Is American Horror Story: Apocalypse Inspired By a Classic Short Story?

A cryptic new teaser featuring Sarah Paulson hints that American Horror Story ‘s eighth season may be drawing from Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery.”


Though American Horror Story remains shrouded in secrecy, we finally know a little bit more about one of Sarah Paulson’s mysterious characters in the upcoming season.

After Ryan Murphy tweeted a cast photo with all of the major players from season three—including Stevie Nicks, Taissa Farmiga, Emma Roberts, Lily Rabe, Frances Conroy, Gabourey Sidibe, and Sarah Paulson—the showrunner revealed that Paulson will be reprising the role of Cordelia Goode from Coven and Billie Dean Howard from Murder House. The third role Paulson will play is named Venable, and reportedly unlike any other characters the actress has played on the show in the previous seven seasons. The show’s cryptic teaser trailer, which was released on August 6, did not reveal much about the upcoming season, other than the fact that it will focus on the end of days.

On Wednesday, FX tweeted a short teaser video for season eight of American Horror Story, which has been given the subtitle Apocalypse. In the clip, Sarah Paulson steps forward from the darkness, appearing as a chic woman cranking a golden bingo machine, and ominously reciting, “Now is your chance to be one of the few remaining. This is your chance to survive. We’ll find you soon.”

The clip has given some weight to the idea that perhaps her character—which is one of multiple roles Paulson will play this season—and the concept of the show’s “Apocalypse” could have been inspired by the Shirley Jackson short story “The Lottery.”

A little refresher in case you were asleep at the wheel during the short story unit of your freshman-year English lit class: ”The Lottery” takes place in a small town of a few hundred people, where, each June, one person from each household is randomly selected to enter the lottery, which will determine the one person from the village who will be stoned to death. Shirley Jackson’s short story was published in 1948, and likely inspired Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1973 short story “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” and the concept of The Hunger Games, both of which underscore the impossibility of a utopia without the potentially insidious underbelly of utilitarianism.

It is not totally out of the realm of possibility that Murphy would be inspired by one of the 20th century’s most famous, and most haunting, short stories, especially when he’s used literature and real-life events for inspiration in previous seasons—in AHS: Hotel Evan Peters played a character based on H.H. Holmes, a serial killer written about in Erik Larson’s novel, The Devil in the White City, and Lena Dunham played Valerie Solanas in AHS: Cult. Season eight will reportedly start with the end of the world, and build an entirely new one to play in on September 12.

Related: American Horror Story Season 8 Reunites Coven Cast in a New Photo Shared By Ryan Murphy