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Monday, December 17, 2012

Mapping Selenoth

JartStar didn't find it easy to map out Selenoth, mostly because I don't think in spatial terms.  This map to the right is from a very early version when the book was only half-written and we were kicking around the idea of eventually creating a VASSAL wargame around the story.  I've long been interested in combining the zone-based game mechanics of War at Sea with a Divine Right system that combines diplomatic intrigue with battle, and perhaps one day I'll even get around to designing it.  The primary challenge he faced was translating locations into map terms from my description of events; if it takes 30 days to go from Amorr to Elebrion and one passes through an uninhabited forest, then that provides a certain amount of information about how things have to look.

I'm sure there were times he desperately wanted to beat answers out of me, but the problem was that because I am spatial relations-challenged, I couldn't really provide them until I had figured out exactly what I required for the story to work as conceived.  Was Lodi travelling west or east?  If Theuderic was traveling to Amorr, why did he have to go through Malkan?  The plot affected the geography and the geography affected the plot; as JartStar noted himself when he introduced the map to his Cartographer's Guild.

"The map took nearly a year to do as author didn’t know where certain locations would be until he had worked out the plot! It meant a lot of revisions all of the way until the day it was literally going to press."

The particular challenge was how to portray the allies and provinces of Amorr, since they were too small to show up on the continental map.  The first attempt proved a little confusing; the editor at Marcher Lord actually got it backwards. But the zoom lines he suggested worked very well.  It did lead to one minor problem in the text, as Falerum was described at two points in the original text as "the largest ally", which is quite clearly not the case.  But that was cleaned up in the errata.

As for rivers and lakes, they were left off for legibility reasons.  In general, it can be safely assumed that every major city is built on a river, as is the case with regards to nearly all medieval European cities. Most fantasy maps that contain rivers are entirely misleading, as they only feature one or two rivers when the number of cities shown would indicate the need for an order of magnitude more; for some reason most fantasy lands don't contain a reasonable number of lakes either.  Given my ferocious hatred for long literary river journeys, it is totally appropriate that the rivers are not shown on the map as they will never, ever, feature in such a regard.

The map of Selenoth can't hold a candle to the beautiful map of Middle Earth that I once owned in the form of a much-loved jigsaw puzzle.  I can't think of a single map that does.  But I hope the readers find it both attractive and useful in following the story; thanks to JartStar's heroic efforts, I think it is more geographically credible than most of the maps one sees in the genre.

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75 Comments:

Blogger Nate December 17, 2012 8:39 AM  

I find your hatred for river journeys to be irrational. The subject itself can be plenty interesting. Its the story and the author that determine if it is hate-worthy.

Blogger Tom December 17, 2012 8:40 AM  

I find it fascinating that you have no clue where the different locations are in the story. That is the exact opposite of how my mind thinks through stories. I think your description of the majority of fantasy maps though matches my feelings about the genre post Tolkien and Lewis.

I've always longed for another decent entry into the fantasy genre and never found one until Summa. I'm still a little amazed that you don't have a spatial arrangement of the whole thing laid out in your head. How can you write like that?

Tolkien drew his own maps and made his own watercolor illustrations of many parts of his books, and I've always felt that was part of why his world seemed so concrete and real compared to other attempts people make at fantasy.

I haven't got Throne of Bones yet, but probably will as soon as I have the time to actually read it. Too many responsibilities and children teach.

Blogger Tom December 17, 2012 8:42 AM  

@Nate:

Yeah, look at "Deliverance," that's a great river journey story.

Anonymous Orion December 17, 2012 8:43 AM  

I was always the opposite. I loved maps, so I'd start with a map and then figure out who owned what etc. I'd then create area maps, racial maps, and even political party maps in the case of my most detailed and long running campaign. I need to get of the start line and do something with all of that since I still have it packed away in a closet. Maybe finally write up the story I created for the rpg.

Anonymous VD December 17, 2012 8:45 AM  

I find it fascinating that you have no clue where the different locations are in the story. That is the exact opposite of how my mind thinks through stories.

