Monday, October 29, 2012

Worldbuilding: Mapping in 4-D

There's a neat little video out there that shows the various political shifts in Europe over the course of a thousand years.  It's the sort of thing you have to be something of a map/geography/history dork to really get into, but, hey, here I am:

Now, this highlights a startlingly obvious points: the politics of a map change over time.  A LOT.  The question is: does your worldbuilding reflect this?

There is a bad tendency, especially in fantasy, to have the map of the world essentially be: this is how it is, and that's how it's been.  Empires stand for 10,000 years, locked in stasis.  Any changes over the course of history are singular and tied to key events.  No tweaks, no shifts, no growth.

Of course, I understand this.  Doing a full world map (or, even crazier, a full sci-fi map of however many stars to however many light-years) is a lot of work.  To then document even FURTHER the shifts over the course of time is a daunting task, and one you have to be somewhat obsessive to do. 

Which means I try to do it. 

On the Druthal maps, it's a matter of broad brushstrokes and a few generalizations.  For example, far east of Druthal is a nation called Lyrana.  Over the course of history, that land has also been part of the Tyzanian Empire, and the Pagari Nations.  Now, "Pagari Nations" is collective term for a number of city-states in that area.  There were something on the order of fifty different Pagari Nations, but I don't really need to know the details of which were which or what exactly went on between them.   A notation of the area as "Pagari Nations" and that they were fifty-some odd city states at a bronzeworking level of technology that had ever-shifting alliances, wars and trade is all I really need to know.*

Sci-fi mapping is a bit more interesting, because you have two big factors to work in: which planets have intelligent life, and when those civilizations achieve FTL flight.  It's all well and good to note that, distance-wise, two different species might claim a certain planet as a colony.  But if you add in one species has a hundred year headstart on colonizing... then "might" goes out the window.  Am I crazy enough to create a spreadsheet crossing each intelligent species to various technological milestones in order to chart exactly when each one achieves interstellar flight, and then calculate the spread based on that?

What do you think?

*- One could argue that, given as of now all my stories take place in Maradaine, and modern Lyrana barely has an impact on it, let alone it's deep history, that I don't even need to know that much.  But I like to.  It's how I am.

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