Shirley Jackson: Novels, Short Stories, and Other Works

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Featured Horror Books Women in Horror

The Lottery (1948)

The Lottery is a short story that Shirley Jackson wrote in 1948—it was written within the month of its first publication. It appeared within the June 26, 1948 issue of The New Yorker and describes a fictional account of a small town that participates in a lottery of sorts. This particular short story has often been described as “one of the most famous short stories in the history of American literature.”

Conceptually, two creative stories come to mind immediately after reading this story–no doubt the authors of which were inspired greatly by the Jackson original. The cult classic film The Wicker Man (1973), then later the novelization and The Hunger Games franchise both echo the idea of a ritual where the town comes together and holds what they call a lottery.

This lottery is, unfortunately, not the type that anyone hopes to win, but mirrors the dystopian attitude where the losers rejoice in the winner’s predicament. Without spoiling the entire story for anyone, let’s just say it’s most definitely worth the read (or simply listen below). What is truly interesting with this story–one that leaves the reader with a feeling of utmost terror and despair–is that Jackson apparently wrote within the confines of a single morning. The agreed-upon account of its creation is that Jackson came up with the idea for the story while she was shopping for groceries in the morning, came home, set her two-year-old daughter in her playpen to play, and had it finished before her son came home from kindergarten for lunch.

Talk about a whirlwind turn-around for something so utterly and terribly fantastic. Along with other myths that surround the creation of The Lottery, there was a time when people actually believed that the story was a factual report–this is in part due to the fact that at the time The New Yorker didn’t distinguish between fact and fiction when it came to the stories within its publications. As a result of the misunderstanding, much to the chagrin of Jackson, subscribers sent her several hundred letters that in her words could be summed up to, “bewilderment, speculation, and plain old-fashioned abuse.” It was especially alarming to her that some of the letters were from people who wanted to know where such lotteries were being held and whether they would be allowed to watch.

The Haunting of Hill House (1959)

The Haunting of Hill House (1959)
The Haunting of Hill House (1959)

This gothic horror novel stands in the same class as those by Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Bram Stoker—to the point of even being a finalist for the National Book Award in the category for best literary ghost stories published during the 20th century. While Shirley adhered more to the thrilling psychological aspects, which successfully elicited stronger emotions in her readers. It has since been adapted into two feature films, a play, radio theater, as well as a Netflix series which premiered in 2018, although considerable liberties were taken with Shirley’s original story.

Shirley’s initial idea for this particular novel came to her after she read about a real-life group of researchers from the nineteenth century who had spent time in a reportedly haunted house and then published their experiences while investigating the site. She spent quite a bit of time researching and studying floor plans of large, potentially haunted houses around the country, and also spent time reading several volumes on hauntings and ghost stories before she sketched out the grounds of Hill House, as well as the floor plan for the house itself. Suffice it to say, she took her time considering how the characters might move about the house and made sure she had a clear vision of how a haunting would play out in such a house.

Check out this trailer of the Netflix series of The Haunting of Hill House and see how this novel translated to a television series.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962)

We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962)
We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962)

Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle was published in 1962—just a few years before the radical social movement of the 1960s and 1970s—and served as her reaction to the movement of traditionalism that followed the Second World War. The fifties was an exceptional decade when women were transitioning from having jobs that supported the war effort while the men were overseas, to being expected to stay at home in order to support their husbands by cooking, cleaning, and rearing children.

