Friday, 17 October 2008

Atlas of Imaginary (and Real) Places 13: An Assortment

Today's selection is an odd assortment of things that I have come across. Some I encountered when I was looking for maps modelled on the London Underground map. They are of real places but shown in a different way to what you might be used to. There is also one fantasy map which got filed in an odd corner of my computer which I ran into recently.

Two come from the SystemeD website. The first one is a map of 'hidden' London and shows in particular the underground rivers and waterways of the city as well as other features which have now been built over. I liked this one as it is reminiscent of the sense of Neil Gaiman's London Below which I have written about before. You can see the Hidden London map in a variety of scales at:

Under London Map

This one comes from the following location: which has lots of delightful and quirky elements about London, its history and culture. This one simply shows the waterway system of London, above ground:

London's Overground Waterways

This one is on Strange Maps website: However, it originates almost as conceptual map from an author called George Friedman in his 'The Geopolitics of China: A Great Power Enclosed' (2008) see: You might think this map envisages some immense environmental change for China, but it fact it is more about where the people live. Vast areas of the country are very lightly populated and the bulk of the people live on this 'island' which is as long as the East coast of the USA from Maine to Florida with a bulge stretching as far inland as Arkansas. This is where the bulk of Chinese people live, where its modern industries and its major cities are located. This is seen as the gateway to the rest of the World. However, even Friedman notes that one priority of Chinese governments is to protect the peripheral areas, the hinterland which on this map are underwater.

George Friedman's China Island

The other one I cam across in my odd collection is of a place called Tamriel


This is my favourite version of the map but you can see other versions at the Fantasy Maps website: and others are at: including this one which stretched farther West:
Tamriel and other continents

Tamriel refers to the main continent. These places are on the planet of Nirn which is the location of The Elder Scrolls series of role-playing computer games, the first of which was released in 1992 and the latest expansion: 'The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles' came out in 2007. That a series can run over 15 years demonstrates they must be doing something right. Reviews talk of the skills development system as being engaging for players. The context is classic Tolkienesque with Bosmer - wood elves, Dunmer of Morrowind - dark elves, Dwemmer - dwarfs, Orsimer - orcs; Nords of Skyrim who are Scandinavian in appearance; Bretons are 'half-elves' (perhaps this is a reference to Tolkien as in his works the elvish lands were seen to represent the USA in our world and continental European countries have often see the British, the Bretons as half-American). There are a whole range of types of elves, once the dominant race on the planet, even tropical elves. There are attempts to vary this classic background a bit with peoples such as Ka Po' Tun - tiger-dragon people in a Chinese culture; Redguards of Hammerfell which despite the Scandinavian sounding name is a desert region. There are other races including the reptile people (Argonians), great apes (Imga), catpeople (Khajit), even slug people (!) (Sload).

Looking at Tamriel we see both classic elements of fantasy worlds with some attempts to vary it. Having 'Sumerset' (very like the West English county of Somerset in reality) seems a little weak. There are no real inland seas but two long slender channels in Cyrodiil and Morrowind and a decent selection peninsulas, but no archiepelagos that I can see. To some extent the continent seems to have been assembled from blocks and Cyrodiil, Morrowind, Hammerfell and High Rock receiving the most attention and glued together by less elaborate lands. I respect the effort to create something a little different and mix in well-known fantasy concepts with a few different varieties. Clearly this has worked for the people who enjoy this type of computer game otherwise it would not have continued selling over such a long period.

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