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Elizabeth Hand

Elizabeth Hand(1957- )
Elizabeth Hand has won two World Fantasy Awards and one Nebula Award. She also writes science fiction, thrillers, and movie novelizations. Learn more at Elizabeth Hand’s website.

Waking the Moon: One of my Desert Island books

Waking the Moon by Elizabeth Hand

I'm on either my third or fourth copy of Waking the Moon, I can't remember which. I first read it eleven years ago, loaned it to everyone I thought might be remotely interested, sometimes didn't get it back, and never felt quite right when I didn't have it on my shelf. This is one of my Desert Island Books.

The plot revolves around Sweeney Cassidy, an insecure college freshman who goes wild in her first semester away from home. She skips classes, stays out all night, and drinks staggering amounts of alcohol. Into this haze come the ethereal, effeminate Oliver and the seductive queen-bee Angelica, who become her best friends, and with both of whom Sweeney falls in love.

Sweeney has more on her plate than hangovers and term papers, however. Angelica turns out to be the chosen avatar of a long-forgotten goddess, and the college is controlled by the Benanda... Read More

Mortal Love: A Sensual Tale

Mortal Love by Elizabeth Hand

Elizabeth Hand, who famously dealt with the Mother Goddess myth in Waking the Moon and the cult of Dionysus in Black Light, here tackles the subject of the fatal muse: the White Goddess, the lhiannan-sidhe, the Belle Dame Sans Merci.

Mortal Lovedrifts back and forth between several periods of history, between men throughout the years who have fallen under her seductive spell. Along the way there are Hand's usual lush fruit-metaphors and insect-metaphors and jewel-metaphors, and as always her prose is an intoxicating fever-dream of a read.

Writing-wise, I think it was probably better than Waking the Moon, but I have to admit I liked Moon better. Moon had sympathetic, every-(wo)man sorts of characters who felt like old friends ... Read More

Saffron and Brimstone: Unusual and extremely well-written fantasy stories

Saffron and Brimstone by Elizabeth Hand

We’ve been living through a renaissance of science fiction and fantasy short fiction in the past decade. New authors are entering the field through the monthly magazines both online and in print. Small presses are also producing excellent work: Small Beer Press, Night Shade Books, and Golden Gryphon among them.

I’d not previously heard of M Press, but if it is a new entry into the small press arena, I’m happy to welcome it, especially if it continues to publish books as strange and brilliant as Elizabeth Hand’s Saffron and Brimstone. This collection of mostly longer pieces is as evocative as its cover photograph of a butterfly in extreme close-up. Most of the stories make one’s skin creep, even as one revels in Hand’s language and characters. All of them, in one way or another, are about transformation, about becoming. They are about cha... Read More

Illyria: A short story, a tiny bit of magic, a big impact

Illyria by Elizabeth Hand

It hardly feels right to class Elizabeth Hand’s Illyria as fantasy, and yet it won the World Fantasy Award for best novella in 2008, and who am I to argue? There are only a few very short scenes of a magical character spaced throughout this story and they are subtle, unexplained and un-commented upon. These moments linger in the reader’s mind, who is free to draw their own conclusions and find their own meaning. And yet despite the essentially non-magical nature of this story, Hand has managed to elevate the simple love of two young people to an enchanted status.

Maddy Tierney is the youngest daughter of a sprawling New York family. Her neighbours are her aunts and uncles and their many children, her life the rough and tumble that comes of having boisterous and numerous relations. But M... Read More

Generation Loss: A seductive brew of creepiness, melancholy, and weird religion

Generation Loss by Elizabeth Hand

Generation Loss (2007) is a Shirley Jackson Award winner and the first in Elizabeth Hand’s CASS NEARY thriller series. Cass is a washed-up, alcoholic photographer who was briefly famous in the 1970s for her images of the punk scene. Now middle-aged, she’s struggling, and a friend offers her a job interviewing another photographer, Aphrodite Kamestos, who had her own heyday in the 50s and 60s and now lives reclusively on a remote Maine island.

The job quickly proves to be harder than Cass expected. It’s much too cold for Cass’s New York wardrobe. The locals are aloof. People and cats have been mysteriously disappearing. And Aphrodite had no idea Cass was coming. Cass wants to leave, but circumstances keep her in Maine longer than she intended — which positi... Read More

Available Dark: Chills, in more than one sense of the word

Available Dark by Elizabeth Hand

It’s been a few months since the events of Generation Loss, and Cass Neary, strapped for cash, has made a big mistake. In that previous book, she took pictures of someone’s death but told the police she wasn’t at the scene. She never meant to publish any of the photos. Whoops. So, with the police and the dead person’s son asking awkward questions, and Cass in need of money again, it seems like a great time to take a gig that will absent her from the country for a while.

