Back in 1990 I bought a remaindered copy of Songs of a Dead Dreamer at a Waldenbooks in Champaign, IL. I’d never heard of the author, Thomas Ligotti, but the book sounded kind of interesting. I added it to my to-be-read pile, where it was quickly buried, and years went by before I really thought of it again.
In those intervening years, I learned the name Thomas Ligotti. So did anyone who read Weird Tales, Grue, or other horror magazines in the late 80s and early 90s. He was a singularly unique talent, and his fame quietly grew during those decades. In fact, when I launched the first issue of Black Gate in the year 2000, I had more-or-less decided not to put the names of authors on the cover, to keep the artwork clean and give the magazine a unique look, but I talked to a few other editors to get their opinion first. One of them was Darrell Schweitzer, co-editor of Weird Tales.
“We never noticed a bit of difference in sales when we put authors names on the cover,” he confided. “Unless the name was Thomas Ligotti.”
Ligotti’s first two collections were Songs of a Dead Dreamer (1985) and Grimscribe: His Lives and Works (1991), both of which appeared first in small print-run hardcovers. Those editions — including the one I bought at Waldenbooks for three bucks — became highly prized collectors items. Both appeared in paperback, in June 1991 and October 1994, respectively. Those editions shortly went out of print, and also became became highly sought-after. In 2010 and 2011, after both volumes had been out of print for nearly two decades, Subterranean Press re-issued them with matching dust jackets. Those editions quickly sold out, and routinely command prices of $200-400 in the collectors market.
In short, if you wanted a print copy of Songs of a Dead Dreamer or Grimscribe any time in the last 20 years, you pretty much needed to be very wealthy, very lucky, or both. So you can understand why the impending release of Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe, an omnibus 464-page collection of both volumes in a handsome and affordable trade paperback from Penguin Classics, has generated excited buzz in horror circles.
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