Mapping the Dreamlands of Kij Johnson’s The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe

We’re excited to share this look at the map for Kij Johnson’s forthcoming Lovecraftian romp, The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe—available August 16th from Publishing! Professor Vellitt Boe teaches at the prestigious Ulthar Women’s College. When one of her most gifted students elopes with a dreamer from the waking world, Vellitt must retrieve her. But the journey sends her across the Dreamlands and into her own mysterious past, where some secrets were never meant to surface…

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij JohnsonArtist Serena Malyon was tapped to create the map of this strange world—one governed by a seemingly arbitrary dream logic, ruled by capricious gods and populated by the creatures of dreams and nightmares. Below, Malyon outlines the map-making process, including early sketches and alternate color roughs before revealing the final, breath-taking version.

You can also read an excerpt from The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe at the B&N SciFi and Fantasy Blog.



Here’s how we made it: First thing’s first—reading the manuscript and taking notes. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe is full of rich descriptions of wild lands, harsh seas and intriguing cities. By the end of the manuscript I had several pages of notes that described every location in the story. The author had drawn a map for me to use as a reference, so I started drawing my thumbnails with that in mind. My thumbnails were quite detailed so I could give Christine [Foltzer, Associate Art Director of,] a good idea of how I would approach the design of each location in the book.


Christine decided to go with the central thumbnail, which focuses on important landmarks in Vellitt Boe’s journey. From there I made some colour roughs. We ended up going with the colour rough in the center: a simple palette of cerulean blue, prussian blue, venetian red and yellow ochre.


Finally we get to the best part of the process: starting the final. I work in both watercolour and photoshop—watercolour for texture, colour and form, photoshop for painting detailed areas and refining. I wanted to make the map highly detailed to give each small city or landmark its own personality.



Here’s the final version of the map! I hope it accompanies you through all of your journeys through the Dreamlands.



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