Wednesday, 15 August 2007

An Atlas of Imaginary Worlds 2: Large continents and deserts

Now, aside from Middle Earth and Narnia most imaginary places have far less mapping. I have been unable to find a single map of Ruritania (though you can find a print font called Ruritania, very ornate) featured in Anthony Hope's 'A Prisoner of Zenda' (1894) and 'Rupert of Hentzau' (1898).

In terms of the nature of the worlds drawn, probably the most similar to that of Tolkien and Lewis is in the Conan the Cimmerian (aka Conan the Barbarian) stories (Conan was the name of four of the Dukes of Brittany in the Middle Ages) initially by Robert E. Howard (1906-1936). They are robust epic adventures of a barbarian warrior. There are over 50 novels and other stories written by a number of authors (including L. Sprague de Camp), so search the internet if you are interested. Anyway, these stories are set on the world of Hyboria (or Hyborea). It has large continents for lots of riding across. One fascination as you can see, has been by fans to map this world over our own. Many of the names of places in the world come from our own history such as Stygia (Hercules was supposed to have cleaned the Stygian stables), Aquilonia (is reminiscient of Aquitaine, a region of South-West France), Kush (as in the Hindu Kush), Asgard (which is where the gods lived in Norse myths), the Pictish Wilderness (the Picts occupied Scotland at the time of the Romans), Corinthia (Corinth was a leading city of Ancient Greece), Argos (was the name of Jason and the Argonauts ship and is now a retail store in the UK too), Shem (is a piece of text that powers golems in Jewish legends), Ophir (is a wealthy country mentioned in the Old Testament), Iranistan is pretty self-obvious, Vendhya (like the Vindhya Mountains in west-central India; Vindhya Pradesh was a state of India 1948-56), Khitai is like the name the Byzantines gave to China and so on.

These maps of Hyboria transpose our world and our Europe onto the main imaginary continent:

A more recent world is the one created for the online gaming environment World of Warcraft which started in 2001. It has three large continents: Kalimdor in the West, Northrend, not surprisingly in the North and the Eastern Kingdoms (Lordaeron, Khaz Modan and Azeroth) in the East, with an huge maelstrom apparently between them. There are no apparent archiepelagos but lots of large islands. The Eastern Kingdoms seem particularly well endowed with no less than three inland seas with islands in them. I imagine these locations allow 'zoning' of particularly tough creatures or missions in the game. This is the world that millions of people directly or indirectly are involved in, making it have as much impact, probably, as Middle Earth and Narnia.

This seems to be the 'Underground' map of the World of Warcraft showing its transport links. From what I gather there is a steampunk element and that continents are connected by both traditional sailing ships but also airships named Zeppelins (presumably in this world Zeppelin was a gnome technician or something) and people can also fly on large bats and manticores between certain towns.

Another a large single 'continent' is a place called the Isle of Lodoss. This started as records of role-playing games in Japan from 1986 onwards but under Ryo Mizuno has evolved into manga comics and fantasy novels by various authors under the sort of umbrella designation of 'Record of Lodoss War'. Given its background in 'Dungeons & Dragons' it is probably unsurprising that it has a similar outline to Hyboria. It is difficult to judge scale and given the title 'Isle' or 'Island' maybe this would be more accurate placed in the islands and archipelagos posting, but I will leave it here for now:

Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950; the author of 'Tarzan') envisioned civilizations on planets in our solar system, notably Barsoom which was their version of Mars. Here are a couple of maps of what he envisoned its geography to be, the latter with an overlay of actual places on our Mars with their names in red compared to the Barsoomian blue ones. The books were serialised in comics shown by the first sate but then turned into novels which are the second dates I give for them: 'A Princess of Mars' (1912/1917), 'The Gods of Mars' (1913/1918), 'The Warlord of Mars' (1913-14/1919), 'Thuvia, Maid of Mars' (1916/1920), 'The Chessmen of Mars' (1922/1922), 'The Master Mind of Mars' (1927/1928), 'A Fighting Man of Mars' (1930/1931), 'Swords of Mars' (1934-5/1936), 'Synthetic Men of Mars' (1939/1940), 'Llana of Gathol' (1940/1948). Then John Coleman Burroughs took over: 'John Carter and the Giant of Mars' (1941/1964) and 'Skeleton Men of Jupiter' (1943 - no novel). Burroughs also produced a series set on Venus and there have been seven novels set in his Pellucidar, a land at beneath the Earth's crust, in line with the hollow Earth theories of the first half of the 20th century, including even a crossover with Tarzan going there. Burroughs also produced 'The Land that Time Forgot' (1918) and 'The People that Time Forgot' (also 1918) turned into movies in 1975 and 1977 respectively about an island inhabited by dinosaurs and cavepeople (very much like Arthur Conan Doyle's 'The Lost World' (1912) and more recently 'Dinotopia: A Land Apart From Time' by James Gurney (1992) and 19 sequels and other books set there by him and other authors that have followed).

