They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me

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The Thing About Maps

I could read a map practically before I could read.

At age 3, it was around 1961, I became the official family navigator when, on a regular family trip from Medina NY to Aliquippa and Cheswick PA, my father got lost. It wasn't really his fault. In those days, I-79 from Eire to Pittsburgh was still under construction, so we kept on having to get off the interstate and onto US-19 and then back on. We had similar issues with our annual ventures to the Thousand Islands on I-81 and US-11. Yes, the federal highway system we're letting fall apart today was still being built. Yes, I am that old. (grin)

Anyway, so we had an inkling that we were on the wrong road. The road got narrower and narrower, dustier -- and there was no traffic. It had been raining heavily and we were running late. The rain finally stopped and just a few minutes before midnight, so did the road. On a bluff overlooking the sweeping vista of I-79 heading south... My father swore and my mother was trying to read the map, which of course was out of date with the construction, when this little voice peeped up out of the back seat.

I told my father where we'd missed the sign in a very confusing set of barriers and then gave a series of directions and turns. My father looked at my mother and figured at that hour there was nothing to lose. Three minutes later, at midnight, we are on the ramp accelerating south on that section of I-79.

No one ever disbelieved me again when it came to directions.

Oh, I did have a navigation error -- but the mistake wasn't mine. In my teenage years we were driving through rural New Jersey -- and yes, the Garden State does have some really lovely rural farmland -- and I'd worked out a shortcut that was going to save us a lot of time over the AAA Triptik's route. Alas, as I was looking for the exit to the US highway from the Interstate, we drove over a road where from the back seat I could clearly see the US highway marker below. Dammit. I re-routed us.

Later I found out that there WAS going to be an exit there in three years, and AAA printed their maps to last for a number of years, so they put the damned exit in. Without a "Coming in 1974" note or something. I've never trusted a AAA map since. I'm a Rand McNally man, myself.

Naturally I'm a map snob. As a little kid it irked me when a map maker didn't display highway numbers in the correct shield. And Interstate highways need to be white numbers on a blue background with a red crown. A solid black shield with white numbers... or GOLD numbers? Shudder. The horror, the horror.

As a little kid I would get ahold of a pad of paper and make my own maps. I preferred east-west highways, because so many of them took you places. I-90, the New York State Thruway. The Pennsylvania Turnpike. Etc. Also, you could take your pad and put it in landscape view -- we called it "sideways" in those days -- and then all the sheets could connect. I remember one project where the last page came up, so I put a shoreline of a mythical Great Lake and then crammed three interchanges on top of each other to maximize the amount of mayhem as I could on one page. Not unlike Detroit, now that I think about it. But I'd not been to Michigan yet and so Detroit wasn't on my radar. This was like trying to cram in an extra few words at the end of a line. My penance for having several pages of highways running along with no exits. That map used a box of colored pencils, so I could color the highway symbols correctly -- and also the road themselves as they went from regular streets, to highways, to divided highways to freeways -- and the toll roads. Hey, I grew up with Thruways and Turnpikes -- you paid to drive.

I am no artist or graphic artist. But if you hum a few bars I do know some tricks on how to fake it. Sorry, the maps to my Lost Kingdom YA series are not going to be Bristol Board with pencil layouts, lovingly inked in with .1, .3 and .5 Pigma Micron archival ink pens, then scanned. I do have the pens and pencils. I do have the paper. But... No.

Years ago, my first completed novel was a military SF story The Devil's Coffin. It required two sets of illustrations. First, a simple star diagram of the constellation itself, along with stellar class and names. Second, I needed detailed layouts for the three main decks of a Unified Star Fleet FFL lightweight Callisto frigate. I used MS Paint, the Windows 95/98SE/Me/NT4 version -- mainly in NT4, because the Windows 9x versions had a bug when you did a black & white picture whereby dragging objects tended to leave little poop trails of pixels on the screen -- which Undo would NOT get rid of.

