Cartophilia

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Is “cartophilia” a word? I could look it up online, but I don’t carebecause officially or not, it’s a word now!

Designing the map for The Last Ancestor with my friend ArtAnon Studios was a lot of fun. I always loved maps, in fiction and in real life, so that’s what this post is about: maps. And lots of them.

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Map from The Last Ancestor

Road Trippin’

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.

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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.

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It’s so awesome, my father later found a classic version of the map painted by Pauline Baynes.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Let’s Play!

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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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Love it.

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.

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No maps in In Search of Sacha either, just killer art and a killer story. Back the project here–over 50% funded now!

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No maps in my email list, just killer bonus content, previews, and a free short story!

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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!

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35 comments

  1. The Sirius Star Sector from Freelancer:

    The various star sectors of Freelancer’s Crossfire mod:

    In the original game, every solar system was unique. Some were larger than others, and some were prettier and/or more dangerous than others. I only hope that they preserved this in Crossfire.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I raise you Fire Emblem 4’s world map, along with the one for its interquel follow-up Fire Emblem 5. Note that 5’s map is a close-up of the southeastern region in 4 — indeed, this also applies to FE5 itself, where places you only saw from a bird’s eye view in the previous game have more detail in them.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you! Fire Emblem 4 is one of my favorites story-wise. I love the notion of a heroic legacy and the generational time-span, which showed the world changing. And who could forget the Belhalla BBQ (or Leif losing his parents — an event you’re powerless to stop?)

        However, I never did beat Thracia 776.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Mr. Nyanzi, I wanted to say something else to you, but I’m unable to comment on your blog and I’m not on Twitter, so this is the only way I could figure.

      In your recent post “Appealing to Men,” you said the following:

      “I specifically wrote Shining Tomorrow Volume 1 to not work as a video game. Although I wasn’t thinking of it at the time, I gave it a female protagonist and centered much of the plot around things women would concern themselves with (with plenty of violence thrown in, of course.) I will continue this general woman-centric approach in Volume 2, as more women than men would likely be interested in any novel at all.”

      Because I think you’d want to know about customers’ attitudes, I wanted to give my two cents. I bought and enjoyed Sword and Flower and look forward to more of your work, but I have no interest in Shining Tomorrow. Your decisions that you regard as appealing to women do not at all appeal to me. Why? Because both the protagonist and the person she’s trying to save are female. In books I read, I always want, if not the protagonist, at least the secondary protagonist to be male. Why? Because, to put it bluntly, I want to be able to have a crush on the hero! There are very few stories with all-female major characters that hold any appeal for me. (Kamikaze Girls and Aria are the only ones I can think of.) When I was a child and thought boys were gross, then I only wanted stories about girls; but now that I’m an adult, I want to admire heroic men. The fact that feminists claim women only want stories about women shows how immature they are.

      I may be projecting my mindset onto other women more than is warranted, so just take this as one reader’s outlook, but there it is. Also, you’re welcome to tell me that Shining Tomorrow does also have awesome male major character(s) and thus I should buy it after all. ^_^

      Liked by 1 person

      • Camilla, you may actually be correct. Jon Del Arroz’s great success in releasing his highly masculine and adventurous Nano Templar novel — it exceeded even his own expectations — directly refutes the assertions I made on my blog.

        Also, Shining Tomorrow sold poorly overall; I don’t intend on writing any sequels to it anymore, though I will leave it up for sale. The market has spoken, and I must listen.

        The silver lining to this is that the next set of books I have planned does have exactly what you’re asking for; I had started writing it about two years ago, but I trunked it. Now, I’m giving it a second look.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well I’m glad you guys are able to talk here!

        Camilla, what you say about preferring male heroes, as a female, sort of proves Brian Niemeier’s general philosophy that in science-fiction or fantasy, unless there’s a real compelling argument, the main character should be male.

        In my first book A Traitor to Dreams, female main character fit the story so much better. The Last Ancestor, by contrast, is a total guy novel. I wonder if I’ll get more readers for it than for ATTD.

        Rawle, whenever you decide to write, I’ll be looking forward to it! And for the record, I dug Shining Tomorrow.

        Like

      • Alex: Thanks. I do think Last Ancestor would have a bigger audience.

        Camilla: I’m interested in your opinion on Brian Niemeier’s idea as well. My next one is going to feature a masculine male protagonist, as opposed to a Star Lord-style “snarkbuckler.”

        Liked by 1 person

    • I think Brian Niemeier is probably right. At the very least, if an adventure story has a female protagonist, it needs a male secondary protagonist that is just as active, if not more, as she. And then there’s still the danger of it turning into a romance. (Romance being included is great; it’s when it takes over the plot that’s the problem.)

      Glad to hear about your next planned series! I look forward to it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I LOVE maps! They’re an endless source of creativity.

    And nothing beats the original LoTR maps.

    The first thing I did after reading The Lord of the Rings for the first time 33 years ago was start drawing maps. A couple of years later I came up with one that I spent hundreds of hours on and even turned into a hand-drawn poster. To this day, I’m still coming up with stories and details and cultures to put in it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t have any shareable versions of my own maps…but there are a lot of people who have done some fun things with Middle-Earth cartography. Also, the maps that came with the old MERP game modules in the 80s & early 90s were absolutely gorgeous. Impossible to have any shortage of game or story ideas when you’re looking at a map like this: https://merp.fandom.com/wiki/File:Andrast.jpg

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  5. I still have roadmaps for about a quarter of the US states. I used to stop in the welcome center after crossing state lines to grab them. But I don’t even carry them in the car with me even more.

    I am very partial to Tolkien’s own maps and to the map that came with the War in Middle Earth computer game.

    I have a print of the Wheel of Time map on the wall in my home office. The same artist did a map of Robert E. Howard’s Hyborian Age for the Robert Jordan Conan omnibuses.

    Maps are one of the big reasons why I still prefer physical books to ebooks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “I still have roadmaps for about a quarter of the US states. I used to stop in the welcome center after crossing state lines to grab them. But I don’t even carry them in the car with me even more.”

      I don’t carry anymore either! I really should.

      “I am very partial to Tolkien’s own maps and to the map that came with the War in Middle Earth computer game.”

      I’ll have to check out the one from the game.

      “I have a print of the Wheel of Time map on the wall in my home office. The same artist did a map of Robert E. Howard’s Hyborian Age for the Robert Jordan Conan omnibuses.”

      Awesome! Those are great maps.

      “Maps are one of the big reasons why I still prefer physical books to ebooks.”

      Same! Even when ebooks have maps, it’s not QUITE the same.

      Liked by 1 person

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