Jonathan Crowe

My Correct Views on Everything
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The Only Fantasy World Map You’ll Ever Need

The Only Fantasy World Map You'll Ever Need

The Only Fantasy World Map You’ll Ever Need by Jake Manley isn’t the first map of its kind that I’ve seen (see also the map in Diana Wynne Jones’s Tough Guide to Fantasyland); still, it’s clear that fantasy maps are a proven vehicle to satirize and critique the genre. (And be satirized and critiqued.) Via @scalzi.

Importing CanVec Data into OpenStreetMap

Last February I imported CanVec data into OpenStreetMap for the first time.

CanVec is a dataset produced by the federal Department of Natural Resources. It’s been made available to use in OpenStreetMap: users have to download the data for a given area and import it into the OSM database.

It’s a great resource, but I’ve been giving CanVec the side eye for years, largely because OSM users had been bungling the imports and not cleaning up the mess they made. To some extent it also encouraged a certain amount of laziness from Canadian OSM users: why go to the trouble of tracing imagery or going out with a GPS if you could just download the data from the Natural Resources FTP server?

That said, most of my complaints were from a few years ago; it’s been a while since I’ve seen a CanVec-induced mess in the database (for example, doubled or even tripled roads imported on top of one another). And between existing imports and the improved Bing aerial and satellite imagery coverage, there weren’t many places I was aware of that I could, you know, try a CanVec import for myself.

Except one.

Continue reading this entry

Art and Personal Mapmaking

Book cover: Map Art LabBook cover: Make Map Art

Two books (well, one is sort of book-ish) related to map art and personal cartography to tell you about:

  1. Map Art Lab: 52 Exciting Art Explorations in Mapmaking, Imagination, and Travel by Jill K. Berry and Linden McNeilly (Quarry Books, 5/14): “map-related activities set into weekly exercises, beginning with legends and lines, moving through types and styles, and then creating personalized maps that allow you to journey to new worlds.”

  2. Make Map Art: Creatively Illustrate Your World by Nate Padavick and Salli Swindell (Chronicle Books, 2/14), a “creative toolkit” that includes a booklet and 30 pull-out sheets to use as templates for personal mapmaking projects.

Via Fuck Yeah Cartography.

Jill Kelly’s previous work, Personal Geographies: Explorations in Mixed-Media Mapmaking, was reviewed here in 2011.

The Geology of ‘Game of Thrones’

The Geology of Game of Thrones

In The Geology of Game of Thrones, a group of geologists has created a geologic map of Westeros and Essos, as well as an invented geologic history of the planet on which George R. R. Martin’s epic takes place. Via io9.

This isn’t the first time a fantasy world has been looked at through a geologic lens. Karen Wynn Fonstad’s Atlas of Middle-earth took a reasonably rigorous look at the landforms of Middle-earth. And Antony Swithin — a geologist in real life under his real name, William Sarjeant — created a geologic map of his invented island of Rockall (see previous entry).

Previously: Review: The Lands of Ice and Fire.

Unlikely Cartography ToC

The table of contents for the Journal of Unlikely Cartography, Unlikely Story’s single-issue special featuring science fiction and fantasy stories about maps (see previous entry), has been announced; the issue will be out in June.

Trap Street, the Movie

A trap street is a fictitious street inserted by a mapmaker to catch plagiarists. Trap Street is also the title of a movie making the rounds of the festival circuit. Directed by Vivian Qu, Trap Street (Shuiyin jie) tells the story of a mapmaker who encounters a mysterious woman on an unmappable street. Based on the IMDB listing, it seems to be headed for a June release. (Does anyone have more information on this film?) Via Jennifer.

Ganymede and Mercury

Geologic map of Ganymede

The USGS has published a geologic map of Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest moon and the largest moon in the Solar System, based on imagery from the Voyager 1, Voyager 2 and Galileo probes. Via Centauri Dreams, Sky and Telescope.

Meanwhile, Sky and Telescope has produced a Mercury globe based on MESSENGER imagery. They already produce both visual and topographic globes of the Moon and Mars, as well as a globe of Venus coloured for elevation. (I’m crossing my fingers for globes of the outer moons, myself.)

I’m big on maps and globes of the rest of the Solar System. Recent entries: Maps of Mercury; Atlas of Vesta; A Topographic Map of Titan.

A Map of U.S. Intercity Bus and Train Routes

Map of public transport in the U.S.