It's not that I have no clue at all. It's just that I only have a relative clue and those various relative clues do not naturally come together into a collective whole given the spatial-related limitations of my mind. I actually find the strictures of the physical geography to be somewhat irritating, even as it suggests various plot elements to me.

I find these limitations on my part to be useful in some regards, because it helps me understand how others don't necessarily see the logic of a matter in the holistic sense that I often do.

Anonymous VD December 17, 2012 8:49 AM  

How can you write like that?

Because my writing is character-driven, not geography-driven. A lot of the plot is worked out because if character X is put in situation Y, his actions are driven by his nature. Conversely, if there is a plot mechanism that I want to utilize, I have to either put an appropriate character in that location to act that way or create a new character for that purpose.

That's why things hold together fairly well. I think a hallmark of bad fantasy - bad fiction, really - is when an author makes a character betray himself in the interests of the plot. I'd rather throw out the plot element than do that.

Blogger Joshua_D December 17, 2012 8:54 AM  

What's the eta on receiving the updated e-book? I'm about a third of the way through, and I think it's a very intriguing story, but I could definitely use a dictionary. In any case, my Nook for PC reader let's me highlight and search up phrases in Wikipedia and Dictionary.com, so after about the first 100 pages I realized I could figure out with some certainty what all the military terms meant, rather than just guessing using context. :)

Anonymous Roundtine December 17, 2012 8:55 AM  

Good river journey: Arudel by Kenneth Roberts. Granted, it's historical fiction concerning Arnold's invasion of Quebec, not fantasy.

Anonymous VD December 17, 2012 9:08 AM  

What's the eta on receiving the updated e-book?

Send me an email and I'll see that you get it.

Anonymous VD December 17, 2012 9:30 AM  

I find your hatred for river journeys to be irrational.

They bore me. Float to point A, point B, point C, etc. It strikes me as lazy plotting, for the most part. A very few writers are skilled enough to make it interesting even so. Most are not.

Blogger Kyle In Japan December 17, 2012 9:31 AM  

Interesting insights. I drew up several maps for the book I'm writing early in the process (maybe about 120 or so pages into the story), and it was a huge help in keeping track of locations as I wrote the book; if I'd waited until the end to draw my map, I have no doubt that I would have had to correct a ton of continuity errors in regards to the geography.

Brandon Sanderson had a good lecture on YouTube that talks about making maps and avoiding some of the usual pitfalls in map-making for people who don't know a lot about geography; that was pretty helpful.

I can't remember river journeys making much of an impression either way, but in reading The Eye Of The World, it seems like there are an absolute ton of chapters trying to connect Point A to Point B where little happens, and these are indeed tedious. The novel I'm writing is of the quest variety, so I've tried to be careful to limit these scenes. People travel by road and by sea, and the chapters describing these journeys-in-progress are kept to a minimum and only included so much as they contribute to plot progression and character development. We don't need to see what the heroes are doing every single day of their journey.

Anonymous zen0 December 17, 2012 9:31 AM  

Were there any naval battles? There seems to be lots of water available.

Anonymous Josh December 17, 2012 9:38 AM  

About 2/3 of the way through, really enjoying it, especially the Roman politics. The way that the action occurs off stage reminds me of the first two books in the foundation trilogy.

Blogger Positive Dennis December 17, 2012 9:45 AM  

Is Wordpress broken for the iPad, or have you changed your format for the blog?

Anonymous Josh December 17, 2012 9:51 AM  

In the Amorran corsus honorum, how many hold each office?

Anonymous Daniel December 17, 2012 9:54 AM  

I don't like river journeys in fantasy because there can't be any good sea monsters there (relative to the ocean) and if you want haunted water, a lake is the place for that. Considering that "road journey" is not a recognized trope, even though a huge number of fantasies include them, while "river journey" is, I am persuaded that river journeys in fantasies are a cheat.

To Your Scattered Bodies Go is the perfect example of an artificial river journey. That setting makes it quite obvious that the reason for that sort of geographical setting is to allow the author to avoid the hassle of geography.