This novel takes place in a small New England town where the remaining members of the Blackwood family stay in their ancestral home—they seem to live a peaceful, if not removed life from the rest of the town and its oppressive atmosphere. The initial perception of the people in town is one of apprehension when the main character Mary Katherine admits the anxiety she feels when having to pass the general store when the men are sitting out front. The mood of the novel changes to reflect what many literary scholars believe might have been Jackson’s own response to the changing social climate of the fifties and how stifling it would have been to be a housewife with a job. It also bears mentioning that it brings attention to the ways women had been oppressed in the past, referencing witch hunts where women would be killed for even the slightest misstep.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle echoed a lot of the same themes that were found in her profoundly popular short story The Lottery, with special emphasis on the strange and hostile townspeople who take on the type of mob mentality that allows otherwise sensible people to commit horrible acts with little to no impact on their conscience. It is said that this particular novel served as inspiration to many writers—including authors like Neil Gaiman and Joyce Carol Oates—who, after reading Shirley’s work, felt liberated in taking leaps with horror, speculative fiction, and just enough realism to create creepy atmospheres within their own novels.

Take a look at the trailer for We Have Always Lived in the Castle (2019) and let us know what you think between the differences you’ve found between it and the original novel.

Looking back on a career like Shirley’s it’s widely believed that despite the fact that raising four children is an extremely difficult task, Shirley couldn’t have been such a literary success without them—after all, her first success, The Lottery came only a few months before Shirley was set to deliver her third child. A cringe-worthy moment came when the clerk asked Shirley her occupation, when she responded that she was a writer, the clerk responded that he was going to put down the occupation of housewife instead. While it was true that being a mother was one of her jobs, Shirley was more than just a mere housewife—in fact, she was the breadwinner of the family.

Shirley Jackson happened to be both a housewife and a “talented, determined, ambitious writer in an era when it was still unusual for a woman to have both a family and a profession.” The appearance of a conventional American household generated material for this sassy mother of four—who thrived on the tensions that it created between both roles. The expectations of herself, her husband, family, publishers, and readers gave life to her writing since what was normal for her was unspeakably abnormal for the time. She made this clear during the early years of her career, when she drew, “a muscular woman, looking disgruntled, [dragging] her husband off by his hair as another couple [looked] on worriedly. ‘I understand she’s trying to have both a marriage and a career,’ one says to the other.” The truth of the matter was, that Shirley’s career only really took off after she became a mother, having gained an empathetic view of developing minds and the well of imagination that she drew therein. In this respect, Shirley was not only a sensational author, she was an admirable role model for any woman who may have wanted to follow in her footsteps.

Index of Sources

Slasher App Supporting Horror Creators

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If you haven’t heard of the horror app Slasher for horror fans what better way to be introduced to the community than their efforts to support indie horror makers in these hard times.

Damon Della Greca, creator of the mobile horror app, SLASHER, has been providing a sense of community for everyone who loves horror during these unprecedented times.  In an effort to further help, SLASHER will offer FREE advertising for struggling horror businesses.

As the pandemic continues to ravage the world, we’re all doing what we can to survive; not only physically, but also in the sense of maintaining how we manage day to day. Everyone has been impacted in one way or another. Many of us are out of work, our social lives have seen drastic downturns, and our ability to simply make human connections has become very difficult. As horror fans…as people…we’re all in this together.

“While watching the docu-series, A Toy Store Near You (Amazon Prime), the 1313 Mockingbird Lane episode resonated with me.  Frontline healthcare workers & horror toy store owners, Terry & Liz Taylor, are the same passionate members of the horror community you might run into at a convention and they are struggling to keep their store open.  They made a difference by providing perspective, now I want to make a difference by providing what I can. Support indie horror.” – Damon Della Greca

Fortunately, SLASHER has gotten to a point where they can do something to help those who own horror-oriented businesses that are at risk of closing, or have suffered critical financial loss, due to the continuing pandemic. It’s not only retail shops, but the lack of conventions in 2020 that hurt the vendors who rely on them – many of whom count on that income to get by. In order to help people keep their businesses alive, SLASHER is offering FREE advertising to those businesses who could use the help. This offer will last until at least the end of April, but may be extended. Please send an email to [email protected] with your store/business name, website address, and your name.

