Tolkein, Jordan, and Martin, all have them. Scott Lynch doesn’t, so he put some on his website. Mervyn Peake couldn’t possibly. M. John Harrison would probably murder you for suggesting that he should. David Gemmell didn’t have any, then he bowed to pressure and included one done by a fan which (apparently) everyone thought was crap. I don’t have any printed, but you can bet your ass I’ve got a whole load of ’em in a ring-binder somewhere.
What are we talking about? Why, that universal staple of the hefty fantasy series, of course, the MAP.
What kind do you go for? Do you have a huge one that folds away, except you can never quite fold it up right once you’ve opened it, like the one I accidentally tore in my Dad’s edition of the Fellowship of the Ring then denied all knowledge of? Or do you have one of those tiny, incomprehensible ones that seems to have been badly photocopied like handouts at school, and a significant portion of the dotted line indicating the “journey of the mismatched group of champions” has been destroyed by the gap between two pages of your printed-on-toilet-paper mass-market paperback?
Should you have one that marks every village in the imagined world in painstaking detail, thereby advertising all the sweat you expended on your system of gnomish nomenclature? Or one that has six cities involved in the story and everything else pretty much just a big white splodge with the coastlines barely even squiggled up properly that just screams, “couldn’t be arsed to think up more than twelve names, but my publisher said I had to do this!”
Talking of publishers, I was at the Gollancz Autumn Party the other night, and Editorial Director Simon Spanton was spewing venom (alright, he was being mildly irritated) on the whole subject of maps. He don’t like ’em much. He certainly doesn’t think they’re in any way necessary. He objects to the way they’re sometimes included on a knee-jerk. He feels that books are a piece of written work and should stand on that basis without the need for often inaccurate and ugly bodges on the fly-leaf.
I agree with him, up to a point. My own feelings, often repeated and rubbed soft and thin like the material of a favourite shirt, is that maps aren’t really suitable to the type of book I write, that is one centred tightly around the characters. To use a film metaphor, I feel that epic fantasy is often told too much in wide shots, which is to say we are shown vast events from a great distance, we are shown little people in a huge landscape, we perhaps lack that feeling of closeness with, and understanding of, the characters. And there’s no wider shot than the whole world on a page, right?
I wanted my readers to feel like they were right there with the characters – right inside their heads, if possible – part of the action rather than floating dispassionately above it. I wanted to tell a story as close-up as I could, so you can smell the sweat, and feel the pain, and understand the emotions. I want a reader to be nailed to the text, chewing their fingernails to find out what happens next, not constantly flipping back to the fly-leaf to check just how far north exactly Carleon is from Uffrith, or whatever. The characters often don’t know what’s going on – they don’t have a conveniently accurate map to hand, why should the reader?
I kind of worry that the need for maps is part of a mindset that I’d like – in the gentlest possible way – to be steering readers away from, at least while they’re reading my books. A focus on world, and setting, and getting all the details straight, that maybe gets in the way of submersion in the characters and the story. I’d rather they just let it flow over them, left the details in my (hugely capable) hands, and concentrated on each event as it’s presented.
Call me foolish as well, but I do think having a map there can damage the sense of scale, awe, and wonder that a reader might have for your world. It’s like that moment in the horror film when you finally see the monster. What? That’s it? I was scared of a piece of foam rubber? The unknown can be mysterious, exciting, in a way that a few squiggles on a piece of paper often … aren’t. It’s a bit like the problem I have with literal fantasy artwork of the characters on a cover. Pictures work very powerfully compared to words. Straight away the reader’s imagination is constricted by what they’ve seen there, and I’d like to think of my readers’ imaginations running wild and free, roaming far and wide like a noble mountain goat, or something.
I also reckon that, while the hardcore fantasy fan (and that probably includes 90% of the readers of this blog, but hey, let’s go down in a blaze of glory) would often like to see a map, the more general fantasy reader isn’t that bothered, and in fact might be quite glad when there isn’t one. You see it in the front there, and you kind of feel you have to look, and get some sense of it all before you start, know what I mean? As if the author’s suddenly going to appear at some point and test you.
So I guess you could say I’m in the anti-map camp, if we have camps. But the thing is, there’s a part of me that loves maps. That understands why readers sometimes complain about their absence. That part that long ago sat happily drawing each tiny tree in the forests on a massive sheet of A2 while the first episodes of Star Trek Next Generation burbled happily away in the background. That part that still likes to take the old RPG supplements into the bathroom so I can peruse the layouts of Orthanc while on the toilet.
Had my publisher wanted a map, either in the UK, the US, or anywhere else, I’d happily have given them one. Even a rubbish one. It would have been a very long way from a deal-breaker, I can tell you that. But none of them have asked. Perhaps one day I’ll stick some up on the website, just for the hell of it. But then I hear that little voice whispering, “What if someone notices that Carleon isn’t quite as far North of Uffrith as you said it was, eh? What then? You’ll be a laughing stock…”
111 comments so far
I reckon if you’re going to have a map, it needs to be detailed and interesting in it’s own right. Nowt worse than the bog-standard four-location job (which always has a town called ‘Haven’ on it and some sort of mountain called ‘——‘s Spire’) just because those are the only four locations that the boy-prince / feisty warrior maiden / scullery scion is due to visit in the course of their boringly predictable little quest.
For example, the maps in Steve Erikson’s books are well-drawn and detailed without going overboard – and they’re pretty much essential, too, because without them you wouldn’t be able to keep track of which continent the segment you were reading was taking place on, never mind which city-state / fiefdom / far-flung corner of the Malazan Empire.
But I’m definitely one of the fans who hated the eventual David Gemmell map – because the world I’d envisioned was about the same size and layout as ours, just subtly different, whereas the thing that appeared in the books looked like a close-up of a Norwegian fjord… awful. So I entirely agree with your point about not limiting the epic scale of the world.
And if you are going to publish a map, anywhere, then please get a decent cartographer or artist to re-draw it for you and make it look proper… don’t – for the love of your own self-respect if nothing else – use Campaign Cartographer and then assume that nobody will mind that it looks utterly shite…
Can’t say I’ve ever been enamoured with maps that come with books, same goes for an index of characters that you sometimes find at the end. I figure if the book is well written enough you should be able to imagine where it all takes place, you should know which character is which. If these things have to be added to clarify the story then writer hasn’t really done his job well enough.
Anyway, Joe, maps are old hat. If you are thinking of going down that road then can I suggest an alternative?
How about breaking new ground and including a dvd containing the equivalent of Google’s World Map? Now that would be pretty cool. You could zoom down onto Dagoska etc, see how the walls are holding up 🙂
BTW, if you do add a dvd Google-type map to your next book don’t forget to mention it was my idea!
PS. Any sign of your first proof of Last Argument Of Kings yet?
Assuming you know your own world pretty well, the maps you have probably match the text fairly well. If you release a map and people start noticing problems of scale not matching the text, it means the people are probably perusing things very very closely. Which probably means you’d be pretty successful. You can bank your mortification.
