Jackson, Shirley

Tagged: Author

(1916-1965) US short-story writer and novelist, married from 1940 until her death to the literary critic Stanley Edgar Hyman (1919-1970), with whom she wrote (but was solely credited for) Life Among the Savages (1953) and Raising Demons (1957), two edgily light-hearted memoirs of family life whose effect was radically dissimilar to that of her fiction, none of which is sf in any orthodox sense (> her entry in The Encyclopedia of Fantasy). Much of her work – some untypical stories appeared before World War Two – comprises psychological studies of women at the end of their tether. She became famous for one tale, "The Lottery" (26 June 1948 The New Yorker), which established her reputation as an author of Gothic fiction; the ritual stoning which climaxes the story is perhaps readable as an example of Horror in SF, and the New England in which the event occurs betrays the profile of a land suffering the aftermath of the some vast Disaster. The Godgame implications of what may be her finest single tale, One Ordinary Day, With Peanuts (January 1955 F&SF; 1990 chap), are laid in with an Equipoisal certainty of touch – for the tale is simultaneously a mundane idyll and a savage demonstration of the fickle savagery of the gods – that is deeply unsettling, but quite possibly invisible to the unwary. Most of the remaining stories assembled in The Lottery, or The Adventures of James Hardis (coll 1949) are fantasies of alienation. The Haunting of Hill House (1959), filmed as The Haunting (1963) by Robert Wise, is a superb ghost story. The closest to sf she came was probably The Sundial (1958), in which a dozen of her typical New England characters await an unnamed but tangible catastrophe which will usher in the End of the World.

The Shirley Jackson Awards, named for her and honouring "psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic", were first presented in 2008. [JC]

Shirley Hardie Jackson

born San Francisco, California: 14 December 1916 [Jackson herself claimed 1919]

died North Bennington, Vermont: 8 August 1965

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