such as H.P. Lovecraft or Robert E. Howard, Ligotti did not create one consistent universe for works. While reading, however, you can see some similarities between places mentioned in his stories – they are usually degenerated, fallen towns. The “town near the northern border” and its grotesque inhabitants are a perfect example of this.  

While taking a closer look at characters in Ligotti’s stories, it’s easy to notice that we usually don’t get much information about them – only that they suffer from some physical or mental ailments and are social outcasts. Then, suddenly, in one way or another, they are confronted with some distortion of reality – stranger recordings, peculiar amusement park or a mysterious organization hunting artists. If we take under consideration the fact, that Ligotti’s characters are ofter on the verge of madness from the get-go, we can never be really sure whether the encounter with the unknown actually took place or whether it was merely a delusion of sick person. I think, however, that this issue if of marginal importance when it comes to this writer’s works. In his stories, the human psyche and how it reacts when collided with the weird take the spotlight. 

There is no way out of the nightmare once you have gone so far into its depths.

I think that it’s also worth to notice, that Ligotti’s character’s mental states, usually correspond with the distortions of reality around them. To some extent, it even reflects their minds. 

Teatro Grottesco

In this short story collection, we can find some of the author’s most famous works. The first one is Purity – a text, which in my opinion, inspired an excellent browser game My father’s long long legs. A family moves into a fallen town, and the father decides to start using the basement for his mysterious research.

The next story is The Town Manager. Shortly after the official mentioned in the title disappear, which, as it turns out, is nothing new for the local community, residents start to look for his successor. You can quickly notice that each next manager is more degenerated manifestation, brought to life by some unknown force whose one and only goal seems to sow chaos.  

One of my favorite short stories included in Teatro Grottesco is definitely The Clown Puppet. The main character has visions of a weird jester-like creature manifestations, and in the end, he has to confront his nightmare in a really disturbing finale. Truly a tremendous weird fiction story.

If asked to name the definitive image in Lovecraft, one might likely say its tentacles flailing from the body of a monster. For me, it would probably be puppets, manikins, and clown-like things, even though these are more often a matter of metaphor than a literal presence of a monstrous type. Nevertheless, if Lovecraft’s tentacle monsters and my puppets and so on fought each other, I think the monsters would win. Thomas Ligotti

However, I was impressed the most by Teatro Grottesco, Gas station carnivals, and The Bungalow House. Each of them is a true masterpiece when it comes to build a nightmarish, disturbing atmosphere. If I had to recommend someone a shorty story capable of showing what’s best in weird fiction, I would probably pick of the texts mentioned above. 

I think that it’s also worth to mention that Teatro Grottesco includes stories belonging to sub-genre called corporate horror. The author, for instance, tells us a story about a world which is being slowly taken over by a big pharmaceutical company. Actually the history presented in the text sounds disturbingly probable. All in all – every story included in this collection is definitely worth reading. 

Summing up:

Weird fiction stories by Thomas Ligotti are perfect examples showing, that horror, often associated with light entertainment, can be a really ambitious literature. In my opinion, Teatro Grottesco is a masterpiece that I can honestly recommend to any book lover, who is ready to plunge into a disturbing, surreal world of nightmares created by the author. 

Grade: 10/10

Have you read any short stories by Thomas Ligotti? Which one is your favorite, and why? Please let me know in the comments section.

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