Antinatalism: A Thought Experiment

Quentin S Crisp

In planning this essay I have been aware of two possibly conflicting, certainly contrasting forms of motivation within me that will influence the direction of my exploration and argument, and I believe it would be especially salutary for the reader to keep these two motivations in mind. The first is a kind of bitterness or indignation (I won’t say towards whom or what), and the second is a more expansive desire for peace, reconciliation, and for the unfolding of things to their greatest openness. Perhaps also worth bearing in mind is the dance or tussle between entertainment and authenticity. Having given this warning, let me begin.

From a young age I discovered many causes to believe I am different to other human beings, but it was only in my late teens or early twenties that one particular difference, which has become almost definitive to me now, began to make itself clear. I began to harbour a growing belief, which set me apart to the extent (I sensed) it was not to be spoken aloud, that having children was a thing worse than murder. Murder is the curtailing of a life that would have ended anyway; having a child creates a death that would never have been1.

While this secret belief remained unbreathable, I think it was the coagulation of a kind of personal despair; it gave the co-ordinates of the isolated unreality in which I lived. I did not have a name for it and I knew of no other person who held such a belief (with the possible exception of Philip Larkin, whom I knew through his poetry). This was in the world before the internet, of course. Vegetarianism, I could profess to the world; this nameless thing, I could not, unless simply to declare without explanation that I would never have children.

I am wary of misremembering things, so let me state a fact in evidence. The first story I had published, ‘The Psychopomps’, (2000) contains a passage, dilating upon the fear of death, in which the following lines jut out sharply:

Death offers us a game which we must lose, and soon, but bids us to stand and fight and taunts our useless courage. The only power one possibly has against Death is not to reproduce and so not to provide it with more innocent fodder. This is, needless to say, a very negative form of victory.

The noted horror writer, Thomas Ligotti, read this story and did me the honour of providing a quote for it. Looking at that quote now, on the back of my first collection, I still feel a thrill of pride, as if the ink of history itself marks my life here; a strange feeling, perhaps, in the larger context with which this essay deals.

It was through Thomas Ligotti that I was to learn the name of my nameless belief: antinatalism.

Also through my reading of Ligotti, which connected me to other readers of Ligotti in the dawning internet age, I came not only to name this belief, but also to see it as something beyond the personal, as a philosophy, even a movement.


Ligotti’s fiction takes up, in some respect, where the cosmic horror of H.P. Lovecraft leaves off. The latter shows a vast universe in which human concerns are insignificant. In the former, size hardly matters, since the universe is, to quote from The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, ‘MALIGNANTLY USELESS’: a nightmare of monism that penetrates the human psyche itself. A favourite metaphor for the human in such a universe is the puppet; appearing separate and autonomous, it is actually at the mercy of unseen powers2.  In Ligotti’s fiction, Schopenhauer’s pessimism meets modern genetic determinism and arrives at a kind of Gothic Buddhism in which what is uncanny in the supernatural becomes identical to what is uncanny in materialism. A simple, undeviating philosophical point is never far from the surface in Ligotti’s stories, but for those who missed it, Ligotti is scrupulous in making explicit in his interviews that for him ‘it is a damn shame that organic life ever developed on this or any other planet’3.


In this movement—from my own personal “wish that I’d never been born”, to a global “humanity should never have been born”, and indeed, beyond—there is, I believe, something timely. We have entered an age of overpopulation, climate change, nuclear disaster, growing social inequality, surveillance that increases towards omnipresence, and—perhaps worse than all but the last of these—transhumanism. In Man against Mass Society, Gabriel Marcel observes that it should surprise no one if, following the death of God, as proclaimed by Nietzsche, there should soon come the death throes of humanity. If previously the “sickness unto death”—as Kierkegaard refers to despair—has been largely confined to individuals, however few or numerous, it seems appropriate that the word “antinatalism” should begin to catch fire on the internet precisely when despair seems to be taking such global forms as are incompletely listed above. And there are few literary manifestations of “the sickness unto death” so concentrated as the writing of Ligotti4.

