Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
New Orleans

US City located close to the Mississippi Delta and thus a natural Threshold venue. It stands between the continent and the Gulf of Mexico; it is an outpost of the American way in an environment which is almost tropic; and it has been "notorious" for centuries as a venue for transgressive behaviour: smuggling, vice, jazz and miscegenation – over the years, French, Spanish, English, Indians and Afro-Caribbeans bred to create the Creole culture and tongue. It is an ideal setting for Supernatural Fiction and Horror.

The first writer of any renown to make use of the venue was George Washington Cable (1844-1925), most of whose work is NO-based, including "Jean-ah Poquelin" (1875 Scribner's), a rationalized Ghost Story in which various cultures and races come together. Some of Lafcadio Hearn's NO stories, as assembled in Fantastics (coll 1914), are also of interest; and some of the Gothic anecdotes assembled in New Orleans Sketches (coll 1954 Japan) by William Faulkner (1897-1962) have supernatural elements.

The most telling use of NO may be the film-noir vision of the city that dominates Cat People (1942) and its various sequels; this may have influenced the choice of venue for Angel Heart (1987), a movie in which the original New York setting of William Hjortsberg's Falling Angel (1978) is shifted south. But the most famous exploitation of NO is in the Vampire Chronicles and Mayfair Witches sequences by Anne Rice, herself born and resident in NO. The sequences have understandably fixed for a wide public the paradigm use of NO for Dark Fantasy; Valerie Martin's A Recent Martyr (1987), based on the Cat People movies, also makes effective use of the venue. Lucius Shepard's Green Eyes (1984), though not literally set there, could be described as occupying an NO hinterland. Terry Pratchett uses a thinly disguised version of the city as a Fairytale backdrop in Witches Abroad (1991).

Many horror novels, especially those dealing with Voodoo, are either set in NO, or – like James Herbert's Portent (1992) – feature characters whose transgressive ominousness is signalled by the fact they come from the city. [JC]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.