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Introduction | Reviews | Garajonay | Marshland Myths | Here be Spatial Anomalies


Here be Spatial Anomalies

Maps lie.

They promise to show us the world, and of course they can’t. It’s impossible to include everything, every footprint, sprig or rock. They can’t show the things that will not stay still, the people, sparrows and sailing clouds. Maps flatten the world, and make it look level, simple and comprehensible. The world is none of these things.

They also show things that don’t exist. Old maps show writhing sea monsters, or fantasy guesswork landmasses. Even modern maps carve up the land with straight black lines that don’t occur in reality.

Garajonay – high view teide floating

Everywhere is unmappable, but some places are more unmappable than others.

When my publishers said that they would like a map at the beginning of Unraveller, I drew this rough map of the country of Raddith. (The map in the finished book is based on this one, but was created by an actual professional so it looks much better.)

Garajonay – high view teide floating

This map didn’t show the misty marsh-woods of the Wilds in much detail, though, so I was asked whether I could create a separate map of those. And I said “AHAHAHAHA no.”

The first problem is that the Wilds are really long, thin and wiggly, so you couldn’t get all of it onto one map. But could I draw a map of a small section of the Wilds? Hmm, I thought. Well, I could give it a try.

So I drew this.

Garajonay – high view teide floating

This map did not end up in the book, and you can probably see why. It’s not a sensible or useful map, it’s a doodley fever dream. But any map of the Wilds would look something like this. Taking detailed cartographic notes requires concentration, and it’s hard to concentrate when something is stalking you through the woods, and the mist is shrouding everything, and you’re starting to hear laughter in the birdsong, and the boat you’re in isn’t yours and you can’t remember where it came from, and now you think about it, where are you…

Besides, the Wilds is a place of disobedient geography, where story is stronger than sense. As you can see, even compasses don’t work very well in the Wilds.

Garajonay – high view teide floatingCompass with Broken Face, Thayne Tuason

I admit it, I really like writing about unpredictable and illogical geography. In A Face Like Glass, the tunnels of the underground city of Caverna loop round on each other in ways they shouldn’t. This way is also that way, and down is sometimes up. In Cuckoo Song, there are hidden places in the city of Ellchester, large spaces fitting inside buildings too small from them, and a whole settlement hanging unseen and inverted beneath a bridge.

Why? Well, the truth is that I have a terrible sense of direction. I write about places where you get hopelessly lost because for me everywhere is like that…