This map from the American Intercity Bus Riders Association (PDF) attempts to map every intercity bus and train route in the United States — i.e., everywhere you can go without a car. It’s a huge, high-resolution, detailed map, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they missed some. Via Grist and GIS Lounge.

A Book About Globes

Book cover: Globes Sylvia Sumira’s forthcoming book on globes — titled Globes: 400 Years of Exploration, Navigation and Power in its U.S. edition and The Art and History of Globes in its British edition — is a history of globemaking during its peak: “Showcasing the impressive collection of globes held by the British Library, Sumira traces the inception and progression of globes during the period in which they were most widely used — from the late fifteenth century to the late nineteenth century — shedding light on their purpose, function, influence, and manufacture, as well as the cartographers, printers, and instrument makers who created them.” Out next month from University of Chicago Press (for North America) and in April from the British Library (Commonwealth markets). Amazon (UK). Via Boing Boing.

Mapping How Much Snow Cancels School

Map of amount of snow required to cancel school

Reddit user atrubetskoy has produced a map of the U.S. showing how much snow it takes to cancel school. It’s an approximation, to be sure. But it’s not a map of winter wussiness: areas that rarely get a lot of snow don’t tend to have the infrastructure to deal with it. Via io9.

Two More Map Books

Book cover: London: The Selden Map and the Making of a Global City Book cover: Map Worlds: A History of Women in Cartography

Two more map books, this time of an academic bent:

Previously: More Map Books.

The New Yorker on Maps and Literature

Go read Casey N. Cep’s essay, “The Allure of the Map,” on the New Yorker’s website: she explores the relationship between maps and literature on several fronts, including the role of maps in the creative process and the relationship between mapmaking and reality. Also quite a bit on the recurrent meme of the 1:1 map — the map as large as the thing being mapped — from Carroll to Borges to (I did not know) Gaiman (Swanwick and Eco too, if I’m not mistaken: more could indeed be said). Anyway: relevant to our interests. Go read.

More Map Books

Book cover: Mr. Selden's Map of ChinaBook cover: Golden Age of Maritime MapsBook cover: Maps of ParadiseBook cover: International Atlas of Mars Exploration

Here are some map books that I recently found out about:

Review: A History of the World in Twelve Maps

If somebody who was vaguely interested in maps wanted a book to get them started, I think I might point them toward A History of the World in Twelve Maps, written by Renaissance Studies professor Jerry Brotton. This book first appeared in September 2012 in Great Britain, where it’s now out in paperback. The U.S. edition came out last month in hardcover.

It’s a history of cartography that takes a rather unique approach: instead of providing a straight narrative history, Brotton focuses on twelve maps (or, more precisely, mapmaking endeavours), ranging from Ptolemy’s Geography to Google Earth. But Brotton does a lot more than talk about just twelve maps.

Continue reading this entry

Earth Wind Map

Earth Wind Map (screenshot)

Earth Wind Map is a transfixing animated visualization of global wind forecasts, updated every three hours. It would be fine enough to enjoy passively, but you can play with it: click and drag to change the view, select from a variety of map projections and pressure levels. Via io9 and GIS Lounge, among many others.

Previously: Wonderful Wind Map.

The Journal of Unlikely Cartography

When it comes to maps and fantasy, I’m particularly interested in the ways that maps are used in the course of a story, as opposed to appearing at the front of the book for reference purposes. I’ve posted many examples over the past few years and have a bunch more in my to-read pile.

It looks like next year will add considerably to that list: Unlikely Story is publishing a single-issue Journal of Unlikely Cartography. The call for submissions:

From pirate maps leading to buried treasure to painstakingly-drawn maps of continents that never were, there are endless unlikely possibilities in the world of cartography. Send us your story of a rogue GPS taking a driver down non-existent roads, show us what lies in those unexplored territories labeled “here there be monsters,” give us haunted globes, star charts written in disappearing ink, and spiraling lines on crumbling parchment leading to the center of the labyrinth. As always, we want gorgeously-told tales, gripping characters, and unique worlds to explore. Genre doesn’t matter to us, along as your tale involves maps or cartography in some integral way.

Pays 5¢/word on publication, deadline February 1. I have had considerable difficulty in submitting to anthologies in the past (I write fiction very slowly; the story never quite gels in time for the deadline), but I really, really, really need to submit something to this.

