Epic fantasy and maps: it’s hard to imagine one without the other. The presence of maps in fantasy is so well established and so well understood that it’s become a point of parody. “No Tour of Fantasyland is complete without one,” wrote Diana Wynne Jones in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland. “If you take this Tour, you are going to have to visit every single place on this Map, whether it is marked or not. This is a Rule.”
And yet, for all their ubiquity, their role in writers’ creative process and their usefulness to the reader, we don’t examine fantasy maps as objects in their own right as much as we could. In this and future posts here on Tor.com, I will take a closer look at fantasy maps: their design and aesthetic, their origins and inspirations, and where they may be going in the future. The first question I’d like to tackle is a basic one:
What do fantasy maps look like?