SLASHER – The Social Network for Horror
https://slasher.tv/

Stoker: More than Just the Author of Dracula

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Featured Horror Books

For fans of Bram Stoker, it’s no surprise that he wrote more than his infamous novel Dracula (1987); credited for being the major influence on popular vampire culture, Stoker was a master of Gothic horror. While not critically acclaimed in his day–even H.P. Lovecraft had critical words for some of his literature–Stoker was a successful author and did great work within the genre.

Leaving a Mark With Short Fiction

Authors like Bram Stoker had much more potential for short fiction works than they did in novel-length literature, at least in the opinion of this writer. While it’s true that Stoker is considered a master of the Gothic horror genre, his short stories were captivating and less drawn out. Below is a selection of just a couple of his short stories that are available on YouTube for public consumption.

Dracula’s Guest

This short story is an offshoot of Stoker’s famous novel, Dracula and proves to be an interesting side-plot of the story of our favorite evil blood-sucking fiend. Have a listen to this short story as it is narrated in a proper spooky fashion!

The Judge’s House

This classic ghost story as told by Bram Stoker is definitely one that people need to hear read aloud–listen here and enjoy!

Horror Novels by Bram Stoker

The Snake's Pass by Bram Stoker

The Snake’s Pass (1890)

Bram Stoker’s first full-length novel, The Snake’s Pass, is a story about Englishman Arthur Severn who inherits wealth and a title from an aunt who chose him as her heir, much to the chagrin of closer relations. What he inherits, is essentially the ability to become an adventurer and he seizes this opportunity as a man of leisure to tour western Ireland. A storm forces him to stop for the night in a mysterious village where Arthur hears the legend of “The Snake’s Pass,” which alludes to a hidden treasure hidden in the boggy hills near the village. This deadly bog, hidden treasure, and a sinister man from the village proved to give Arthur the adventure he sought after.

A free version of this public domain book is available on the Official Bram Stoker Website.

The Snake Pass GoodReads Listing

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Dracula (1897)

By far the most famous of Stoker’s literary works, Dracula became the foremost authority on vampires within fiction. Where introduced to Jonathan Harker a solicitor from England who is sent to Transylvania to assist Count Dracula with who has a need for legal assistance regarding real estate. Dracula’s ultimate plan, of course, is to spread the curse of vampirism as much as possible while supplying himself with a fresh source of blood. Through the course of the book, we see the malignant plans of Dracula come to fruition and are introduced to Abraham Van Helsing, a character that would become part of modern folklore of vampires.

A free version of this public domain book is available on the Official Bram Stoker Website.

Dracula GoodReads Listing

The Mystery of the Sea by Bram Stoker

The Mystery of the Sea (1902)

The Mystery of the Sea tells the story of an Englishman living in Aberdeenshire, Scotland–he falls in love with an American heiress who has a special interest in the Spanish-American war. Over the course of the novel, we see elements of the supernatural with instances of second sight, and other thrilling aspects such as kidnapping, and cryptic codes. More of a political thriller than any of his other novels, the story explored themes important during his own time, such as the changing concepts of womanhood, and the uprising of feminism.

A free version of this public domain book is available on the Official Bram Stoker Website.

The Mystery of the Sea GoodReads Listing

The Jewel of the Seven Stars

The Jewel of Seven Stars (1903)

Written in a first-person narrative, we follow a young man by the name of Malcom Ross, a barrister. Summoned by Margaret, the daughter of a famous Egyptologist with whom he is enamored, to find that he had been called due to the strange sounds that were heard from her father’s room. When Margaret went to check on her father, she found he was bloodied and unconscious–as if in some type of trance–along with cryptic instructions to watch him, in case of his incapacitation, until he awoke.

A free version of this public domain book is available on the Official Bram Stoker Website.