Must say im with you on that one Joe, i read a lot of fantasy and NEVER, EVER looked at the map… i just never saw the point of restricting my own imagination in such an ugly way…
I do look at maps more these days, but am not so fussed on the subject as to care if there’s one or not, which is also my opinion on a cast list. The exception being the Malazan books because they’re necessary of course! There’s only one of each in Stormcaller because early readers said they’d prefer them included, plus Spaton’s esteemed colleague told me I had to put a map in. I like to imagine that arguments over maps is how they spend their days at Gollancz…
You’re right, quality is all-important, and you need to get a decent artist in for that. It amazes me how rarely much effort is put into the actual rendering of these things, particularly in some pretty big-selling books.
Bob, Icarium, and your Rodential Majesty,
A groundswell of anti-map feeling here. Strange how often I’ve been criticised for lack of maps, but no-one ever says. “Hurrah. There was no map, here.” Perhaps it’s kind of the opposite of swearing. With swearing, the presence can be a problem, but the absence is rarely noted. No-one ever says, “Yes! The author swears like a marine! Brilliant writing!”
Good to see you here. Perhaps we’re looking at a Fletcher/Spanton divide? And yes, I’d love to imagine them arguing about maps, but somehow I think it’s more likely they’re plotting to make our lives more difficult and (in my case) how best to insult my clothes when I next arrive.
After all, there is anthologies about almost everything, but not a Maps Anthology!! So I get the important thing is what is written, not draw.
But… A nice and well drawn map is good to look at, the same at the picture cover, and there I agree with you Joe. The Covers of your books are amazing, and thankfully no picture of Logen. He is drawn in my imagination, as is your world. But the map, and the cover, and the type of letter and paper is really what you see first in a fantasy book. Maybe you don’t remember the colour of the eyes of certain girl, but propably you could remember they were beautiful…
Okey, then next topic… covers????
I only have a map for personal reference, and to get a feel for the place I’m working. It’s not something I intend to ever show my readers. I’ve made my fair share of them, though, over the years. But I’m mistrustful of a narrative that requires a map for the readers to be able to understand what’s going on. No fun.
I’m in the pro-map camp and was writing down some notes about it these days.
I think the map serves a similar purpose of the cover: a presentation.
In a similar way, a bad cover can damage the sense of scale, awe, and wonder. Or enhance them if done well and faithful to the setting and vision of the author. See for example how Erikson was handled here in Italy – http://www.cesspit.net/misc/deadhouse.jpg – It’s dreadful, so much worse than Tor’s covers. You just can’t have a worse presentation and with books it’s always hard to pass the right message to a potential reader. It’s at the same time essential and very tricky.
Why have a map?
Because it’s fun to track the movement of the characters on the world. But essentially because the fantasy genre relies much on the immersiveness.
From an interview with Scott Bakker:
“I think what makes fantasy truly ‘epic’ is its ability to evoke the tickle of awe (which is a strange and suggestive aesthetic goal if you think about it). Tolkien’s lesson is that believability can make that tickle resonate.”
A map provides a tangible background in the same way LotR’s appendices do. And that’s what makes it ring “true”.
Since the fantasy genre relies on the immersion of the reader, its effectiveness is also proportional to the internal consistence of the world. Make it feel concrete and real. Believable. It gives it substance that can be easily perceived.
Even the perception of our real world is biased by our experience with maps. In a fantasy book it helps the reader to build a shape in his brain. It makes real what real isn’t. Adds consistency (and in fact raises problems if the reader sees that the consistency is betrayed, like you noted at the end).
The map shows the destination of the journey. The perimeter. The horizon of possibilities. Part of a mythology that goes beyond the story itself and that makes this genre so particular.
Of course you can then approach and use the genre in any way you like.
Heh heh. I’m sure we’ll get to covers before long.
Yeah, I agree, a map is necessary reference for the author if your book has any amount of journeying or war going on, just so that you can make sure things are consistent, and avoid those little niggles in the text which might raise the careful reader’s eyebrows and shatter the delicate suspension of disbelief.
Thanks for the detailed and poetic response, there. I agree with a lot of what you’re saying, at least in the case of Tolkein, but even with his maps (at least the original ones in my edition) there tends to be a bit of suspicious white space round the edges.
Our experience of the real world is very much biased by maps, but would the experience of the characters in a pre-industrial fantasy world, where maps would have been hugely inaccurate?
You see I think Tolkein’s world was so incredibly well-researched and detailed that it would still ring ‘true’ without the maps and appendices. But very few (in fact no) other fantasy worlds are that detailed, and often start to look a bit wobbly under close scrutiny (not mine OBVIOUSLY).
I totally agree with you that a fantasy world needs to be convincing and consistent, and I would certainly never argue that a writer shouldn’t put that effort in, but I wonder if he/she should necessarily present it to the reader. You argue that maps promote immersion, while I’d actually argue the opposite – they can be a distraction from the real heart of a book, which is, after all, the text.
You point out that the map shows the destination, the perimeter, the horizon. I wonder if that’s something I want my readers to be aware of, or if I’d like to preserve for them something of the limitless unknown…
What I mean is that a fantasy novel is some more than a book with a story.
Today it happens even with TV series, think to “Lost” for example.
There aren’t just characters and a story, but also that kind of worldbuilding that created a consistent mythology (and speculation, and word of mouth). And that mythology outlives the book with the story.
The rest of the material (appendixes, atlases, encyclopedias etc…) go beyond the book. They aren’t literature and aren’t required to really appreciate the literature, but they build on the mythology and make the second world more true and well outlined.
This is a native trait of fantasy as a genre because it’s founded on creating a second world, or you could still narrate very similar stories, with similar characters, without that other world.
It’s then the choice of the writer, not a written rule, that says how much he wants pure literature or how much he also wants to make the second world real and detailed. How much of it is well outlined and how much of it is just seen through the eyes of the characters.
As a reader I enjoy both perspectives.
That italian cover is worst than some movies tittles translated from English to Spanish… It’s like an episode of forgotten realms starring the critters…
At least that book has a wonderful map…
I was actually thinking about this while I was reading The Blade Itself just the other day… trying to decide whether I would like a map to look at or not. I thought about it because I had a bit of trouble visualizing the different lands and empires to the south or east, or where were they again? But I realized I didn’t really care where they were, because it was irrelevent to the story…
So, I agree.
But it’s weird isn’t it – very few people complain about the lack of maps in SF books . . .
If anyone can give me an adequate explanation why an imagined fantasy world generally needs a map while an imagined SF world generally doesn’t I’d be very interested.
Maps have become a convention in fantasy and I simply can’t understand why (beyond the usual explanation of Tolkien’s profound influence).
Interestingly (well you know) Conan only got to scratch his uncomprehending head at a map (probably held upside down)when Howard eventually did one that ended up in a fanzine at the request of a fan. The stories first appeared in magazines and books without maps.
It may be that there is something in the mindset of your average fantasy reader that is drawn to the beauty of maps in general – a subconscious desire to immerse themselves in a world. But that still doesn’t explain why no-one complains about the lack of SF maps. (Perhaps people go to SF for idea not worlds? Thinking aloud now)
But in the main it seems to me that the habit of putting maps in fantasy books is like many other conventions – just plain lazy.
Now, Joe we don’t plan how to insult your clothing – it’s a spontaneous response.
I am new to the blogs but have been reading Joe’s with interest.
(I just adore your books which I am came across browsing the fantasy shelves simply being attracted by the cover.)
