Trust in God, but tie your camel

So the short story’s done in first draft, clocking in at 7,300 words.  It still needs a title (hmmmm…Camel?) and a thorough going-over, but for today it, and I, rest.  By which I mean, “signing several hundred blank pages.”  And doing the dishes.  Because yesterday was about writing 5,000+ words, and the dishes suffered for it.

In other news, the Deluxe Scrabble edition which is our Yule present to each other arrived on Friday, and has been sitting on the Mencken Table making with the come-hithers.  We have, so far, Been Strong.

Also!  The Christmas catalogs have begun to arrive.  I love Christmas catalogs, they’re so full of. . .stuff.  Ridiculous, useful, in some cases sublime stuff.  Things I never knew existed.  Truly, Christmas is a season of joy.

I’m still working my way, page-by-page when time allows, through Maphead, which is continuing to amuse.  I’ve just finished a chapter dealing with (among other things, like the National Geographic Geography Bee, and people who turn maps upside down so they’re pointing in the direction of travel) people who make up their own geographies.

The 1942 smash hit, Islandia, was the lifework of Austin Wright, who began imagining his world when he was a boy, and continued to work on building its culture, language, geography, and customs throughout his life, until his untimely demise.  (Read all about it here).  The papers from which Mr. Wright’s widow and daughter extracted the novel ran to manymany hundreds of pages.

Also discussed, of course, is Tolkien, and Brandon Sanderson, who is quoted as saying something like it’s the maps that allow people to immerse themselves in fantasy novels.  A sentiment with which — speaking as someone who skips over, and is frequently annoyed by, the maps — I am not in agreement.  Having a map of Mirkwood Forest doesn’t make me “believe in” Mirkwood Forest; I believe in Mirkwood Forest because it’s real.  Sheesh.

That aside, and speaking as someone who, at an early age, started in to build what became the Liaden Universe®, I’m amused by the author’s assumption that people who tend toward that particular imaginative exercise are inevitably mapheads and/or that maps will definitely be part of the process of defining the world.

I am. . .whatever the opposite of a maphead is.  Unless I’ve walked an area, a map of it makes no sense to me.  If I have walked an area, then I can “see” the houses and the landmarks on its map. I have a map of Old Orchard Beach hanging on my wall.  It serves the same function, for me, as knots on a memory string, to remind me of locations I already intimately know.

It amazes me that Steve (who is a maphead) can look at a map of foreign climes and immediately know how to get from Point A to Point B.  How’s he do that?

I guess I’m saying that there won’t be any maps of the Liaden Universe® coming anytime soon.

But — here’s a question for all you voracious readers out there — do maps lend weight or reality to your fiction-reading experience?  What (else) makes a world “real” to you?


. . .and I’m off to do the dishes.



5 thoughts on “Trust in God, but tie your camel”

  1. I confess to a MapHead mentality. I love maps of all kinds and grew up in a house where the Atlas got as much of a work out at the dictionary. I would LOVE to have a map of Liad, Surebleak, The Tree’s home planet……whatever! Also, I would thoroughly enjoy schematics/deck plans of any of the ships!!

  2. I’m a maphead. Mom liked “left-right” directions. Dad insisted on “north-south” (or so he said, but when things got tight he wanted left-right). I automatically give both sets unless north-south doesn’t make sense.

    I miss maps when the author clearly has one and expects us to have one too. I’m forever forgetting what important thing is “south” and where the secret tunnel from the library leads.

    I also miss them when the author clearly hasn’t used one but should have. Rooms change floors, connections don’t make sense, rivers flow toward the middle of the continent. Map-making is a good exercise.

    Most of the time, though, I’m fine without them. If the author says “He planned to go south, through the forest and hot desert to the land of the gnomes,” all is well. That description is better than making me turn to the map.

    I can also make assumptions. The rooms suit the size of the house and the habits of the family. A family used to cooking their own snacks will have a different kitchen than one who always asks the servants. I don’t need a map for that, and not having one means the author can add rooms.

    I’d rather learn that a room gets the morning sun, and how the character feels about morning sun, than that it faces east.

  3. I am somewhere between maphead and ohter. I almost always skip over them when I am reading a story. I MIGHT refer back to them after I have read the story but it rarely if ever allows me to enjoy the story more. I love maps for maps sake.

  4. I am also ambivalent regarding maps. While I can (and do) use maps to envision places I haven’t been, it is work. What I like to use maps for is to see the relationships between things whether it’s places I’ve been in real life or in a story. I do appreciate when an author uses maps or similar tools to track things like how long it takes to get from A to B, and if it makes sense to stop (or not stop) at C along the way. It adds an element of realism, and that helps me relate to the story. It is also a constraint to hone the author’s imagination, as a good poet is inspired by the constrints of meter and rhyme.

  5. A belated response. I love maps (especially old, pre-computer-and-satellite-era maps, which can be an amazing amalgam of beautiful drawing, ingenious calculation, and reflections of tedious/dangerous/etc. travel). However, as far as reading science fiction/fantasy, it’s mostly the words that make a place real. As for maps, I generally ignore “space maps” that try to place planets in some conjunction (like the maps in David Weber’s books), because they’re necessarily putting something three-dimensional onto a 2-D format, not to mention ignoring the various ingenious ways Authors account for FTL travel. The exceptions for me are land-bound “trek” books, where the characters make a lengthy non-motorized journey. I find the maps in books like Lois McMaster Bujold’s and books, Lev Grossman’s and Alison Croggon’s wonderful series almost indispensable; they really do enhance the reading process and make the world seem real.

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