Blogger Nate December 17, 2012 10:15 AM  

"They bore me. Float to point A, point B, point C, etc. It strikes me as lazy plotting, for the most part. A very few writers are skilled enough to make it interesting even so. Most are not."

Most don't bother looking to history. For example... the settlement of Nashville. The group that settle Nashville was split into two... women and children were put on flat boat and took the trip to middle TN on the rivers. The menfolk walk through Kentucky and south into middle TN. It was thought that the women and kids would be safer and the trip would be easier. In truth... the river trip was far more deadly. So much so that it was pretty much abandoned even as a supply route for over a decade. The savages attacked the flat boats from the shores continually... and even built their own watercraft to launch attacks from.

Its infuriating to me that so few authors are able to draw from history to improve their stories... the way you have with ToB.

Blogger Nate December 17, 2012 10:17 AM  

"I don't like river journeys in fantasy because there can't be any good sea monsters there (relative to the ocean) and if you want haunted water, a lake is the place for that."

this is the sort of limited thinking that is bothersome to me. Rivers can be as big and as deep as we want them to be.

Blogger jamsco December 17, 2012 10:18 AM  

"In general, it can be safely assumed that every major city is built on a river, as is the case with regards to nearly all medieval European cities"

A friend of mine is from Indiana and he once noted that Indianapolis is the biggest city located on a non-navigable river.

Blogger jamsco December 17, 2012 10:22 AM  

"I'm sure there were times he desperately wanted to beat answers out of me, but the problem was that because I am spatial relations-challenged, I couldn't really provide them until I had figured out exactly what I required for the story to work as conceived. Was Lodi travelling west or east?"

Does this mean that you aren't thinking of directions when dealing with fiction? My brain always does this automatically.

For example, when Obi-wan says, "That's no moon. That's a space station", they are looking south and a little east. Even though this makes no sense in space.

Blogger jamsco December 17, 2012 10:25 AM  

"I don't like river journeys in fantasy because there can't be any good sea monsters there (relative to the ocean) and if you want haunted water, a lake is the place for that."

TOB provides a counter-example to this statement.

Anonymous David December 17, 2012 10:27 AM  

As someone who enjoys geography and maps I appreciate this post and the effort that went in to getting the map correct. All too often books and games which build worlds don't put enough effort into that area, resulting in countries and continents that are either too large or too small for the populations and cultures involved.

And I agree the world needs another Divine Right style game, although I can only guarantee you a market of one personally.

Blogger Alexander December 17, 2012 10:37 AM  

@ Jamsco

Biggest in the US, perhaps (though as a Georgian I submit the Atlanta metro for consideration. Air & Rails!)

However, Greater Mexico City has over 20 million people and is built on lake beds right in the middle of the country.

Anonymous Athor Pel December 17, 2012 10:38 AM  

What a nightmare for Jartstar. I can see the conversation.

Jart: So where is this country in relation to this other?

Vox: I don't know.

Jart: You wrote the book. How can you not know?

Vox shrugs his shoulders and says, "It didn't seem important at the time."

Jart begins to imagine Vox's view of geography as some giant mobius strip where every road always leads back to the start point.

Anonymous Josh December 17, 2012 10:43 AM  

Roads go ever ever on...

Anonymous Daniel December 17, 2012 10:52 AM  

this is the sort of limited thinking that is bothersome to me. Rivers can be as big and as deep as we want them to be.

Bigger than an ocean? Stiller than a lake?

That's just nonsense. If you want a super, super giant river that is still and deep and dark and haunted, it becomes either an ocean or a lake.

Keep in mind that I'm not talking about realistic fiction. Twain's river journey stories are terrific, and rooted in geography, and I think Heart of Darkness is good clean fun, and you won't beat Three Men in a Boat for humor. My complaint is that in most fantasy (and there are big giant exceptions: despite all my complaining, I think To Your Scattered Bodies Go is an excellent example of such a trope, as are the traveling portions of the Fellowship of the Ring. Recently, Desert of Souls made clever use of the river journey.) the river journey is a convenient cheat.

