Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

A City of stone and water which is now slowly drowning. For writers of fantasy and Supernatural Fiction, Venice is thus an emblem of transition, of Death, of Metamorphosis, a place haunted by Revenants and Liminal Beings. It is a city whose past and whose present condition cannot be ignored; unlike London or New York, it cannot be treated as a level playing field upon which to set a tale. Venice is always a character in any story set there.

In earlier centuries, this was not the case. William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice (produced circa 1596; 1600) has no "Venetian" redolence. But by the time Wilkie Collins published The Haunted Hotel: A Mystery of Modern Venice (1878) and Vernon Lee began to write the Supernatural Fictions assembled in Hauntings (coll 1890) and later volumes, Venice had become usable for writers as a city with more past than future, a natural focus for tales in which the past – in the form of transgressive beckonings on the part of supernatural creatures – calls upon the present or draws victims across the Threshold into another state. The most famous use of Venice as a theatre for transgressive change is probably Thomas Mann's Death in Venice (1913).

Other works set partly or wholly in Venice include: Gestures (1986) by H S Bhabra (1955-    ); Guy Boothby's Farewell, Nicola (1901); Jerome Charyn's Pinocchio in Venice (1991); Wilkie Collins's The Haunted Hotel: A Mystery of Modern Venice (1878); Daphne Du Maurier's "Don't Look Now" (1971), filmed as Don't Look Now (1973); Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities (1972), in which all the fantastical cities described by Marco Polo are reflections of Venice; Reincarnation in Venice (1979) by Max Ehrlich (1909-1983); Steve Erickson's Days Between Stations (1985); MacDonald Harris's Pandora's Galley (1979); Michael Golding's Simple Prayers (1994); William Goldman's The Silent Gondoliers (1983) as by S Morgenstern; Amanda Prantera's The Cabalist (1985); Muriel Spark's Territorial Rights (1979); The Stone Virgin (1985) by Barry Unsworth (1930-    ); Jeanette Winterson's The Passion (1987); and Elinor Wylie's The Venetian Glass Nephew (1925). [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.