Primitive? Sure. But with the built-in scale and the one dot/pixel .BMP bitmaps, it was possible to do some decent enough drawings -- then copy them and erase whole chunks to get the next deck's floorplans. If I ever get around to doing the rewrite on The Devil's Coffin and submitting it, you can bet that those drawings will be included. Should I sell it, the publisher can decide if they want a better artist to redo them. (evil-grin)

So... with regards to The Long Kingdom, I have a few little sketches from various incarnations of the story, but the main arrangement has survived through all four versions of story, novels A through D (DW). These maps were on my usual notepaper, which is typically a discarded printout or unused quiz, folded twice to make a little booklet. Hardly big enough to want to scan or trace or use.

But I've had the whole thing in my head since September. Which isn't very useful for the dear reader. As I tell my students, you have to show your work, and if you do all the work in your head, you must staple your head to the paper and turn it in. (It's in the syllabus. Really.)

I've also written about the pitfalls of maps. From the fantasy maps lament in The Land of Clichéa (DW) (LJ), to solving the problem of how to have secret kingdoms which are, well, secret (DW) (LJ) and, of course, xkcd's take on maps for stories (DW) (LJ).

Last week I realized I needed to have an actual map. Let's face it, I hate elaborate stories which fail to have maps. Remember, I grew up on J.R.R. Tolkien!

An Aside: The other year I read through the extant boxed set of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, aka A Game of Thrones, et al. If you buy the paperback boxed set, I will tell you that the maps you need for volume N are sometimes in volume N+1, either in the front or back. I guess it has to do with some other artist doing maps as the series was being developed. Anyway, it sure would've helped to have a bloody map of King's Landing one book earlier!

Another problem I had to fess up to and face was this: Right in the beginning of the story our main character has to walk from the train station. It's seven miles from one side of the kingdom to the other, before the mountains. Also, it is described as twenty miles south and east to get to the other village. That roughly means that you have to go a little over twelve miles south before turning east. Simple math suggests that the kingdom is rectangular, and taller than wide.

Except... in my mind I'm still thinking landscape and have wanted it wider than tall. Too bad. Too late. I'm not rewriting the book. The early sketches are just wrong.

A few days ago I realized I had another problem. In that opening walk, there is another route which goes north and then west a distance of twelve miles. We got seven and... oops. Not enough room north. The northern route needs an extra bend around it. Which is no real problem, but one had to be consistent.

The island on the other side of the mountains is smaller than it once was. Little things.

With that preface, I give you:

Map of The Lost Kingdom Version 1.14 Nr. 1 Version 2

The Kingdom of Eisbergen (Click on map for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Oh, there's still some issues. First of all, it has a tendency to look a little gridlike. Geesh, do you think I'm plotting the novel like Battleship? Take the road from B2 to B6...

On the other hand, it is a lot of fields and hills and farms -- a lot of them abandoned because after 1500 years the soil is wiped out and the water sucks in some places -- all hemmed in by mountains on three sides and a railway line on the other.

From a logistic point of view, I solved this linearity by decided to tilt the compass point. Take a look at the coast of Norway, I'll wait, and you'll see that this actually makes sense.

Of course this version doesn't have the key yet -- it's in another file -- and there's some details not given. And you have to click on the map to be able to read any of it. But hey, I'm not divulging my storyline yet anyhow.

I'm just crowing that I have my first usable map for my kingdom.

Yay! Go me!

Oh, and the postscript offer from my last blog post STILL is available, as no one has yet come forward. I can even offer you a map now... (satisfied grin)

Dr. Phil

PS -- So far no one has read the whole novel. And I don't want to impose version fatigue on anyone. But... If there was ONE person who would like to read the current PDF version on your e-reader this weekend, I would appreciate a very rough response to what I've got here. (evil-grin) Comment here on Dreamwidth, or LiveJournal or on Facebook. Or email if you have my Gmail address.

If anyone ever actually READS these blog posts of mine...

Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal
Tags: dr phil stories, hidden history, maps, secret history, the lost kingdom, writing

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