“Fictitious maps give form to a thing—the imagination—that has no form. They are mysteries and answers to those mysteries.” The New Yorker publishes a piece by Cloud Atlas author David Mitchell in which he describes his creative process, which since childhood has meant to Start with a Map—something he calls “a displacement activity,” but in the same breath he says “mapmaking and stage-sketching can be necessary aspects of writing.” Mitchell’s essay is an excerpt from a forthcoming book edited by Huw Lewis-Jones: The Writer’s Map: An Atlas of Imaginary Lands (University of Chicago Press, October), which sounds right up my alley.
E. H. Shepard’s original illustrated map of Winnie-the-Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood has sold at auction for £430,000, about three times the amount it was expected to fetch: BBC News, The Guardian. It’s the highest amount any book illustration has ever sold for at auction; this particular map has been auctioned twice before, most recently in 1970, when it sold for £1,700.
The Consolation of Maps (riverrun, June), the first novel from Irish writer Thomas Bourke, is set in the world of map exhibitions and map dealers. From the publisher’s book description: “Kenji Tanabe finds maps easier to read than people. At the elite Tokyo gallery where he works, he sells antique maps by selling the stories that he sees within their traces: their contribution to progress, their dramatic illustrations, their exquisite compasses. But no compass or cartography can guide him through the events that will follow the sudden and unexpected offer of a job in America.” The description and reviews (see GeoLounge and the Irish Times) portray this as more a literary novel than a mystery or thriller; I’ll have to check it out for myself. It’s only published in the U.K. but is available elsewhere through third-party dealers; Amazon UK will likely deliver regardless of the address. Kindle and iBooks versions will be geographically restricted, of course.
The original illustrated map of Winnie-the-Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood, drawn by E. H. Shepard, is being auctioned at Sotheby’s in July. Sotheby’s press release (PDF): “Featuring on the opening end-papers of the original 1926 book, the sketch introduces readers to the delightful imagination of Christopher Robin and his woodland friends. Exactly 40 years later the map played a starring role in the landmark Disney film—Winnie-the-Pooh and the Honey Tree—where it was brought to life as an animation in the film’s opening sequence.” The map, one of the best-known in English literature, is expected to fetch between £100,000 and £150,000; the BBC reports that the map last sold in 1970 for £1,700. Four original drawings by Shepard are also being auctioned. [Atlas Obscura]
The third edition of Mark Monmonier’s classic How to Lie with Maps (University of Chicago Press, 1o April) “includes significant updates throughout as well as new chapters on image maps, prohibitive cartography, and online maps. It also includes an expanded section of color images and an updated list of sources for further reading.” I reviewed the second edition back in May 2006. Amazon, iBooks
The Phantom Atlas, Edward Brooke-Hitching’s book about fictitious places that were once presented as real places, came out in the U.K. in November 2016. Though North American buyers could get a copy via online sellers, a proper U.S. edition (Chronicle, 3 April) is now available. The Wall Street Journal, of all places, has a review. Previously: The Phantom Atlas; More on Two Books About Nonexistent Places. Amazon, iBooks (U.K. edition, U.S. edition)
New in April
Zayde Antrim’s Mapping the Middle East (Reaktion, 1 April) “explores the many perspectives from which people have visualized the vast area lying between the Atlantic Ocean and the Oxus and Indus river valleys over the past millennium. By analysing maps produced from the eleventh century on, Zayde Antrim emphasizes the deep roots of mapping in a world region too often considered unexamined and unchanging before the modern period. Indeed, maps from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, coinciding with the eras of European colonialism and the rise of the nation-state, have obscured this deeper past and constrained future possibilities.” Amazon
Jeremy Black’s Mapping Shakespeare: An Exploration of Shakespeare’s Worlds Through Maps (Conway, 10 April) “looks at the England, Europe, and wider world in which Shakespeare worked through maps and illustrations that reveal the way that he and his contemporaries saw their land and their place in the world. It also explores the locations of his plays and looks at the possible inspirations for these and why Shakespeare would have chosen to set his stories there.” Amazon, iBooks
The Art of Map Illustration: A Step-by-Step Artistic Exploration of Contemporary Cartography and Mapmaking (Walter Foster, 3 April), an illustrated guide featuring the work and method of four map illustrators (James Gulliver Hancock, Hennie Haworth, Stuart Hill and Sarah King), was reviewed on The Map Room earlier this month. Amazon
Related: Map Books of 2018.
The Cartographers’ Guild, that online community of fantasy map makers, announced the 2018 winners of their Atlas Awards, which honour the best maps made by their members. It’s the second year of the Awards’ existence. Winners were named in eight categories, including best world, regional, city/town, hand-drawn, space, and structure and gaming maps; most original; and best overall map, for which there was a three-way tie between maps by Filippo Vanzo, John Stevenson and Katarina Božanić (see above). Click through to see the other winners and finalists: there is some extremely adept work on display there.