The Jewel of Seven Stars GoodReads Listing

The Man by Bram Stoker

The Man (1905)

Strangely, for a book entitled The Man, this story is initially about a tomboy named Stephen (at the behest of her mother who died shortly after childbirth). Stephen grows to be an assertive, free-thinking child and becomes friends with Harold, the son of a friend of her father. After her father’s friend passes away, Harold becomes a ward of Stephen’s father. She and Harold pass the time visiting her family’s graveyard. After reaching adulthood romantic storylines enter into play, causing characters to suddenly disperse and then later and unexpectedly come together unwittingly. This tale is wrought with death and romance, key components to gothic horror, and Bram wrote it fantastically.

A free version of this public domain book is available on the Official Bram Stoker Website.

The Man GoodReads Listing

The Lady of the Shroud by Bram Stoker

The Lady of the Shroud (1909)

An epistolary novel, narrated primarily by the central character Rupert Saint Leger, the black sheep of his family. Rupert finds out that he is his uncle’s choice to inherit a large million-pound estate, under the condition that he lives in the castle of the Blue Mountains for a year before he can claim his fortune. Needless to say, this is his uncle’s way of testing him, to find if he can truly be worthy of such a grand fortune–little does Rupert know what awaits him in the castle of the Blue Mountains and how completely his life will change.

A free version of this public domain book is available on the Official Bram Stoker Website.

The Lady of the Shroud GoodReads Listing

The Lair of the White Worm by Bram Stoker

The Lair of the White Worm (1911)

Based loosely upon the tale of The Lambton Worm, Stoker gave us a horror story based upon a giant white worm who has the ability to transform into a woman. The story revolves around the Australian-born Adam Salton, who receives word from an estranged uncle who wishes to make Adam his heir.

A free version of this public domain book is available on the Official Bram Stoker Website.

Bram Stoker’s twelfth and final novel before his death, The Lair of the White Worm (2011) is also sometimes titled as The Garden of Evil. Along with Dracula and The Jewel of Seven Stars, The Lair of the White Worm was actually one of Stoker’s most successful novels, which is interesting because the reception by the literary community was not entirely favorable. In 1988 it was adapted into a horror film, which starred Hugh Grant and Amanda Donohoe.

The Lair of the White Worm GoodReads Listing

Subgenres of Horror from A to Z

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Are you a die-hard horror fan? Are you someone looking to expand your horizons, and find just the right kind of horror for you? Well, we’ve got just the thing. We’ve dissected the horror into the nine main subgenres of horror with our recommendations on where to start with each.

How many types of horror are there?

Categorizing the subgenres of horror genre is harder than you might think. We’re not talking about the periodic table of elements here. It gets murky. There’s a lot of overlap, a lot of genre-bending and crossover. If you asked ten popular horror writers to make a list of subgenres within the main genre, you’d get ten different lists.

But let’s tackle it anyway!

We’ve broken horror down into fourteen categories or subgenres. These subgenres of horror account for the majority of horror fiction available today, while also harkening back to the origin of the genre.

Apocalyptic | Avant Garde | Cosmic | Comedy | Dark Fantasy | Found Footage | Gore | Gothic | Lovecraftian | Paranormal | Post Apocalyptic | Psychological | Sci-Fi | Supernatural

What are Horror Genre Characteristics?

Horror can range from internal terror to jump scares. Each sub genre has different characteristics but they all have one thing in common. They are intended to scare you.

Without further fanfare, let’s explore the most popular subgenres of horror fiction, with some sterling examples and basic characteristics of each genre.

Apocalyptic

Apocalyptic horror centers around the collapse of civilization. The world you know it can no longer exist with a complete collapse of systems and order. In horror this subgenre is often closely tied to sci-fi creatures such as the classic alien invasion, mysterious demons like Aamon coming to enslave mankind, and of course major religious events coming to fruition.

Best Apocalyptic Horror Movies

Avant Garde

For this subgenre, we’re getting a little weird. Avant Garde is as social a movement as it is an artistic one, with artists standing at the forefront of our preconceived notions of acceptable art and ideas. In horror literature, this takes the shape of mind-bending twists and impossible odds. In comics, it is the same incredible evil with terrifying and spine-tingling art. Recommended reading: Annihilation, by Jeff Vandermeer. Uzumaki, by Junji Ito. Sleep of Reason, by Spike Trotman.

