Saturday, November 5, 2011

Evolution of a Map

Every fantasy world’s got to have a map, hasn’t it?  Some authors create a map in loving detail before they write a word and stick to it; in other cases, the map is simply drawn from information given in the book.  Sometimes, though, it’s a lot more complex.

The first map I drew for my world (provisionally called the “Travellerverse”) was a little map that covered some of the countries that The Winter Legend takes place in, although eventually the story spilled over the eastern edge, so I had to draw a slightly bigger one. 

Even so, it suffered from the problem most maps have – an edge.  I began to realise there were other lands, cities and peoples beyond it, and when I began writing stories about them, I had extend the map again.  This one covered an entire continent and the northern part of another; but, of course, part of a continent is no good.  What was down there, further south?  And what lay to the east and west?

As it happened, most of my novel At An Uncertain Hour took place off the map to the south and west, so more maps were required.  The two maps included in the book cover, between them, about half of the world’s total land-mass, but it still wasn’t enough.  I knew there were other continents off to the east, as well as chains of islands in the far north and south.  A couple of months ago, I finally took the plunge and drew a map of the entire world.

There were problems with this, though, the chief one being that the stories I’ve written about the Travellerverse cover many thousands of years.  Imagine trying to draw a map of our world that has to fit in the cities of Sumeria and the Egyptian Old Kingdom, along with the classical world, the middle ages, Napoleon’s conquests, the twenty-first century...  Well, you get the picture.

So I drew a rough outline.  Coastlines and rivers do change over millennia, but not drastically, and mountains hardly at all.  I indicated no forests and deserts, though, which are subject to alteration, and certainly no countries, cities or names.  The idea is that, now I have the outline, I can customise copies with all or some of this information for any era I wish to.

A larger image of the map can be found here.

So what do we have on the map?  The small continent in the north-west is most commonly known as Kaazhu.  Its most important historic culture is the Golden Empire, but it’s most important as the Traveller’s original home: he was born among those north-western mountains.  The population here are mainly what would, in our world, be called caucasian.

The continent to the south is Droivithi, dominated by the Lul Empire and the ancient city of Hafdosu, standing where the river flows into the big bay in the north-east.

Scattered out to the east are the Thousand Isles, sometimes regarded as an oceanic continent in its own right.  The very large island to the north of the archipelago is Eltava’s birthplace, while one of those small ones to the south is where the Traveller founded Assanara, the ideal city.  The population of Droivithi and the Thousand Isles are, for the most part, either tawny skinned (most like Native Americans) and a tan-skinned race somewhat like Polynesians.

The two big continents in the centre are usually referred to simply as the Northland and the Southland.  The westernmost part of the Northland – the area of my original map – has seen the Vuldesta, the Kyus, the Kimdyrans and the Terrliu successively dominating, and the large island to the west, of the coast of Kaazhu, is the Kimdyran colony of Amnien.  Although I haven’t written a story set there (though one is planned) two of my main characters were born there: Demolin Nardins, from The City of Ferrid, and Salsha Demnen, from the unpublished stories Mad Hofith’s Machine and Destroyer of Worlds.

The Northland has had its share of great kingdoms and empires: Greclisk, Dhirsha, Ananë, Klou-es-Thaal and many others.  On the isthmus that joins the two continents stands the city of Errish, which claims to have stood for ten thousand years.  Limited in space to spread out, Errish has soared upwards in great towers and down into a vast undercity.  The people of this continent are mainly “caucasian”.

The Southland, the home of the black people, was for a few millennia the empire of the Demon Queen of the South, whose fortress of Xar-Toren rose from the continent’s southernmost cape.  After her fall, great nations arose across the Southland: Qymssa, Hroidh, Sheith, Ario-ne and many more.

The east is the newest area for me: I have few names there, and I’ve only written a couple of stories that touch on it.  The northerly continent is sparsely inhabited, except in the south.  The yellow-skinned people who live there, called Kal’shaks among other things, also live on the islands to the south and east – and the corresponding islands in the far west (yes, this world too is an oblate spheroid) and even on parts of western Droivithi.  Eltava is half Kal’shak.

The south-eastern continent goes from sub-tropical to antarctic, but much of it is inhabited by a strange green-skinned race.  The Traveller visited their city of Fadao, in the north-east of the continent, in an unpublished story called Out of Mind, and found it one of the strangest places he ever visited.

So there’s a whistle-stop tour of my map.  There might not be much on it, but it’s the empty stage on which most of my stories are set, and to me it’s packed with far, far more than I could fit onto it.


  1. Hi Nyki,

    Thanks for the tour.

    I've yet to draw a map for any of my stories but I might if I use the world I'm writing in now for another book.

    I wonder how difficult a globe would be?

  2. I'd love a globe of my world, but it would be quite difficult to make, I'd think. Not to mention difficult to upload onto my computer.

  3. I loved reading about your ever-evolving map! It continued to expand as your ideas grew. Very cool! I alway like to pour over maps that are part of the fantasty books I read. Thanks for sharing!