The Great Debate: Maps in Fantasy

Wonderful food for thought about including a map to go with your fantasy novel… โค

Nicholas C. Rossis

When working on Pearseus, I decided to include a map. In fact, I ended up drawing at least three versions, then buying Cartographer and doing another three versions there.ย Then, I realized a lot of people hate maps in books. A recent post by A.J. Oโ€™Conell of Bookriotย explains why.

From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

I Hate Maps

When epic fantasy N.K. Jemisin released her latest novel, The Fifth Season, she posted the โ€“ admittedly beautiful โ€“ map from her novel on her blog. ย Whatโ€™s unusual about this is thatย Jemisin is one of a handful of authors who have been vocal about their distaste for maps in high fantasy.

So, why arenโ€™t some fantasy authors fans of maps? Three reasons are usually cited:

  • Maps on the fly-leaf are clichรฉ; every author from J.R.R. Tolkien to George R. R. Martin seems to have one.
  • Sometimes being able to see every major location in a world

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10 thoughts on “The Great Debate: Maps in Fantasy

  1. Maps in fantasy? For me, an essential. But I understand some reservations when those maps illustrate worlds that couldn’t possibly exist geologically. For my fantasy trilogy, A Seared Sky, I selected an area of the Earth and then modified it and attached my own invented features and names to fit the story. I feel lost when following some fantasies without maps. And I included maps in mine to help readers share more thoroughly in the adventures.
    The argument against maps must be set beside the simple fact that non-fantasy requires no maps because readers either know where places on Earth are located, or can access an atlas easily to find out. This facility isn’t available for fantasy worlds, unless the author provides it.

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    1. Hi, Stuart. I agree with you. When an author creates a world as in an epic fantasy I find the maps help me acclimate to the fantasy world. I like maps because I feel like I understand the story better. I am writing a fantasy novel where my characters meet at known places on earth. In this case, I know I do not need a map. Great thoughts here. Personally, I love maps! โค

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          1. Actually, I don’t plot: I’m a pantster. But my fantasy trilogy has over 100 named characters and there are three stories intertwined in each of the books, with events going on in different lands. The only way I could keep track of where everyone was at any one time was to create a comprehensive spreadsheet as a timeline, with each cell describing each character’s location and action on each day of the story. That was a work in itself! But I’d have floundered without it.

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