“Although the villagers had forgotten the ritual and lost the original black box, they still remembered to use stones.” Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery.
I had mentioned this on my Facebook page a few days ago, but I feel that I need to comment it on here as well, but in a slightly longer detail. In issue #170 of Rue Morgue, they have Shirley Jackson on the cover. Who is Shirley Jackson you ask? I would hope that everyone out there knows who she is, but sadly, that is probably not the case. It is this exactly reasoning that I feel why Rue Morgue needs to be applauded for this. By not just putting something their cover that they know it will draw attention of potential customers and sales, they decide to put the relatively unknown Jackson on it, in tribute of what would have been her 100th birthday this year.
This is going to get a lot of younger horror fans look into Jackson’s work, showing them a world of horror and imagination that they hadn’t known before. At least I really hope so! To me, that is the greatest task any publication, or any type of media outlet, can strive for…to inspire. As huge as this genre is, and as old as it is, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been a fan, there are plenty of authors, movies, books, etc, from our past that have still haven’t experienced. So major kudos for Rue Morgue for pointing out this old path for newer fans to venture down. Within the pages of this issue, we get to learn about not only Jackson, but her work as well, including a new biography that is just coming out that hopefully will shed even more light on this icon of not only the genre, but for American women writers.
Like some mentioned in one of the articles, I was also introduced to the name Shirley Jackson because of Stephen King, in his book Danse Macabre. But I had actually knew of her stories indirectly through a short film based on her short story The Lottery, as well as Robert Wise’s 1963 film, The Haunting, based on her novel The Haunting of Hill House. Not sure where I first seen the 1969 short film of The Lottery, but I was amazed at how simple and yet so disturbing it was, especially being made at that time. Watching it even today leaves the viewer very uncomfortable. But even then, I never even thought that it might be based on a short story.
Then when I first started dating my future wife, we watched The Haunting one night on TV. This had to been around ’83 or ’84, and I was once again amazed at how damn scary this old black and white film could be. Once again, never looking past the movie. But once I read King’s Danse Macabre, it was then that I learned about Jackson and that these two powerful pieces of cinema came from her mind. After that, I started to seek out her work and devoured the copy of The Haunting of Hill House when I was finally able to acquire one. It still remains to this day, my favorite haunted house novel and movie. Though, Richard Matheson’s Hell House, which is his tribute to Jackson, runs a close second place, in both novel and movie adaptation with The Legend of Hell House. But that is another story.
That was really one of the great things about King’s Danse Macabre, that it opened so many doorways to younger fans like myself, that were eager and willing to follow any road he was pointing us towards. And because of his stature, most of us we’re more than willing to blindly travel down, without question, and usually without any regret. So once again, thanks to publications like Rue Morgue for pointing younger fans toward’s Jackson and her work. I know it won’t start a revolution or anything like that, but if it can start just a few people to look up her work, then it was well worth it. Well done!
If you’re interested in seeing the 1969 adaptation of The Lottery, here it is for your enjoyment….and discomfort.