River journeys should be exciting to read and geographically detailed, while being mostly dull as hell or terrifying to the characters. That's a huge task for even a very good fantasy author. A Boy's Life is a fantasy that does the river thing right, but that river is real, for example.

Blogger Nate December 17, 2012 10:58 AM  

"Bigger than an ocean? Stiller than a lake?"

What kind of idiotic statement is that? If you want a river to be 2 miles wide.... and 5 miles deep... running for a thousand miles... all you have to do is write it that way. And that is plenty big enough for any super massive monster you want.

Anonymous Daniel December 17, 2012 11:09 AM  

Of course it is Nate. Name me one fantasy author who has made such a river central to their character's journey, and has detailed it in such a way to make the sucker interesting to read.

Otherwise, it isn't much different than calling your elves "smelves" and your orcs "sporcs" (or your dwarves "handsome lesbians") for the heck of it.

"But don't you see? My river is different! It's a spliver! It takes months to traverse, it is full of saltwater, it is so big that storms overwhelm its placid waters, and entire naval fleets do combat in its open waters."

So...it's that kind of idiotic statement.

Authors cheat on river journeys so often, it isn't funny: they don't want to mess with horsekeeping, or slow foot journeys, or full-blown naval expeditionary planning. River journeys are very easy to misuse as the brackets of a flow chart.

So unless your river is as deep and complex and detailed as a main character, I just can't think of the river as being anything more than the ubiquitous "mirror portal" that transports a character anywhere.

Anonymous ? December 17, 2012 11:12 AM  

A friend of mine is from Indiana and he once noted that Indianapolis is the biggest city located on a non-navigable river.

Phoenix (Salt River only has water periodically when it floods)? Canberra? Johannesburg? Riyadh?

Anonymous VryeDenker December 17, 2012 11:13 AM  

I think the point is that a river evokes feelings of thiongs moving forward in time. A water monster is usually something "from ancient times", which almost demands a lake, which evkoes feelings of "unchanged since the forming of the earth".

Unless you're PZ Myers writing about tentacle Hentai.

Anonymous VD December 17, 2012 11:34 AM  

Does this mean that you aren't thinking of directions when dealing with fiction?

Not even a little bit. I'm usually contemplating the military strategies and combat tactics, or as is more often the case, the lack of them. The ineptness of the Empire in Star Wars still puzzles me. What is the point of an AT-AT?

Anonymous VD December 17, 2012 11:36 AM  

TOB provides a counter-example to this statement.

They're not monsters! They're just differently civilized. Seriously, I was SO happy to be able to work them in. I really wanted to, but I didn't have a legitimate reason until a certain dwarf entered the story.

Blogger JDC December 17, 2012 11:39 AM  

Were there any naval battles? There seems to be lots of water available.

A bit off topic, but if you like naval battles - read David Weber's Safehold series. Not only is it choc full of naval battles, but a large part of the plot is derived by other-world naval technological advances. If you want detail into cannon, powder, sail, hull structure...this is a series for you.

Blogger Nate December 17, 2012 11:39 AM  

"What is the point of an AT-AT?"

Troop transport! The legs allow it to deal with terrain better. Except... if that's true.. they shouldn't have been so easy to trip.

Anonymous Josh December 17, 2012 11:40 AM  

What is the point of an AT-AT?

To get blown up by Luke.

Blogger JartStar December 17, 2012 11:41 AM  

The toughest part was the reworks since Vox either changed the story, or when he saw it on paper it he realized it wouldn’t work. I actually wondered at one point if there was going to be a map in the book.

Blogger WATYF December 17, 2012 11:43 AM  

Vox... I just tried to order the ePub version on Marcher Lord Press's website and I'm getting a time-out error when I click on "Buy Book".

Blogger Nate December 17, 2012 11:43 AM  

David...

You're either deliberately being obtuse... or you're truly a moron. Rivers vary in size. Greatly. Compare the Mississippi to the Rio Grande sometime... and they are on the same continent. And when the Amazon swells in the rainy season... well... obviously you're ignorant of the matter. Compare the Great Lakes to the little neighborhood lakes of various cities.

It does not take a great deal of imagination to simply imagine a larger river.

