by Elizabeth Hand5 Comments
November 2012 · trade paper · 9781618730305 / ebook · 9781618730312
Shirley Jackson Award finalist.
“Near Zennor” is a Shirley Jackson Award winner.
Listen to Liz reading “Hungerford Bridge.”
No one is innocent, no one unexamined in Shirley Jackson award-winning author Elizabeth Hand’s new collection of stories. From the mysterious people next door to the odd guy in the next office 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.
“At her best, Hand does just this: We find ourselves wrapped in an evocation without knowing fully how she got us there, shivering with fear at an image of lights or blinking with awe at the modest beauty of a small, rare creature living its life, seen from a distance.”
—Aimee Bender, Washington Post
“With grand feeling and inventiveness, Hand writes of modern life edging just into the impossible. Her ragged modern characters, often lost or stoned or just unfixed in their lives, set out over moors or into hidden parks in search of realities less dispiriting than our own.”
“As I was reading Errantry: Strange Stories, the phone rang. I answered it and whispered ‘Hello?’
“‘Why are you whispering?’ asked my friend.
“‘I’m reading this really bizarre book of short stories,’ I said. That was my short answer. But the long answer is this: I’m whispering because as I was reading Hand’s stories in my quiet house on a cold December day, the threads of my reality frayed a bit along the edges and it would take more than a telephone’s ring for me to pull myself back together. I’m whispering because I’m scared to disturb the intricate and delicate worlds that Hand has created in this collection of stories that alternately draw me in and scare me away.”
—Meganne Fabrega, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
I thought of this tendency a lot when reading Elizabeth Hand’s collection Errantry: Strange Stories. Though I know that Hand’s background is in work that’s less overtly realistic, I know her best through her kinda-mystery Generation Loss, which is as much a meditation on art and the passage of time, and an evocative description of an isolated coastal town in Maine, as it is a book in which someone must solve something. What makes Hand’s collection notable are those moments where the fantastical (or at least the surreal) briefly collides with the mundane, but doesn’t necessarily lead to transcendence. A couple of the stories involve brief encounters with the strange, but it’s less about the existence of the supernatural than it is on the effects of having one’s worldview fundamentally altered. In the two stories that open the collection, “The Maiden Flight of McCauley’s Bellerophon” and “Near Zennor,” strange things occur, but they’re within the larger contexts of memory and grief, and they’re as difficult for their characters to put together as more earthly mysteries.”
— Tobias Carroll, Vol. 1 Brooklyn
“Hand’s strangeness is redolent of the sort of disturbing, uncanny children’s books that gave you nightmares at the age of nine (for me, Alan Garner): books with malevolent forces lurking under sunny hillsides, where adults aren’t going to save our heroes, and whose endings are staggeringly bleak.”
— Nic Clarke, Strange Horizons
“Hand’s stories here are more expansive, yet have that undercurrent of a formless force closing in, be it weather, or birds gathering in a falling evening sky.”
—Helen McCrory, Pank
“The stories confound yet delight, blurt unanswerable questions yet hold their tongue. Each will leave you scratching your head and asking, “Well, what if . . . ?” Overcoming the constraints of genre, Errantry is strange fiction at its finest.”
“No writer has cornered the market on darkly beautiful, unsettling stories. But it’s a niche that Elizabeth Hand inhabits with uncanny ease.”
—Maine Sunday Telegram
“Talented Hand has won the World Fantasy Award, the Shirley Jackson Award, the Tiptree Award and the Nebula Award, among many others. The reason for this lies less in her imaginative worlds, as impressive as they can be, and more in her skill at crafting words, each phrase and each sentence carefully shaped and laid in place to create the singular diadem that is a Hand story. The tales here are all recent, and are all evidence of Hand’s prolific, fertile imagination. Hand enthusiasts should, of course, have already pre-ordered this collection; those new to her work should acquire it as soon as possible.”
—Romantic Times Book Review
“Explores the odd and impossible dreams that can motivate and dishearten people in everyday life.”
—Bangor Daily News
Omnivoracious: The Best Fantasy and Science Fiction Collections of 2012
“Just more evidence of the self-assurance and complexity Hand has brought to fiction in the middle part of her career.”
“When novelist and short story author Hand (“Available Dark; Generation Loss”) subtitled this collection “Strange Stories,” she gave readers a hint about what to expect. Lord Byron said “what a strange thing man is…” and it is true, everyone is a little strange, life is a little strange. This original, varied, collection of stories is not strictly fantasy, and certainly not horror, for Hand is more subtle than that. The stories are so different from each other it is hard to find a common theme or thread, but whether reading about ordinary people sharing peculiar experiences, people undergoing fantastic transformations, a young woman with supernatural powers, or a pair of witches, each story leaves the reader curious, thinking about what they read, but disquieted, with a lingering, though not necessarily unpleasant, sense of unease. VERDICT An enjoyable trip to the dark side, certainly worth a try for those who enjoy short stories but not necessarily elements of fantasy, and a must for fans of Hand’s previous work.–Shaunna Hunter, Hampden-Sydney Coll. Lib., VA
“Ten evocative novellas and stories whisper of hidden mysteries carved on the bruised consciousness of victims and victimizers. Memories and love are as dangerous as the supernatural, and Hand often denies readers neat conclusions, preferring disturbing ambiguity. The Hugo-nominated “The Maiden Flight of McCauley’s Bellerophon” marries science fiction and magical realism as three men recreate a legendary aircraft’s doomed flight for a dying woman. A grieving widow in “Near Zennor” unearths a secret of spectral kidnapping in an ancient countryside. “Hungerford Bridge,” a lesser piece, shares a secret that can only be enjoyed twice in one’s life. Celtic myth and human frailty entangle in the darkly romantic “The Far Shore.” The vicious nature of romantic love is dissected with expressionistic abandon in the dreamlike “Summerteeth.” Hand’s outsiders haunt themselves, the forces of darkness answering to the calls of their battered souls. Yet strange hope clings to these surreal elegies, insisting on the power of human emotion even in the shadow of despair. Elegant nightmares, sensuously told.”
Table of Contents
The Maiden Flight of McCauley’s Bellerophon
Hungerford Bridge [audio]
The Far Shore
Cruel Up North
The Return of the Fire Witch
Cover image “The Hunt in the Forest” by Paolo Uccello by permission of the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford.