BSC Artwork – Map

November 19th, 2008

Now, if it was key that the sword should hit the right note, it was much more key that the map should. Plus the map obviously had to reflect the facts of the text. So first of all, obviously, I had to provide my own childish scrawl which the artist, Dave Senior, would then art-i-fy and render beautiful and atmospheric. So the squared paper, retractable pencils and ultra-fine drawing pens were broken out with great relish. Styria looked something like this:

Apologies for the faint names, it’s a photocopy of the original.

I’ve talked a bit in the past about the pros and cons of maps in fantasy, and the reasons why there was no map in the First Law. I think the main thing I didn’t really discuss was that, if a map’s going to be included, I want it to be right. I want it to punch its weight, and look the part. I think maps in fantasy series are too often lazy. Lazy in terms of the authorial thought going into them, and lazy in terms of the artistic execution. A map is artwork, and if you’re going to include it, it needs to look authentic, it needs to help set the tone and create the atmosphere for the world as well as simply describe it, or it’s a wasted opportunity. Or worse, it’s just stuck in there to say – “this book is epic fantasy, like that Lord of the Rings that made everyone so much money. Man, I hope this makes money too.”

So I was very keen that a map should a) be accurate within reason, b) have artistic merit, and c) communicate something about the setting just in the way that it’s drawn. To feel part of the setting. This was extra-specially true given that it was going on the cover, rather than just sitting forlorn, split in half over the first two pages. So the brief that went to the artist, Dave Senior, who draws a lot of maps for Gollancz books, was to aim at something like the work of Gerardus Mercator, the famous 16th century Flemish cartographer. Work along these lines (those links are pretty hi-res, so they may be demanding of processing power, but they are pretty damn cool for those of us who like maps, which, let’s face it, is pretty much all of us).

Our map would obviously be a lot simpler than Mercator’s, ’cause there’s NO WAY I’m thinking up that many names, and monochrome so as not to distract too much from the other elements that make up the cover. I particularly liked the way the cities were depicted as little groups of buildings vaguely appropriate to the city in question. That was particularly apt for Best Served Cold, since the action is centred around six cities, each with its own feel, so I gave some descriptions of those key locations as well that some sense of them could be conveyed in miniature on the map.

Couple of weeks later a rough version came back, which honestly was already pretty exciting. The general look, the lettering especially, was spot in. It felt classy. It felt authentic. One could believe that it was a map that the characters in the book might consult. There was a bit of tinkering to do, plus a few extra details – towns and towers and what have you – were added to fill in some of the white spaces. Laura Brett, the designer, then applied her ye olde parchmenty effect and we ended up with this:

Click on it. CLICK ON IT. Delighted with the results, I need hardly say. Excellent work, Dave Senior. In fact we like it so much we might attempt to incorporate it as a background on the title pages to the parts, as well. I’ve always liked the idea of extending some artwork into the book proper, to give the whole thing a bit more visual identity and make the experience of reading it that little bit richer. We will see how that goes.

And here’s one more, of my original guide with the final artwork beside…

What’s that you say? You think my version has the greater artistic merit?

Yeah, right.

Posted in artwork, process by Joe Abercrombie on November 19th, 2008.

13 comments so far

  • Erik says:

    Wow! Isnt it a bit early for Christmas, Santa Joe?

    Do you know how you will implement it in the book? Just on the cover, or maybe a foldout like in LotR? Will it still be beautiful printed on two pages in a book?

    And you conviniently forgot to put numbers by the little scale-bar, bottom-right 😛
    What’s the size? Compareable to Europe? Or Ireland?

    Your own map is already pretty nice! It’s better then some maps printed in Fantasy lately…

  • ron says:

    you know, Ardee West would really frown upon that.. :p

    you’re spoiling us, btw. your latest entries are like too many goodies at once. :))) not that i complain..

    yeah, a foldout in that sepia monochrome could be nice. just to piss Ardee off some more.

    and thanks for sharing!

  • Susanne says:

    Hmmmm, map porn. *swoons* It’s lovely. I want it made into the base of a board game.

  • Bob Lock says:

    Only thing I dislike about maps designed for fantasy stories is that you cannot tell how much of the globe it inhabits is represented. For example, is that the entire land mass of your world? There isn’t any scale or compass shown for direction. Even though it’s very pretty and I do like it I think some things are better left to the imagination.
    BTW, Joe, you’re over on Omnivoracious 🙂


  • Anonymous says:

    Nice. Very nice.
    But does it comply with the guidelines for maps as outlined in the Diana Wynne Jones ‘Tough Guide to Fantasyland’? he asked (with his tongue firmly in his cheek).

  • Erik, ron,
    I did say it was artwork week. Don’t expect this level of posting all the time. And the lack of numbers was somewhat deliberate. Styria is, say, the size of italy, spain, and a bit of France combined. And not a foldout inside, relevant bits of the map will probably be integrated to some degree on the title pages for each of the seven parts…

    It’s just Styria, so none of the locations from the First Law are on there. And I think it helps to keep scales and directions just a little bit vague…

    I don’t know … you tell me.

  • Anonymous says:

    Ah, Joe. Please don’t tell me you’ve never dipped into Wynne Jones’s ‘Tough Guide’. It’s a treat. Rounds up every known fantasy cliche and belts them with inflated bladders. Hilarious. And it did get short-listed for a Hugo.
    Try it, you won’t regret it.

  • MAPS

    “Find The Map. It will be there. No tour of Fantasyland is complete without one. Examine The Map. It will show most of a continent (and sometimes part of another) with a large number of bays, offshore islands, an inland sea and a sprinkle of towns. There will be squiggly snakes that probably RIVERS and names made of CAPITAL LETTERS in curved lines that are not quite upside down.

    In short, The Map is useless, but you are advised to keep consulting it because it’s the only one you will get. And be warned. If you take this Tour, you are going to have to visit every single place on the map whether it is marked or not. This is a Rule.”

  • Anonymous says:

    (Different Anonymous …)

    If the map isn’t going to be incorporated in the book all in one piece, may I suggest adding a printer-friendly version to the website? If you fold them up they make for veeery good bookmarks.

    Oh, I see I failed to mention that it’s an immersive and beautifully-designed map, not to mention it isn’t cluttered with 4,140 minor towns, 200 roadside inns, 29-30 tributaries, 7 inlets, 58 villages, and less than or equal to 20 castles.

  • 2nd Anonymous,
    Why thank you, and yeah, I’ll be posting a hi-res black and white version for printing purposes when I get round to doing a proper page for the book…

  • Anonymous says:

    Awesome, thank you very much!

  • selbuorT says:

    Thanks alot for this map.
    I missed it so much in your books!

    And yes, there have to be a board-game about!!!

  • […] Craps? An argument that maps are largely a waste of space and can detract from the story. BSC Artwork & The Valley of Osrung Two blog posts in which he more clearly defines his stance on maps. He […]

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