The fact that it hasn't been written, and it probably has, is irrelevant. The Amazon is a river. Just like the Rio Grande. It doesn't have to be different. Its just a lot of flowing water.

Blogger jamsco December 17, 2012 11:45 AM  

"They're not monsters! They're just differently civilized."

Perhaps. But the river could be described as haunted. I wouldn't read that chapter to my kids before a trip to St. Croix.

Blogger Nate December 17, 2012 11:45 AM  

By the way David...

At its widest point... the Amazon is 6.8 miles wide.

Blogger WATYF December 17, 2012 11:47 AM  

Here's the error, btw.

400 Bad Request

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Your browser sent a request that this server could not understand.
Apache/2.2.17 (Unix) mod_ssl/2.2.17 OpenSSL/0.9.8e-fips-rhel5 DAV/2 mod_auth_passthrough/2.1 mod_bwlimited/1.4 FrontPage/5.0.2.2635 Server at aut.authormedia.net Port 80

Blogger Nate December 17, 2012 11:54 AM  

Also.. the deepest rivers are over 500 feet deep... the congo is over 800 feet deep.

So given that Godzilla can walk around underwater and still have a couple hundered feet of water over his head...

Precisely how big does a river need to be again?

So now that we've established that the actual earth itself has a river (the amazon) that could handle godzilla with ease... I am moved to wonder how exactly you can claim that your claim that "rivers don't support massive monsters" is anything other than total rubbish?

Blogger JartStar December 17, 2012 11:58 AM  

What is the point of an AT-AT?

It was a visual element symbolizing the Empire’s inevitable, slow, march of the rebellions doom in the movie. Tactically they were almost worthless.

In the Star Wars universe apparently bombers were a technology that was never developed, or at least not commonly used in support of ground troops. The entire Gungan army could have been annihilated as they marched by WW2 aviation technology. Once the battle was joined they could have been routed if each of the droids were given just a few WW2 grenades to throw into their tight formations. Since they were droids, and already had been shown to use chemical weapons to kill, why didn’t they bring a couple of canisters? But the whole movie was a PoS so why bother questioning the insane military decisions?

Anonymous VD December 17, 2012 12:00 PM  

I just tried to order the ePub version on Marcher Lord Press's website and I'm getting a time-out error when I click on "Buy Book".

You'll have to email them directly. I'm afraid I can't help you with that.

Anonymous Daniel December 17, 2012 12:00 PM  

Nate, it isn't about possibility, it is about literature. As a general rule, if you want a dreadful, cthulhuesque monster symbolizing the vastness of the unknown, authors put him at the bottom of an ocean: it is a literary marriage.

Just because a massive eldritch horror could physically be in a river, it is kind of like putting a ghost in a double-wide: unless you are doing it for laughs, the author has an environmental problem to overcome.

So yeah, the congo isn't too little for Godzilla. It's too little for Godzilla to be as scary as he is in the Pacific.

Blogger Nate December 17, 2012 12:08 PM  

Oh I see...

so fear is based on literary convention.

I remember saying something about limited thinking...

Anonymous Josh December 17, 2012 12:14 PM  

And regarding a haunted river...what about the swamps in cajun country?

Anonymous Jack Amok December 17, 2012 12:25 PM  

Spatial relations-challenged? You didn't throw a baseball enough as a kid. The act of throwing something with the goal of accuracy seems to stimulate the spatial mapping parts of the brain.

Don't know if that's linked to a like of river voyages. Thing about river voyages is that the river is just a setting, it isn't the story itself. In the best of hands, the river becomes an essential part of the story, but it can't - pardon the pun - carry the story - the plots and characters do that. Odd to have such a dislike of them. Sure, there are examples of bad river journeys, but name a trope that doesn't have more crap than gold in the genre. I'd wager more authors have bungled elves than river voyages.

Anonymous scoobius dubious December 17, 2012 12:49 PM  

"What is the point of an AT-AT?"