Best Avant Garde Horror Comics

Body Horror

This subgenre of horror intentionally focuses on grotesque or psychologically disturbing violations of the human body. From disease to dismemberment the core of it is what can happen to the human body. It is not unusual for this to also include sexual, alien infestation, strange movements, transformations, and utter destruction of the human body. We’re talking everything from Human Centipede (is this really even horror?) to John Carpenters “The Thing.”

Comedy Horror

Tucker and Dale vs Evil Movie Poster

When dark humor just isn’t enough we have comedy horror. Accidental gore films like Tucker and Dale vs Evil to subtle quips from Ash Williams in the Evil Dead. A common theme in Comedy Horror is the victim who stumbles through the film and somehow manages to survive.

Cosmic Horror

The cosmic horror genre is both personally existential, and darkly expansive. The darkest corners of space, the pitch-black pits of demons, the sense of no real control, the fear of the unknown, and dread that comes with the ineffable size of the universe. This genre is strongly tied to H.P. Lovecraft who brought it to life with novellas such as At the Mountains of Madness (1936), The Shadow over Innsmouth (1936), and The Shadow Out of Time (1936). “The Shape Of Water” by Guillermo Del Toro or “The Imago Sequence and Other Stories” 2009 by Laird Barron are other strong modern works of cosmic horror. Space itself and extraterrestrial adventures also play a preeminent role in the genre, with standout comics like Nameless, by Chris Burnham & Grant Morrison, and Southern Cross, by Becky Cloonan and Andy Belager.

Best Cosmic Horror Movies | Best Cosmic Horror books | Best Cosmic Horror Comics

Dark Fantasy

These novels give readers the best of both worlds. They contain fantasy elements like magic, strange creatures, etc. They also add a dark layer of terror and suspense, just to keep things interesting. Recommended reading: The Citadel of Fear, by Gertrude Barrows. The Girl From The Other Side , by Nagabe. Beautiful Darkness, by Fabien Vehlmann & Marrie Pommepuy.

Folk Horror

Folk horror is a subgenre of horror for film, books, comics or television which includes elements of folklore or urban legends as the inspiration of the main focus of horror for the story. Sometimes stated as “based on a true story” this subgenre loosely uses the phrase “true story” as many of these legends have little fact checking if any at all.

Found Footage

The Blair Witch Project movie poster

Although found footage films date as far back as the 1960’s the seminal work in horror is often considered to be The Blair Witch Project. Shakey cameras with low production quality are the foundation of the story. This genre has exploded with cell phone footage and continues to grow today. Possibly due to the ease in which someone can create a found footage horror film.

Gore

Also sometimes labeled as a splatter film the main focus of the film is well the blood, guts and dismembered body parts. Shock is a key element of this genre. Movies such as the SAW series are famous for the difficult to watch torture sequences. The main goal is for the audience to wince in disgust as the victims bodies are torn to bits. This genre crosses out of fiction with some popular series in the 80’s and 90’s with actual death in them but we only focus on fictional horror here so we will leave that for other sites and forums to discuss.

Gothic

Gothic horror goes way, way back. In fact, it’s the literary predecessor to the horror genre we know and love today. So in terms of cultural education, this subgenre warrants some attention. These dark, brooding stories often blend romance and horror, with a side dish of death. They’re usually atmospheric stories, where the setting itself becomes a kind of character. Recommended reading: Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. Dracula (The Graphic Novel), by Bram Stoker and Jason Cobley. Gotham by Gaslight, by Brian Augustyn. The Woman in Black, by Susan Hill.