On the subject of maps I personally find them totally unnecessary. I much prefer my own imagination to conjure up….well, what ever it wants to really, rather than being resticted by someone elses.
I choose to lose myself in the characters (and what great characters they are), their dialogue and relationships, finding them far more intriguing and mesmerising than map reading.
I have read many, many fantasy books and never refer to the ‘token map’ as they tend to spoil the spell woven by the words on the page.
And while I am here I have to let you know Joe, that I am totally bereft after finishing the second installment, knowing I have to wait until next March to continue the tale. That is sooooooooooooo far away!
The question of Map or No Map? is always an interesting one. I think it depends on the book and the narrative. The Blade Itself largely takes place in one city with a few chapters taking place elsewhere. A map is to some degree superfluous. However, in Before They Are Hanged the action takes place over a much vaster area with simultaneous military campaigns and battles taking place [unspecified distance] apart from one another, and a map would have been a handy reference.
I wonder if military action is a decider on whether a map should be included or not. Simon admitted being defeated on the matter of a map in Cry of the Newborn, I assume because there were so many geographic references about how far armies had to march that the reader ended up seriously confused about where locations are without that reference. In a similar manner most historical novels featuring military action have maps (see Bernard Cornwell and even Tolstoy, who whacked some hand-drawn maps of the Battle of Borodino and the retreat from Moscow into War and Peace). Colleen McCollough’s new book on Antony and Cleopatra has about ten maps in the front, which even to me seemed like overkill.
There’s also the GRRM approach. Thanks to the maesters and so forth, most learned folk in Westeros know what their continent looks like, hence the (pretty appalling in the US editions) maps of Westeros in the books. However, they don’t have a clue about other lands, so the areas where Dany is adventuring are left resolutely unmapped and to the audience’s imagination (although GRRM seems to have bowed to reader’s requests and there’ll be a map of the Free Cities in ADWD and ones of much of the eastern continent i in the worldbook).
Finally, you can take the approach Erikson did in House of Chains and inexplicably have a map of a completely separate continent to the one where the action is taking place.
Also, SF novels do sometimes have maps (David Brin’s Uplift books have maps of the various planets visited; Roger Macbride Allen’s Hunted Earth books have schematics of various Dyson Spheres and star systems) but generally depicting three-dimensional space on a flat piece of paper just makes things more confusing. SF novels featuring vehicles which carry the characters over hundreds (or thousands or millions) of miles of territory in a few hours are also less concerned with geographic minitiuae than a fantasy novel where our trusty hero has to walk or ride every last mile 😉
Abalieno, Juan, Torai,
Cheers for your comments. Worldbuilding is important, of course, I just think it should be in the background as much as timelines for the previous lives of characters.
Glad you’re enjoying the books, especially their lack of maps.
Anonymous Simon and Werthead,
I suspect the two of you could discuss this issue for a long, long, time.
Oh, I forgot to say – maps as they apply to military campaigns. I can see why people would feel this way, but again I think it’s all about the experience the author has in mind. If it’s about following the campaign, understanding the specific movements and so on, in the way that a reader might expect to when reading a military history, one can see how a map is vital. But if it’s about trying to communicate the experience of war or battle for a single soldier within that immense chaos, a map might be positively counter-productive.
I find the point that maps “restrict” the imagination very strange. Admittedly I have read no other epic fantasies except LOTR and Kay’s “The Fionavar Tapestry”, so there may well be other books that offer incredible 3-d replicas of the world, with perhaps a note with information to the website that offers an interactive version. If not then I don’t see how some squiggles on a plain bit of paper can restrict one’s imagination when the novelist in the story is busily describing all manners of fauna, cities, buildings, colours, texture and so on. If he did that all for you in the map, I would get the complaint.
In other words a map is just a map, there to give you an idea of what a land may look like and the positions of various important places, best put in conjunction to other mysterious spots never explained in the main text, if at all.
For me the inclusion of a map is an overt, quick way of establishing the foundation of another world. I haven’t read one word and already the immersion has started. (It’s up to the writer to build on that effect.) It’s a visual, artistic medium through which to do that, which appeals to me because I like that kind of thing. To me fantasy has always had always had a special relationship to art, based on my experience with Tolkien and the many artists his work has inspired. It seems to lend itself more readily to that kind of expression.
Characters often travel a lot too in fantasies, and maps prove handy aids. A flip back and forth a few times in a 300+ pages book t is hardly enough to kill my attention span, but I am used to reading books with footnotes and endnotes.
And, of course, there’s the issue of it lending a realism. I do not read SF but I imagine that the genre simply realises that aim in a different manner. Also, I’m not sure what use maps would be if there’s a lot of space or time travel going on: drawings of solar systems? I guess that could work.
Bad maps can fuck all of that up of course, and I don’t think maps are essential. They’re a convention that one can use to the good or the bad and that depends entirely on the skill of the author in question, rather than any intrinsic merit or fault in maps.
I also found the book by chance – the cover attracted me. Also the blurb by Scott Lynch. Those 2 things served me well, for they got me an excellent character-driven work of epic fantasy with plenty of elements that subvert the genre – just what I like! That, and real-sounding dialogue, multi-dimensional characters, and an intriguing story, etc.
The lack of a map is not a problem. It’s enough for me just to learn about the world through the characters’ experiences and comments.
Having only read ‘The Blade Itself’, I don’t know enough about, say, Kadir, to want to know exactly where it is and what else is near it.
When I read about treks through the wilderness, or up the king’s highway, or whatever, I usually don’t generate some sort of internal map-like vision of places and their relation to one another; I just go along with the flow of the action as described. A map is just not something I feel a need for in fantasy, or SF, for that matter. Even in historical fiction, unless the specific elements of geography are of real significance to the story.
Joe, agreed about the military perspective. If you’re down ‘n’ dirty with the troops (who in a medieval-tech society very definitely wouldn’t have access to their own maps) then a map could indeed be counter-productive. However, if you’re up there with the generals (as you are in James Barclay’s Cry of the Newborn) then a map is much more necessary to keep track of what is going on.
Decided to make maps the subject of my first essay for SFFWorld (if they’re up for it, of course). Cursory research revealed that the earliest work of fantasy to come with a map was Dante’s Divine Comedy (c. 1321), whilst Jonathan Swift whacked some maps into Gulliver’s Travels (1726). I wonder if they got reviewers groaning and marking down their works for putting maps in 😉
I agree with you that it’s hardly a make or break issue with a book, and I, on occasion, still love a good map. I think it’s all about the type of book you’re trying to write, and if you want to be tightly centred on the characters and their experience of the small-scale, a map can be a step in the wrong direction. I think it can limit the imagination by quantifying the unknown, in the same way that nothing is scarier than the monster you never see. Also, as you point out, a truly brilliant and beautifully realised map may be an asset, but such a map takes a lot of time to produce, and that, inevitably, is time the autor hasn’t spent elsewhere.
Going along with the flow of action as described is pretty much what I’d want a reader to do, I think.
Dante as fantasy? I’m not sure he’d quite have seen it that way. Look forward to the essay, though.
Maps suddenly coming in when you’d had a perfectly serviceable picture in your mind can be an annoyance. It’s like a TV adaptation of Pride & Prejudice doing a blond Eliza Bennett – just wrong.
