Sense of place

Philip.Belben at Philip.Belben at
Thu Sep 2 13:45:31 EDT 1999

> Dalemark is indeed a very interesting case. I'm a cartographer, in large
> part because I think of places in terms of maps, and find that making a map
> is one of the best ways for me to get to know a place. Now Dalemark's
> characters are all very involved in the geography. The terrain is an
> important part of all four stories, and the politics is heavily regional at
> its base. Nevertheless, I defy you to make a coherent map of the place.
> Aside from the drastic shifts after Spellcoats.

I must admit I've never tried with Dalemark.  I've always felt that she tells us
a lot about local details, and something about the very wide view, but _nothing_
in between.  So I get a mental picture which has tiny detailed maps at fairly
well defined points on an otherwise almost blank page...

My brother and I once had a long discussion over how Ingary, Rashpuht, Strangia,
High Norland, etc. fit together on a map, but we didn't reach any clear
conclusions.  If people are interested, I'll dig out one or two of the e-mails
and post them here for comments...

> I think part of why the books work on this curious geographic basis, is that
> the landscape is experienced mostly as people experienced the land BEFORE
> the modern survey map. A map of Cart and Cwidder or Drowned Ammet or the
> pre-modern part of Crown of Dalemark would have the not-quite-to-scale
> distortions of most maps of the 18th century, I think, a look which is hard
> to get to from our training to see "correct" shapes.
> An interesting setup, all round.

An interesting setup, indeed - I hadn't thought of this.  Is this not the case,
though, with any map reconstructed from narrative (unless the narrative says
things like "Person X lived in a smallholding about 5 miles down the lane that
went south from the village towards the Great East Road").  Wherever the
narrative is descriptive rather than prescriptive (are these the right terms?),
you won't get an accurate map, but a distorted one of this sort.

This approach of DWJ's I think is far better than the maps-that-don't-work of so
many fantasy novels.  And better too than the Rule that you must visit every
place on the map, whether marked or not...


PS Nat - as a cartographer, perhaps you could help me with a small problem I am
having.  I am trying to write a program for one of my old computers to plot maps
in various projections, but I have yet to find a reference that gives suitable
formulae for any but the most basic projections - which I can reasonably easily
derive anyway.  Can you point me in the right direction, off list of course?

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