At this point I should try to define antinatalism more clearly, though its gist is no doubt apparent. First of all, timely though it may be, a true advocate would assert that antinatalism has nothing to do with the age in which we live. There are people who think having children is wrong because the world is overpopulated, or because of environmental devastation: some concerned for the welfare of the prospective humans, some for non-human nature, and some for both, but for the true antinatalist these are, at best, side issues. For such a person, the bad of human existence will always, and self-evidently, outweigh the good. Imagine paradise: such a place is still not worth the trouble a heart takes in beating. Without paradise, things are even worse. Except perhaps for those transhumanists who plan to skip from one dying universe to another for eternity, death is certain; pain almost equally so, and happiness elusive. Moreover, there simply is no discernible or imaginable purpose for all the straining effort of the perpetuation of the species.

In one sense, it is a simple enough philosophy to grasp, but those who truly embrace it are vanishingly rare to, arguably, non-existent; or so they presumably desire to be, if their embrace is true.

Let me illustrate the basic antinatalist argument using the song “For Now” from the musical Avenue Q. The main character of the song cannot find his purpose in life, but is advised by various others to cope with this dissatisfaction by telling himself that everything is just ‘for now’. If you do not possess knowledge of an ultimate meaning, all you can do, they suggest, is enjoy the good things and let them go, and endure the bad till they pass. The song’s penultimate couplet is:

Life may be scary
But it’s only temporary.

And this is perhaps the most comforting conclusion to be reached if one discounts the possibility of meaning. In the secularised west, this might also be how most people live, as far as they think about it.

But there’s something very curious about this conclusion. It treats us as the victims of an ultimately meaningless and hostile fate—we can only surrender. However, if life is only to be endured, why does no one who reaches this conclusion recognise the one choice in life they do have, which is not to propagate it? Once the unquestioned assumption of the song—that we must procreate and so continue the life to which we must surrender—becomes clear, all the most important questions of philosophy suddenly appear like genies, because we are no longer taking life as a given. One of these questions, less frequently addressed even than the others, though it is pivotal, is that of antinatalism. It may be too late for we who already live to avoid this temporary, meaningless and scary life, but we can avoid it on behalf of others by not allowing spermatozoa to fertilise human eggs. And there is an end to all the otherwise insoluble perplexity expressed in “For Now”; or there would be an end, if the action were universal.


Incidentally, there are antinatalists who express especial exasperation at the views of atheists with children (I don’t think this is just me). Atheists with children are those who, as it were, sing the song “For Now” without ever realising they had the choice not to perpetuate it. Tolstoy, in A Confession, recounts how, living through the depths of despair, he came to a realisation that in despair, he had also been in denial, since ‘Where there is life there is faith.’ Atheists with children are in denial regarding the faith they have in life. The famous atheist Christopher Hitchens once declared that ‘You’re expelled from your mother’s uterus as if shot from a cannon, towards a barn door studded with old nail files and rusty hooks.’5  Presumably that was what he had in mind when conceiving his three children.


It’s possible that by now the reader will have picked up on an odd dissonance here and there and wonder exactly what my position is. Let me make a few simple statements before going further: I have never thought of myself as an antinatalist, despite agreeing with much of the philosophy, because, to me, such a label seems a way of starting with a conclusion rather than trying to move towards one. Similarly, I am not an atheist, though I did think of myself in that way a long time ago. I don’t think of myself as agnostic, either, but, for the purposes of this essay, I will say that I am agnostic; not because I am an atheist who will not commit, but because I abhor atheism6  while still harbouring some doubt whether there might be a meaning to life. I take that gap of doubt more seriously than most atheists take their blanket certainties: I deduce this from their procreation.

(I said this would be personal.)


