By Andrew Andrews
I have always enjoyed the work of Elizabeth Hand, one of the finest, if not THE finest, horror stylists we’ve seen.
In “The Saffron Gatherers,” in the present-day, professional authors and other artists gather to discuss their artistic work and the beauty of ancient art. This all happens when an East Coast author ventures to find a home near San Francisco. But appreciating art is all they may have, as a catastrophe on land happens during the artist’s plane trip home: a catastrophe that defines why even appreciation of long-ago art is not forgotten, and the work of an artist is oh-so transitory and subject to the tyranny of reality.
In “Fire,” the tale-tellers are necessary, are part of our wonderful humanity, even if (or as) the world steadily comes to an end.
In “Beyond Belief: On Being a Writer,” in her autobiography, Hand details her early yearnings to write and her experiences in life, in education and in the terrible traumas she has endured, and how she was shaped, as an artist, by them. But I wonder why she kept those early rejection letters in a freezer? And were the perpetrators of the violent night she recalls ever found?
“Kronia” is a vignette about a woman recalling the years of someone she has a distant but somewhat potent relationship with. And an explanation for the existence of memories.
There’s an interview with Hand in “Flying Squirrels in the Rafters.” It details her life in Maine, the Cottage, her inspirations and all the things she either likes or doesn’t.
“The Woman Men Didn’t See” is a mini-biography of James Tiptree Jr. — the pen name of female author Alice Sheldon — a woman born about 50 years too early. It’s the true story of the daughter of wealthy safari-goers, world explorers and a woman who needed an identity, but was too complex to find (or trust) one to call her own. It’s a shame, really, because Hand believes that if Tiptree/Sheldon hadn’t left this world, a suicide, that Sheldon/Tiptree could have given us so much more.
“Tom Disch” is another mini-biography and tribute to the novelist of ON WINGS OF SONG, an artist angry at his upbringing, resentful at how short life is, furious with how the world became so blatantly ordered and predictable and boring, and looking for the voice of God to explain it all.