Available Dark (2012) takes Cass to Helsinki, where she is tasked with examining a series of gory photographs and verifying that they are authentic and that the series is complete. The pictures show people killed in ways that evoke a group of spirits called the Yuleboys, and it’s pretty clear that if the... Read More

Wylding Hall: “It’s all a bit Wicker Man”

Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand

Elizabeth Hand is one of my favorite writers, prose-wise, and I just love languidly relaxing into her style. I feel like I’m always looking for the same kind of writing in other authors — and having been remiss in reading Hand for the last few years, it was nice to finally enjoy the real thing again with the short novel Wylding Hall. Her prose is actually more spare than usual; it has to be, as the entire story is told in dialogue. Hand makes it work, though, and Wylding Hall is as atmospheric as her earlier works.

The frame story here is a documentary about the folk band Windhollow Faire, who in the early seventies made a brilliant album that was also their downfall. The band had retreated to the crumbling Wylding Hall to record the album and to regroup a... Read More

Curious Toys: Dark, scary and twisty, like a good dark ride should be

Curious Toys by Elizabeth Hand

Pin Maffucci wanders the midway and aisles of Chicago’s Riverview Amusement Park, running errands and delivering dope for Max, the carnival’s She-Male performer. At nearly fourteen, Pin is considered small for his age. That’s partly because Pin, with his trousers, cropped curls and cap, is really a girl in disguise. When a young woman from the nearby Essenay Film Studio is found murdered in one of the dark rides, Pin investigates, putting her own life at risk, and she has no idea who to trust.

Elizabeth Hand’s 2019 novel Curious Toys is an historical mystery set in 1915. There is no directly fantastical element, but the phantasms created by the human minds in this story shift it nearly into horror on more than one occasion. And while it’s not fantasy, the fantasies of an hist... Read More

The 2012 Shirley Jackson Award Nominated Novellas

The Shirley Jackson Awards will be handed out in just less than two weeks, at Readercon in Burlington, Massachusetts. This is the third of three columns about the short fiction nominees, this column covering the novellas; the short stories are discussed here, and the novelettes are discussed here (now updated to include a discussion of Jeffrey Ford’s wonderful novella, “The Last Triangle” from the Ellen Datlow Read More

Magazine Monday: Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, November/December 2012

The November/December 2012 issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction is a mixed bag. Some of the fiction is excellent; some is not.

The best story in this issue is Naomi Kritzer’s “High Stakes,” a novelette that is a sequel to “Liberty’s Daughter” from the May/June 2012 issue (about which I said that I hoped there would be sequels). The setting for the story is a fictional, near future group of platforms and decommissioned cruise ships and other floating flat places in the middle of the Pacific Ocean that serve as home for several groups who found existing governments distasteful. The narrator, Rebecca, is a high-schooler whose father has a position of importance, though we never learn exactly what it is. We do know that he is highly invested in keeping things as they are on the seasteads, and that includes bonded labor — indenture... Read More

Magazine Monday: Nightmare, Issue 7

The latest issue of Nightmare Magazine opens with Angela Slatter’s chilling tale, “The Coffin-Maker’s Daughter.” Hepsibah Ballantyne is the titled daughter, the inheritor of her father’s business and haunted by his ghost. In this world, great care must be taken that the dead do not come back as ghosts; corpses must be tightly wrapped and mirrors covered. Coffins must be sturdy, with locks. Hepsibah is therefore an important part of the community, even if she is not well liked. But Lucette D’Aguilar will flirt with her, even indulge with her in a kiss or two, if that’s what it takes to make sure that her father stays in the grave where he belongs. One would feel sorry for Hepsibah, if it were not that she seems a thoroughly unlikeable person. It... Read More

Magazine Monday: Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, January/February 2014

“In Her Eyes” by Seth Chambers is the novella in the January/February 2014 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and it’s a doozy. It’s one of a number of stories and movies I’ve seen lately that address the question of what it is we love when we love someone. Do we love a mind? A body? Both together? Must they be unchanging? They can’t, really, can they, because we all age and grow; change is actually the only constant. And the question goes deeper, to the nature of the mind as an organic, chemical, electrical entity. Chambers examines all of these questions in a love story about a man and an unusual woman; I won’t say more so that you can discover her secrets for yourself (and she is very secretive).

There are five novelettes in this issue. The first is “The New Cambrian” by Andy Stewart, a science fiction tale about an expedition to Europa to study life beneath the surface of the iced-over water world. As... Read More

SHORTS: Link, Hand, Marr, Kingfisher, Brennan

Here are a few of the short stories we read this week, all of which are free to read online.

