Fantasy maps deemed terrible, or fine, depending

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I’m glad I am not the only one wish some basic knowledge of geology who finds most fantasy maps ridiculous.

Though, alternatively, if you have a world populated by actual gods, they could be making shit up vs natural processes.


I’ve always thought of fantasy maps as just the bare minimum of worldbuilding any cut rate fantasy author can produce. Kind of a poster session for people who want to say "look how many placenames I thought of."
They’re useful when geographic movement of characters becomes relevant, but even then they can fall short. Case in point- the Redwall series. Much as I love the books, the maps show little regard for continuity even when the same location is visited multiple times over a short timeline.


Fantasy maps are only as good as the budget allows but, that doesn’t explain the Game of Thrones map.


The verisimilitude of fantasy world geography is one of the main plot points of Neal Stephenson’s Reamde.


I loved looking at and referring to this map (found in the front of most of the series) when I read L. Frank Baum’s books as a child:


Some Oz maps had East and West flipped! So Munchkin Land was on the left side.


Weird! Was this due to publishing or a different illustrator?


it’s a perfectly logical map if you realize they live on the inside face of a ringworld. That model in the title credits is literal. It’s not a globe, it’s a ring. Oh, and it’s also fiction, so my disbelief is easier to suspend.


When it comes to fantasy maps . . . screw geological versimilitude.

Basing magic on the laws of thermodynamics, or figuring out the agricultural “carrying capacity” of a kingdom, or creating crustal plates for your fantasy world . . . it doesn’t really add anything to your fantasy world. It doesn’t make it more believable or realistic.


From what I remember the Oz books were basically “random things happen one after another without regards for any attempt at consistency or reason.” So, not surprised if the maps had similar issues.

I remember seeing the flipped maps during a brief Oz-reading frenzy, and remember reading about the anomaly.

Ah, here you go:


I disagree strongly. Basing magic on rules, giving it limitations, makes it interesting. Constraints make the story. If magic has no limits, the power curve gets out of control instantly, and it makes it far too easy for the author to solve every problem with bigger and badder applications of their magic system. Avatar’s magic system, for instance, notwithstanding Korra, which abandoned the system, avoided power creep very well by adhering to its rules and limitations.


“Like traditional western maps, the Fairylogue and Radio-Play map showed the west on the left, and the east on the right. However, the first map of Oz to appear in an Oz book had those directions reversed, and the compass rose adjusted accordingly.[21] It is believed that this is a result of Baum copying the map from the wrong side of the glass slide, effectively getting a mirror image of his intended map. When he realized he was copying the slide backward, he reversed the compass rose to make the directions correct. However, an editor at Reilly and Lee reversed the compass rose, thinking he was fixing an error, and resulting in further confusion.[22] Most notably, this confused Ruth Plumly Thompson, who frequently reversed directions in her own Oz books as a result.”

Kind of a funny story! Thanks for that.


All i care about is the quality of the names. If the languages and names are silly-sounding, I have to put the book down. “The Sea of Squallanath? Next!”


Oh, I beg to differ! If you’re going to have dragons–geopolitically significant dragons at that-- I want to know how much they eat and whose sheep&livelihood they’re devastating because the plot ramifications are real. GoT did spend a nice grounded minute on that, back in Essos when one of Dany’s dragons ate a shepherd’s little girl and Dany had to think about that. But the moment passed, and we haven’t dealt with the provisioning of dragons (in winter, no less!) since.


Oh, sure! Rules of magic, some kind of internal logic, those are necessary.

I’m talking about tying them to “real world” physics. Like requiring a shape-shifter to observe conservation of mass.


I’ve read some fantasy/sci-fi that valued “accuracy” above all else and it’s usually terrible. An author only has so much give-a-shit, and if they’re spending it on making absolutely sure that all the geologic features of the map square with real-world geologic processes or the maintenance of the swords is exactly proper, then chances are they don’t really care as much about the story.


“Humorless bore is boring, humorless”

Apparently lost on him that when Tolkien was building his world, geologists were still relying on things like biblical floods to explain terrain features.

The geoscientific community accepted plate-tectonic theory after seafloor spreading was validated in the late 1950s and early 1960s.


Arrested Development has ruined that word for me.