On the other hand if you don’t have a decent map it can be jolly confusing. I still have no idea about the geography in any of K J Parker’s books. North of the bay? What bay? There’s a bay?
I suspect it depends upon how involved the terrain is in the story – you don’t need a map if everywhere something actually happens is a self-contained vignette. If Bond movies can get away with a quick line of white text saying ‘Istanbul’ supported by a picture of the Hagia Sophia to set up a Turkish scene, then fantasy books can do the same. If on the other hand you’re going into huge detail about a particular city or trying to describe armies navigating difficult terrain, some kind of an overview is very helpful (and, if you’ve got a decent artist, pretty nice for the reader).
I wasn’t aware I was making a complaint. I merely pointed out that I ‘personally’ felt they were unnecessary. I do prefer to build a map in my own mind based on the setting descriptions and events the author has conjured from his imagination. As everyone is an individual, the map I have created is likely to differ from others who have read exactly the same words. I have found on a couple of occasions when flicking to a map that it is different to my perception. This has immediately burst my bubble and restricted my imagination, so I now choose to avoid disappointment. I prefer to see it my way.
I do understand that if a book is indeed factual or battle orientated and focuses on tactical deployments then a map would be helpful. The First Law books centre on strong characters and how their relationships develop as plots thicken. Where they are in relation to somewhere else isn’t that important, to me, when understanding the ‘fantasy’ as it unfolds. That is my ‘individual’ opinion not a complaint.
Map or no map in the books, doesn’t really bother me, but for people who have trouble going from home to the bus stop (that would also include people like me who ‘failed’ Physical Education because of a few orienteering classes) it would be mighty useful to see some sort of a map, even if it’s just blobs and vague little lines with barely legible scribbles labeling a few places.
It’s just a little annoying when you’re completely sucked into the story and then you realize, oh, we’re going in the other direction. At least I don’t mix up the warm weather and cold weather.
Hi Joe, I’m only halfway through your first book and already so desperate for a map that I found this discussion on a Google search.
What can I say. I love them! I love to check back and see where the characters are in relation to the events that are unfolding around them.
I’m really enjoying the world you’ve created, and it’s very interesting how you’ve given The Union a government that would seem more suited to the 19th century, even though this is a world of magic and medieval technology.
But I need a map! Really! I want to see the desert where Ferro is introduced. I want to understand where Logen and the Shanka are from, compared to Adua, etc….
It’s probably a compulsion but I find myself wishing for a map with each chapter. Please let me know if you ever create one.
My map quest is doomed then unless I stalk you down and get a squint in that ring-binder….I understand that the perspective is from the characters but Bayaz, for example, seems to have an encyclopedic knowledge of geography and though Longfoot doesnt seem to own any I suspect his guild might have one or two….What I really wanted one for is to study the campaigns of and against Bethod but then I suppose since he is pitched throughout as a sort of Alexander of the north you would be up to your eyebrows in strategic critiques….
I highly respect you as an author and think your books are very good! I am midway through Last Arguement and have been very entertained. I will look forward to what you put out next however, I disagree 1000% with your philosphy of not needing a map. If Tolkien and George RR use maps…so should you! If Scott Lynch, Erikson and Rothfuss use maps…so can you. Trust me…you are not sacrificing being original
You tell a beautiful story VERY rich in characters of a great world with lots of new/ancient cities, a quest to the West, a land in the North with Shanka and in the South with a Gurkish empire. Your characters in the books have maps in their world so why shouldnt we? You are not "sacraficing" your story or character development in any way by allowing a reader to visually grasp the world you are detailing. Your characters know this world they live in and we the reader are asked to be introduced to it. You have written these novels in such a way with character development that a map will not change a readers perspective of why you are good at what you do. Logen, the Feared, Bayaz, Glotka, West, Ferro & gosh everyone else are created beautifully and visualized by each reader in there own way.
I also googled your name with maps and found this blog. Needless to say I am very dissapointed in your reasoning. To be honest, I have actually found it rather annoying at times. To me, I think it was trying to prove a point of not using a map and I think that is in some way selfish.
Every good book or series doesnt need maps, but when you tell a tale about an ancient world and most importantly a quest (Book #2), to NOT have one was terrible! For those that dont like maps….don't look at it! For those that do, it could have made the journey more epic for those readers that were thinking while reading….why isnt there a pretty cool map/CRAP!!!!
Put me definitely in the pro-map camp. Although I don’t think they are necessary for every fantasy story (and I don’t think their omission detracts from yours, truly) I can’t help but be bothered by having an idea of where “Angland” is but having no idea where “Dagoska” might be.
It’s much like having an itch you can’t get to.
Joe, I too was a 'mappy' and in fact I did come to this site looking for a map, however reading you and recently the also mapless Scott Lynch has changed my view. I have indeed bought books in the past on the basis of the maps in front of the book as it would give me an idea of what type of world to expect and some indication of how well thought out the authors world is.
However you are so right, the characters do not often know what is around the next corner (literally) so why should we. It's a shame there is not (yet) a way of having a map that unfolds as you read the story as MMORPGs often do, (hmm, now there's an idea…).
Erikson's maps are good as they only give hints of the overall world and as Ariel has mentioned are essential sometimes.
The worst culprits are the ones where the entire world/continent is generally rectangular and sits exactly over two pages of a book with a small amount of sea around, see Robert Jordan & James Barclay (although I do love James Barclay's stuff nevertheless).
Anyway keep up the excellence, mapped or not, I only picked up the first book last week, and am thoroughly enjoying it. I will be in Waterstone's tomorrow picking up the next two.
I'm what you'd call a fantasy and SciFi nerd. I'm a medical student from Norway, and while my peers have one job alongside their studies I have two. One in a hospital as is proper, and the second in a Bookstore specializing in Fantasy and SciFi. I would be understating things if I said I read a lot; – I read whenever possible. I usually have 3-4 books I'm reading at the same time. I read one when I'm bored, one when I'm hyper… -etc. The thing is that sometimes I get slightly confused, as you might've guessed.
My personal opinion of maps in fantasy books is that they are wonderful. You don't have to look at them and often forget to do so, but they are there. As a reader I often binge on books. What takes you a year of careful work to publish, takes me 24h to devour. I often read my books two, then 5 then 7 years later. – AND, When I recommend books to the demanding customer one of the first things that comes to mind is the world and it's characters. Characters are often hard to describe if they are complex and well written, worlds are less so. Maps help.
Regards from Christian H. M.
PS. I will not have a chance to see you in Oslo for you book signing, but I will either send my mom 😛 or buy a second copy of one of your books for my boss to have you sign. I've been recommending your books for some time now. Looking at outhouse latrines now makes me smile where I guess Logen might be a tad skeptical.
Personally, I sort-of prefer to have a map. I know its a bit of a cheap fantasy trope, and the art is sometimes pretty crap, but I do generally prefer something rather than nothing.
A bit of context. I don't feel that maps are hugely necessary and I can do without them. Some of the stuff is even a bit of a no-brainer – "Wow, the North, I wonder where THAT is". One can generally get by without knowing PRECISELY where everything is. I got by fine without one for the entirety of The First Law. However, I do like to know where everything is in relation to each other – the more detailed and complex the world, the more you need a map – its even something of a necessity sometimes in stuff like the Wheel of Time books. And when I saw the cover for Best Served Cold I almost freaked out with joy – "OMG, look at all these places".