Unfathomable City

Book cover: Unfathomable City Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas, by Rebecca Solnit and Rebecca Snedeker, came out last month from University of California Press. At first glance it looks like it does for New Orleans what Solnit’s previous work, Infinite City, did for San Francisco: it’s a collection of essays and maps that, as before, displays two complementary or contrasting things on the same city map. In my review of Infinite City I suggested that not every city could sustain a project like this, though San Francisco obviously could; it seems to me that New Orleans is a natural followup.

Gift Guide: Map Books of 2013 →

Review: Barrington Atlas iPad App

Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World (screenshot)

The Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World was a landmark in historical cartography: an atlas that pinpointed locations from classical antiquity on modern maps. The result of more than a decade’s work and $4.5 million in funding support (here’s the project website), the print version of the Barrington Atlas, which came out in 2000, was both enormous and expensive: larger than either the National Geographic or Times Comprehensive atlases,1 and priced at an eye-popping $395.

Now, as I mentioned earlier, there’s an iPad version of the Barrington Atlas, which (they say) contains the full content of the $395 print atlas and costs only $20 (iTunes link). On that basis it’s a no-brainer: $20 is better than $395. (95 percent off!) Classicists with iPads who don’t buy this app have something wrong with them. But how does it work as a map app?

Continue reading this entry

How to Make a Fantasy Map

Map from The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley; map by Isaac Stewart

So today Tor.com posted something very much relevant to my interests: a piece by illustrator Isaac Stewart that describes his process for creating a map for a fantasy novel. In this case, The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley, who very helpfully provided a sketch from which Stewart could work.

This is utterly fascinating for me, because a significant gap in my research into fantasy maps has been the process of creating them. It’s sort of left me feeling like a wine taster that has no idea how wine is made. Stewart (who has also done work for Brandon Sanderson’s novels: his maps for The Alloy of Law have already caught my attention) takes us through every step, from inspiration through Photoshop.

Earlier this year I published an article pointing out that the main difference between historical and fantasy maps was information density: a real medieval map is full of detail, because cartographers don’t dare waste vellum; fantasy maps are relatively sparse — largely, I suspected, because only so much detail can legibly fit on a map printed for a mass-market paperback. That was an educated guess on my part; it’s interesting to see it confirmed:

A map meant to fit in a hardcover book (and subsequently a paperback) can’t be as detailed as a real-world map and still be legible. Even though I treat the map as a product of its fantasy world, it has to be understandable to modern audiences. Usually this means I can’t copy the exact style of my reference, but I can use it for inspiration.

I’ll be referring to Stewart’s post often, I think.

Earth from Space

Book cover: Earth from Space Aerial photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand, author of Earth from Above and related books of photography, ups the altitude somewhat with his new book, Earth from Space, in which he presents and interprets more than 150 satellite photos. Via io9’s holiday gift guide.

Speaking of gift guides, my gift guide to the map books of 2013, listing some of the noteworthy books about maps that have been published over the previous year, is now up.

Previously: Earth from Above: Yann Arthus-Bertrand Comes to New York.

The United Watershed States of America

United Watershed States of America 2

In 1879, surveyor (and future USGS director) John Wesley Powell proposed that the boundaries of future western states be determined by watersheds, in order to avoid water use conflicts. John Lavey takes this proposal to its logical conclusion, imagining a U.S. in which all 50 states follow watershed boundaries. Via io9.

Previously: Fifty Equal States Redux.

Maps of Mercury

H-12 Michaelangelo

The USGS has released quad maps of the planet Mercury as a set of PDF files: “The 1:5 million-scale series of Mercury maps divides Mercury into 15 quadrangles, H-1 through H-15 (five Mercator, eight Lambert Conformal, and two Polar Stereographic quadrangles). The base mosaic was produced with orbital images by the MESSENGER Team and released by NASA’s Planetary Data System on March 8, 2013. This new global mosaic includes 100% coverage of Mercury’s surface.”

Two Detailed Rail Maps

Northeast Rail Map

A couple of supremely detailed rail maps to bring to your attention, both of which show every line and station of long-distance, regional and commuter rail networks. There’s one for California, which uses a Beck-like, diagrammatic design, and one for the Northeast Corridor (see above), which opts for geographic accuracy. Despite the differences there’s a lot of overlap on the two design teams. Creative Commons licensed, with printed posters available.