The truth is, even after becoming acquainted with Ligotti’s work at around the turn of the century, I am not sure exactly when I encountered the word “antinatalism” itself. But this philosophical impetus to Ligotti’s writing became increasingly clearer, until 2007, when his extended essay, The Conspiracy Against the Human Race7, was published.  Ostensibly an essay on horror, The Conspiracy Against the Human Race is more crucially an argument for the voluntary cessation of the human species. It was around this time I became aware of something like an online community or network of antinatalists, and other works with the same thesis seem to have clustered around the appearance of this work: Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence, David Benatar (2006), Confessions of an Antinatalist, Jim Crawford (2010), Every Cradle is a Grave: Rethinking the Ethics of Birth and Suicide, by Sarah Perry (2014). Apart from The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, I have not read them, for three supremely simple reasons: a) I will never have children, b) I know all the arguments for antinatalism thoroughly, and dare say I can add some of my own, and c) I am perfectly capable of depression and despair without the thoughtful help of others.

But perhaps some people do need assistance in this area?

The previously mentioned signs of global despair are also symptoms of denial. The same despair, I do believe, and the same denial exemplified by Hitchens: denying life has meaning, yet inflicting it on one’s children. I echo the thoughts of an interestingly eclectic group of individuals when I say that we need to realise there is an alternative to survival of the species at all costs. The human race—as Kierkegaard would doubtless agree—is already in despair; we just need to remove the denial. And to that end, antinatalism might prove itself a bitter but necessary medicine. I would like to see the entire human race scrutinise the question of whether the species should continue; to scrutinise it, and in so doing, to scrutinise themselves.

Who knows? Perhaps the time really has come. With the whole of humanity working on the question, many benefits may follow. It may actually be discovered that there is a reason to lay to rest forever misgivings about our existence. In purely personal terms, I would feel less that I am losing my mind in going over and over the questions alone, with no one sharing my particular relationship to them. And, in a worst case scenario, or, as some might say, a best case scenario, humanity might simply come to shed all illusions and decide to call the whole thing off.

Against this background, all things take on an absurd, vibrant, trifling quality; a cryptically exciting flicker and stir. For instance, the world of Ligotti fandom and antinatalism has been quickened recently with news that the HBO series, True Detective, written by Nic Pizzolatto, is partly informed by the fiction and philosophy of Thomas Ligotti. It could be—surely not?!, some say, but we are living in strange times—that antinatalism is about to become mainstream. And with antinatalism possibly poised on this threshold, it is time for me to talk about its problems, both philosophical and moral. There are also practical problems, for which I might not have space.


Let me begin with the moral problem.  Any who champion antinatalism as a moral movement rather than a personal preference must answer the charge of misanthropy. Extinction, they will claim, is in the best interests of humanity; antinatalism is compassionate. But I would suggest any putative compassion must be examined in the light of this dictum of George Eliot: ‘our moral progress may be measured by the degree in which we sympathize with individual suffering and individual joy.’8  For the antinatalist case to be correct, joy cannot outweigh suffering. For those who want the case to be correct, therefore, one can see there will be a natural tendency to devalue joy, to diminish it, and, if the tendency is taken to an extreme, to eradicate it.

But does this actually happen?


Let me give a small example in evidence of my belief that this is a real tendency, however slight or pronounced. On February the 14th, 2013, I received a message via Goodreads under a pseudonym approximating “Goodman”; one can catch here (perhaps with a frisson of cognitive dissonance) the whiff of puritanical self-righteousness. I am guessing from my association with the antinatalist scene that this wasn’t sent at random, but with some knowledge of who I am; the message informed me that we no longer need books, because we have the truth, that truth being one of genetic determinism. The message ended with the statement, ‘You are either an efilist or an idiot’ and provided a link to a YouTube video called “Efilist or idiot”.It should be noted that efilism—which comes from ‘life’ spelt backwards—is a more radical position than standard antinatalism. I am advised it indicates the belief that, if there were a red button that could instantly eliminate all sentient life—human, animal and alien—then the moral choice would be to press it immediately and without discussion9.  Why did the efilist focus on telling me we don’t need books? Despite the fact I do not and will not have children, and therefore can be left alone until he finds his red button, “Goodman” clearly fears I might find in books some enjoyment or meaning, and, for the efilist cause, this will not do. I am reminded of H.L. Mencken’s definition of Puritanism: ‘The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.10’  Mencken also observed that ‘The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it.’11  (I hope that none of those who tend to believe existence itself is unjustifiable suffering will accuse me of being oversensitive about a prim and sinister pseudonymous message.)