The point of an AT-AT is to look cool in a movie about battles in outer space. When you call your movie "The Empire Strikes Back", you have made certain promises to your audience, and one of them is that you will have great big imperial military gizmos that look cool. It doesn't matter if they're tactically appropriate or not. What matters is that, not only do they look cool, but the hero figures out a way to defeat them which also looks cool. After all, if the Force is so amazing, why didn't Vader and the Emperor just use the Force to blow everything up? Because it wouldn't look as cool as the Death Star.

As we all know (or should) you can't hear explosions in space. But the sound editor puts them in anyway because they sound cool. Or, at least they sound cool to teenage boys. The silence of space in "2001" sounds much cooler, and scarier, to an adult ear and mind. But then, "2001" was not subtitled "The Battle for Zargaxia Continues!" or whatever, so they didn't make the same sort of promises to their audience.

Anonymous Daniel December 17, 2012 12:50 PM  

so fear is based on literary convention.

I remember saying something about limited thinking..


Not convention, environment. Unless you write funny books (like Douglas Adams), if you are going to turn a trailer into a haunted house, the author is going to have to work like hell to make it spooky. If you are going to put Godzilla in the Mighty Mississip', you are going to have to work very carefully to overcome the reader's natural tendency to laugh at the notion.

And if you are going to write a fantasy novel with the ubiquitous river journey in it, the automatic message that has been sent is "well-worn plot device ahead: expect no actual river."

Considering that, despite convenience, road travel was avoided in the pre-Modern World because of banditry and other hazards, and river travel over long distances was avoided because of the nearly-one way nature of it (travel was hard enough back then, why make a trip whose return was easily ten times harder and much longer than the journey away?), it is remarkable that the sojourn in fantasy almost defaults to the river and the road. In Europe, sea travel for long distances was the most secure and direct, despite the weather. You had the convenience of group travel, sleeping arrangements, and semi-professional arms at the ready.

Anonymous ? December 17, 2012 12:52 PM  

What is the point of body "armor" that can't stop fire from high-tech energy weapons or the arrows of primitives and can't even protect the wearer from furry midgets with sticks?

Anonymous scoobius dubious December 17, 2012 12:57 PM  

"if you are going to turn a trailer into a haunted house, the author is going to have to work like hell to make it spooky."

The first Paranormal Activity movie managed to make a suburban McMansion spooky. I thought that was a pretty neat trick, so I see no reason why a trailer couldn't be spooky too. And there's an M.R. James ghost story where the ghost is not a guy who looks like a bedsheet, it's actually just a bedsheet. A scaaaaary bedsheet! (Cue Count Floyd.) I didn't think it was very scary, but other people seem to.

Anonymous Revan December 17, 2012 12:59 PM  

Have you ever played Crusader Kings 2? Someone who is familiar with modding could create a playable map for the game that is similar to the Game of Thrones mod for that game that I'm currently playing.

OpenID ZT December 17, 2012 1:15 PM  

When will you have something that has the cities?

Anonymous demo December 17, 2012 1:27 PM  

It might be better/easier to mod EU3, you'd lose the character side of things but have a more active diplomacy and war side.

OpenID ZT December 17, 2012 1:28 PM  

What is the point of an AT-AT?

What is the point of any tank? The imperial walker was a mobile command post and troop transport. In general it was only needed for ground operations because the "shield" made bombardment impossible.

Also the AT-AT was a heavy weapons platform bringing starship sized weaponry to the ground forces.

The AT-AT was heavily armored and was pretty much immune to any weapon the Rebels had. My main issue with AT-AT is it was just bad design given it was incredibly top heavy. And the movie had some scale inconstancy issues.

Blogger Nate December 17, 2012 1:36 PM  

"If you are going to put Godzilla in the Mighty Mississip', you are going to have to work very carefully to overcome the reader's natural tendency to laugh at the notion."

That's because most people live in cities and think of rivers like they think of the little things they see every day.

Here's a thought... travel.

As soon as you see one of the bends in these monsters that's literally so big you can't see land anywhere around you... things change dramatically.

Its the unknown.

It would be very... very easy. As soon as your readers realize land is no where visible at all... they are just on rafts being pulled along... towards... nothing... with no wind... things can get as frightening as you want to make them.