The science ficiton and fantasy author Michael Moorcock has said he was very influenced by Burroughs and once edited a Tarzan magazine. However, as we will see, Moorcock's world of the Young Kingdoms is in sharp contrast to the desert Barsoom. More in that category is the world of Arrakis, created by Frank Herbert (1920-1986) in the 'Dune' series. In his books (and as with other successful science fiction authors others have taken up his world after his death), 'Dune' (1986), 'Dune Messiah (1969), 'Children of Dune' (1976), 'God Emperor of Dune' (1981), 'Heretics of Dune' (1984) and 'Chapterhouse: Dune' (1985) he featured this desert world and much of the culture draws on Arabic and Islamic culture with words like Padishah (similar to the Turkish and Egyptian leaders called Pashas and the Persian/Iranian Shahs though it is portrayed as a dynastic name), Fedaykin (from the word Fedayeen for an elite guerilla fighter, which is coming back into use in current affairs, outside Herbert's worlds because of its use by Islamist fighters) and Sardaukar coming from Arabic language (though searching the internet these days you would have thought Herbert invented them himself), Zensunni (which combines Zen Buddhism with Sunni Islam).

It is quite refreshing to have a world not so shaped by North European-North American outlooks. There are a few other influences such as in the Landsraad (reminiscent of the German Landsrat parliament) and the rival Houses are rather like those of Renaissance Italy. Though there are masses of websites devoted to the Dune setting, few seem to run to maps, I suppose a huge desert does not open up many opportunities for the kind of rivers and mountains fantasy mapmakers love. This then is a map of the Arrakis, central to the Dune cycle; followed by the one from the board game produced by Avalon Hill in 1979 which is much more colourful:

In terms of availability (and you can tell when you have lots of fans because they will map your worlds for you), probably tied next with Howard et al and Hyboria, is Anne McCaffrey with Pern - her world of dragonriders which features in a whole series of novels by her and her son Todd: Dragonflight (1968), 'Dragonquest' (1970), 'Dragonsong' (1976), 'Dragonsinger' (1977), 'The White Dragon' (1978), 'Dragondrums' (1979), 'Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern' (1983), 'Nerillka's Story' (1986), 'Dragonsdawn' (1988), 'The Renegades of Pern' (1989), 'All the Weyrs of Pern' (1991), 'The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall' (1993), 'The Dolphins of Pern' (1994), 'Red Star Rising' (also known as 'Dragonseye', 1997), 'The Masterharper of Pern' (1998), 'The Skies of Pern' (2001), 'Dragon's Kin' (2003), 'Dragonsblood' (2005), 'Dragon Harper' (2007), 'After the Fall' (2008). There have been short stories and some of these books are anthologies. The stories mix science fiction of arrivals on a planet with fantasy elements of dragon riding. As you can see, McCaffrey's world has large continents but also sea and that moves us into the next category of world's which I will look at in the following posting.

The final one which seemed to me pretty much like Pern is Glorantha. This was the setting of the game 'Runequest' a fantasy role-playing game which was the second most popular after 'Dungeons & Dragons' and aimed to have a more distinctive culture from the reliance on elves, dwarfs, trolls and dragons. Note that Pern has its 'Passes' as eras and you can read about Middle Earth in its Third Age, well Glorantha was set in its Second Age, possibly to reflect that it was modelled on Bronze Age rather than Medieval culture, (which I guess could be seen as a continuation of the Iron Age in terms of metallurgy so the third age after the Stone and Bronze Ages) used in so many fantasy worlds. Like Pern there is a central sea and large continents North and South, but like the worlds seen in my next post it also has islands. The third map is a political one of the northern continent, Genertela.

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