But since this example is personal and involves a form of antinatalism that may not be representative, let’s choose another. Let us look at the way, for instance, Sarah Perry’s Every Cradle Is a Grave is presented. At the time of writing it has not yet been released, but the cover and blurb are featured on the Nine-Banded Books website. The home page of this website displays a photograph of the hanging by crane of Mary the circus elephant, in turbid monochrome. The “about” section declares: ‘Our books exist at the murky borderlands at the edge of acceptable discourse where no dogma is safe, where no cow is sacred, and where people with better sense than you know not to tread.’ So, they are already presenting their publications as “borderline unacceptable”. Claims of respect for and empathy with humans are made in relation to the book, but when we look at the cover of the book itself, we find a crudely drawn skull with a dislocated lower jaw. Here, the website’s snuff-movie aesthetic is complete. Is this a serious attempt to be persuasive, or are we expected to feel something like the grimy nihilistic shock and titillation of watching a video nasty? At the very least, I think that it is hard to complain of a narrow readership with this kind of presentation. It seems to me that the links antinatalism has with the horror genre are not best calculated to impress people with the idea that it is an unbiased and altruistic doctrine.

On this score, let me comment on the phrase ‘philosophical horror’ which I have encountered in the introduction to Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves and elsewhere. There can be no such thing as “philosophical horror”, at least as a premeditated genre. Why? Because philosophy implies enquiry, reflection and an open mind, whereas the genre of horror demands certain conclusions in advance. But perhaps it is just as well that the links antinatalism has with horror are kept in the open and we remember Ligotti’s dictum that “literature is entertainment or it is nothing”.

 

To summarise, this is what I fear: that in antinatalism, any deeply anguished pessimist with the will to do so may find not so much a magic key, as a magic crowbar; a cause by which she can lever her own unhappiness onto others. It is the moral thing for you to do to be as miserable as she is and die without progeny. By making her pessimism an issue she hopes she can secure an audience that mere personal griping never could. (And I do not think, in an ideal world, anyone’s despair should be ignored, but it should certainly not be examined under false pretences.)

But if misery is a moral imperative, that brings us to the philosophical problem with antinatalism. How can there even be morality in a meaningless universe?

In Ligotti’s novel, My Work Is Not Yet Done, an oppressed corporate employee is involved in a traffic accident that allows him access to secret knowledge consisting in the fact that the universe is a single substance of evil blackness (referred to as ‘the Great Black Swine’). This philosophy gives rise to considerable cognitive dissonance, for instance, in a scene where the hero’s elderly landlady, Lilian, deals skilfully with two police investigators, putting them off the hero’s scent. It is clear we are meant to feel admiration for her. But is our admiration meant to be understood merely as one portion of ultimate evil admiring another? Presumably so. And, if so, the antinatalist argument is also a portion of ultimate evil. It certainly can make no logical claim to authentic compassion, since authentic compassion cannot exist where there are only two things (which are one thing): evil and illusion.  Chesterton had words to say on this matter over a hundred years ago:

 

But the new rebel is a skeptic, and will not entirely trust anything. And the fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything. For all denunciations imply a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it…12


Or, in the case of the pessimistic antinatalist, he has to engage in a perpetual shifting of positions around the question of morality to dodge the charge of inconsistency. As Brandon H. Bell observes, ‘It is a constant hedging that grows tiresome.’13

To further highlight the inconsistencies of antinatalism, we might ask the following question: By what standard is it a bad thing to campaign for the extinction of a section of the human race, but a good thing to campaign for the extinction of the entire human race, though the latter will inevitably include the former? Since some antinatalists will object that they do not wish to force, but only to persuade, we can rephrase the question thus: By what standard is it bad to believe one section of humanity worthless, but good to believe the entire race worthless?