“The Summer People” by Kelly Link (February 2015, free online at Wall Street Journal, also included in her anthology Get in Trouble)

“The Summer People” is the first story in Kelly Link’s new story collection Get in Trouble. Fran is a teenager living in a rural part of the American southeast. Her mother is gone, and she is neglected by her moonshiner father. While Fran is running a fever of 102 with the flu, her father informs her that he has to go “get right with God.” On his way out the door, he reminds her... Read More

SHORTS: 2018 Locus Award finalists

Today's SHORTS column features all of the 2018 Locus Award finalists for short fiction. The Locus Award winners will be announced by Connie Willis during Locus Award weekend, June 22 - June 24, 2018.


In Calabria by Peter S. Beagle (2017)

Claudio, a middle-aged curmudgeonly farmer living in a remote area of the Italian countryside, has been a standoffish loner since his wife left him decades ago. He’s satisfied with his current lifestyle, taking care of his land and his animals, and writing poetry that he shares with no one.

Everything changes one morning when a unicorn shows up on his farm. The pure and beautiful unicorn inspires Claudio’s poetry an... Read More

The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 2007

The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2007

In many ways, The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2007 anthology is a difficult book to review. For one thing, to me and a lot of my reading/writing circle, this is easily the definitive bible when it comes to short stories of the genre. For another, many of the stories that are included in this collection have been featured in other anthologies as well, so there's an overlap in terms of stories featured. But I'll try and talk about what makes this anthology unique from other similar anthologies.

The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror is quite comprehensive about its subject matter, not just featuring short stories but poems and articles. The first dozen pages are articles summarizing the important events that happened in the two genres including the obituaries of the previous year. That’s really quite valuable from an archiving standpoint, an... Read More

The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 2008

The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2008

For me, The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2008 has been a two-headed beast. On one hand, it's an eagerly anticipated book by people involved in the industry, usually for the summation at the front of the book and the honorable mentions list at the back. The various editors are quite thorough and detailed when it comes to this part. The other aspect is, of course, the story/poetry selection, which is what will likely attract the casual reader.

So, how does it actually fare? Well, with regards to the first aspect, there are no disappointments. When covering the highlights of the previous year (and alas, the obituaries) and the various media (comics, movies, and music) in which either fantasy or horror plays a part, the book has it covered. The writing is functional and achieves what it sets out to do.

With regard to the stories and poems, this is a wel... Read More

Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance

Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois

Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance is the best anthology I’ve ever read. These stories will be enjoyed by any SFF reader, but they’ll be ten times more fun if you’ve read Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth, because they are all written in honor of that fantastic work. Each tale is written in the style of Vance, which is quite amusing in itself, and each takes place on the Dying Earth, that far-future wasteland in which natural selection means survival of the cleverest, nastiest, sneakiest, and most self-serving.

Songs of the Dying Earth was written by “many high-echelon, top-drawer writers” (as Mr.... Read More

The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories

The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

I haven’t actually read every page of The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, yet I’m giving it my highest recommendation. Edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, Master and Mistress of Weird, The Weird is 1126 pages long and should really be considered a textbook of weird fiction. It contains 110 carefully chosen stories spanning more than 100 years of weird fiction. Here’s what you can expect to find in this massive volume:

A “Forweird” by Michael Moorcock gives us a brief history of the weird tale, discusses how it has defied publishers’ attempts to categorize it into neatly-bordered genres, and gives examples of writers who are revered by modern readers but whose weird fiction caused them to be ma... Read More

Mixed Up: Stories and cocktail recipes; both are intoxicating

Mixed Up edited by Nick Mamatas & Molly Tanzer

Mixed Up (2017) is an anthology of cocktail-themed flash fiction and cocktail recipes, edited by Nick Mamatas and Molly Tanzer. The stories, like the drink recipes, are grouped by type and theme. I thought the editors took the most liberal view of “flash” here, because I think some of these works might run to 1200 words or slightly over, and I think of flash as topping out at 1,000 words. I don’t think there is a hard and fast threshold, and certainly the spirit of flash fiction (see what I did there?) is met.

Nick Mamatas says in his introduction to the stories that this is conceived as an old-fashioned “all-stories” magazine. The tales in the book include literary stylings, horror, science fiction, fan... Read More

Other books by Elizabeth Hand

Winterlong — (1990-1993) Publisher: Amid the ruins of a once great city, a girl and her beautiful long-lost twin brother are drawn to the seductive voice of a green-eyed boy whose name is Death. Together they must journey through a poisoned garden filled with children who kill and beasts that speak — all the while resisting the evil that compels them to join in a nightmare ritual of blood that will unleash the power of the ancients and signal the end of humanity.

fantasy book reviews Elizabeth Hand Winterlong Aestival Tidefantasy book reviews Elizabeth Hand Winterlong Aestival TideElizabeth Hand Icarus Descending

Stand-alone novels and story collections:

