April 25, 2012

A Travel Guide to New Venice (Part I)


To our reader yet unfamiliar with New Venice, beyond a few unclear and mysterious dreams, it has been decided that a few words of introduction might not prove quite useless. We will therefore share with you a series of articles on New Venice from the “The Northern Traveller”, one of the rare (if not the only) travel guides about the city. Please note that this anonymous travel guide has been first by published by “Extreme Eden”, allegedly an imprint of the Polaris Guild, or “Press-Gang”, whose official mission it is to lure new citizens in New Venice. Its accuracy and objectivity may therefore be open to debate.



Introducing New Venice is certainly a bit of a paradox, as the city is not accessible to visitors and tourists in the usual sense of the term. Nevertheless, information, however uncertain and sparse, can be useful to the « travellers » (be it lost polar explorers, night- or daydreamers, drug users, artists, or simply guests) to whom the place may manifest itself on rare but unforgettable occasions. Our reader will easily understand that, due to the shifting and somewhat elusive nature of the city, the following facts and tips, though compiled from the best available sources and with the utmost care, cannot be guaranteed to be exact at the time of the « visit ». We apologize but cannot be held accountable for any inconvenience it may cause. The traveller, mental or otherwise, should be reminded that the trip is a dangerous one and has to be taken at his own risks.


It is widely agreed that New Venice is located in the high regions of Canadian Arctic Archipelago, generally known as Queen Elizabeth Islands (approximately: 78°0 N. 95°0 W.), though the inhabitants themselves call the area « Northwest Land » or even « North Wasteland ». As to the exact location of the city, opinions tend to differ, to the point where a radical school of thought proposed that the city moves around the area, in a way akin to that of (but not necessarily following) the magnetic pole. The current theory, however, favours the Marco Polo Bay on Northern Ellesmere Island as its most probable location. If such estimations are correct, it would mean that the city, though built on the mostly ice-free landmass of the tenth bigger island on Earth, is situated at the very limit of the permanent ice sheet.

Needless to say, it does not make it a first choice travel destination, but it certainly guarantees that the city retains, through its splendid isolation, a fierce independence and the distinctive features which make so much of its charm.


The Northwest Land is a polar desert, with generally arid conditions (less than an average 150 mm of precipitation a year). On the most northern islands, night lasts for more than four months (from late October to mid-February) and day lasts the same period in summer, with the « midnight sun » starting in mid-April. The average annual temperature may be as low as -20ºC, with extreme low temperatures in the order of -50ºC, and never above 20°. The city itself, which could not survive under such conditions, is said to be protected by a mysterious system – the Fire-Maidens or the Thirsty Sisters of Dawn – a circle of flames that surround the city and rumoured to be manned by a colony of Parsi technicians. It is a part of a system known as the « Air Architecture », a network of ventilators cowls and funnels which create an immaterial structure of walls and roofs regulating the temperature of the city and keeping it reasonably warmer (the average temperature is estimated between -10° and 10°). The « Air architecture » and its impact on the surrounding atmosphere is also generally regarded as the reason why the city is at worst invisible and at best miraginous from either the sky or the land. It is also to be noted that the inhabitants, especially when going out of the city limits- use blood-pressure pills (« boilers ») and metabolic enhancers (« stokers ») elaborated after numerous studies on the special capacities of the Inuit people to cope with the surrounding conditions.


Ed Note: This is an occasional series by Jean-Christophe Valtat, author of Aurorarama, which releases in June from Melville House. Aurorarama is the first installment in Valtat’s The Mysteries of  New Venice trilogy

JEAN CHRISTOPHE VALTAT is the author of Aurorarama.