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Dialogue on a map does not a story make

March 30, 2008

OK I have a question to ask all those science fantasy readers our there? Who spends anytime on the maps of the various lands that appear at the front of most books? I may attention to them on the few (the very few) novels that I read more than once. Once has the map being a part of the story. I recently continued on trilogy set in a future or past landscape where the map at the front was identical to the middle east. That helped me understand some of the points the author was making, but it did not add much to the story. In fact this was one of those fantasies which don’t fall into the category of serious and memorable (such as the latest Stephen Donaldson) but rather light, fun but undemanding to the point where sat in an Apartment in Soho, Hong Kong with a moderate hangover from a weekend at the 7’s, I can’t remember the name or the author.

So why am I saying this? Well thanks to Cory Banks (who has not yet registered as an accredited member of the CE network so will not get a hot link) I came across this site which shows an example of a story told by placing dialogue onto a google map of a city. Now this is all well and good, novel and interesting but it is not what story telling is about. I don’t need a map to enter a fantasy, I need good writing which allows me to paint pictures in my head that resonate with my real and imagined experiences with that of the author. A traditional story teller does not hold up a map (or worst still project it onto a screen with powerpoint), they weave the necessary aspects of location into their words. A film (of a book) does not have a map, it shifts and changes locations without precision or grid reference.

Yes I can see the use of locating anecdotes captured as part of a research project for analysis and we plan something along those lines for the next release of SenseMaker™ but that is for analysis and search, not for the purpose of telling a story. I will admit to a bit of discomfort as to these gimmicks. They seem to want to reduce story to a string of facts rather than a weaving of the imagination.
Incidentally – as a curiosity, compare the book covers for the US and UK edititions on Donaldson’s book. Which is the more authentic to the story? The UK version is authentic to The Land, which is an integral aspect of the book. The US edition attempts (wrongly) to place the book into the have Wizard, will travel and right wrongs genre.

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