Overall, I do like to have maps, but the same goes as everyone else has said – requires good art, imaginative names, etc etc.
I prefer a map, partially because I tend to get heavily submersed in the characters experiences (particularly in a tight focus like TBI) that I lose track of the geography and then when in the middle of the story realise I've no idea where they are/going.
So a map or even just a short written description to look at after just helps me as something to put everything in context in my mind.
I'm not a map person, and I'm also directionally challenged. I can look at a map, and it won't mean a thing to me. I won't connect it with the place names in the book. Worse, if the map is required to understand the book, then I'm in trouble because I'm missing that crucial piece of understanding.
I like maps, but not those cheaply done on one page of the book.
Perhaps we could get a map that can be bought separately, like the Discworld map for example?
I would like a map that has the same look as the covers of your books, printed on heavy paper or even cloth and at least A1 in size. That way I could frame it and hang it on the wall.
At least a map of the Union would be nice as the citizens likely have a good grasp of where the parts of the Union are.
Or a version of the map in the Makers tower.
I have a selfish reason for wanting a map. I have fallen in love with this Circle of the World. I'm importing it into my D&D; campaign and a map would make things easier for me.
The world described in the book seems so vivid. I just am trying to recreate it as I can because it's a story that goes beyond the literal quests presented in it and presents moral choices.
It's obvious that there is not a consensus on the use of maps. So why don't you have a map available on the website for those of us (like me) that find that a map adds to the enjoyment of the books. And for those that prefer not to have a map, they can read the books and enjoy them as is without.
I am definitely a map person. But then I get lost in studying old maps of the town I currently find myself living in, I'm absolutely fascinated by them.
I like to look at a map if I can when reading fantasy, and have been known to search online for better versions. I've even got a big A3 colour photocopy of Robert Jordan's map from the hardback editions because the maps in the paperbacks (which are easier to hold) are rubbish to look at.
A map should be detailed, accurate to what the author has created, and well drawn. Many maps offered in fantasy novels are lacking on at least one front often more. There is honestly nothing more irritating than the simple error which I imagine is much like a typo where the author has got there direction confused: the characters are heading west out of such and such city as the first hints of grey come across the sky in the east. Two paragraphs later they're walking into the sunrise and it's blinding them. Excuse me?
The authors who give maps don't tend to make these sort of mistakes so badly, or at least if they do, I can gloss over it because I can look at the map and reassure myself that at least 'I' know where they're going and in what direction.
I have to say though Joe, I have never come across those sort of errors in your books, regardless of maplessness. I'm currently thoroughly enjoying Best Served Cold, including it's little snippets of map and I like the idea of using the map as the cover.
I've just found the full map on your website as well. Which is what I was looking for when I found this discussion, like all the other pro-map people!
Thank you! For the map, and for your books.
Just now finishing the First Law series and I must say, the lack of a map is distracting as all hell.
The reasons given for not including a map are pretentious bullshit–the Circle of the World is not earth and as such, the reader has no real idea of the geographic relation between locals.
Shit, even historical novels should include a contemporary map–but if not, one can easily look one up–which is of course impossible when it comes to a novel of speculative fiction.
This need not always be the case–Patrick Rossruth's over hyped first novel had no real need for the shitty unimaginative map included–and speculative fiction whose settings are self-contained need not include one either–but even so, maps are still nice if well done and go a long way toward making the setting truly immersive.
So my advice, Joe–put a fucking map in the books. I seriously doubt those who are in favor of a mapless fantasy novel will be truly put off, while those who do enjoy maps will be needlessly distracted by their absence.
By the way, enjoying the series thus far–even without the maps–
I'm a bit late to the game here. Two of the groups I belong to on GoodReads are discussing "The Blade Itself" and the issue of maps came up in one of them. I am among the minority in hating maps in fantasy books. Of course, I also can't stand never-ending series either. A trilogy is more than enough and a stand-alone is even better in my opinion.
Why is it that fantasy fans are the only ones that seem to require maps? You rarely see one in science fiction and sometimes they'd be more beneficial there. I guess the reason I really don't care for or about maps is that I do prefer strong characters to detailed world-building. In fact, I would much prefer a good list of characters to a map.
Kudos to you, Mr. Abercrombie, for shunning the obligatory map. I noticed its absence as soon as I started reading your book and that was the first thing that made me like it. I do have volumes 2 & 3 of the series waiting in the wings and am very much looking forward to reading them.
Alright so Mr. Ambercrombie your series have been great. I myself have a visualising mind and see the world if more detail then the book gives. Although a map could come in handy to increase someones sense of what really might be going on.
Think about it for a second. You didn't write the book you just picked it up and started reading and liked it. But you couldn't place the directions of the rivers are going or where the hills are, or exactly where Adua was. Like most fantasy novels a strategy I can see about drawing a map comes from giving the reader a feel of the world he/she is reading about.
A map in my opinion is useful, but uneccessary to put in a book. Putting it on a website however would help readers get a fell of the map.
The map should be drawn by someone who has experience drawing maps. You for example could picture the land you wrote about in more detail, put all the forests, cities, bridges, towns, and etc. and get readers and understanding of where Colonel West was when he pushed Prince Ladisla off the cliff. And the battle of dagoska.
ps a map would be nice, i'm still having trouble where the docks in adua are located.
On-line large maps are the way to go. I missed not having a map for your series although the geographical descriptions are good, when the written word moves from a chapter in the north to a chapter describing a desert there is no way to know where the desert is and my mind frets at that taking away from the story. A simple glance at a map takes care of the "where are they" factor. Also as the author you know where everything is and with a map the reader can share that additional knowledge. It is important to have someone skilled create the final drawing and not have the squiggles and inverted Vs.
Maps in books are always too small to do much good but the link recommended by Wolfhead on Dec 29 is a great example of what can be done on-line.
I am halfway through your First Law trilogy, and I love it.
But I do wish it had maps. I dug around online and found some which have helped, but up until then I was feeling a little bit lost. The geography plays a strong role in the plot, and I was distracted at times by trying to figure out in my head where we were, where we were headed, where in relation to the other characters, etc. Having a map in a story as complex as this, in my experience, pulls me further into the world, and the lives of the characters, rather than out of it. Being confused has the opposite effect.
Anyhow, thanks for sharing your stories…they really are wonderful.
Im all for a map, even a crap class photocopy… I found myself very confused when West was asked
“You grew up in the south, what are these Northmen like?”
I noticed the lack of them, but then didn’t mind.
Patrick O’Brian managed 20 novels spanning all sorts of farflung corners of the globe without a map.
It’s the story that matters, not the grid ref.
Late discovering your writing, and really enjoying it.
[…] reseña recientemente, había renegado públicamente en su bitácora de los mapas (el título de la entrada, Maps. Craps?, es más que revelador al que entienda un poquito de inglés); sin embargo, su nueva […]
I want to say that I haven’t read any of the First Law or other books just because the first book just got translated here in Bulgaria and is coming out on 27th of December,but I think it’s up to what type of fantasy what the book is.If it’s character based and the author is descriptive enough there’s no need for maps(detailed or not).But then there’s the case with multibook sagas like Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Witcher series which I finished last week,where the 4 or 5 “good” kingdoms were fighting a war with Nilfgaard and the only hint I got of their position is that the Northern Kingodms are (obviously :D) north and that Nilfgaard is south.And it would have remained that way hadn’t I stumbled on a map made for the computer game.So it all depeneds on the type of book.
