For the past few years, I’ve been working somewhat diffidently on a research project that combines two obsessions: science fiction and fantasy, and maps. The end result of this project will be a few semi-scholarly articles, and convention presentations, as well as materials on this website.
I’m interested in the following questions:
First, the history of map design in fantasy and science fiction literature: where does the classic fantasy novel map “look” come from, and how has it changed over time? (My working hypothesis is that current fantasy maps are the direct descendents of the work of children’s book illustrators like Pauline Baynes and E. H. Shepard.)
Second, a comparison of fantasy maps to their real-world equivalents: what, for example, do medieval maps look like compared to fantasy maps of a roughly analogous period? (So far, it seems that they have almost nothing in common with one another; a medieval map would probably be unrecognizable to a modern fantasy reader.)
And third, the use of maps within the stories themselves: as treasure maps, as portals, as symbols, as metaphors.
This page serves as the central hub for my studies. It’s constantly updated and revised as I Learn New Things. I’ll also post updates on The Map Room: see the fantasy maps tag.
- Here Be Blank Spaces: Vaguely Medieval Fantasy Maps (The New York Review of Science Fiction 300, Aug 2013)
- The Territory Is Not The Map (The Map Room, 27 Sep 2017)
- What Does a Fantasy Map Look Like? (Tor.com, 19 Mar 2019)
- Fantasy Maps Don’t Belong in the Hands of Fantasy Characters (Tor.com, 28 May 2019)
- Where Do Fantasy Maps Come From? (Tor.com, 23 Sep 2019)
- Celebrating Christopher Tolkien’s Cartographic Legacy (Tor.com, 22 Jan 2020)
- Review: The Lands of Ice and Fire (The Map Room, 29 Nov 2012)
- Review: Here Be Dragons (The Map Room, 9 June 2013)
- A Literary Love Letter to Maps: The Writer’s Map (Tor.com, 26 Nov 2018)
- Bibliography (Nonfiction)
A list of articles, books and essays about fantasy map design, maps and the creative process, and other critical and personal essays about fantasy and maps.
- Fiction About Maps: A Bibliography
A list of various kinds of fiction, mostly fantasy and science fiction short stories and novels but also other genres, that use maps in the course of the story or that are stories about maps and cartography.