Anonymous Feh December 17, 2012 2:00 PM  

@ZT,

The AT-AT is worthless against advanced adversaries, and unnecessary against primitive adversaries. Think of it as the Star Wars version of the F-35...

Anonymous WaterBoy December 17, 2012 2:08 PM  

The main limitation on the size and flow of a river is the amount of water available to feed it. If your river is miles wide and unusually deep, it's going to require a massive source of water to give it any kind of flow. And this would have an effect to some degree on the setting, as far as the river's origin and/or climate. It's going to need mountains for snowmelt, a tropical climate for monsoon rains, or a very large lake or other body of water (at a higher elevation) to provide the required quantities of H2O.

You can make the underlying topology anything you like to make it wide, deep, etc...but in the absence of a magical source, it isn't going to spring up just anywhere out of nothing.

Anonymous scoobius dubious December 17, 2012 2:19 PM  

"As soon as your readers realize land is no where visible at all... they are just on rafts being pulled along... towards... nothing... with no wind... things can get as frightening as you want to make them."

You ever see a crazy old 1950s sci-fi movie called "The Angry Red Planet"? Most of it is unwatchable, but there's this great scene where these astronaut explorers on Mars are paddling their way across a giant Martian lake, and this enormous Blob/amoeba thing emerges from the lake and starts chasing them. Then, when they get back to shore, it turns out the thing is amphibious, and it keeps on chasing them over land. It's a pretty scary scene, not because it's shot with any skill, but because it has the kind of ad-hoc slipshod accidental brilliance that you find in your nightmares.

Anonymous WaterBoy December 17, 2012 2:21 PM  

The AT-AT is antique war surplus from a bygone era that was being repurposed by the Empire. Hey, they had a tight budget, too, you know. You think Galactic Credits grow on Blasé trees?

Anonymous scoobius dubious December 17, 2012 2:39 PM  

You know what would have been _really_ cool? If the Empire had had a Tarkus.

That's a fight I'd pay to see.

Blogger Nate December 17, 2012 3:10 PM  

"You can make the underlying topology anything you like to make it wide, deep, etc...but in the absence of a magical source, it isn't going to spring up just anywhere out of nothing."

And yet we have 4 or 5 such rivers right here on this little ol' planet.

Anonymous Daniel December 17, 2012 3:21 PM  

That's because most people live in cities and think of rivers like they think of the little things they see every day.

Here's a thought... travel.


I grew up next to a river. I've kayaked in the Mississippi. I'm not an international man of mystery, but I've traveled plenty: Japan, Mexico, Canada even Arkansas. I've seen enough of the world to know that when readers think "The Deep" they think the ocean. If they think of haunted water, it is either in the still overflow of a swampland (not the river itself) or more like a lake.

The primary thing a reader is going to think about a river, for fantasy books, is "fast convenient mode of travel". Maybe that's because the river has been used as a cheat for so long, I don't know. It just is.

This isn't true for realistic fiction. If the story involves a river journey, the reader has different expectations and assumptions.

Like I say, it just is. Just like a sci-fi reader is going to have different expectations for, say, a sex-bot (i.e. it will turn evil) than in a romance (i.e. it will be pleasant.) Same thing, different expectations.

It isn't that you can't make your own personal Godzilla-abode out of the Yangtze in a fantasy novel: it is just that he will be assumed to be merely a new destination, with the river providing transport directly to him, unless you take literary pains to do otherwise.

But, if you want to book travel expeditions for all your readers in advance of them buying your book, you could do that, too.

Blogger Nate December 17, 2012 3:46 PM  

The notion that a journey is merely a series of stops... is naive.

Blogger Nate December 17, 2012 3:49 PM  

Look.. I don't deny that one can use a river journey as a tool to enable lazy writing.

What I insist however... is that it is not a requirement.

Anonymous VD December 17, 2012 4:08 PM  

What I insist however... is that it is not a requirement.

It's not. No one is dissing Mark Twain. But as a general rule, if an SF/F novel contains a river journey, it is tedious. Can you name any obvious exceptions?