P.S.I really look forward to buying The Blade Itself for Xmas,I read an excerpt form the Internet and it was really good!
i’m the tipe of person who likes to feel and see things. i also have no sence of direction. would love a map. just want to know were the places are. please put a map on your website. i’ll be happyt with a crappy one.
I’m a new fan of your work and actually just finished the First Law Trilogy. I was curious as to your missing map (even Lynch includes city or partial maps) but I actually found it exciting while reading the traveling parts because I didnt know where they were going either. Now, I will say 5min after finishing Last Argument I dashed to your website hoping they’d be up here (and the reason I didn’t visit it until completing the trilogy) and instead found your blog on why you don’t include maps. (i also read the one on swearing, i dont use them but cudos!).
Your reasons are valid and I can completely understand why not to include the map. I’m a fledgling fantasy author myself and while I have copious amounts of reference maps, perhaps I wont actually include them in the first edition. ha! Seriously though you make good points between the maps and swearing. I think my fantasy is a bit trapped in a wide shot and could use some realism as employed by you, Lynch, Martin etc. Some of my early reviewers have said it reads too much like a history book and not a story, ya know writing a Silmarillion instead of a LotR.
Anyways thanks for the great stories and interesting posts. I’m looking forward to reading the two standalone novels now. Please tell me we’ll hear from Glotka again at some point! He’s the most interesting character I’ve come across since Raistlin Majere.
I am ALL for maps. Especially with The Heroes. The visualization of where everyone was at with regards to the terrain helped a lot for keeping where everything was strait.
My problem is I TOTALLY suck with remembering names. Flat out. Especially proper ones. I’ll remember Dogman, Threetrees, Black Dow, and The Bloody Nine forever, but the “non-named men” main characters in all of the books? lol Couldn’t even guess one. I have no idea why. As I read the book, not too much of a problem (assuming they are mentioned semi-often).
So, no imagine trying to remember places! Ugh. Unless it’s a descriptive name (Swampcity vs Kilporgat) I just find it hard to put to memory. Perhaps not so much as I read the book but if it isn’t mentioned a lot, I lose it. A map is very handy for keeping it all strait.
BTW, you can imagine my headaches with the Fall of the Malazan Empire series! lol Oh man.
[…] The First Law were always clambering to get a map of his world. Abercrombie, contrary as always, would not crumble under the weight of their […]
I would love a map for the simple reason is that I love roleplaying and would love to have a game set in this world.
fully understand that this world is yours and having a bunch of spotty gamers tramping there muddy feet through it would just constrict you.
Either way your books have made me fall in love with fantasy again and plenty of other settings to play in.
[…] Maps. 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 is not a map-hater, only a lamentor of the often poor-quality fare included in published books […]
I’d love to see maps related to stories from the world of The First Law, but only if they’re really good. I thought the one that can be seen on some covers of Best Served Cold was rather good. Maps in the style of the maps from that world would probably be best. A lousy map ruins a book.
I really want a map.
I totally agree that maps aren’t necessary. Gemmell’s world didn’t even make sense in terms of how long it took to get from any particular part of say, Drenan, to somewhere else, but did it even matter? Whilst I’m not going against trying to stay accurate, I can’t help but feel that the people who like to check things on maps are the same people who object to the term ‘fired an arrow’ on the basis that ‘firing’ is a term relating to applying a flame to primitive gunpowder weapons. Ultimately, as long as the story is good, it doesn’t really matter. Particularly in worlds where cartography would be at best a wildly inaccurate art.
I love your books but the fact that you have provided no maps bothers me to no end. I’m a human, I can build mental images of your characters based on description because that is what my brain is hard-wired to do. Conceptualizing landscapes, terrain and geography is much, much harder to do.
I can conceptualize my own world, because I live here. Your characters all have that advantage over me as a reader, I can’t conceptualize the world they live in, because I don’t live there. You know the world. You created it. You have an idea of where everything lies. I trust you to give some visual idea of it, no matter how poorly rendered you think it is. Give me something – even some geographic hikime kagihana – and I can do the rest as a reader. I’m sure folks didn’t mind so much about the errors of the earliest maps when they were made, their existence was enough. The map’s the thing, so to speak.
This is only my opinion and I’ll keep reading your stories regardless of the addition of a map. But here’s hoping!
I love well-drawn maps, both for books and to ponder our shared world, past, present and future. But Joe makes a powerful case for leaving that to the reader’s imagination. Better no map than a less-than-excellent or uninspired one.
Maps are simply not needed.
What would be really neat would be to include a map in the next Audio Book release…. yeah, get it?
Part of the mystique of a great author is his/her ability to paint a picture of what the surroundings are like in his/her own mind. It is the Authors book, let them describe what the place is like, not rely on an artist to try and remake what they have described.
I do not need a Map to enjoy a story.
I actually find them distracting in exactly the way Joe mentions –
“Will there be a geography portion to the mid-term covering the First Law Trilogy? Ooh, I hope not – I just wanted to have fun reading about Nine Fingers.”
Maps are great if you are going to create a role playing game I suppose.
Very interesting topic and illuminating to see how many folks feel differently than I do –
“Vive le difference!” or should I say “Où est la carte?”
Maps are not needed and most of the times are a pain rather than a help.
My cousin did the same thing to my edition of The Fellowship of the Ring, exept in front of my terrified eyes.I had never even opened the damn thing as i was certain that i wouldnt be able to fold it back together in the right way.That doesnt mean i wanted it torn though.Anyway…
I enjoy the trilogy greatly and like the fact that doesnt really fall into the category of classic fantasy following every norm that has made this genre predictable.
so congrats and keep on entertaining us.
I am also from the “Don’t like maps” camp. Most of the ones in books of adventure constrict the adventure, they don’t flesh it out.
Sadly, I went for a walk late one night, and got lost, without a map I can’t find my way back to camp.
I’m very pro-map. Before starting on a fantasy series, I frequently take a dozen or two minutes just to stare at the map, try to imagine the trees, forests and cities, perhaps memorize a few of the more important-looking locations so as to get a sense of place.
It gives me a sense of things. While the characters in the world may not have a map on them, they literally live there; what they lack in cartographic knowledge is more than made up by their immersion in the socio-cultural space that is that world; indeed, most of the educated ones will have presumably seen a map of their world anyway.
Not having a map for The First Law is okay, though, first, because I’m reading it on Kindle and Kindle does maps really badly, and second, I can find fans’ maps from the Internet.
Well, you could always hand over a nearly blank sheet of paper. In the center, a dot, and the words “You are here…”
There are disadvantages like you had cited. I think maps are good for some bad for others. I guess I’m a cartographer in another lifetime. 🙂 I’ve been spending time looking for mapmaking resources but I one thing for sure – I won’t use software. I like to draw and learn. See symbols, places and not just imagine them.
I am a map-fan, but only when having a map is justified. I think one of the major aspects in fantasy stories is consistency, be it in terms of character personality, chronology, geography, etc. I would expect any fantasy author to have a clear picture of the world his story takes place in, but maps are not necessarily to be shared with the reader.
