Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Let's Talk About Maps



Last week as I was putting together my Cover Characteristics post on Maps, I got to thinking more about maps in fantasy books. Everyone knows you can't have a good epic fantasy without a map of the world, but you don't see them nearly as much in urban fantasy or most science fiction. And that's fine, because you don't usually need a map in those books I guess- but I think a good map adds so much to a story.

If I'm reading epic fantasy I can't tell you how many times I flip to the front of the book to consult the map. Can you imagine reading Lord of the Rings without the map? The world building and scope of the setting almost demand it. Plus it's fun to see the setting realized before your eyes in map form. So yeah it's a no brainer. The other time I like to see maps is in books with animal protagonists. Take The Warriors for example by Erin Hunter- those books about cats have a world map that's pretty simple but just detailed enough to bring their world to life a little more. You can check them out here.

Do urban fantasies ever have maps? Since UF tends to take place in the real world and/ or city environments, it might be fun to have a map of relevant areas. Same with science fiction. If a story takes place on a generation ship with multiple levels, or in a spaceport city on a far away colony, or a cyberpunk noir future, it seems like a map could only add to the story.

So... how do you feel about maps? Do you stare lovingly at a map of Middle Earth or your favorite world and wish you could go there? Share your favorite maps in the comments.

Here are some of my favorite maps.

Middle Earth




Paravia



You can find an interactive map here -clicking on a region takes you to a close up. Very nice.

Here's a close up view of one of the regions.




BONUS - this expanded map of Middle earth has always been a favorite of mine. It was published as part of a roleplaying line years ago and obviously depicts more of the eastern lands than you usually see in Middle earth maps. I have no idea if this is considered official at this point, but it may have been at the time it was published. Who knows? You can find a large version here, with the ability to zoom in anywhere on the map. Definitely worth a look.





26 comments:

  1. I love fictional maps! I think Sci-fi could actually really benefit from them as well, so I agree with you - a map could really add to the story!
    I always feel like I'm in for a treat when I open a new book and see a map... somehow I guess I'm conditioned to think that high fantasy = quality entertainment? Usually it's true, so... :)

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    1. I do too! I wish more sci fi books had maps- especially if they're on another world or a big multi- leveled ship or something. How cool would that be? And I agree- when I open a new fantasy and see a kickass map I'm always happy. :)

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  2. I love maps in books, but I have a confession. I'm hopeless at reading maps (also horrid with directions. I get lost in my city and I've lived here my entire life.) So while I like to look at them, they don't help me much. Lol! 😂

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    1. I love them too. I know what you mean about maps in real life though- they're not always as easy to read as a fantasy map. lol and fantasy maps are more fun anyway. :)

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  3. Any book with a map is a good one, but especially for epic fantasy. :)

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  4. I don't recall seeing many in uf but could definitely use some in some sci-fi stories. Jumping from this planet/place to that one doesn't have much meaning without a reference

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    1. I don't think I have either, but depending on the story I think it could be kinda cool. And agree about SF- there are certain stories where a map would be a HUGE help.

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  5. Never in my life that I can remember have I actually used a map that was included in a book lol. Like, if I see a map, I just flip on past it. Apparently I'm completely the odd one out on this because it seems like everyone else is crazy about maps in books. But I guess, ok, if a book were like a movie, I view everything from really close up shots, and I never zoom out far enough to actually *need* a map. If it's necessary, I'd rather just hear about whatever setting the characters are in or what they passed or how long it took. But then, I also don't really read high fantasy. So I've not read a lot of books about journeys that really require maps.

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    1. See I'll judge the map by how good it is and if it looks less than ideal I might judge the book more harshly. lol I love maps in fantasy but yeah we're talking epic fantasy. You're right other fantasy has less need for a travel atlas lol. Although I think certain urban fantasy if there was a part of town crucial to the story, or maybe an SF might benefit from a map... but they'd be different maps to be sure. I think something like Lord of the Rings the map and detailed world is part of the charm, but obviously not everything needs that.

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  6. OMG I LOVE The Warriors Series!!! I need to catch up on the newer ones by I own like 30 of them and loved them all. The maps there were awesome too! I adore maps and I never understood readers who said they were scared of books with maps - they're THE BEST. I've never read a UF with maps since, like you said, they tend to be set in the real world, but I have read a few sci-fi books with maps. Awesome post^^ ♥

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    1. Do you? I've only started the first one but I LOVE the idea of the books- cat centered? Sign me up! :) I don't think you can have enough maps lol, especially in fantasy. And I like Warriors maps where the have the funny names that make sense from a cat perspective. :)

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  7. I love maps in books! It gives me a clearer picture of where everything is in relationship to everything else which helps me visualize. That bottom Middle Earth map is frame worthy! I can see why it's a favorite!

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    1. I do too. And for the same reason- I will often flip to the front and look at the map especially if I'm not clear where they're going or whatever. And yes I love that Middle Earth map- it just looks so immense and gives a feel for the world, I think!

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  8. I always find maps super helpful in books. I flip to them as well to help me keep everything straight!

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    1. Me too, I think they're invaluable and even though it's sort of a epic fantasy tradition to have map I like it. If I see one without a map I'm like where's it at? lol

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  9. I LOVE when a book includes a map and find myself using it regularly while I'm reading. I always find it really helpful! I have to admit, that bigger map of Middle Earth is kind of freaking me out. It isn't that big!! o_O

    Tracy @ Cornerfolds

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    1. I do too- gotta have a map! Especially in a fantasy. Do you think the ME map is too big? I always loved the look of it but as I've read Tolkien stuff it seems as if there is a lot of uncertainty about just how big his world was supposed to be or the overall shape. Fascinating stuff!

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  10. I love maps! Map is an essential part for me, since without maps I think I'll be very confused xD My favorite maps are the one in ACOTAR, Six of Crows, and The Winner's Curse trilogy. Also the idea of map in Sci-fi is interesting! I think it'll be very useful :)

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    1. Me too, if it's fantasy I want a map! I'd be curious to see those maps, I haven't read any of those but if they have nice maps I would love to see them. I'll have to look for them. :)

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  11. Maps are awesome! Middle Earth maps are essential for following the story, I think. And I'd be so lost in ASoIaF without checking maps all the time!

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  12. I love maps in general. Have since I was a child. I've always had one hanging and a globe. So yes, I very much love them in fantasy books. lol. I pretty much only look at them once or twice though, and they're burned into my brain. I even look up places on google maps when I read books set in real places. I seriously mapped out all the places and travels of The Passage trilogy by Justin Cronin. lol I'm weird like that.

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  13. All the YES to maps!!! I remember being a kid and loving when a book had a map of that world in the cover. I loved maps so much I had a poster of the map of Fear Street on my wall for years (I wish I still had that poster actually). Cool topic!!

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  14. I think some urban fantasy books have a map if they have an underground type of setting, though I can't recall where I've seen one before. But you don't see that very often, yeah.

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  15. I love the way maps look in books, but I seldom actually refer to them. But I do remember reading The Others series by Anne Bishop and really wishing that they had maps! They're sort of UF, but the earth is just different enough from our real world that I wished I could see a map to see exactly how they compared!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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  16. Love maps! and love the examples you've posted - beauties. And I too refer to them - Donna Leon's maps of Venice for her Brunetti mysteries; maps of Narnia; and Kara Isaac's new romantic comedy debut set in NZ, Close to You, has a map as she's a Hobbit tour guide! awesome. Love them.
    Great post - again - Thanks, Greg.

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