The Best Gothic Horror Comics

Lovecraftian

H.P. Lovecraft often described his own work as “weird tales.” But they contain horror elements as well. He created his own subgenre that many writers still emulate today. Lovecraftian fiction often focuses on cosmic elements that are beyond human understanding. Thus, it’s also referred to as “cosmic horror.” These stories can make us humans feel small and insignificant, in the grand scheme of things. Recommended reading: At the Mountains of Madness, by H.P. Lovecraft. Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe, by Thomas Ligotti. The Ballad of Black Tom, by Victor LaValle.

ghost or supernatural spirit

Paranormal

Merriam-Webster defines paranormal as something that is “not scientifically explainable.” That’s a broad definition. When it comes to horror fiction, the term “paranormal” usually refers to ghosts, hauntings, demons and possession. And there is some truly frightening fiction that falls into this subgenre. Recommended reading: The Exorcist, by William Peter Blatty. The Shining, by Stephen King. The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson (it fits here, as well).

Post-Apocalyptic

The world as we know it has ended, and something terrible has risen in its place. Post-apocalyptic fiction challenges us to envision a world beyond our own, a doomsday scenario that takes us into uncharted and often terrifying territory. Not all post-apocalyptic fiction uses horror elements. Some of it falls into the dystopian category. But there are plenty of good stories out there that paint the end of the world in horrifying hues. Recommended reading: Swan Song, by Robert McCammon. Monument 14, by Emmy Laybourne. Feed, by Mira Grant. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy.

Psychological:

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari poster

Put the ghosts, monsters and slashers aside for a moment. Let’s talk about the psychological effects of horror. The internal terror and the long lasting trauma that occurs under moments of major duress. Psychological horror fiction uses intense human emotions like fear and dread to grip the reader, with a healthy dose of anxiety and suspense on the side. Recommended reading: Rosemary’s Baby, by Ira Levin. Come Closer, by Sara Gran. Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris.

Psychological horror also has a rich history in books and film that dates back to the late 1800s.

Scary Documentaries

Yep even documentaries can be a subgenre here and these have certainly become more popular. Unlike the found footage genre these have at least some reason to believe the experience were real. They are often paranormal experience but also look at things like serial killers. We’ve compiled a list of the most terrifying documentaries and it sure looks like horror to us.

Sci-Fi

Mad scientists, experiments that did not go as planned, alien invasions and creatures we never wanted to know coming into existence. This subgenre of horror crosses well into Cosmic Horror but maybe with a touch less existential dread. You know where the alien came from and you know the moment the scientist crossed the line. We’ve explored the history of sci-fi horror here.

Best Sci-Fi Horror Books | Best Sci-Fi Horror Comics

Supernatural

The supernatural subgenre of horror overlaps with the paranormal category. Again, we’re dealing with things that “appear to transcend the laws of nature,” according to Merriam-Webster. I’ve broken this out into a separate category to distinguish it from the ghostly and haunting world of the paranormal. Here, we’re talking about werewolves, witches, and other things that defy the laws of nature. Recommended reading: Wytches, by Scott Snyder. Salem’s Lot, by Stephen King. The Hunger, by Alma Katsu. B.P.R.D., by Mike Mignola.

Best Supernatural Horror Comics | Best Supernatural Horror Streaming Online

So there you have them, the popular subgenres of horror with some representative works to keep you up at night. For more literature, Puzzle Box has original literature as well as features on Edgar Allen Poe and Bram Stoker.

Survival Horror

This subgenre of horror is typically found in video games. The point of tension, like much of horror, is surviving the environment. The main character is often put to the test to survive against all odds. It’s often considered “action horror” due to the physical activity often required to survive. Apocalyptic horror scenarios are often used for survival horror.

True Crime

Pretty straightforward as the title implies. The subgenre of horror is based on real life horrors that have happened. The most popular arena here is serial killers with movies and documentaries about people like Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy and more. The main focus is it must be from a real life crime. With that said, these are often dramatizations of the events not to be confused with the scary documentaries subgenre.