Saturday, 18 July 2015

An Atlas of Imaginary Worlds 18: Distorted Maps of the Earth Providing Fantasy Worlds

As I noted back in April, it is surprising what can provide authors or gamers with potential fantasy worlds:

The one I am featuring today was actually a map from a pub showing where the wines they sold came from, well, perhaps on an alternate planet, because its resemblance to Earth is only in passing:

I have removed the wine details.  However, it shows a pretty different Earth.  Much of Europe is compressed, notably France and the Iberian Peninsula.  The British Isles have become a peninsula; Africa has shrunk a great deal and the Red Sea is far longer but there is really no Persian Gulf.  The Mediterranean is no longer closed meaning from ancient times reaching Asia by sea from Europe would have been common. Arabia is as large as India but Sri Lanka and Madagascar are missing.  The Mediterranean is open to the Atlantic and South America is a short distance from Spain, suggesting it would have been discovered sooner.  It is smaller and farther North than in our world.  North America, in contrast is farther away from Europe; Greenland is smaller. Novaya Zemlya is likely to only be as cold as Nova Scotia. The two Americas are separate, so the 'passage' to China, though narrow, is there,  Wildlife on South America developed differently to that of North America, until, in our world 3 million years ago.  In this world they remain separate, leading to big differences between the creatures in each.

Australia is even larger than in our world and closer to South-East Asia.  Indonesia is reduced to two large islands which would have provided easy stepping stones for people to reach Australia.  Possibly it would have been colonised by Indians or Chinese.  New Zealand is a single, large island off the coast of Australia and so is likely to have been colonised sooner and its wildlife is likely to have been far closer to that of Australia.  Japan is really a single island, farther South in our world.  The gap from Asia to North America is greater.  The greatest loss is of the entire Continent of Antarctica plus many of the Pacific Islands including most importantly, the Philippines.

Overall, this is a wetter Earth with smaller continents.  It is a world in which there would be greater diversity between the animals on different continents.  Despite the larger bodies of water, peoples are likely to have moved more easily from continent to continent with South America explored by Europeans in the Ancient or Medieval times.  Australasia is likely to have seen waves of migrants down the centuries.  The climate is likely to have been wetter and more moderate.  The Pacific would be a vast empty ocean probably only crossed between the Americas and Asia in modern times.

Seeing this map reminded me of the map for the tabletop game, now an online game too, 'Warhammer'.  It was a distortion of Earth.  Now that the game is going to be reborn with a new set-up, it seemed a good time to look at what they have had for the past thirty years or so

Unlike the one above, Antarctica (Southern Chaos Wastes) is huge even compared to our world.  Given it reaches so far North some parts of it might be tropical, or at least temperate.  North America (The New World) and South America (Lusatia) are more strongly connected and the Galapagos Islands have become a huge archipelago; the Falkland Islands are larger too and there is an island off South America.  Once again Europe has shrunk an the Mediterranean is open to the Atlantic.  Arabia (Araby) has ended up in West Africa and the Urals stretch into North Africa (South Lands).  India (Ind) has withered but Sri Lanka and especially Thailand-Malaya have grown. From there it is only a short Indonesia is missing and there is a reduced Philippines.  Japan (Nippon) is father South a broader central island with only small islands around it.  Britain (Albion) is a single large island, but colder than in our world, more on a par with Iceland on our planet.  There are large islands (Elf Kingdoms) across the Atlantic.  In subsequent maps at least one of these is portrayed like the classic views of Atlantis.  These islands would have made trans-Atlantic travel far easier, though South America is more remote from Europe.  In the game it has been settled by reptile aliens who have a kingdom similar to the Aztecs but with more advanced technology and enslaving humans.  The Dark Lands are interesting and seem to equate to Afghanistan-Iran in our world with a gulf and a number of islands.  There is a suggestion that the Northern Steppes connect to the New World and Ramalia and the Northern Chaos Wastes provide another connection.  Thus, it is possible to circumnavigate the planet overland even if it is through Arctic lands.

This would be a drier planet with more land mass and a smaller Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans.  Crossing the world by land or sea in pre-modern times would be easier.  However, there are likely to be greater swings in temperature between summer and winter for much of the planet.  The drier climate might mean large deserts.  With the huge mountain range in Eurafasia there might be vast lakes not shown on this map that would moderate the climate in that region.  Though for most of the world animals and people could move around overland there are isolated islands on which different plants and animals might have developed.  Given how far North the Southern Chaos Wastes stretch it would be expected that they would have diverse plants and animals different from other continents, even setting aside the chaos aspects.

These two examples show that we can simply take the world we know and make it fantastical.  In the 'Warhammer' case this has been the basis of a very successful game franchise for three decades.

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