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews12 Monkeys — (1995) Publisher: This thriller is based on the Universal Pictures film starring Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt and Madeline Stowe. In 2035 A.D., James Cole is doing time in an underground prison when he is offered a mission that could wipe out his sentence. A group of government scientists are sending him back to the past to discover the source of a deadly virus that killed the world as we knew it.Elizabeth Hand book review Waking the Moon, Glimmering, Black Light, Mortal Love

Glimmering — (1997) Publisher: It is 1999. The Last Days, or some say, the First. The climate has warmed dramatically, the cities have imploded into riotous shards, and the sky is a glimmering array of reds and greens and golds. In fin de siecle New York, a millionaire publisher, a jaded rock star and the girl who, in her own way, loves them both are watching the waters rise as the cults begin the frenzies of the Night of the Thousand Years. This breathtaking novel is Elizabeth Hand’s audacious attempt to capture in one explosive story both the unspoken dreams and the unspeakable nightmares of her generation. And she succeeds.

book review Elizabeth Hand Last Summer at Mars HillLast Summer at Mars Hill — (1998) Publisher: A collection of short stories centers around Mars Hill — a place where a healing presence know as Them exists and where young, dubious Moony Rising learns an amazing and powerful secret surpassing all the love she has ever known.

Elizabeth Hand book review Waking the Moon, Glimmering, Black Light, Mortal LoveBlack Light — (1999) Publisher: A creepy, fantastic mystery centred around the strange life of Anzeri Chakrulo — an enigmatic, charismatic cult director with a particular taste for the peculiar — and four teenagers on the cusp of adulthood: Lit Golding, Ali Fox and the Finn brothers.

fantasy book reviews Elizabeth Hand Bibliomancy story collectionBibliomancy — (2003) Publisher: From Elizabeth Hand, one of America’s leading literary fantasists, comes a collection of extraordinary novellas of damnation and dark revelation, epiphany and redemption. Written in the author’s characteristic poetic prose, and rich with the detail of lives traumatic yet luminously transformed, these stories form a remarkable tapestry interweaving the supernatural and the mundane. Bibliomancy won the World Fantasy Award and was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award by the Horror Writers of America, a Intenational Horror Guild Award, and appeared on Locus Magazine’s Year’s Best lists. The collection includes the first print appearance of the short novel “Chip Crockett’s Christmas Carol,” along with “The Least Trumps”, “Cleopatra Brimstone” and “Pavane for a Prince of the Air”. Introduction by Lucius Shephard and story notes by the author. Cover art by 19th century painter John Anster Fitzgerald. (see left) Both “Pavane for a Prince of the Air” and “Cleopatra Brimstone” have won International Horror Guild Awards, and “The Least Trumps” was on the shortlist for BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES 2003, edited by Walter Mosley. “Chip Crockett,” an homage to the late, legendary Joey Ramone, continues to wait for its chance to become an animnated Christmas Special.

horror Elizabeth Hand The Bride of FrankensteinThe Bride of Frankenstein — (2007) Publisher: Attempting to create life through dreadful experiments, Henry Frankenstein and Dr. Pretorius instead created unspeakable horror: two misshapen monsters, a brutish male and his female mate, stitched together from the bodies of cadavers. Crafted to be the monster’s bride — an undead Eve to an equally accursed Adam — the female creature was destroyed mere minutes after taking its first breath — or was it? This new novel by the critically acclaimed Elizabeth Hand reinterprets the memorable characters from Universal Picture’s classic 1935 film for a new generation of horror fans. Detailing the bride of Frankenstein’s secret history, from the shadows of forgotten laboratories to the streets of Weimar Germany, Hand creates a richly atmospheric tale of horror, mystery, and tragedy as chilling as the creature itself. Elizabeth Hand’s novels and short story collections include Mortal Love, Black Light, Bibliomancy and the cult classic Waking the Moon. A longtime contributor to the Washington Post Book World and the Village Voice Literary Supplement, she lives in Maine.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsErrantry: Strange Stories — (2012) Publisher: No one is innocent, no one unexamined in award-winner Elizabeth Hand’s new collection. From the summer isles to the mysterious people next door all the way to the odd guy one cubicle over, Hand teases apart the dark strangenesses of everyday life to show us the impossibilities, broken dreams, and improbable dreams that surely can never come true.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsRadiant Days — (2012) She is a painter. He is a poet. Their art bridges time. It is 1978. Merle is in her first year at the Corcoran School of Art, catapulted from her impoverished Appalachian upbringing into a sophisticated, dissipated art scene. It is also 1870. The teenage poet Arthur Rimbaud is on the verge of breaking through to the images and voice that will make his name. The meshed power of words and art thins the boundaries between the present and the past – and allows these two troubled, brilliant artists to enter each other’s worlds. Radiant Days is a peerless follow-up to Elizabeth Hand’s unforgettable, multiply starred Illyria.