Because works such as Tolkien’s or George RR Martin’s are so rich, so detail-oriented, one might say they are more about the settings than about the plot. In such cases, a map is truly a must-have. And the same goes for timelines, family trees and all that sort of stuff.
But in The First Law, Joe is careful to keep all sorts of time and distance measurements very vague. The North is North, the past is the past, and it works very well like this! A map would just raise questions where none are needed.
Maps are cool but the guessing is just as much fun. The meat is the story, not how many paces between the radiating walls of the city.
Personally I love maps but can sleep without them.
[…] to demonstrate how the languages were different and foreign). Joe Abercrombie has spoken of his distaste for maps and his novels always reference their setting with a deliberately lack of specificity. Tolkein on […]
I found a fan made map after looking around on the Internet and this is what came up: http://www.woodge.com/books/maps/map_FirstLaw_v2_Scubamarco_cropped.jpg
I also remember yulwie talking of coming from lands that are farther south than the kantic continent that aren’t on any maps are we going to get any farther explanation on that, I’m guessing that might be the umapped frontier setting of a red country.
One other thing is I’ve heard people starting to refer to all of the books both the trilogy and the standalones as the circle of the world series is that correct?
I know I am late to this discussion, but I recently found the First Law series and love them.
My take on maps is that they should be included. Here is why:
If you do not like seeing a map in a fantasy series, do not look at it.
If you do like referencing a map in a fantasy series, look at it.
However, if a map is not included, it does not give either group a choice.
Just some thoughts.
Cake or pie is always better than a map. You have to be realistic.
I’m in both camps 🙂 I love maps, but don’t need detailed ones.
However, it helped a lot when I finally saw a map of the Circle of the World online, because I really wasn’t able to imagine one myself. I kept feeling frustrated when whatever I had imagined in one chapter was proven wrong in the next one.
I’m with you Argenta. I’m halfway Last Argument of Kings right now and have been totally unable to build up a good picture of the world in my mind.
Until I started looking online just now I hadn’t even realized that Midderland was an island, and not part of the same continent as the north lands and the old empire.
Don’t get me wrong, they are great books without a map and I fully enjoy the story, but they would be even better with a map.
Maps are GOOD. Unless corrected by the author the Map posted by Will (june 3rd)looks about right to me!
If I ever write a fantasy novel the map I intend to use is a standard A-Z map of Hull, upside down with the names scribbled over in red pen. And “here be dragons” scrawled hap-hazardly over anywhere that looks like it needs sprucing up.
[…] novel when your reader can just crack open their Rand McNally Road Atlas. It also might be due to this sort of sentiment (although Joe does have maps in his later books). I always wanted a map in my SHADOW OPS books, […]
I like the idea of one overview map to show where everything is roughly. I have to say I had your world all over the place in my head. More how things relate between the books I guess is the way to put it. Within each book I am happy to have your world unfold in my mind 🙂 Putting what maps you do have on the web is brilliant! I have hard and ebook versions of your books. Just getting ebook versions now. Poor ebook maps and illustrations are a pain. They need to fix that, perhaps linking it straight to the web?
[…] Abercrombie’s views on maps have been well explained, and he included none in his First Law trilogy (which also have great covers), but this cover (as with the covers for “Best Served Cold” and “Red Country”) manages to convey I think a very real sense of Abercrombie’s world and the style of Fantasy he writes. […]
pro-maps here. No map in a fantasy book? Crazy! I’m reading through “The Blade Itself” right now and thoroughly enjoying it although I would enjoy it more if there had been a map and I could picture what the world was like rather than simply “this place is in the north, and this place is in the south”.
I suspect though that good maps cost money to make and judging by the book covers, that is not something the author wanted expend cash on.
You are a genius. Maps suck and feel like homework.
Maps… in and of themselves stories in a medium other than the written word and when the word is crafted with talent and consideration then so should the accompanying map. Maps can be art… as can be fiction and they compliment each other beautifully when used correctly.
I loved all six books and the sparse maps presented. Kept me guessing. A thumbs up to your map maker. They fit nicely. Just wish I could have seen an illustration of the Circle of the World from the floor of the Maker’s House…. Just so I could put all the places in the West together. Shit on that! It is time for the Union to head East, spill some blood, force some culture, spread the Inquisition and the Banking House of V&B. I thought the puppet King had some legitimate and less than legitimate children….
“What if someone notices that Carleon isn’t quite as far North of Uffrith as you said it was, eh? What then? You’ll be a laughing stock…””
Seems to me that you need at least a schematic/map-in-progress as the author even if you have no intention of publishing it to make sure you avoid this kind problem. I’m not going to go through checking every detail and don’t have much sympathy with complaints from those who inevitably (one always hopes have fans!) will but I’ve had many a bad moment in a novel being pulled up short by a contradiction.
[…] skäll för att de vägrade ta med kartor i sina böcker. Den enda länk jag kan hitta idag är den här. (Jag kan för övrigt rekommendera Joe Abercrombies böcker.) Själv känner jag mig lite delad. […]
came here looking for a map, leaving with a smile and good reasons not to look again.
loved your way of looking at it.
[…] ses peuples, son histoire, sa géographie (malgré l’absence de carte, mais ce n’est pas vraiment la came de l’auteur). Les personnages ont finalement le temps d’être bien développés (c’est clairement […]
Great stories, love the characters. A map might be nice for some but personally I don’t need one. Our imagination creates a unique personal world from the story and it will be different for everyone. Its the story that matters, not the geography.
Map or no map? I for one have read many fantasy books which have all included maps. Some of these were good, and some not so. However, what the maps had in common was that they gave a general reference to where the cities or regions were in relation to each other. I did not reference the map every time I picked up the book, but I knew it was there if the need arose.
For the many of you that do not think that a map is necessary, don’t use it, leave it unopened. But do not say that a book is better without it. It does make it better for what I think is the largest percentage of the readers, so why exclude them?
Books are written for people to buy and read them. I have been recommended books to read, and have done so in return, but this is one that will not get a “hey, you got to go get this new book I’m reading”
Some few may consider a map a crutch, but where would Glokta be without one?
Maps are like condoms. You don’t have to use them, but it is a good feeling to know that they are available when the need is there.
What Omar said. If you don’t like maps, ignore it. The rest of us can refer to it when needed.
I am reading your books for the first time and rrally enjoying them. However, on topic I miss having a map present. Especially when characters list off tons of cities/countries in succession of far off lands.
Another thing is that since there is such a long discussion with characters like the guy Longfoot where he brags about each place he visits and their cultural contrasts, it would be nice to have a directional reference other than South, further south, south of xxxx, etc. At this point I am nearly finished the first book, and I can generally wave my hand in the direction of each story line but have no way of seeing distanced traveled or scope. For example coming over the Mountains for Logen seemed so troublesome, yet the named men seemed to be slightly inconvienced and infact ready for an immediate fight.
Just my two cents and months late to the discussion. Sorry for spelling issues, writing on tablet and it isnt registering all strokes.
