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Hand, Elizabeth

Entry updated 23 October 2023. Tagged: Author.

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(1957-    ) US critic and author, partner of Richard Grant from 1988 to 1996, from 1996 partner of John Clute; she began publishing work of genre interest with "Prince of Flowers" in Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine for February 1988. Her continuing output of short stories has won acclaim and some awards – "Last Summer at Mars Hill" (August 1994 F&SF) won a World Fantasy Award and a Nebula award; "Echo" (October/November 2005 F&SF) won another Nebula and "The Maiden Flight of McCauley's Bellerophon" in Stories: All-New Tales (anth 2010) edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio won another World Fantasy Award; and "Near Zennor" in A Book of Horrors (anth 2012) edited by Stephen Jones won one of her three Shirley Jackson awards. Her shorter fiction – mostly fantasy, and often of novella length – has been assembled in Last Summer at Mars Hill (coll 1998), Bibliomancy (coll 2003), which won a World Fantasy Award, Saffron and Brimstone: Strange Stories (coll 2006), Errantry: Strange Stories (coll 2012), Fire [for full title see Checklist below] (coll 2017) and The Best of Elizabeth Hand (coll 2021). The Lost Domain: Four Story Variations sequence, which appears in Saffron and Brimstone above, comprises four stories readable separately as sf set in a world vibrating with apocalypse (see Holocaust), specifically in the case of "Echo" (see above) or "The Saffron Gatherers" (here first published), in which San Francisco (see California) is destroyed; read as a whole, the Lost Domain can be understood as an emotionally disruptive romantic meditation on love in a shaking world. Individual novellas, none of them sf, include Chip Crockett's Christmas Carol (6-27 December 2000 Sci Fiction; 2006), Illyria (2006), which won a World Fantasy Award, and Wylding Hall (2015).

Hand's first novel, Winterlong (1990), set on Earth some hundreds or thousands of years hence, combines sf and fantasy materials in a way made familiar by writers of Planetary Romances from Jack Vance through Gene Wolfe to Richard Grant. The tale features baroque Genetic Engineering, mythical resonances and ornate psychopathologies intensely glimpsed and implicitly but clearly shaped by Julian Jaynes's The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (1976); the prose is occasionally very powerful, but the book is rather too long. A second volume set in the same Winterlong universe, Æstival Tide (1992), showed a formidable improvement in its pacing, though necessarily abjuring some of the interwoven density of mood in the previous volume; the central City of Washington where the action occurs is superbly decadent – it is a venue she has utilized, sometimes in transfigured form, on several occasions – and the artificial woman, manufactured of glass and metal as a storage vehicle for human culture, is well-conceived. In the third volume, Icarus Descending (1993), the baroque superstructure of the dying world continues to collapse, accompanied by a revolt of the "geneslaves" who have been present throughout. Glimmering (1997; rev 2012) – whose 2012 revisions are solely stylistic – is a Near Future sf novel set after a methane-release Disaster has accelerated Climate Change, with rising sea levels, the beginning of the sixth extinction, and a global virus Pandemic. This background comes to focus through a jihadi suicide assault by airplane on a Manhattan skyscraper, with a sudden coming together of further catastrophes in New York invoking the End of the World.

Most of Hand's later work has been fantasy, the best known of these titles being Waking the Moon (1994 UK: cut rev 1995), which won a James Tiptree Jr Award, and Radiant Days (2012), a Time Travel tale for Young Adult readers involving Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891). With Paul Witcover she wrote a Superhero comic, Anima (1993-1995) (see DC Comics). Some of her Ties – including Twelve Monkeys (1995), Millennium: The Frenchman (1997), The X-Files: Fight the Future (1998) with Chris Carter and The Bride of Frankenstein: Pandora's Bride (2007), a jeu d'esprit based very remotely on the classic The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), with significant roles for W H Auden and Christopher Isherwood – are sf. The Cass Neary sequence comprising Generation Loss (2007), which won a Shirley Jackson Award, Available Dark (2012), Hard Light: A Cass Neary Crime Novel (2016) and The Book of Lamps and Banners (2020), though at first seemingly nonfantastic, incorporates a growing sense of the significance of Neary's uncannily prescient response to damaged psyches in a damaged world (see Precognition), a capacity – her first name in full is Cassandra – which it may be difficult to heed but fatal not to; as the series progresses, her sense of damage extends to previsions of harm done to the planet itself. Curious Toys (2019), which incorporates a sustained portrait of the writer/painter Henry Darger, along with a role for Ben Hecht, is nonfantastic. Hokuloa Road (2022), set on a Hawai'ian island in the grips of the Covid Pandemic, and A Haunting on the Hill (2023), explicitly related to Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House (1959), are fantasy. [JC]

see also: Cyberpunk; Fantasy; Gods and Demons; Post-Holocaust.

Elizabeth Francis Hand

born San Diego, California: 29 March 1957




  • Winterlong (New York: Bantam Books, 1990) [Winterlong: pb/Will Cormier]
  • Æstival Tide (New York: Bantam Books, 1992) [Winterlong: pb/Will Cormier]
  • Icarus Descending (New York: Bantam Books, 1993) [Winterlong: pb/Paul Youll]

Cass Neary

  • Generation Loss (Northampton, Massachusetts: Small Beer Press, 2007) [chap: pre-publication excerpt from the novel below: Cass Neary: pb/Jacob McMurray]
    • Generation Loss (Northampton, Massachusetts: Small Beer Press, 2007) [full text of novel: Cass Neary: hb/Jacob McMurray]
  • Available Dark (New York: St Martin's/Minotaur, 2012) [Cass Neary: hb/David Baldeosingh Rotstein]
  • Hard Light: A Cass Neary Crime Novel (New York: St Martin's/Minotaur, 2016) [Cass Neary: hb/David Baldeosingh Rotstein]
  • The Book of Lamps and Banners (New York: Mulholland Books, 2020) [Cass Neary: hb/Gregg Kulick]

individual titles

  • Waking the Moon (London: HarperCollins, 1994) [pb/Ian Miller]
    • Waking the Moon (New York: HarperPrism, 1995) [rev with cuts of the above: hb/Gene Mydlowski]
  • Glimmering (New York: HarperPrism, 1997) [hb/Richard Hasselberger]
    • Glimmering (Portland, Oregon: Underland Press, 2012) [rev of the above: pb/Heidi Whitcomb]
  • Black Light (New York: HarperPrism, 1999) [hb/Saksa Art & Design]
  • Mortal Love (New York: HarperCollins/Morrow, 2004) [hb/from Dante Gabriel Rossetti]
  • Radiant Days (New York: Viking, 2012) [hb/Jeanine Henderson]
  • Wylding Hall (Hornsea, East Yorkshire: PS Publishing, 2015) [hb/David Gentry]
  • Curious Toys (New York: Mulholland Books, 2019) [hb/Gregg Kulick]
  • Hokuloa Road (New York: Mulholland Books, 2022) [hb/]
  • A Haunting on the Hill (New York: Mulholland Books 2023) [hb/David Litman]

collections and stories


Star Wars

individual tied titles

works as editor

  • Conjunctions: Other Aliens (Annandale-on-Hudson, New York: Bard College, 2016) with Brad Morrow [anth: #67 in the Conjunctions: Bi-Annual Volumes of New Writing series: pb/Joseba Elorza]


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