Shirley Hardie Jackson (December 14, 1916 - August 8, 1965) was an American writer. She was popular during her life, and her work has received increased attention from literary critics in recent years. She has been cited as an influence on a diverse set of authors, including Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Sarah Waters, Nigel Kneale, Joanne Harris and Richard Matheson.
She is best known for the short story "The Lottery" (1948), which reveals a secret, sinister underside to a bucolic American village, and for The Haunting of Hill House (1959), which is widely considered to be one of the best ghost stories ever written. In her critical biography of Jackson, Lenemaja Friedman notes that when "The Lottery" was published in the June 26, 1948, issue of The New Yorker, it received a response that "no New Yorker story had ever received". Hundreds of letters poured in that were characterized by, as Jackson put it, "bewilderment, speculation, and old-fashioned abuse". In the July 22, 1948, issue of the San Francisco Chronicle, Jackson offered the following in response to persistent queries from her readers about her intentions:
"Explaining just what I had hoped the story to say is very difficult. I suppose, I hoped, by setting a particularly brutal ancient rite in the present and in my own village to shock the story's readers with a graphic dramatization of the pointless violence and general inhumanity in their own lives."