One could say that, in the above sense, antinatalism has something in common with eugenics, despite the non-selectivity of the former; let me expand on this. The actor Nabil Shaban (known for his role as Sil in Doctor Who), born with osteogenesis imperfecta, has complained that, regarding the disabled, ‘There are moves within the medical profession and within genetic engineering sciences for a eugenics solution.’14  Clearly, despite his physical disadvantages, he does not regret being born. It might be interesting to ask him whether he thought his non-existence would be more acceptable because scientists had tried to eliminate genetic imperfections or because antinatalists had managed to persuade everyone not to reproduce.

In this connection I think of some of the more sinister ethics of animal rights activists such as PETA, who are more concerned with eliminating suffering than they are that a species should survive (negative utilitarianism is a philosophy espoused by some but not all antinatalists). For such activists, neutering is a priority to prevent the terrible lives they believe stray animals to suffer. The spectre emerges of the bleeding-heart liberal with lethal hypodermic syringe raised, intoning the words, “It’s for your own good.”


Inasmuch as antinatalism involves a cultural projection of values to arrive at the judgement that other people should not exist, it smacks uncomfortably of ‘white man’s burden’. I am reminded of a detail from Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad15:  Kurtz, the ivory trader, has been wrestling with the problems of the “natives” among whom he has been living and has written a pamphlet detailing his thoughts. Marlow, the narrator, reads this pamphlet and reports:

 

There were no practical hints to interrupt the magic current of phrases, unless a kind of note at the foot of the last page, scrawled evidently much later, in an unsteady hand, may be regarded as the exposition of a method. It was very simple, and at the end of that moving appeal to every altruistic sentiment it blazed at you, luminous and terrifying, like a flash of lightning in a serene sky: ‘Exterminate all the brutes!’16


As a movement (rather than a preference), the goal of antinatalism is that no humans should have children. What ambassadors, then, are we to send to the Brazilian Amazonian Pirahã people to persuade them to stop reproducing? According, at least, to Professor Daniel Everett, here is a people who have no knowledge of regret, depression or suicide.17 Are we to enlighten them in order to appease a group of discontented intellectuals in the first world? The Pirahã would appear to be one pocket of humanity to whom the sickness unto death does not apply, and this reveals a crack, which may grow, in the antinatalist edifice.

 

These, in brief, are the problems of antinatalism. Let me stress, I am using terms of convenience to avoid circumlocution. I am inclined to use the reductio ad absurdum argument, which tends to deal with absolutes. The antinatalist of which I speak may not exist as an absolute, and there is no doubt more variety among those who embrace the label than what I have written suggests. Some might be closer to my own position while still embracing the label. Also, even if we assume some or all of the above failings in those who espouse antinatalist arguments, some of the failings are of a nature that they might exist in the person without necessarily reflecting on the strength of the argument—the argument must be considered, finally, on its own merits.

Here’s the thing—if I have failed in what I have written so far, I think that my greatest failure has likely been in how much respect I have paid to antinatalists as people. I believe (however much I might fail to live up to the belief) that we must start from an assumption that all humans are individuals worthy of respect, even if labels might not be. Having lived with it for many years, I find I cannot condone the philosophical judgement of Julius Bahnsen, with which The Conspiracy Against the Human Race begins, that ‘Man is a self-conscious Nothing’. I believe such a view to be both immoral and logically self-defeating; moreover, that it is paving the way to a society in which we are enslaved to our own creations. I wonder how those who profess such a belief actually treat the people in their lives from day to day. I suspect that these people are better than their professed beliefs. It would be hard to live down to a belief so inhuman.

So, what do I conclude about antinatalism? For one thing, I am grateful to it for making clear to me that materialistic atheism is untenable in any self-aware species that wishes to perpetuate itself.

If atheism is essentially the belief, as in the song, that everything is only ‘for now’, then having children is to act in bad faith since, as we know, “the children are our future”. I also reject, as tenable philosophy, that humans are worthless.

