Thursday, June 29, 2017 Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

Elizabeth Hand


American writer, whose first story, "Prince of Flowers", was published in 1988 in Twilight Zone magazine, and her first novel, Winterlong, was published in 1990.
Elizabeth Hand
Mars Hill was inspired by a real place near where I live on the coast of Maine, a 100+ year old Spiritualist community called Temple Heights: little carpenter's gothic cottages tumbling down a hillside overlooking the sea, very picturesque and, tragically, very susceptible to the terrible development pressure that's bearing down on the small towns around here.
So far, however, the spiritualists seem to be winning out. After I wrote "Last Summer at Mars Hill", I visited the place formally and had a reading done by a psychic there. The place was exactly as I'd imagined it, as were its (human) inhabitants. I saw no evidence of supernatural ones, alas.
Hand quotes
I never think about genre when I work. I've written fantasy, science fiction, supernatural fiction, and am now working on a suspense novel. Genres are mostly useful as a marketing tool, and to help booksellers known where to shelve a book.
Hand
I don't think all artists are mad, but there is statistical medical evidence that a lot of creative people suffer from various mood disorders. They fall somewhere on the spectrum of being bipolar, of being borderline autistic and so on. These things are there. Now of course these days you can go to college and when you come out you are a professional artist and you can run a gallery as a business and have a career. That is a very valid way for an artist to make a living. But it doesn't make for a very interesting story. It doesn't have a lot of mythic subtext. ... For me a lot of the world really is like that. The scenes in my book that people describe as "such a hallucinatory sequence" ... I don't see the world like that all the time, but I see the world like that a lot.
So what am I going to do about that? Am I going to go crazy? Am I going to institutionalize myself? Am I going to go and work in a cubicle as a telemarketer so that I don't give vent to that? Or am I going to take that and channel it into my work? It is a gift.




Hand Elizabeth quotes
Faeries might have been wandering around in Victorian England. I can believe that. But it is a more difficult thing to think that they might be wandering around Camden Town now.
It is more of a jump, but I find that more interesting in many ways. The irruption of the supernatural into our world is a much more enticing notion to explore than the same thing happening in some past time, or in a wholly imaginary world.
Hand Elizabeth
I liked being alone. Once when I was fourteen, walking in the woods, I stepped from the trees into a field where the long grasses had been flattened by sleeping deer. I looked up into the sky and saw a mirror image of the grass, black and yellow-gray whorls making a slow clockwise rotation like a hurricane. As I stared the whorl began to move more quickly, drawing a darkness into its center until it resembled a vast striated eye that was all pupil, contracting upon itself yet never disappearing. I stared at it until a low buzzing began to sound in my ears. Then I ran.
I didn't stop until I reached my driveway. When I finally halted and looked back, the eye was still there, turning. I never mentioned it to anyone. No one else ever spoke of seeing it.
Elizabeth Hand quotes
I'm an utterly orthodox feminist in the political or social sense: I want equal rights for women, period, and I vote that way. I support social programs that help women and children; I'm pro-choice, in favor of anything that makes it easier for women to raise their kids, with or without men, in conventional or unconventional family units.
But do I think the world would be a better place if it were run solely by women? No; not any more than I think a solely patriarchal model is an ideal.
Elizabeth Hand
I worked at the Smithsonian for a number of years. I had a very low-level job. I didn't have much responsibility, but I did have a Smithsonian ID badge that gave me access to all of the museums on the mall, and also the National Gallery of Art. In those days, you could go anywhere, which you can't do now. You could get in behind the scenes and wander along these tunnels. There is a scene in "Prince of Flowers" where the characters are in the Paleontology Department of the Museum of Natural History where they really do have this Raiders of the Lost Ark-type vast space filled with all of these unopened cartons. ... I was really entranced with the idea of living in a museum. In Winterlong there are two parallel storylines and the one for Raphael takes place among this guild or tribe of curators who live in the ruins of the Smithsonian Institution.
Hand Elizabeth quotes
A lot of the revisionist thinking by feminist mythologisers people who based their projections of ancient "matristic" cultures on work done by folks like Marija Gimbutas is based on archaeological and anthropological speculation that in some cases has since been proved wrong. The pretty happy flower children who lived at ancient Knossos, for instance, were the result of wishful thinking by the Victorian explorer Arthur Evans (a man, please note). No one actually knows what these cultures were really like, but it's doubtful that they were free of the same problems of sexual inequality that we have today.
Hand
So much fantasy relies on the author's having read Fraser's The Golden Bough or Robert Graves' The White Goddess and nothing else. The White Goddess is a crank book, a crank book of genius of course, but all the same... Mind you, I found Waking the Moon cited in an article in a pagan magazine as an authority for the idea that there was a patriarchal brotherhood, the Benandanti, that have been running things since antiquity, with no mention of the fact that it is a novel, and a fantasy at that. People want to believe something, and so they swallow anything.
Hand Elizabeth
I'm sure one reason that so many Greek myths deal with terrifying, powerful women Medea, Electra, the Erinyes, the Bacchae, is that at some point in the misty past, women held a power that was terrifying terrifying not because they were women whom men felt threatened by, but because they wielded that power in terrifying rituals that almost certainly involved human sacrifice.
This would not be a popular platform on which to base a feminist agenda.
Elizabeth Hand
I always thought of muses as sacrificial lambs, tamping down their own unwieldy creative impulses as they offer themselves for delectation by male geniuses. But Elizabeth Hand suggests in a recent essay that the connection is perilous for both parties: "The threat of one being consumed or obliterated by the other is constant. Yet it is precisely this tension, this tango macabre, that underscores the erotic nature of the relationship between artist and muse, suspended as it is between longing and dread, the yearning to possess and the knowledge that capture is so often destructive of the very object of desire."
This tango macabre is the core of Mortal Love, Hand's latest novel. ... Calling Mortal Love "an imaginary tree with roots in the real world," Hand laces the novel with real historical figures like Algernon Swinburne and Lady Wilde (Oscar's folktale-spinning mother) and drops in amusing literary allusions and references to artists like Brian Jones and Kurt Cobain, who have themselves been scorched by the muse. ... The novel succeeds as both a thriller and a meditation on the mysterious nature of inspiration.




