Last Summer at Mars Hill


Mars Hill spiritualist community, founded 1883

It's nothing fancy. Just a faded resort on the rocky Maine Coast, inhabited by aging hippies, their rebellious children—and the elusive, shimmering spirits known as "the Golden Ones."

They are the reason Mars Hill exists. Not everyone can see Them, but everyone can feel their healing presence. Even fetching, skeptical, young Moony Rising, who has come to say ...

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Mars Hill spiritualist community, founded 1883

It's nothing fancy. Just a faded resort on the rocky Maine Coast, inhabited by aging hippies, their rebellious children—and the elusive, shimmering spirits known as "the Golden Ones."

They are the reason Mars Hill exists. Not everyone can see Them, but everyone can feel their healing presence. Even fetching, skeptical, young Moony Rising, who has come to say farewell to everything she ever loved. And to learn a secret more wondrous than love itself...

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
What shines through nearly all of the 11 stories and one poem in this fine collection, besides the beautiful writing, are healthy doses of skepticism about the intrinsic goodness of both mystical phenomena and scientific progress. The anthology opens with the title story (winner of the 1995 Nebula for Best Novella), a tale about spirituality, death and hope set in an artists' community in New England where strange phantoms with unknowable motives dwell. "The Erl-King" is filled with exploded pop-'60s images and the decadent aftermath of fame, providing an otherworldly answer to the question of why the core people involved with Warhol's factory imploded. "The Have-Nots" is one of the few stories here with a happy ending; it features an unnamed Elvis, a drunken waitress and a delicious and loving send-up of trailer-trash foibles and middle-class virtues. "In the Month of Athyr," one of Hand's admittedly rare attempts at writing SF in short form, presents a view of genetic advances as shady operations doomed to produce disaster and decay. "The Boy in the Tree" is an exceptionally grim tale about science battling pagan powers, with mental health the clear loser. The collection ends with "Prince of Flowers," Hand's first published story (10 years ago in Twilight Zone), and this familiar riff on exotic gods is the weakest entry. Each story is appended by an afterword; pithy, but informative, they present an upbeat portrait of Hand's influences and explicate how some of the stories prefigured novels (Waking the Moon, etc.). Poignant and terrifying by turns, this collection isn't for the easily shocked, but it will satisfy readers who long for rich prose and deep, dark dreams. (Sept.)
VOYA - Marsha Valance
Here Hand offers a collection of a dozen of her previously published beautifully crafted and slightly disturbing short stories-stories that clearly bridge the gap between genre fiction and modern literature. The stories have appeared in such venues as Fantasy & Science Fiction, Omni, and Pulphouse, but would have been equally at home in The New Yorker or Triquarterly. Take for example The Erl-King, which first appeared in Full Spectrum 4 in 1993. The protagonists are a pair of adolescent girls who pursue a fugitive pet kinkajou onto the grounds of a retired rock star's estate, and become pawns in his deal with the devil. Or the title piece, in which a dying man and woman are offered eternal life if they will remain forever in a forlorn old resort town where unnatural beings may feed on their deaths. Hand loads these stories with difficult choices and an incredible amount of nuance-including references to phenomena such as The Factory that many teens may find unintelligible. The book indeed merits a 5Q for its writing-it is hard to imagine it being better written-but a 2P for popularity, as the probability is only very special teens will have the experiential referents to appreciate Hand's stories. This title is recommended for larger fantasy collections, or for sites where librarians know the book will be appreciated. VOYA Codes: 5Q 2P S A/YA (Hard to imagine it being better written, For the YA reader with a special interest in the subject, Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12 and adults).
Paula Guran
...Elizabeth Hand's writing serves both as an example of outstanding genre literature and at the same time transcends common expectations of such...She creates new legends for our times...Hand also tends to use the power of ancient myths to add to the substance of her themes...Hand's elegant mythic evocations speak to the reader in both a timeless and modern voice.
Event Horizon
Gerald Jonas
Death is the mystery relentlessly explored in . . .Last Summer at Mars Hill. . . .Hand's is a fiction of atmosphere, not action. She achieves her effects through descriptions that go on longer than they have to, hinting at more than they can ever say. . . .Occasionally, her formula -- which decrees that no deed, good or bad, goes unpunished -- is reversed, to notable effect. . . . For Elizabeth Hand, magic is a reflection of the human heart; as the title story poignantly implies, death itself can be thought of as a failure of the imagination. -- The New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061053481
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/26/1998
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the Author

A New York Times notable and multiple award– winning author, Elizabeth Hand has written seven novels, including the cult classic Waking the Moon, and short-story collections. She is a longtime contributor to numerous publications, including the Washington Post Book World and the Village Voice Literary Supplement. She and her two children divide their time between the coast of Maine and North London.

