Almost Famous Women
“The Lottery, Redux”
“The Lottery, Redux” is from Megan Mayhew Bergman’s second story collection, ALMOST FAMOUS WOMEN (Scribners, 2015). Her first collection, BIRDS OF A LESSER PARADISE, was a Barnes and Noble Discover Pick and one of Huffington Post’s Best Books of 2012. Her essays regularly appear in Salon and Ploughshares.
Bergman said this about the origin of her story: I began work on “The Lottery, Redux” after McSweeneys approached me about writing a story for their “Cover Issue,” where contemporary story writers take inspiration in a classic piece of short fiction. Because I live just outside of Bennington, Vermont, I often drive by Shirley Jackson’s old house, and I also remember “The Lottery” as one of the first affecting pieces of short fiction I read in school. As soon as the story was suggested by my editor at McSweeney’s, it had a strong pull for me.
What struck me upon reading Jackson’s work was how much power is packed into so short a space. That distillation, to me, is one of the most magical aspects of skillful short fiction. Even though I knew what was coming, I still approached the story with disbelief – thinking, how can we trust Jackson? How can we let her take us to this terrible place and let us feel complicit? But she does, and we do, and that is a testament to her great skill as a writer.
In my writing, I’m often interested in two things: 1) environmental degradation and 2) women and agency. I knew I wanted to set the story in the future, and I had just seen a slideshow online of some of the world’s most haunting abandoned places. I saw an island with a beach house falling into the water, and I knew that would be my setting, the fictional isle of Timothy.
After crafting this story, I have an even greater respect for Jackson’s unflinching plot, and the way she deftly manages so many characters and so many points of tension.