Holy cow—if you like fantasy maps, spend some time looking at New Orleans. WHAT IS EVEN GOING ON WITH THIS CITY?! If this came in from a freelancer, there are half a dozen things that would raise my eyebrows. pic.twitter.com/ApqYYWlE8d
— James L. Sutter (@jameslsutter) March 19, 2018
Don’t miss writer and game designer James L. Sutter critiquing New Orleans as though it was a city from a fantasy novel. A major criticism of fantasy maps, whether of cities or worlds, is their lack of realism: unrealistic rivers, mountains and so forth. New Orleans, with its totally unrealistic terrain, doesn’t pass the test. “Please clean up your map and resubmit when it follows the rules of a real-world city,” Sutter concludes.
Territory is an online literary magazine (or what they call “a literary project”) whose subject is “territories and the maps that will always fail to capture them. It’s about the naive dream of objectivity, and how we use the act of representation to both hide and broadcast our subjectivities.” Seven issues so far; they’re organized into what they call an atlas, and comprise various fictions, illustrations and other works of art. It will take me some time to go through it all. [Leventhal]
Sarah Gailey is the author of two novellas, River of Teeth and Taste of Marrow, about an alternate America that domesticated hippos, which promptly
ran swam feral in the Mississippi. In this Tor.com post, she describes how there wasn’t supposed to be an accompanying map, but one got made anyway.
It had never occurred to me to draw a map. I had written a story that wasn’t an epic, high-fantasy journey across nations. Why would I draw a map? Maps are for bigger stories, right? How does one go about drawing a map? I stayed up that night googling cartography. My search was not fruitful. I tucked that particular insecurity into the part of my brain where I catalogue all my shortcomings as a writer, and I did my best to forget about it.
Imagine, then, my abject horror when my River of Teeth editor, Justin Landon, sent me the following message: “oh hey, btw, do you have a rough map you’ve done for RoT?”
I said no, and he asked me to put something together. I hedged heavily, hoping that if I said “I will probably do a bad job” enough times, my editor might say “oh, ha ha, just kidding, I would never make you do something this hard! Please, go enjoy a cocktail.”
Reader, he made me do a map. I gritted my teeth, grabbed a piece of paper and an existing map of Louisiana, and braced myself for despair. You’ll never believe what happened next.
I had so much fun.
I like maps, because they lie.
Because they give no access to the vicious truth.
Because great-heartedly, good-naturedly
they spread before me a world
not of this world.
Landmarks: Maps as Literary Illustration, an exhibition of literary and fantasy maps at Harvard’s Houghton Library, is free to the public and runs through 14 April 2018. “Presented in conjunction with the bicentenary of the Harvard Map Collection, this exhibition brings together over 60 landmark literary maps, from the 200-mile-wide island in Thomas More’s Utopia to the supercontinent called the Stillness in N. K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. Visitors will traverse literary geographies from William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County to Nuruddin Farah’s besieged Somalia; or perhaps escape the world’s bothers in Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood.” Atlas Obscura has more on the exhibition, along with a selection of some of the maps it presents. [Tony Campbell]
Cat Rambo livetweeted some of the good bits from the online class on creating fantasy maps she taught with Alex Acks and Paul Weimer earlier this month (see previous entry), using the #mappingfantasy hashtag. Most of those good bits were common sense worldbuilding advice; by and large the intended audience is authors creating their fantasy worlds. They’re the ones who benefit most from basic geological or geographical advice, such as:
— 🌈RainbowRiotRambo🦄 (@Catrambo) December 16, 2017
Other tips would be familiar to cartography students.
— 🌈RainbowRiotRambo🦄 (@Catrambo) December 16, 2017
Here’s a point that makes sense from a worldbuilding perspective, but it has led to the cliché that every point on the map has to be visited:
— 🌈RainbowRiotRambo🦄 (@Catrambo) December 16, 2017
Here’s a book that, given my interest in maps and literature, I’ll have to track down: Literature and Cartography: Theories, Histories, Genres, edited by Anders Engberg-Pedersen and featuring contributions from 15 other authors. “Literary authors have frequently called on elements of cartography to ground fictional space, to visualize sites, and to help readers get their bearings in the imaginative world of the text. Today, the convergence of digital mapping and globalization has spurred a cartographic turn in literature. This book gathers leading scholars to consider the relationship of literature and cartography. Generously illustrated with full-color maps and visualizations, it offers the first systematic overview of an emerging approach to the study of literature.” Out today from The MIT Press. [Amazon]