There’s something of an enigmatic razor’s edge here, apparently dividing those who see life as intrinsically worthwhile from those who don’t. If you see the issue debated, for instance, on an internet message board, you might notice something odd: The antinatalists say life is inflicted on the potential human; the pronatalists say the potential human is deprived of life. The antinatalists say the unconceived child doesn’t exist to be deprived of life; the pronatalists say the unconceived child doesn’t exist to have life inflicted on them, that the whole question of antinatalism occurs only postnatally. Personally, I am with the antinatalists here—their logic is stronger.

The fact is, even though I believe it is at the very least the moral thing to do to assume humans have souls, I still find myself in a position of personal philosophical antinatalism, to the extent that I cannot comprehend the conscious decision to have children. If a child, for whose existence I was responsible, were to ask me why he or she were here, what happens after death, whether I could guarantee he or she would not suffer a fate like that Furuta Junko suffered in 1988/89 (please look it up, as there’s no room to describe it), what would I say? To me, the fact I have no answers that would not be guesswork, evasion or dogma indicates that having children is selfish and cruel.

And how are we to attain certainty on the above questions?

Perhaps we never shall. But supposing that, as in the fiction of Douglas Adams, the planet Earth is a computer designed to solve the riddle of the meaning of life. In such a case, antinatalists are essential to the whole mechanism. They are the ones who refuse to be palmed off with an approximation. They are the part of the programme at which all answers arrive for a final testing. Again and again, with the urgency and obstinacy of a self-destruct mechanism, they say, “Wrong answer. Wrong answer.” We can only hope that if there were, or ever could be, such a thing as a right answer, they would recognise it.

In my notebook, I have written the following:

 

Any antinatalism that is not one hundred per cent voluntary is a form of eugenics. To wish, for instance, for those in poverty to refrain from reproducing, in consideration of the suffering of the children, is also to incur (in practice, despite one’s wishes or in accord with them) the disabling of the voice of the poor in the dialogue of human existence. This is the result of partial—that is, not universal and not entirely voluntary—antinatalism.18

I think most antinatalists, in fact, realise this, and despair, on top of everything else, that antinatalism is impracticable.

But, what if…

Now we arrive at the thought experiment.

Let us imagine, then, what in our daily lives we take without argument to be impossible. Let us imagine that the human race were able spontaneously and with multilateral good will to agree on something, and that that something was to stop forever the reproduction of the species. The entire thought experiment is to imagine this in the light of all I have so far written—on the one hand our hopeless uncertainty as to a validating meaning for life, and on the other the immorality of treating humans as walking noughts. And so on and so forth. The imagining of such a scenario may in itself, I believe, be an exercise in human unity, and it is precisely the imagination of each individual that is of the utmost importance here. Therefore, having put the matter to the reader’s imagination, I am almost finished.


I would, however, like to offer a few guiding suggestions to the reader’s imagination before I go. First of all, think of this: that it would not be defeat, but the ultimate victory. We would turn the tables on all things. We would be on strike—on strike against the universe, destiny, life and God. As things stand, the future forever holds our hopes hostage; with our children, we give it the means to do so. ‘Conscience does make cowards of us all’19 through these hostages. If death is oblivion, we lead lives of fear and pointlessness; if there is an afterlife, we are farmed for reasons we don’t understand through heavens and hells. Then let us provide no more lambs for the slaughter. As things stand we are like gladiators thrown into God’s arena, and punished because we fight for survival. Let us, then, cease to fight, and instead spit in God’s face. A good God will forgive us; an evil God will never come good. So, an end to the whole unanswerable, heart-breaking, guilt-tripping riddle. If we are never to be good enough for a heavenly parent, so be it. Let us say, in unison, the forbidden words: we did not ask to be born.

Heaven, hell or oblivion: that may be, but that is the game of life and God and we play it no longer. And so we cannot lose. Not playing the game of life, even reality will cease to have authority over us. While we still exist, as C.S. Lewis’ Puddleglum declared, we will live like Narnians, even if there isn’t any Narnia.

