Mardi Gras [French 'Fat Tuesday']
- Shrove Tuesday, celebrated as a holiday with carnivals, masquerade balls, and parades of costumed merrymakers
- a carnival period coming to a climax on this day
- THE AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY
"The festival of Mardi Gras is a tradition dating back more than 200 years. Its roots can be traced back to the Latin 'carnivale', which means - roughly - 'farewell to flesh'. The premise was simple: a time of great feasting prior to the time of fasting that traditionally begins with Ash Wednesday."
- Davis' introduction
Many of the contributors have taken the 'farewell to flesh' theme and run with undead characters of one sort and another: vampires, ghosts (even the Haunted New Orleans tour), zombies (of course, in the land of voodoo), and wierder entities. Others (sometimes in the same story) have taken the theme of sacrifice, when the king/queen of a festival feted in high style shouldn't make long range-plans.
And, of course, there are the krewes - the societies (ranging from brand-new to very old) that run various Mardi Gras masked balls as well as the parades punctuating the festival. In a city with over fifty such organizations, surely a few may be more than they seem. While the most ancient krewes are traditionally closed organizations - if you have to ask about joining, don't expect to - the younger krewes may be freer with invitations to strangers...
Bischoff, David: "May Oysters Have Legs" Tony Viti considers himself a sophisticated hitman - he's been all over the country, even to New Orleans. Unfortunately, he's unfamiliar with the more creative uses of Dixieland jazz funerals, and didn't know that his target's into voodoo...
Braunbeck, Gary A.: "Down in Darkest Dixie Where the Dead Don't Dance" Pete Russell's calling as a homicide cop broke his heart, bringing him to a suicide's deathbed this Mardi Gras. But death brings him one final case, as a fellow ghost's killers hunt yet again. Russell's hideous flashbacks will haunt readers even as they enjoy his exchanges with the Goth chick whose murder he seeks to avenge ("I'm tired of being hassled by the Man!").
Crowther, Peter: "Songs of Leaving" New Orleans' last festival, as Earth awaits the asteroid 'Fat Tuesday'. But the city has taken to heart the old Cajun adage, "Come the end of the world, we *better* be dancin'...", facing the end with both style and dignity. [The F/SF elements weren't necessary to make this a good story.]
Davis, R.: "Fat Tuesday" Narrator Martin Grant, a freelance writer, enjoys covering the underside of public events; hearing of the 'Vampire John' serial killings this Mardi Gras, how can the man who uncovered the 'werewolf' Times Square Murders resist? But catching the perpetrator seems unlikely: a scant physical description - tall and strong, judging by some of the victims, no hair or fibers left at the scene...
de Lint, Charles: "Masking Indian" (collected in de Lint's TAPPING THE DREAM TREE) Braided format, alternating 1st-person POV of Marley Butler and 3rd-person Wendy and Jilly of the Newford stories. Marley's POV recalls her youth as a runaway "looking for her black roots among the Black Indian tribes that rule the Mardi Gras". Wendy and Jilly find her haunted by memories (?) of her old mentor's ritual costume.
Helfers, John: "Farewell to the Flesh" Seth, like Indiana Jones, recovers stolen artifacts and art objects under exotic circumstances; when we first encounter him, he's preventing a human sacrifice by a Cthulhu-mythos-type cult (Lovecraft's de Marignys, although from New Orleans, aren't mentioned). But Seth loves Mardi Gras for unusual reasons. "After all, there are enough fake vampires roaming around, what's one more, even if I am real?"
Holder, Nancy: "Skeleton Crewe" emphasizes fasting as well as feasting. The anorexic protagonist is out of hospital only after running out of insurance, but for Lent, she's giving up her brinksmanship of spurning flesh for spirit - only to encounter the strangest krewe parade of all.
Lindskold, Jane: "Sacrifice" 'The festival has been explained as a farewell to the eating of meat before the long Lenten fast. It is curious, however, that the places where Carnival has survived most powerfully - even though Lent now requires no more than a token sacrifice - is where living water is most powerful...Farewell to the flesh. Farewell to the body of the girl who will give herself to the water so the water god will not take the city.' The story focuses on Mirabelle, one of the debutantes at the once-in-a-lifetime Bride's Ball from among whom the river's queen will be chosen. [Apart from Mirabelle's courage at facing the unknown, a number of fascinating 'echoes' are sketched in between the Ball and the unconscious tributes paid by the revellers of the surrounding city: the parades, the krewes, the crowned monarchs.]
Rogers, Bruce Holland: Sensation-seeking Andy happily accepts the title "King Corpus" offered by a 'most ancient' krewe with a one-float parade. They offer all the pleasures of the flesh - but at what price?
Scarborough, Elizabeth Ann: "The Invisible Woman's Clever Disguise" for the Krewe of Melusine's ball was chosen at the last minute; having been invisible for years, she never expected even junk mail, let alone a mysterious invitation slipped under her door. [The prologue of how people gradually began to look through her as she didn't make time to see others, is *very* clever, without taking the same tack as Silverberg's "To See the Invisible Man".]
West, Michelle: The krewe summoning Susan to Mardi Gras requires only "Faces Made of Clay" for admission to the ball: the ceramic mask accompanying the invitation. Susan's concern is with another mortal clay altogether: the memory of her family, 15 years lost, at whose graves the invitation was delivered.