Blogger Nate December 17, 2012 4:18 PM  

To Your Scattered Bodies Go comes to mind. I mean we're talking about rivers here right?

I mean yes... it has its fair share of sins... though I should point out that it was 1971... and the jaded stereotypes we see in it weren't exactly jades stereotypes back then.

Its rather like going back and watching the first Friday the 13th. Now you see it as so predictable and formulaic... except that there wasn't a formula back then. It established that formula.

Anonymous Daniel December 17, 2012 4:35 PM  

I already mentioned that above Nate, including its big drawback: it is an artificial river whose only purpose is to transport people up and down it so they can reunite and fight each other after they've died/resurrected.

The river is quite obviously a lazy, useful design that that pervy PJ implemented as an obvious framework for telling the story. That river is an endless channel, whose only distinguishing feature along its entire length is the tower.

I've mentioned it before elsewhere, but Scattered isn't a bad book, but the river journey is the least interesting major element of its ideas. It is, quite literally a manufactured, artificial setting by which the (what were they called? The Basics? That's not right, but it was something like that) studiers studied their subject.

Blogger Nate December 17, 2012 4:54 PM  

Look...the only reason you're able to make the point even remotely stand up is by creating an artificial limit or SF/F. The fact that SF/F writers tend to take a lazy way out hardly renders the river journey concept as unuseable.

If Conrad can make use river... so can Martin.

Anonymous Feh December 17, 2012 6:30 PM  

as a general rule, if an SF/F novel contains a river journey, it is tedious. Can you name any obvious exceptions?

Fellowship of the Ring.

Blogger Kyle In Japan December 17, 2012 6:32 PM  

It seems like a river journey isn't a bad way to get from point A to B... if you don't linger on it. You could probably sum up a river journey in a paragraph at smallest, and half a chapter at most. The problem isn't using rivers as a manner of transportation, it's wasting words on a transitory and uninteresting part of the story. Instead of making things needlessly complicated, writers should deliberately make the river journey uneventful so it's easy to gloss over without losing anything.

Anonymous WaterBoy December 17, 2012 7:49 PM  

Nate: "And yet we have 4 or 5 such rivers right here on this little ol' planet."

Care to name one that is miles wide and has no visible source, including tributary rivers?

Anonymous MendoScor December 17, 2012 10:44 PM  

But as a general rule, if an SF/F novel contains a river journey, it is tedious. Can you name any obvious exceptions?

Lothlorien to the falls of Rauros. Frodo decides to leave the Fellowship, Boromir decides to take the ring, and Aragorn realizes that his road leads to Gondor. The others float, and float...

Outside of SF/F, the obvious is Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now, the journey from civilization to barbarity that progressively strips the lies and illusions from the traveller.

Sorry, but hated the maps. Until the finale, almost every geographical reference was missing. Given the importance you give to scouting - particularly Lodi's and Shadowsong's contributions - and your gaming experience, I'm simply baffled by the absence of the ability so see the field.

OTOH, I'm also puzzled by Francis Collin's insistence that he doesn't process questions as images, but rather thinks them through textually. I find both to be useful, the former to get the big picture and the latter to determine whether the broad percept is really funtional.

Anonymous MendoScot December 17, 2012 11:06 PM  

But as a general rule, if an SF/F novel contains a river journey, it is tedious. Can you name any obvious exceptions?

Lothlorien to the falls of Rauros. Frodo decides to leave the Fellowship, Boromir decides to take the ring, and Aragorn realizes that his road leads to Gondor. The others float, and float...

Outside of SF/F, the obvious is Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now, the journey from civilization to barbarity that progressively strips the lies and illusions from the traveller.

Sorry, but hated the maps. Until the finale, almost every geographical reference was missing. Given the importance you give to scouting - particularly Lodi's and Shadowsong's contributions - and your gaming experience, I'm simply baffled by the absence of the ability so see the field.

OTOH, I'm also puzzled by Francis Collin's insistence that he doesn't process questions as images, but rather thinks them through textually. I find both to be useful, the former to get the big picture and the latter to determine whether the broad percept is really funtional.

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