Monday, February 15, 2010

x marks the spot.

I can never even say that without the mental image of a face full teen erruptions - each with a x on them. It's hard living with my mind, I'll have you know. Anyway on a slightly more subject related topic, I just had to rush and provide the map of Valahia and the lands of the Golden Horde for MUCH FALL OF BLOOD. Georg is trying to do the thankless task of getting it done neatly in time for Wednesday. For once I am not the one trying to provide yet another rush-rush map and wrestling with mysterious monster that devours and distorts maps en route. Life was made interesting and even more fraught by not having a light table anymore or being able to find my notes and maps file (a real file with that weird stuff 'paper' in it. Oddly enough it's no less stressful or more difficult to lose than e-format, as there is only one copy) So: I am probably mildly unusual in that I like maps (or at least diagrams) in sf books, and find them almost intrinsic to good fantasy. I draw them. I obsess about them (now there is a surprise) and where I am working with 'real world' fantasy (such as the Heirs books) use Google earth and pushpins (with the correct place name for the time) almost constantly and the measure tool a lot.

So how do maps fit into your writing? Do you draw them? Hate having them in books? Get irritated (like me) by the map-maker (writer?) grasp of geography and underlying geology? Put distances on your maps and use those?

28 comments:

Kate said...

Ooh, another map lover!

When I'm working with real places google maps is essential - I forget how often I referred to the satellite view to get a feel for the terrain in Impaler - and if it's a fantasy I'll always have the maps I've drawn for reference.

When I'm drawing a map I start with coastline and mountains, and work out from there where the most likely courses for rivers are, what the climate is like and so forth. The geology degree helps a bit there.

Sometimes I'll do extra maps, like cities and castles and such, just so I don't have X turning left to get to the palace when he should be turning right.

We won't mention the compulsive collecting of atlases and street maps...

Brendan said...

I love a good map, there can be never enough detail(Which there never is). One thing I see pretty often is a well presented map, but it doesn't contain all the places mentioned in the book. If there is a map and the characters stop at the pub in Upper-Gildabrand North, I by God want to see it marked on the map, otherwise why mention it at all.

I do remember Marion Zimmer Bradley refused to do a map for Darkfall because as she said she changed the distances and whereabout of places to suit the story she was writing at the time.

Amanda Green said...

Like Kate, when working with real places, I use google maps. I've also been known to hang real maps on the walls around my desk and mark routes, locations, etc., for easy reference. Google earth is my friend too. For those places that exist solely in my head, I'll often sketch out a quick map.

As a reader, I appreciate having a map or set of maps in a book. I'll often flip to the map to check where the characters are in relation to where they are going. Maybe it's the gamer in me...maybe not.

Jonathan D. Beer said...

Being singularly inept with a pen or pencil the moment my hand stops trying to make letters and starts making strange shapes, I often make do with only the sketchiest of sketch-maps. I do, however, find them absolutely essential for my own work - I need the definition within my head to know "well, this is X distance from Y, so I know its going to take them three days my airship to get there". Without that, I tend to get a bit strange and worried - defined reference points are useful.

In other people's work, I always enjoy a good map (I've only read a couple of pieces of sci-fi with maps, but I enjoy them if they are there), and I think a properly artistic fantasy map can bring a realm to life. That said, I rarely look back at it whilst reading - once I'm into the book I can generally visualise where the action is taking place without reference to a map.

In short, a good map always benefits a decent book. And, of course, they give something pretty to look at when the book is done, and remember all the amazing adventures you have read about going on across that world...

Francis Turner said...

Love them.

I really love the topology view of google maps which allows you to see what the earth looks like without the current actual towns etc. on it. And for those who may be looking at mapping places in France I also recommend geoportail.fr which is much better that google maps for France.

The same goes, more or less, for SF as well. Of course when we get to star maps there's always the 2d vs 3d problem but I'm willing to cut writer's slack on that level depending on their FTL method (e.g. Lois M Bujuld's wormhole nexus doesn't need 3d at all).

Of course some SF (and fantasy) annoys me because the authors seem to have ruler straight mountains (Lord of the Rings anyone?) but I'd rather have an improbable map than no map.

matapam said...

Is it possible to write a Fantasy without having a map? How do you keep track of anything? How do things stay the same distance apart? How do yu find out where various characters are from?

::Twitch, twitch:: Must hug atlas while fingering hand drawn maps to escape the concept . . .

onyxhawke said...

In some fantasy I like maps, usually when there is big conflict inherent to the plot. For fantasy or SF in which most of the conflict is political and or emotional, I'm less needy. And honestly books that have more than a couple pages of maps in the front on the shelf underwhelm me.

keythong said...

Fantasy novels that involve actual travel should have a map of some sort, I think. Most others could do without one, and a bad map is worse than no map at all.

matapam said...

Even if not published, I suspect most writers need the maps as part of their world building. Not to mention what they might forget as they put the first draft aside to cool for a few weeks before they tackle it again.

