Jonathan Crowe

My Correct Views on Everything

New Maps of Ceres and Pluto

Global Map of Pluto

As I predicted, a new global map of Pluto has been released that incorporates the imagery that has been downlinked so far from the New Horizons flyby: with gridlines, without gridlines. If nothing else, the equatorial projection demonstrates how much of Pluto’s surface was not seen during the very brief encounter. From what I understand, imagery downlinks will resume in September and carry on for another year, so this map will almost certainly see many more updates.

Meanwhile, Ceres also has some new maps.

Topographic Map of Ceres with Crater Names

Topographic Maps of Ceres' East and West Hemispheres

Elevation data for these colour-coded topographical maps “was constructed from analyzing images from Dawn’s framing camera taken from varying sun and viewing angles”; these data were then applied to image mosaics and mapped to cylindrical and orthographic projections. The cylindrical map also includes crater names recently approved by the IAU.

Image credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA (Ceres); NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute (Pluto).

About That Four-Legged Fossil Snake

Exciting news last week for those of us interested in the evolution of snakes: the announcement that a fossil snake with four legs has been discovered (abstract). The 20-cm long fossil of Tetrapodophis amplectus, which dates from the early Cretaceous, has lots of snake-like characteristics despite the legs.

But what’s controversial about the fossil is its murky origins. It came from a private collection with no locality data, but the researchers believe it came from a formation in northeastern Brazil. The problem is that it’s been illegal to export fossils from Brazil since 1942, which means that the Tetrapodophis fossil may have been illegally collected. Which is to say that this is potentially massive discovery may well be tainted.

I can’t help but wonder whether the issue isn’t just legality, but chain of evidence — if you can’t document where the fossil came from, how do you prove that it’s legitimate? That it isn’t another Archaeoraptor or Piltdown Man — two missing-link fossil discoveries that later proved false?

Previously: The Oldest Known Snake; The Biggest Venomous Snake Ever; A Cretaceous Snake with a Lizard’s Head.

Reviews Update

Book cover: The Philosopher KingsBook cover: The Just City This morning my review of The Just City and The Philosopher Kings, the first two books of Jo Walton’s Thessaly trilogy, went live at AE. I don’t have the background in classical history and literature to get all the references, but as I argue in my review, that’s not at all necessary to enjoy these books.

I’m also happy to announce, now that I’ve signed the contract, that my essay on the short fiction of Peter Watts will appear in translation as an afterword to a French collection of Watts’s short stories. The as-yet-untitled book will be published by Éditions du Bélial’ in 2016. So a landmark of sorts: my first reprint and my first translation.

Three Books on WWII Maps

  1. Great Escapes: The Story of MI9’s Second World War Escape and Evasion Maps by Barbara Bond (Times Books, October 2015): history of the escape maps produced for prisoners of war. Pre-order at Amazon (Canada, U.K.).
  2. Mapping the Second World War by Peter Chasseaud (Collins, October 2015): a collection of historical maps; follow-up to Chasseaud’s 2013 book Mapping the First World War. Pre-order at Amazon (Canada, U.K.).

  3. Mapping the Second World War: The Key Battles of the European Theatre from Above by Michael Swift and Michael Sharpe (Conway Maritime Press, November 2014). Buy at Amazon (Canada, U.K.).

Previously: Two Books on WWI Maps.

Actually, It’s About Ethics in Book Reviewing

As I mentioned in a previous post, I appeared on a panel called “It’s Actually About Ethics: Reviewing the Work of Colleagues and Friends” at Readercon. That was last weekend. Scott Edelman recorded video of that panel, so you can see me in all my questionable glory. As you will see, I have a few suggestions about who you should and should not review.

The ethics of writing book reviews seems to be a topic of the moment. I have a number of links. Let’s start with my friend Natalie Luhrs and her comprehensive article on the subject in Uncanny Magazine. That’s a good starting point.

Jonathan McCalmont is concerned about reviewers’ critical agency and has some sharp observations about the role reviewers play: “Why do so many bloggers make it look as though they are working an extra job as unpaid interns in the entertainment industry?” The truth about book reviews is that while they’re ostensibly for readers, the audience that cares about them most is the publishing industry: booksellers, librarians, publicists — and most of all authors, who are the ones who do most of the linking to and retweeting of reviews.

