Is “cartophilia” a word? I could look it up online, but I don’t care, because officially or not, it’s a word now!
We drove a lot growing up. It’s not that we lived that far away from the rest of the family, but when you’re two-and-a-half hours away (in New England, we measure distance not in actual units of length, but in time) and your parents want to make sure you have a relationship with both sets of grandparents and go to church (no Orthodox churches anywhere near where I grew up), you’re gonna drive . . . a lot.
We’d also make family trips up to Montreal, since that was only a four-hour trek or so. Regardless of where we went, my father kept Rand McNally road atlases in the car. This was how we did things in the pre-smartphone days when the only way the Internet could help you get from Point A to Point B was by printing up Map Quest directions.
It was always fun going over our route with my dad, figuring out alternate routes sometimes just for the heck of it. The maps were also something to keep us entertained while driving–remember, other than Walkmans and later Discmans and the old, battery sucking Game Boys, there wasn’t much to keep you entertained during long car rides besides reading and talking to each other. And maps were a fun way to read and spark conversation.
Later in 2008, a friend and I did a road trip from Boston, MA to Savannah, GA and many point in-between using just an atlas. In other words, I’m good at maps.
Maps In Fiction
Now here’s what I really want to write about: maps in books of fictional lands.
Maps in books have resonated with me, even in non-fiction history books. They help ground what you’re reading and give it context. It’s good to describe the way the coastline changes, or this river or that forest. it’s another thing to see it. It helps you visualize it in a more concrete manner.
Like so many writers of fantasy and science fiction the past few generations, J.R.R. Tolkien looms large in my development. I remember my father, a huge fan, reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to my brother and me as bedtime stories. I’d later read the books myself multiple times, and the classic map of Middle Earth, designed by Tolkien’s son Christopher, always stuck with me.
It’s so awesome, my father later found a classic version of the map painted by Pauline Baynes.
But The Lord of the Rings isn’t the only series with awesome maps that fired my imagination. I really liked the Dragonlance series of books by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, and they always had cool maps.
And my love of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series is no secret around here. The map of where the main action took place that appeared at the beginning of each book always got my creative juices flowing. Below is the color version that was in the hardcovers.
Windbiter’s Finger? Mountains of Dhoom? The Spine of the World? The Isles of the Sea Folk? And what’s beyond the Aiel Wastes? I had to know!
Each book in The Wheel of Time also had excellent maps of many of the major cities. Check out some of them in my post “Fictional Lands I’d Love to Visit.”
And speaking of that post, I also mention my fondness for Tad Williams’s Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series. Those, as you can guess, also had a really evocative map of the land of Osten Ard.
That hand-drawn look–by Mr. Williams himself!–just hits my sweet spot. And I irrationally love those straight lines streaking across the ocean for a reason I can’t explain. Ditto the twilit dark around the Nornfells, with that halo of light around the one big mountain.
And of course, maps aren’t exclusive to fantasy. Dune by Frank Herbert has a cool map of the northern hemisphere of the planet Arrakis.
Video games used to have sweet maps as well. Gamers of a certain age will recall the world of Britannia from the Ultima games. The series’ setting didn’t hit any sort of consistency until the fourth game, but boy was that map a doozy.
And as a fan of The Elder Scrolls series since day one, the world of Tamriel always struck me as another place I’d love to actually go to, particularly some of the more exotic locales like Elsewyr, Sumerset Island, and Valenwood. Hell, the setting of Morrowind in the third game Morrowind was so alien and so unique, the more basic fantasy setting of game four, Oblivion, was a pretty big disappointment for me.
Hell, the world map in the best game in the series, Daggerfall, only consisted of parts of the provinces of High Rock and Hammerfell, and was half the size of Great Britain.
Further, you would click on any province and get HUNDREDS of towns, cities, dungeons, temples, and other places to explore. Or you could just pick a location, pick a direction, and wander the world to your heart’s content.
Console games were no slouch either. The original Final Fantasy for the old 8-bit Nintendo came with an excellent map, with each location providing a few lines to take notes.
So this post was pretty dorky. But that’s okay. We’re all dorky in our own way. And there’s nothing wrong with a nice map.
No map in A Traitor to Dreams, just a killer story.
No maps in my email list, just killer bonus content, previews, and a free short story!
No maps in my–
–oh, this joke’s gone far enough. If you like what you read, support Amatopia by donating via PayPal! Buy me a cup of coffee to help fuel my writing!