Elizabeth Hand quotes
I find that many modern fantasies explain things away far too easily, which makes a lot of it overly familiar (to me, anyway). Real myths are often strange and startlingly unfamiliar, and don't always give up their meanings easily; you have to tease them out, and for me, that's one of the pleasures of reading older collections of lore.
Elizabeth Hand
I love the notion of there being a single group of Apollonian watchdogs down through the aeons, keeping the world safe from the malign (and far more fun-loving) forces of Dionysos.
Hand quotes
I think Washington is a magical place. I lived there for thirteen years, and until the day I left I never wanted to live anywhere else. I went back for the first time two years ago, after over a decade's absence; it was like seeing an old lover and discovering with great relief that the flame is still there.
Gore Vidal famously remarked of walking through the city with his grandfather, a senator, and the old man telling him, "Someday all this will make marvelous ruins."
Hand Elizabeth
Several months later I had this dream. I was kneeling in the field where I'd seen the eye. A figure appeared in front of me: a man with green-flecked eyes, his smile mocking and oddly compassionate. As I stared up at him, he extended his hand until his finger touched the center of my forehead.
There was a blinding flash. I fell on my face, terrified, woke in bed with my ears ringing. It was the morning of my seventeenth birthday
Hand Elizabeth quotes
I have to say (regretfully) that I've seen very little in my real life to indicate the presence of either the supernatural or the divine.
As for apocalypse, I was imprinted at an early age with the idea of The End of the World (this also courtesy of the Catholic Church). I can remember being terrified of thunderstorms I'd think, Uh oh, THIS IS IT. I was born in 1957, and grew up in the metropolitan New York area with the Cold War as a backdrop. In kindergarten and first and second grade we had constant air raid drills, sirens going off and that whole "Duck 'n Cover" drill when you cower under your desk or else hide in the classroom cloak closet, waiting for the Atomic Bomb to drop. I had nightmares about that well into my twenties. For a while in the 1970s I lived near a fire station in D.C., and when the fire sirens would go off at night I'd wake up terrified again that THIS WAS IT.
Of course it never was, but it was good practice at being scared and thinking about scary stuff.
Elizabeth Hand
It sounds creepy, but I always liked the idea of disappearing then becoming something new. That of course was before I disappeared.
Elizabeth Hand quotes
There's always a moment when everything changes. ... If you don't see it coming, if you blink or you're drunk or just looking the other way well everything changes anyway, it's not like things would have been different.
But for the rest of your life you're fucked, because you blew it. Maybe no one else knows it, but you do. In my case, it was no secret. Everyone knew I'd blown it. Some people can make do in a situation like that. Me, I've never been good at making do. My life, who could pretend there wasn't a big fucking hole in it.
Elizabeth Hand
I was about ten when I first read 1984 and Lord of the Flies, both of which absolutely terrified me especially 1984, because I figured out that Julia, Winston Smith's lover, would have been born the same year I was. I knew these books were fiction, but I was far too young to have a grasp on the political or cultural realities behind them I had no distance or detachment from what I read: it seemed too real to me, too possible.
Hand Elizabeth
I try to maintain a balance between having a vision of the world that many readers do not experience for themselves, trying to give them enough grounding in the world we are all familiar with, so they don't feel that they are completely lost in Faerie.


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