I’m very mindful of the fact that reviewing is a cog in the literary-industrial complex, and that it takes great force of personality to resist falling into line with the demands of publicity. For an example of such force of personality, see James Nicoll, who has enough of a problem with reviewers taking money from authors (he does sponsored reviews on his website, but, critically, not from the authors of the books) that he’s leaving Romantic Times over their for-pay RT Review Source.

The ethical book reviewer, it seems to me, has to be prepared to act against their own pecuniary and social self-interest — giving a friend a bad review, turning down money, losing social capital or access to advance copies — in favour of the integrity of their reviewing. But the ethical book reviewer will not suffer if authors and publishers are also ethical. Ethics in book reviewing, in other words, isn’t only about reviewers.

Child of a Hidden Sea

Book cover: Child of a Hidden Sea Alyx Dellamonica’s Child of a Hidden Sea (Tor Books, June 2014) is the kind of fantasy adventure novel you used to see a lot more of — not technically YA, but certainly something my 14- or 15-year-old self would have had no trouble reading. But do not make the mistake that this is some kind of throwback. It’s a delightful portal fantasy that brings the form up to date in several important ways.

Twenty-four-year-old Sophie Hansa, fresh off a difficult first contact with her birth mother, suddenly finds herself floating at sea, desperately trying to save the life of an aunt she’s just met. It turns out that she’s been swept away to Stormwrack, a richly developed fantasy world of island nations and dashing sailors. She is promptly sent back, but manages to return, bringing her brother Bram with her. Adventures naturally ensue.

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History of Cartography Project’s Sixth Volume Now Out

History of Cartography Volume 6 (book covers)

The sixth volume of the massive History of Cartography Project, Cartography in the Twentieth Century, is now available. Edited by Mark Monmonier, it takes two physical volumes and nearly two thousand pages to cover mapmaking in the twentieth century — and lists for an eye-popping $500 (U.S.), though it’s a bit cheaper on Amazon.

Volumes one through three are available for free download. Volumes four and five, covering the European Enlightenment and the nineteenth century, respectively, are still in development.

Buy at Amazon (Canada, U.K.)

Previously: History of Cartography Project Co-Founder Dies.


The New Yorker’s Elements blog has a piece about mapcodes. These are short alphanumeric codes assigned to every location on the planet, with short codes reserved for areas of high population density. It’s meant to be a substitute for latitude and longitude, and aimed at parts of the world where there are no formal addresses (which makes directions somewhat interesting): give someone a mapcode, and you’re giving them a very precise location.

The Peace Tower in Ottawa, for example, has an Ontario mapcode of 09W.YK (mapcodes exist within country and state/provincial contexts).

The main problem, as I see it, is that while the Mapcode Foundation is trying to make mapcodes a standard, it still relies on data tables to produce the code, which is to say that there’s some computational overhead. Whereas something like Universal Transverse Mercator coordinates can be derived from topo maps (which have UTM grids on them).

The Best Map of Pluto Ever (Until Some Time Later This Month)

New Horizons Map of Pluto

The New Horizons spacecraft’s rendezvous with Pluto is next week, folks, but we’re already getting better views of our favourite dwarf planet than we’ve ever had before. NASA has assembled images taken between June 27 and July 3 into the above map, which despite its relatively low resolution shows some intriguing surface features: the so-called “whale” and “donut.” (Of course, low resolution is relative: this is already much better than the Hubble-based maps of Pluto released in 2005 and 2010.) Image credit: NASA-JHUAPL-SWRI.

Robert Lazzaretti, Fantasy Mapmaker

Lou Anders interviews fantasy mapmaker Robert Lazzaretti, who drew the maps for Anders’s Thrones and Bones series (Frostborn, Nightborn). I can never get enough information about the process of making fantasy maps.

Previously: Mapping An Ember in the Ashes; How to Make a Fantasy Map.

Older Entries

Ecdysis Voter’s Packet
Best Saga Proposal Revised
My Readercon 26 Schedule
Some Initial Thoughts on a Couple of Hugo Award Amendments
iMac Hard Drive Replacement Program
The Changing Definition of ‘Slow’
The Pharmacy War Ends
RIP Yahoo Maps
Palladium in the Pontiac
Nikon 810A Reviewed
Conservation Through Identification
The Short Fiction of Peter Watts
Mapping the California Sea Floor
Mapping An Ember in the Ashes
Google Apologizes for Offensive Map Search Results
John Lanzendorf’s Paleoart
Aurora Award Nomination
The Martian
Google Map Maker Program Suspended