True Detective and Ligotti plagiarism

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    Having finally watched True Detective season 1 back in November, I feel like I can finally make this post. These are just my opinions on the matter. Feel free to state your own and maybe we can make this into a discussion of some sorts 🙂


    Overall, I thought the first season of True Detective was solid. Good characters and dialog along with an interesting plot that had a satisfying resolution. Being familiar with Chamber’s works, it is interesting to see how the King in Yellow elements were applied to the show.

    However, fans of obscure horror writer Thomas Ligotti have accused Nic Pizzolatto (creator of True Detective) of plagiarizing from The Conspiracy Against the Human Race (TCAHR), a philosophical non-fictional work by Ligotti.

    I was able to read TCAHR this past summer (recommended by LaughingMan in a past post. Thanks for the suggestion, LM!) and there is no doubt in my mind that TD protagonist Rust Cohle’s personality and life views were heavily influenced by Ligotti’s writings, which are very pessimistic in nature. In fact, Pizzolatto has stated Ligotti has been one of his literary influences.

    Ligotti fans seem to take issue with Rust’s quotes, which are somewhat similar in structure to Ligotti’s (and they have made quite a list), to the point they say that Pizzolatto has to give all writing credit to Ligotti.

    Has this gone too far?

    In my opinion, yes.

    For starters, the “quotations” are not directly lifted from TCAHR and have been re-worded to Pizzlatto’s style (for lack of a better term). To my knowledge, literary plagiarism consists of “directly lifted” lines.

    Secondly, fans accuse Pizzolatto of not giving enough credit to Ligotti. This is not true. While I don’t expect Pizzolatto to name-drop Ligotti everytime Season 1 comes up in disscussion (seems strange and excessive to do so), Pizzolatto has mentioned Ligotti when influences are brought up in interviews and has recommended his writings to fans of the show (which is a fair thing to do in the writing world).

    Ligotti fans have also accused Pizzolatto of “stealing” Ligotti’s ideas in TCAHR. No offense to them but Ligotti’s outlook is not exactly new. Pessimism and its ilk have existed before he was born and will continue to do so long after he is dead. I find it funny that Ligotti fans are quick to pick on Pizzolatto’s writing but Ligotti himself has admitted to emulating the style of certain authors and TCAHR has referenced a number of philosophies/world-views. In fact, one of the things that surprised me about TCAHR is that it was basically a summary of subjects/topics learned from religion, philosophy, and psychology classes I took in college. Some of those same topics influence my own writings! Am I plagiarizing anyone?

    Now, I am not implying that Ligotti is unoriginal. He has acknowledged these influences in TCAHR (complete with citations) and his own original opinions on these topics are clearly defined and thought out. If you look into Ligotti’s personal life, you can see why these philosophies resonate with him.

    In conclusion, I think Ligotti fans are over-reacting. Ligotti is obscure due to his own habits and I think TD is a way for more people to discover (and hopefully purchase) his work. Hell, if it weren’t for LaughingMan and TD I probably wouldn’t know this even guy existed (I need to remind myself to look at this other works).

    All creators take influence from someone or something. Pizzolatto and Ligotti as writers are no exception. I am a firm believe their is nothing new under the sun. Even when looking at the oldest stories known to man, world mythologies, you are bound to run into many common themes (First man and woman makes an appearance in Native American, Norse, and Judeo-Christian stories). The thing that matters is how a writer/artist/whatever approaches common themes, formulas, and tropes and puts their own “twist” on it (eg. Hellsing vamps vs. Twilight vamps). I think that defines part of their “voice”.

    I don’t think True Detective stole the spotlight from Ligotti, it merely brought attention to the shadowy world of an accomplished and little-known horror writer.

    Rabid ecstasy, 1997

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