[…] maps after a mapless fantasy trilogy. There were no maps in his First Law series, and in fact wrote about this in 2007, saying that maps weren’t suitable for his character-driven fiction. “I want a reader […]
[…] maps after a mapless fantasy trilogy. There were no maps in his First Law series, and in fact wrote about this in 2007, saying that maps weren’t suitable for his character-driven fiction. “I want a reader […]
Not having a map is truly awful. It completely wrecks my ability to immerse myself in the book, because the chatter in the back of my mind is constantly demanding to know where things are while I’m reading. I didn’t think about it in the first book, but now that I’m in the second now and things are getting a bit more complicated, it’s a constant irritation.
I love maps.
I just saw the map on http://i.imgur.com/AeO3AZn.jpg and I was really disappointed (disproportionately so). I think because it looks so contrived to have middland all round and sat in the centre of things so perfectly (and yes I am aware that was in the text). I had hoped that the geography of the map would look a little more real, given how pleasantly gritty the books are. I actually wish I hadn’t googled it. I love the books though.
[…] Anyway, I point you to Joe Abercombie’s words, which make a lot of sense to me. I don’t hate maps. I love them. I’ve run hexcrawls and plot coupon collecting and like him, drew maps like crazy, though I was a bit slower to give them up — I drew the map from my juvenile AD&D game when I was 18, in my first apartment, long after the game was done. In some ways, that map was post-gaming, synthesizing the messy tween RPG play we did into something that would look like respectable Map Fantasy. […]
Bit disappointed Joe didn’t fess to the best reason for a world-building fantasist to not use a map: it makes his job a lot easier! Take Martin: the geographic makeup of his world has such a huge impact on the events of his story, it sometimes almost feels like a chicken-or-egg situation. The fantasy writer with a clear, to-scale map has his options severely reduced by the need to make his action fit his map, or vice versa. Wonderful when it all clicks, but deuced challenging.
Of course Martin’s story (like so much fantasy) is a sweeping, geopolitical saga, slowly building towards a grand, earth-shattering climax to which all of his lands and peoples have contributed. Reading those kinds of stories with no map to follow would be like reading a WW2 narrative with no knowledge, or image, of the Earth’s surface.
A picture is worth blah blah blah.
But of course Joe’s yarns are different. They are more rollicking, cynical, human condition parables/satires than sagas. And the real reason you don’t need a good map to get the most from them is because he didn’t write them to fit inside one.
[…] See the Guardians of Atlantis and the Lightplate Artwork, its pretty awesome. The Map of Atlantis was created by a freelancer on Fiverr. I’ve read a few blogs by different authors, some say that having a map is good, others don’t like having them. Since I obviously have one, I’m going to share the opposing view by Joe Abercrombie. […]
[…] in his First Law trilogy. You can read his opinion piece on the question of maps on his website, here. For Abercombie, it seems to boil down to maps ‘getting in the way’ of the characters […]
small typo in line 1: It’s Tolkien, not Tolkein 🙂
Maps are part of what make great fantasy books great. They make the novel seem more real. Your point about concentrating on the characters is cogent, but I can’t help but feel that I would enjoy this trilogy more if I had something to refer to when I was trying to remember exactly where a particular character came from. Maps for worlds like the lord of the rings and game of thrones allow you to be drawn into the story as if it was real. Love the first law trilogy but was very disappointed at the lack of maps, straight up.
I am a third of the way into The Blade Itself, and I am thoroughly enjoying my first major foray into grimdark.
The map issue is interesting, and I like maps, but your perspective is smart. Having maps can bring a certain tangible dimension to fantasy; however, they can also be limiting.
I feel that this book allows my imagination to create a rich world. It is enough for me to absorb the world in my own exciting way.
How do you feel about the various artwork of the major characters?
I like maps as part of a fantasy epic, however quality is a must. There’s my opinion for this discussion. I also disagree with the author regarding the effect a map has on readers. There are too many different, bright, and imaginative people reading epic fantasy to assume maps affect them all in a negative way. So I looked around online and after some browsing I discovered a fan made map that adresses all my geographic curiosities about the world of the First Law trilogy.
I am truly enjoying the books, maps or no, and I feel that I am learning to know the characters in an intimate way. I just enjoy a map of the world as a reference, so I could see just how the Dagoskan peninsula is shaped, or where Angland is compared to Adua. In my opinion and experience as a fantasy reader, a good map only heightens the read. It does not take from it.
I have two niggles with ‘The Blade’ trilogy!
The main one is… that darn book is too short! Way too short!
Second one is… there’s no map, and I like maps. I followed Frodo through Middle Earth on the map, I tried to make out Ged’s epic travels through Earthsea on the very bad map (with approproate center fold right through Havnor) in my edition.
I like maps, I want maps!
I am of that bunch (hardcore fantasy reader) that really really want and need a map. I like to read half way in a setting, then just look at the map for a while imagening the world and its sorroundings, then read on, often i read the page again after ive looked at the map as well, next time we visit that place i already know how it looks like and we go right back to that ciry,forrest or steps.. and then after im far enough in the story i will put everything together with help from the map but now i feel like im reading out of control and my mind is constantly making up new places, and i find my self stopping and : hey, it didnt look like this the last time we where here did it.. although i would rather have the authors actual drawings i Guess i will have to deal with
A fan made first law world for now. Btw Great book, now about halfway in the blade it self and im real glad there is two more books after this one;)
Id consider myself a hardcore fantasy reader but I find the the absence of maps has done nothing negative to your books. The characters drive it. The setting isn’t as important as that. You still get as much of a feel for things as is needed.
Maps are never a part of a book as I see it, they are something extra for the readers enjoyment. Even if the map is not exact the reader is actually reading fantasy so he/she can prob imagine for him/her self parts of it.
There’s a pretty comprehensive looking map here;
I came to this page to look for the map… but saw this. Just started to read your book The Blade Itself…
Well i read quite a lot of fantasy books and my meaning is that all ‘REAL’ fantasy books MUST HAVE a map, because a map goes hand with hand with fantasy books, but thats just my opinion.
When i open a new book, almost always my 3rd or 4th look in it is, wheres the map? what does it look like? is it a good map? are there more maps on further pages when i read like a third of it?
I am glad that i bought your first book for my book collection, i think ill buy book 2 also, hope ill see a map in it.
I thank you for the book, its a good one!
Like most opinions about literature (or anything for that matter), it’s dependent on the person. For myself, having a map that I can reference enhances my immersion into the world, story, characters, etc., rather than detracts from it. It helps me picture what the characters are seeing/feeling/thinking far better than any words could ever do. So to me Abercrombie’s stories are significantly underserved due to the lack of a map.
However, I understand the concern that for others a map could be a distraction. That said, I do think we’re being a bit pessimistic about it all. Will there be someone who complains that the map doesn’t put Talins exactly 281 miles North of Westport? Sure. But deciding to remove a map because one dude in a basement is going to mock you on the Internet is a pretty timid response.
I’m sorry but this is such a pessimistic view of fantasy readers. I have no problem with an author deciding to not put a map in their book simply because they don’t want to, but
Thanks for the great books.
I would like Maps especially when the Author frequently jumps around between characters. However, with the age of the internet, you can just post them online and readers can choose to look at them or not. Don’t waste space by trying to jam a small map into the book, just put a URL, especially in the digital books. I guess I like them the most because I’m getting old and disabled. Keeping the fictional worlds in my head is difficult.