Alternate history is a long-established subgenre of science fiction. “But one of the deepest pleasures of alternate histories are their maps. Sometimes these allow stories to unfurl, or complement the hypothetical world of a tale being told. But in many cases, the map alone tells a story,” writes Samuel Arbesman in a piece exploring alternate history and its maps at BBC Future. It’s a 101-level piece insofar as alternate history the subgenre is concerned; the pleasure, as you might expect, is the maps shared and linked to. [ICA]
Gizmodo takes a look at the Imaginary Maps group on Reddit, where members mostly post imagined maps from alternate timelines—countries that never existed, the aftermath of wars that went the other way, that sort of thing. The bulk of the piece is an interview with frequent contributor xpNc, who talks about their own motivations for creating such maps. Some, of course, are controversial—a good way to pick a fight, apparently, is to draw a map of the Balkans with alternate borders. And, as xpNc tells Gizmodo, “Some people are just a little bit too enthusiastic about scenarios where Germany takes over the world, and I really don’t want to attract that crowd”—fortunately the wave of “Germany wins the Second World War” maps that I saw on the group a while back (last year?) seems to have abated.
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.