instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle


Joseph (Joe) Nigg was born in Davenport, Iowa, and grew up throughout the Midwest. He holds a BA in English from Kent State University, an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and a Ph.D. from the University of Denver's Writing Program. His part-time jobs range from boilermaking and gandydancing to factory work and waiting on tables. While always writing on the side, he taught literature and writing at the high school and college levels prior to serving as a corporate editor for a worldwide network. A father. grandfather, and great-grandfather, he lives with his wife in Denver, Colorado, where he writes full-time up in their library in a hundred-year-old house.

Mythical Beast Books

The Phoenix: An Unnatural Biography of a Mythical Beast is the author's most recent exploration of the nature and history of imaginary animals. He has been writing about such creatures ever since he became intrigued by a fantastic figure on an antique lamp in his study. The winged lion with a fish tail eventually led him to the local art museum, where he was allowed to hold an ancient Persian silver cup embossed with griffins. That experience resulted in his first book, The Book of Gryphons (Apple-wood Books, 1982), a lavishly illustrated history of the eagle-lion beast.

His scope broadened to multiple creatures in A Guide to Imaginary Birds of the World (Apple-wood Books, 1984), which features a foreword by Roger Tory Peterson and woodcuts by David Frampton. Wonder Beasts: Tales and Lore of the Phoenix, the Griffin, the Unicorn and the Dragon (Libraries Unlimited Press, 1995) introduces the four major imaginary animals to middle-school students. The Book of Fabulous Beasts: A Treasury of Writings from Ancient Times to the Present (Oxford University Press, 1999) presents the literary evolution of mythical creatures across millennia.

Commissioned four-color art enhances the fabulous bestiary, The Book of Dragons & Other Mythical Beasts (Barron's Educational Series, 2002; Portuguese and Dutch translations, Australian edition, 2003). The full-color How to Raise and Keep a Dragon (Barron's Educational Series, 2006) is a whimsical blend of dragon lore and animal-raising guide; under the pen name, "John Topsell," it has been translated into more than twenty languages. Stunning art and design of the full-color Sea Monsters (Ivy Press and the University of Chicago Press, 2013) include antique maps, a fold-out cartographic cover, and two-page illustrations of individual monsters.


Nigg's award-winning books have led to a variety of other opportunities for the author. His "Master of Mythology" interview with Joseph Campbell, a long-time influence, is included in Living in Words (Breitenbush Books, 1988). He also participated in the Ancient Mysteries "Dragon" segment on the Arts & Entertainment network and served as the show's historical consultant (1997; on Myths and Legends DVD, 2001). Excerpts of his books have appeared in Cricket magazine.

He was a guest speaker for the 2008 Dragons:Between Science and Fiction exhibit at Edmonton's Royal Alberta Museum, and his "Transformations of the Phoenix from the Church Fathers to the Bestiaries" was published in IKON 2-2009, a scholarly journal of the University of Rejika, in Croatia. Jeff VanderMeer's "How to Raise and Keep an Imagination: Joseph Nigg and the Power of Fantasy" appeared in the February 2009 issue of Realms of Fantasy and was reprinted in Jeff VanderMeer's Monstrous Creatures: Explorations of Fantasy through Essays, Articles and Reviews (Guide Dog Books, 2011).

In addition to the books featured on this site, Nigg's fiction has appeared in many publications, including The Bloomsbury Review, Epoch, Leviathan, Seedling Short Story International, and in his short story collection, Winegold (Wayland Press, 1985). His most recent published short fantasy fiction is "The Jason Bug" (Ann VanderMeer, editor, The Bestiary, Centipede Press, 2016). He wrote the text for a coffee-table photograph book, The Great Balloon Festival: A Season of Hot Air Ballooning Across the United States and Canada (Free Flight Press, 1989). A personal recollection of his years as a student writer is printed in The Workshop: Seven Decades of the Iowa Writers' Workshop (Hyperion, 1999). His personal essay, "From Stylus to Cyberspace," is on the Colorado Authors' League website.

He is listed in several directories, including Contemporary Authors, International Authors and Writers Who's Who, and Who's Who in U.S. Writers.

Copyright © 2018 Joseph Nigg