Chris McMahon said...

I like maps. I always like it when there is a map in the book, particularly fantasy books. I loved David Gemmell, but there was never a good map in his books (bar one exception I think), and I would have loved a few diagrams.

Hey, Dave. I know exactly what you mean about the light table. My work involved working with a lot of historical maps at one point, trying to figure out where old industrial premises and boundaries were located. Man I just loved working on a light table! Nothing better for matching maps. I guess this is probably geek territory.

Dave Freer said...

Yeah, Chris, I forget - light tables (or light boxes) are very much part of the taxonomy side of Ichthyolgy - I forget that i'd never met one before that. Basically it's a light which shines up - usually through frosted glass - from underneath the map. It is then very easy to trace the map or picture onto another piece of paper. Wonderful tool for the map obsessed.

Dave Freer said...

Kate, yeah -and I pin them up so I can refer to them. But I love maps just to look at. Google earth still wastes a lot of my time. I also use the panarimo pics to get a feel for all those places - some around bran castle and Faragas mountains - lacul podragul one of my favorites are wild and moody enough to make dracula seem a bit tame :-).

Dave Freer said...

Brendan - you touch on a problem we're having with MFOB map - there COULD be a lot of detail - but many of places are too close together for that scale - it would take 5-6 maps of each 'action area'and several wider scale maps. I have them all push-pin labelled on my Google earth. Most publishers would baulk at anything like that. What about some sort of extended online link? What do you guys think?

Brendan said...

Dave, it may not be that bad as long as people know where the smaller places are in relation to the larger ones especially if as you say they are pretty close by.

An online map would be cool, but I can see this as another draw for the e-book. Thinking of how I can zoom in and move around on maps on my iPod. That would be cool for a big map like you suggest you would need.

Dave Freer said...

Jonathan - as a writer I need them and as a reader I enjoy them. Yet I have hit upon people who sneer at the kind of books that have maps.

Dave Freer said...

Amanda - the reality is a lot of our readers ARE gamers. If that works for them, and gets them to read our work, good.

Dave Freer said...

Francis -noted for maps of France.
Yes 3 D is an issue!

Dave Freer said...

Matapam - the very questions you ask DO ask themselves all too often in the mapless kind...

Dave Freer said...

O'Mike - it has been disdainfully said in my presence "It's the kind of fantasy that has maps." It emerged that the speaker was under the impression that a map meant a quest collect the tokens type fantasy - which she considered beneath her. YMMV, but there IS something in her take (despite the fact that I like maps, like having them in my books, and don't really write many quest-type books.

Dave Freer said...

Keythong - I suppose you have a point. There are some non-travelling fantasies.

Dave Freer said...

Brendan - definitely need to look into this as an adjunct to e-book (or even just ordinary book IMO) Stretch the net and the experience

onyxhawke said...

Dave,

Sadly some people are just morons and there's not much we can do about it short of some draconian eugenics pogrom. Not that those don't have their appeal some days.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Dave, you can always use a window in the day time as a light table. Just hold the map or drawing up to the glass and let the light shine through it.

Stephen Simmons said...

When I found LotR for the first time, thirty-odd years ago, the village library in my small town had a hardcopy edition of the books that I've never found anywhere since (and I've LOOKED). There was a large fold-out map in the back of each book that showed all of Middle-Earth, with the paths covered by the Fellowship in their travels dotted in ... and the book itself covered the harbor south of Minas Tirith, so it didn't interfere at all. I've loved maps for Fantasy ever since.

I'm half-way through volume one of my first attempt at writing Fantasy, and I have a map in my mind with several VERY detailed parts and several "here-there-be-dragons" sections reserved for the parts of the plot that are as yet only outline/framework. But I have no idea how I'm going to get that map out of my head and onto paper, when the time comes. I can ALMOST draw a straight line. With the help of a ruler. Sometimes.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Being me, and having been born with my sense of direction ablated and a total inability to interpret maps (I think my visual reasoning is changing/has changed since I hit my head, and finding my way on maps is becoming easier. BUT my habits of thought were formed when I scored somewhere in the bottom tenth percentile of visual IQ) I prefer to leave my landscapes lose and the time it takes to get places equally so. The difference is when I'm dealing with places that exist and historical means of transportation.
Like many British and French monarchs of past centuries, this week I'm being driven mad by Gascony. It makes me feel very reggal, I tell you.

Dave Freer said...

Stephen - fortunately maps have few straight lines :-D. funnily enough, I've seen that edition of Tolkein - and wanted one too.

Seriously - if you can manage to put down some rough sketches, there are some artists who do a remarkably good job of translatingthem into maps. I could even come up with a few names.

Dave Freer said...

Sarah, stop associating with all those bad people. Some of them had six wives. Others tride ordering the tide around. Regal affects the brain (must be the weight on your head. Stop wearing a cat-crown).

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Dave,

It explains the curious spelling in my comment. It was the keyboard, I swear!

:-P