Mapping Star Wars

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (screenshot)

From a certain point of view, The Force Awakens is the story of how a rare and valuable map was kept out of the hands of an unscrupulous and extremely motivated collector. While a map served as the MacGuffin of Episode 7, maps of the Star Wars universe have been a thing for a while, at least in terms of supporting material.

According to this 2015 article on the Star Wars website about the history of maps of the Galaxy Far, Far Away, the first official map was produced in 1998. Since then the Star Wars galaxy’s map has been surprisingly consistent despite the addition of a huge amount of material (movies, TV shows, ancillary books and comics) and the canon shift that took place when Disney bought Lucasfilm: older maps—such as fan websites like Modi’s or W. R. van Hage’s, or the 2009 Star Wars: The Essential Atlas (updated with online appendices)—may not include planets that appear in later movies and TV shows (e.g., Jakku, Scarif or Lothal), but what does appear stays in the same place from map to map (i.e., Tatooine and Coruscant are in the same place). Jason Fry’s System Database keeps track of things.

The most up-to-date map I’ve been able to find is Henry Bernberg’s interactive Star Wars Galaxy Map, which has several advantages. Built using ArcGIS—he’s a GIS professional—and hosted using Carto, it has toggleable layers and is searchable (many maps online are simple images, which is tricky when you’re looking for a specific planet). It is, in other words, a useable map, which is a rare thing in science fiction and fantasy, and almost essential when dealing with an imaginary universe of Star Wars’ size.

Mapping Deep Space Nine’s Bajor

Adam Whitehead (based on a map by Robert Hewitt Wolfe)

Fantasy worlds have established maps. Science fictional worlds not so much: what maps exist of imaginary planets are often fan imaginings rather than “official” work. One exception is the planet Bajor, a key location in the TV series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Its map was created by DS9 writer Robert Hewitt Wolfe, who drew it on a white board in the show’s writer’s room, and maintained it over five seasons. Wolfe posted the map to Twitter last week.

Adam Whitehead, who runs the Atlas of Ice and Fire blog, has created a version of Wolfe’s map of Bajor; he also used Map to Globe to give us a spheroid version.

New Edition of Star Trek: Stellar Cartography

Cover of Star Trek: Stellar CartographyA new edition of Star Trek: Stellar Cartography is coming out in October, TrekCore reports. Like The Lands of Ice and Fire, it’s a collection of folded maps—10 of them, 24″×36″ in size—rather than a bound atlas. The new edition, authored by Larry Nemecek, corrects errors and typos and adds material from the various series, including season one of Discovery. (The first edition came out in 2013.)

Previously: Mapping Star Trek.

Mapping Star Trek

This month marks Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, so I thought it might be worth it to put together a little post about maps in Star Trek. This proved to be more fraught a subject than I expected. There are a lot of maps of the Star Trek universe out there by divers hands, some more official than others, and they don’t always agree on all points, as Sufficient Velocity forum member WhiteDragon25 griped in 2014:

Despite so many planets, stars, systems, and other locations that were mentioned and referenced to throughout the entire franchise’s run, we’ve never got an official and fully accurate map of the Trek universe. […] Hell, for all of the Star Wars EU’s faults, at least it managed to generate a universally accepted map! Star Trek on the other hand, despite being just as popular as Star Wars, cannot even figure out the sizes and positions of the Feds, the Romulans, and the Klingons in relation to one another!

WhiteDragon25 might be overstating things a bit: most of the maps have the Star Trek major powers in the same relative position (other empires like the Tholians are another matter). But the point remains. While original series canon assigned aliens to known nearby stars, and the shows occasionally used real locations (e.g. Wolf 359), episode writers did not start with a map and generally did not take spatial relationships into consideration, which no doubt has made the belated mapping process a bit more challenging.

star-trek-map-books

In print form, the earliest map I’m aware of is Star Trek Maps (1980), which according to Memory Alpha was a pair of double-sided map posters accompanied by a fairly mathy booklet; of course, the Star Trek universe was a lot smaller then. Star Trek: Star Charts came out in 2002 and seems to be considered the most canonical of the maps in existence; it’s out of print now, though. Star Trek: Stellar Cartography (2013), a collection of ten 24″×36″ folded maps. (Note that I haven’t seen any of these maps.)

star-trek-stellar-cartography

Online, Star Trek Dimension’s Cartography section has maps from the series as well as Christian Rühl’s Galactic AtlasStarTrekMap.com, a fan site that appears to be based on Star Trek: Star Charts, uses an in-universe interface that functions well (scroll wheel zooming!) but is awfully small on large screens. Neither has been updated in years. The Star Trek Online game also has, as you might expect, a map.