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Read an Excerpt

Last Summer at

Mars HIll

Even before they left home, Moony knew her mother wouldn't return from Mars Hill that year. Jason had called her from his father's house in San Francisco—

"I had a dream about you last night, he'd said, his voice cracking the way it did when he was excited. "We were at Mars Hill: and my father was there, and my mother, too—I knew it was a dream, like can you imagine my mother at Mars Hill?— and yoiu had n this sort of long black dress and you were sitting alone by the pier. And you said "This is it, Jason. We'll never see this again." I felt like crying, I tried to hug you but my father pulled me back. And then I woke up."

She didn't say anything. Finally Jason prodded her. "Weird, huh, Moony? I mean, don't you think it's weird?"

She shrugged and rolled her eyes, then sighed loudly so that he'd be able to tell she was upset. "Thanks, Jason. Like that's supposed to cheer me up?"

A long silence, then Tason's breathless voice again. "Shit, Moony,I'm sorry. I didn't—"

She laughed, a little nervously, and said "Forget it. So when you flying out to Maine?"

Nobody but Jason called her Moony, not at home at least, not in Kamensic Village. There she was Maggie Rheining, which was the name that appeared under her junior picture in the high school yearbook.

But the name that had been neatly typed on the birth certificate in San Francisco sixteen years I ago, the name Jason and everyone at Mars Hill knew her by, was Shadowmoon Starlight Rising. Maggie would have shaved her head before she'd admit her real name to anyone at school. At Mars Hill itwasn't so weird: there was Adele Grose knowm professionally as Madame Olaf; Shasta Daisy O'Hare and Rvis Capricorn; Martin Dionysos, who was Jason's father; and Ariel Rising, nee Amanda Mae Rheining, who was Moony's mother. For most of the year Moony and Ariel lived in Kamensic Village, the affluent New York exurb where her mother ran Earthly Delights Catering and Moony attended high school, and everything was pretty much normal. It was only in June that they headed north to Maine, to the tiny spiritualist community where they had summered for as long as Moony could remember. And even though she could have stayed in Kamensic with Ariel's friends the Loomises, at the last minute (and due in large part to Jason's urging, and threats if she abandoned him there) she decided to go with her mother:to Mars Hill. Later, whenever she thought how close she'd come to not going it made her feel sick: as though she'd missed a flight and later: found out the plane had crashed.

Because much as she loved it, Moony had always been a little ashamed of Mars Hill. It was such a dinky place, plopped in the middle:of nowhere on the rocky Maine coast—tiny shingle-style Carpenter Gothic cottages, all tumbled into disrepair, their elaborate trim rotting and strung with spiderwebs; poppies and lupines and tiger lilies sprawling bravely atop clumps of chickweed and dandelions of truly monstrous size; even the sign by the pier so faded you almost couldn't read the earnest lettering:


"Why doesn't your father take somebody's violet aura and repaint the damn sign with it?" she'd exploded once to Jason.

Jason looked surprised. "I kind of like it like that," he said, shaking the hair from his face and tossing a sea urchin at the: silvered board. "It looks like it was put up by our Founding Mothers." But for years Moony almost couldn't stand to even look at the sign, it embarrassed her so much."

It was Jason who helped. her get over that. They'd met when they were both twelve. It was the summer that Ariel started the workshop in Creative Psychokinesis, the first summer that Jason and his father had stayed at Mars Hill.

"Hey," Jason had said too loudly, when they found themselves left alone while the adults swapped wine coolers and introductions at the summer's first barbecue. They were the only kids in sight. There were no other families and few conventionally married couples at Mars Hill..The community had been the cause of more than one custody battle that had ended with wistful children sent to spend the summer with a more respectable parent in Boston or Manhattan or Bar Harbor. "That lady there with my father—"

He stuck his thumb out to indicate Ariel, her long black hair frizzed and bound with leather thongs, an old multicolored skirt flapping around her legs. She was talkin to a slender man with close-cropped blond hair and goatee, wearing a sky-blue caftan and shabby Birkenstock sandals. "That your mom?"

"Yeah Moony shrugged and glanced at the man in the caftan. He and Ariel both turned to look at their children. The man grinned and raised his wine glass. Ariel did a little pirouette and blew a kiss at Moony.

"Looks like she did too much of the brown acid at Woodstock," Jason announced, and flopped onto the grass. Moony glared down at him.

"She wasn't at Woodstock, asshole," she said, and had started to walk away when the boy called after her.

Hey—it's a joke! My name's Jason—" He pointed at the man with Ariel. "That's my father. Martin Dionysos. But like that's not his real name, okay? His real name is Schuster but he changed it, but I'm Jason Schuster. He's a painter. We don't know anyone here.

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