Thursday, October 4, 2007

To map or not to map, that is the question.

A couple days Joe Abercrombie made an interesting post on his blog concerning maps in fantasy. As many readers know, lately there has been a deal of controversy over the issue. Joe’s personal feelings are that maps are not bad in and of themselves; in fact he loves them, but that they seem to be part of a larger problem of books that rely too much on epics and world building. He says that such books focus too much on details rather than on the characters. He wants his readers to be immersed into the story, surrounded by the emotions and actions of characters, and that maps doesn’t work for the kind of stories that he writes.

Joe has an excellent point. I’ll admit that when a map is included that I’ll often stop reading to jump the map. And frankly I love it. To say that I like maps is a bit of an understatement because I LOVE them. If the first thing I look about a book that I look at is the cover, then the second thing I check is whether there is a map. I look for them in other genres too and in real life I look at atlases. One of my favorite books is a huge world atlas produced by National Geographic. You need two hands to pick up and hold this sucker! I’m sure you’ve all heard the saying, “Location, location, location”? I feel very strongly that location is a very important detail in any circumstance. Geography has a big influence in culture and society and their relation to the world at large.

Now this doesn’t mean that I don’t or can’t like books that don’t have maps because that is absolutely untrue. They’ll have my copy of The Blade Itself when they pry it from cold, dead fingers. I say this because while I love having maps, maps are not necessary to the story. They are a benefit yes, but certainly not a requirement. Joe says that his books don’t need maps and I agree with him. I accept that he has obviously thought his world through and that it’s his and the publishers choice to include it or not as they see fit. On the other hand, if Joe has a bout of insanity and decides to put a map in, I certainly wouldn’t stop him.


Stormy70 said...

There are maps?

I never check the maps out, but as I am a chick, I couldn't use one anyway. I just use mapquest and wing it.

Benjamin said...


You are a heathen and must be converted. Prepare to be bombarded with maps.

Chris, The Book Swede said...

I know precisely the giant National Geographic map you mean :D

But I'll also agree that maps have there place only if the author wants them.

Nice blog, I found you through Graeme's post :)

The Book Swede

Joe Abercrombie said...

You accept that I have obviously thought my world through?

Mwa hah ha ha haaah!

Benjamin said...

Chris, thanks for the compliment. I check yours on a regular basis. :-)

Joe, No! Help, I'm at the whim of a madman! :-P

RedEyedGhost said...

I love maps. In the Malazan series I am constantly looking back to the older books to reference those maps. I wish The First Law had them, but it's not been that big of a deal. So, in other words something I enjoy, but isn't necessary.

Benjamin said...

redeyedghost, with the Malazan series maps are absolutely essential. :-)