The Barrington Atlas Comes to the iPad

At a list price of $395, the print version of the Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World (Princeton University Press, 2000), was more expensive than some iPads. Which makes the forthcoming iPad version of the Atlas, described in the announcement as “complete content of the classic reference work,” a veritable bargain at only $20.

In 102 interactive color maps, this app re-creates the entire world of the Greeks and Romans from the British Isles to the Indian subcontinent and deep into North Africa. Unrivaled for range, clarity, and detail, these custom-designed maps return the modern landscape to its ancient appearance, marking ancient names and features in accordance with modern scholarship and archaeological discoveries. Geographically, the maps span the territory of more than seventy-five modern countries. Chronologically, they extend from archaic Greece to the Late Roman Empire.

It’ll be available on November 21: plenty of time for me to get a new iPad Air by then (it works on all iPads except the original).

Previously: Barrington Atlas.

Two Books on WWI Maps

Two forthcoming books that deal with maps of the First World War: Peter Chasseaud’s Mapping the First World War: The Great War Through Maps from 1914-1918, out in a few weeks from Collins; and Simon Forty’s Mapping the First World War: Battlefields of the Great Conflict from Above, out some time next year from Conway Maritime Press.

World of Equal Districts

World of Equal Districts

I’ve seen a lot of maps that redraw national or subnational boundaries in the name of equal population (here’s a recent example) but the World of Equal Districts is the first I’ve seen to do it for the entire planet: it divides the world into 665 districts, each of which has around 10 to 11 million inhabitants. This is the electoral district map for a planetary parliament. Via Boing Boing and MetaFilter.

Atlas of Vesta

Atlas of Vesta

An atlas of Vesta, comprising a series of 29 quad maps (mirror) assembling visual and relief data from the Dawn spacecraft’s visit to the large asteroid between July 2011 and September 2012, has been released.

Sea Monsters and the Carta Marina

Carta Marina (top)

It looks like 2013 is the Year of Sea Monsters on Maps. Earlier this year we saw Chet Van Duzer’s Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps (my review); now comes a new study that focuses on a single sixteenth-century map and its many illustrations of seagoing critters: the Carta Marina (1539) by Swedish ecclesiastic Olaus Magnus. Joseph Nigg’s Sea Monsters: The Lore and Legacy of Olaus Magnus’s Marine Map was published last month in the United Kingdom by Ivy Press; in the United States and Canada it’s available from the University of Chicago Press under the title Sea Monsters: A Voyage around the World’s Most Beguiling Map. From the University of Chicago Press page:

Book cover: Sea Monsters (Nigg)

Nearly two meters wide in total, the map’s nine wood-block panels comprise the largest and first realistic portrayal of Northern Europe. But in addition to these important geographic elements, Magnus’s map goes beyond cartography to scenes both domestic and mystic. Close to shore, Magnus shows humans interacting with common sea life — boats struggling to stay afloat, merchants trading, children swimming, and fisherman pulling lines. But from the offshore deeps rise some of the most magical and terrifying sea creatures imaginable at the time or thereafter — like sea swine, whales as large as islands, and the Kraken. In this book, Nigg provides a thorough tour of the map’s cartographic details, as well as a colorful look at its unusual pictorial and imaginative elements. He draws on Magnus’s own text to further describe and illuminate the inventive scenes and to flesh out the stories of the monsters.

Sea Monsters
by Joseph Nigg
Ivy Press (U.K.); University of Chicago Press (U.S.), Aug. 2013
Buy at Amazon (U.K.) | publisher’s page: U.K., U.S. | Goodreads | LibraryThing

My New Article on Fantasy Maps: ‘Here Be Blank Spaces’

NYRSF logo My short essay on fantasy maps, “Here Be Blank Spaces: Vaguely Medieval Fantasy Maps” appears in issue #300 of The New York Review of Science Fiction, out today. I wrote it in response to several books I read rather closely together earlier this year: Reinhart’s Art of the Map, Van Duzer’s Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps, and especially Ekman’s Here Be Dragons (links to my reviews). Taken together, these books highlighted a key difference between fantasy maps and their real-world counterparts from medieval and early modern Europe: fantasy maps are full of blank spaces; real-world maps were not.

Issue #300 of the NYRSF should be available to subscribers now. If you’re not a subscriber, you’re in luck: issue #300 is being made available for free (it’s the NYRSF’s 25th anniversary, and the publishers are offering it to celebrate and in hopes that you’ll subscribe). Download it from this page. I’ll eventually have it up in the Articles section as well.