Even if there is no intervention and no God, this means, in effect, there is a God. Universal antinatalism is the equivalent act to asking, ‘What if there is no English language?’ in the English language. Simply to assert ‘There is an English language’ lacks the same effect. The doubting question that is its own answer is more effective. Of course, conscious existence being the only dialect of the language of God that we know, the question must be asked in that dialect.

Heaven, too, was held hostage by the future. Now we have it back and it is ours, because we have no future. We will steal the candle flame of transcendence and bring it within the finite box of immanence we inhabit. As Schopenhauer said, the mosaic of life is ineffective close up—or it has been. Now what was distant is near and complete and we have the beauty of distance against our skins. We die with heaven in our hearts, or Narnia, or whatever our sweetest dreams might be, which may be called madness but are saner and lovelier than the world we were born into. Such madness is sane now, because we are no longer staking our children’s lives on it, but only our own, which will end soon, and all human things with them, in peace and love and triumph.

(Note: As the childless population ages, it will be necessary to prepare painless poisons and so on for group and solitary suicide to prevent a situation where the entire population is too old to care for themselves and each other.)



(1) Incidentally, I hope readers will forgive a writing style on the one hand compressed to terseness, and on the other a little nineteenth-century. It would be dishonest of me to pretend objectivity of the detached kind, and I have a word limit. I must find a way to disclose my subjectivity to its very depths in a confined space.^

(2) The phrase “at the mercy of” is problematic for reasons that may become clear.^

(3)  “Interview with Thomas Ligotti” by Robert Bee: (ligotti.net)^

(4) I believe Ligotti would be justified in appropriating the Morrissey lyric, “I am now a central part of your mind’s landscape whether you care or do not.” His work is little read but seems to me to dwell at the very heart of the existential doubts of this age. For those who are consoled by pessimism, or immune to it, or are intrepid readers, I would recommend starting with Teatro Grottesco.^

(5) http://www.thefilmbrief.com/2011/12/rip-christopher-hitchens-1949-2011/ and: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWMarPMGe0k^

(6) I feel stupid clarifying my prejudices as if they mattered, but some who read this might want all my cards on the table, or might read erroneously between the lines. Therefore, when I say I abhor atheism, this is something that changes with my mood, and I can also make a distinction between the atheism that believes in no God, but still does not accept the human mind as material (such as that of Bertrand Russell), and the atheism that, in effect, does not even believe in humans. It is the latter type that I find abhorrent. It’s probably simplest to say that I am ambivalent about the former.^

(7) At Thomas Ligotti Online, subsequently to be published in revised form in print in 2010.^

(8) Letter to Charles Bray, 15 November 1857.^

(9) Since, as yet, I can find no Wikipedia page for efilism, I am indebted to Karl White, author of “The Disgrace of Existence—A Survey of Antinatalism in European Literature” for this definition. I have paraphrased, so must take responsibility for any inaccuracies.^

(10) Sententiæ: The Citizen and the State, p. 624^

(11) Minority Report: H.L. Mencken’s Notebooks, first published in 1956^

(12) Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton, 1909.^

(13) “This Inscrutable Light: A Response to Thomas Ligotti’s The Conspiracy Against the Human Race”, by Brandon H. Bell. (lovecraftzine.com)^

(14) “Playing Apart”, by Disability Now.^

(15) Incidentally, it’s interesting the extent to which my references mirror those of The Conspiracy Against the Human Race; Heart of Darkness is also mentioned in that work.^

(16) Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad. (gutenberg.org)^

(17) “Language, Culture and Being Human”, a lecture at the London School of Economics^

(18) The case of China’s one-child policy and other questions complicate this statement. I will let it stand for now, and the reader may reflect on it themselves.^

(19) Hamlet → Act 3, Scene 1, Page 4^

Quentin S Crisp was born in North Devon, U.K., in 1972. His first collection of stories, The Nightmare Exhibition, was published in 2001 by BJM Press. His most recent, Defeated Dogs, in 2013 by Eibonvale Press. He hopes, with time, to write more about Annette Funicello and less about anhedonia.