Errantry: Strange Stories

Elizabeth Hand  - published November 2012

November 2012 · trade paper · 9781618730305 / ebook · 9781618730312
Second printing: January 2019

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.”
Village Voice

“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.”
Rain Taxi

“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
Library Journal

“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.”
Publishers Weekly

Table of Contents

The Maiden Flight of McCauley’s Bellerophon
Near Zennor
Hungerford Bridge [audio]
The Far Shore
Winter’s Wife
Cruel Up North
The Return of the Fire Witch
Uncle Lou

Cover image “The Hunt in the Forest” by Paolo Uccello by permission of the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford.

Praise for Elizabeth Hand’s previous short story collection Saffron and Brimstone:

“Aptly subtitled “strange stories” . . . Her beautifully nuanced, often disquieting style should inspire poets as well as lay down the gauntlet to colleagues also reaching for expressive heights in contemporary fantasy.”

“Lovely and unsettling.”
Library Journal (starred review)

Praise for Available Dark

“In this brilliant sequel to Hand’s acclaimed literary thriller Generation Loss . . . a flash of incandescence counters final threats of death, and the all encompassing darkness is leavened by a glimmer of hope. Stunning.”
Booklist, Starred Review

“Hand has described Cass Neary, the protagonist of 2007’s Generation Loss, as “your prototypical amoral speedfreak crankhead kleptomaniac murderous rage-filled alcoholic bisexual heavily tattooed American female photographer.” It’s to the author’s credit that Neary, who almost makes Lisbeth Salander seem like a model of mental stability, engages rather than repels in this stunning sequel.”
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“Fiercely frightening yet hauntingly beautiful . . . shimmers with gorgeous writing even as it scares the dickens out of you. ”
—Tess Gerritsen, New York Times bestselling author of The Silent Girl

“A sinful pleasure.”
—Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love

Elizabeth Hand, a New York Times and Washington Post notable author, has written fifteen novels including Mortal Love and five collections of short fiction. Her most recent novels are Radiant Days, Available Dark, and Hard Light. Her thriller Generation Loss received the inaugural Shirley Jackson Award. She has also received the James Tiptree Award, the Nebula Award (twice), the World Fantasy Award (four times), and many others. Her novella, “The Maiden Flight of McCauley’s Bellerophon,” was a Hugo Award finalist. Hand is a longtime contributor to numerous publications, including the Washington Post, Salon, L.A. Times, Fantasy & Science Fiction, and DownEast Magazine. She divides her time between the coast of Maine and North London.