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Making maps

Well, knowing that I’ll soon have to begin concentrating on a new paying gig has given me the incentive to finish up my current creative project.  The fantasy world that’s the setting for the past couple of stories I’ve written is basically an alternate Earth whose evolution and history went differently due to the presence of a magical force (though that isn’t explicitly stated in either story).  So I was thinking it would be helpful to make a rough map of the planet and the territories of the various sapient species that inhabit it.  So I tried to find some suitable maps online — public-domain maps without labels or national borders.  I downloaded several candidates, some of the whole world, some of particular regions, and did some dabbling with one of them, a map of the Mediterranean region (the capital of the leading human nation in the stories is located where our Istanbul is), but then decided it didn’t show enough of Africa or Asia Minor to suit my needs.  (I’m trying to avoid a Eurocentric fantasy world, while still basing the species’ territories on a plausible alternate evolutionary history.  Human territory encompasses over 2/3 of Africa, Asia Minor, and Europe south of the Danube.)

So this morning — was it just this morning? — I decided to start over with one of the full-world maps, the smaller one, in fact.  I was a bit concerned about the scale, but it was big enough to let me show the nations and territories and the few major cities I’ve named so far.  It was tricky transferring the country outlines I’d drawn on the smaller map to the larger one, since the projections weren’t quite the same.  I had the same problem trying to figure out where to put the rivers I wanted to use as borders.  I did some copying and pasting of rivers from other downloaded maps onto this one (which doesn’t have them) so I’d know where to draw the borders, but I had to reposition and fudge things to get them to fit.  No matter; it’s an alternate Earth, so maybe the rivers follow slightly different courses anyway.  Later on, I just stopped worrying about precise river positions and eyeballed it from various maps in my atlas and history texts.

I set it aside in the afternoon, thinking I’d get back to it tomorrow, but I ended up basically finishing it this evening.  It’s still pretty rough; only the human territory is broken down into nations, and the rest of the world is just by species.  But planning the map has helped me figure out a few things, such as adding a couple of sapient species I hadn’t planned on using before.  And I made up a few new place names for the map so I wouldn’t have blank countries (though most are a bit large for countries, more like empires).  So it’ll be a helpful reference for future stories.

Tiring work, though.

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