Update 8/28: Read the article here.

Ian Silva’s Koana Islands

Koana Islands (Ian Silva)

Wired Map Lab has the story of Ian Silva, who’s been posting astonishing road and transit maps of the imaginary Koana Islands to Reddit; the Islands now have their own section on the site, replete with a travel guide. It’s as serious an undertaking as William Sarjeant’s Rockall, Jerry Gretzinger’s Ukrainia, or Austin Tappan Wright’s Islandia.

I admit it: I love geofiction — creating imaginary worlds through maps — and I always get excited when I encounter a great new mapmaker. This is no exception.

Older Entries

The World on an Egg, circa 1504
Tube Map Live
Pluto’s Problematic Cartography
A Fantasy Map of Ireland
Wired Map Lab
Close Up at a Distance
Circular Subway Maps
A Fantasy Map of Great Britain
A Fantasy Map of Australia
The Mapmaker’s War
Map of Northern Biomass
Error Reporting in Apple Maps
Fantasy Maps Project Page Updated
Alberta Flood Maps
Herbal Earth
Review: Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps
Map of All American Rivers
Apple Maps on the Mac
Review: Here Be Dragons
The Sixteenth-Century Origins of Fantasy Maps
Mapping Antarctica’s Bedrock
A Renaissance Globemaker’s Toolbox
Review: The Art of the Map
New Google Maps: First Impressions
My Own Private Westeros
Here Be Sea Monsters
A Topographic Map of Titan
Google Maps Redesigned
OpenStreetMap’s New Map Editor
Fictional Worlds Map-Making Competition
The KickMap Comes to London
Mapping Manhattan
The World According to Illustrators and Storytellers
All Online Maps Suck
The Imaginarium Geographica
Fifty Equal States Redux
Lunar Gravity Map
Ankh-Morpork on the iPad
The Book of Thomas: Volume One: Heaven
Review: On the Map
Saladin Ahmed on Secondary World Fantasy
Laser-Cut Wood Bathymetric Charts
Laconic History of the World
The Onion on Apple Maps
Census Dotmap
The Measure of Manhattan
Google Maps for iPhone
Antony Swithin’s Rockall
Review: The Lands of Ice and Fire
Jeffrey Beebe’s Refractoria
Let Maps to Others
Nokia’s Here Maps App
The World Fantasy Map Panel
Now Out: The Lands of Ice and Fire
Apple-Google Maps Kremlinology
A World Without Spin
Apple, Google and China: iOS Maps
Roger Zelazny’s Here There Be Dragons
iOS 6 Maps: First Impressions and More Links
iOS Maps: More Reactions and Analysis
Reactions to Apple’s Maps
On the Map: A New Book from Simon Garfield
Early Reviews of iOS 6 Maps
Soundings: A Biography of Marie Tharp
Ground Truthing Google Maps
Dung Kai-cheung’s Atlas
Mapping Infinite Jest
Mapping Hurricane Tracks
Maps of Songs and Films
Mapping the Nation
Kate Elliott on Fantasy Maps
Waldseemüller Globe Gore Found
Mapping the Heat Wave
A Scholarly Work on Fantasy Maps
Apple Replaces Google Maps on iOS
Mapping Tornado Tracks
Map of a Nation
Apple to Abandon Google Maps in iOS 6?
Does a Map Reveal Roanoke’s Fate?
U.S. Life Expectancy by County
New Moon Globe Released
El Viaje de Argos
The Lands of Ice and Fire: Westeros Atlas Coming in October
Wonderful Wind Map
OpenStreetMap in Watercolour
Perpetual Ocean
19th-Century Children’s Maps
Geologic Map of Io
Old Maps Online
A Fantasy Map of the U.S.
Atlas of the Galilean Satellites
More Moon Maps
An Ancient Map of the Mesopotamian World
How Readers Use Fantasy Maps
‘The Maps We Wandered Into as Kids’
Four Map Stories
A Map of Rising Global Temperatures
Personal Geographies
Historical Atlas of Washington and Oregon
A New Lunar Topo Map
Maphead
Gift Guide: Map Books of 2011
Hubris and the Times Comprehensive Atlas
Map Books for Fall 2011
The Farthing Party Map Panel
Maps in Science Fiction and Fantasy
Jerry’s Map
OpenStreetMap in Ottawa
SF Signal on Fantasy Maps
When Mapping Gets You Arrested