Tag: Europe

The magic of maps

The magic of maps

A good, old-fashioned map can add a whole lot of character to a place.

Sure, the colorful country-accurate map of the Earth on a globe is an impressive sight especially fully animated online:

But that view of the planet is a bit too modernist and clinical for my tastes.

I’m more of a fan of classic, stylized pieces such as the 1643 depiction of Europe by Dutch mapmaker Cornelis Danckaerts that I used for my Featured Image. It’s just the sort of rugged, swarthy style you’d expect to see in some kind of fantasy novel.

Replace that boat off the port of Spain with some kind of serpentine sea creature and it may as well be the map of a fantasy world. Like something you’d expect to see from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth.

Speaking of, did you know that there’s an interactive Middle-Earth map available online? It is full of complex names and points of time for different important events.

That’s the kind of stuff I love.

As I’ve made more progress in my Senior Honors Project novel, I’ve found it necessary to start keeping track of all the locations I’m name dropping to give the world a little more history and life.

To remember places I might want to bring up later and also lay everything out on a more cohesive latitude and longitude for when I explain travel across the content — as my book will include plenty of travel.

During class yesterday, I started to draw out a rudimentary sketch of my world map on a sheet of paper:

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Results not final.

I used to draw things like this all the time, inspired by the maps I’ve seen in the front of books like Lord of the Rings and Eragon.

But never before have I put one together that might actually be useful.

So it was serendipity that, while sitting in my Honors 400B class last night, my friend Mimi noticed my drawing and offered to point out some free campaign map making software she knew about for Dungeons and Dragons.

How was I supposed to say no to that?

Of the software I got pointed to, my favorite was a website called HexTML, which as the name implies lets you create a world of your own using hexagonal signifiers like the board game Settlers of Catan.

Many hours were spent last night screwing around to translate that hand-drawn map into something that could reasonably be shown off to the world.

It’s still open to adjustments down the line and I’d like to put names on all of the areas and towns through the site, but for now I’m really proud of where I’d gotten:

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The left side.

While the continent proper does not yet have a name, but a lot of the structures within it do.

The town on the lower left is Fehrn, where my main characters live.

The singular structures around Fehrn are ruins of the old western empire that have been used as treasure hunting locales. To the north, that black cavern, is an underground chamber where my story begins — just below the Redbark Woods.

To the lower right is the Gnarled Forest, a large mesh of roots, branches and bark that was nigh impenetrable for eons. The old elven tribe was able to thrive there before being attacked.

Just above that in the mountain range hides a small structure signifying the capital of the Sparrine Empire. The Sparrine being the bird people who are basically France, taking over the region under bird Napoleon. Talked about that recently.

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The right side.

Moving onto the other side of the map, a few new main areas stand out.

Hidden in another mountain to the right of the Sparrine empire is the Prophet’s Sanctuary, where my main characters must travel.

Below it is a yet unnamed lake with an equally unnamed port town to its right side where the player character of my story’s game world will have to take on bird Napoleon in a thinly veiled allegory to the Battle of Waterloo.

Spoilers, I guess. If you know historical stuff.

The walled city to the right of that lake is the capital of the Bresegon Empire, where the lordly prince character hails from. Just above it is the ruins of an older nation’s capital.

Essentially the ruins of Rome beside the now prospering Byzantine Empire.

All of those ruins to the leftmost side of the region being the desolate remains of the Holy Roman Empire’s holdings.

Those are some of my world’s major locations, as far as I’ve planned things out up to this point. With all of the plot beats generally worked out for my story, I’m especially excited to start using a bunch of them now that I have a spatial awareness of how everything fits together.

Hope you’re interested in seeing some more cool little behind-the-scenes details on my writing like this from here on out.

Now that I’m getting into the book, I’m sure I’ll have a lot more to share.


Featured Image courtesy of Cornelis Danckerts via Wikimedia Commons

The fatal flaw in Crimes of Grindelwald

The fatal flaw in Crimes of Grindelwald

With Screen Actors Guild and Visual Effects Society voting for academy awards approaching, my family has been spending the last few days watching a lot of movie screeners we’ve been accruing. Hence my (not so) little review of Aquaman last night and my intent to do some more 2018 movie discussions this weekend.

Today we watched two movies with interesting points I wanted to talk about, but Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald wound up being a much more impassioned subject than I expected. So I think I’ll save Green Book for later.

Gotta split up my writing a little bit, get some mileage for my daily writings.

I’ll be focusing more on one specific point that I feel did this film and the themes it creates a huge disservice, so the post as a whole won’t be as much of a general ‘go see or don’t see’ review. Those elements will be there, but I’ll be a bit more open with spoilers and such.

So if that concerns you, you’ve been warned.

There’s no reason to hide the fact that I’ve always been a big Harry Potter fan. Grew up reading all the books with my Mom, and we’ve seen the movies together too.

I’m not exactly that super-fan who remembers each detail about the series, as that’s a kind of person I’ve met and felt pretty inadequate next to. But I am a huge fan all the same, and I’ve been excited to see Crimes of Grindelwald.

A lot of that excitement actually stems from the fact that I quite enjoyed the first Fantastic Beasts movie in its own right.

It had a very fun energy to examining wizards in America, rather than Britain, in the 1920’s. But that along wouldn’t have carried the movie quite as well without Eddie Redmayne taking the helm as Newt Scamander.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s always something charming about the copacetic magic of Daniel Radcliffe and his friends evolving from innocent school kids to warriors in a world-changing duel against wizard Hitler.

But after eight movies following those kids, it was pretty refreshing to watch someone new, and Redmayne was definitely something new and refreshing.

I actually don’t think I fully understood what was so nice about his character until I watched this video by the Pop Culture Detective about the actor’s more nontraditional take on a usually hyper-masculine hero archetype and how it goes to enrich the movie’s themes.

I’d highly recommend watching that, because it puts some nice perspective into what made Newt’s hijinx-filled journey through New York so fun.

Crimes of Grindelwald takes things in a vastly different direction than the original Fantastic Beasts. From the first few moments Newt is present, it’s revealed that the fun adventure in Fantastic Beasts was all in service of a young Albus Dumbledore (played fairly well by Jude Law) trying to get the protagonist involved in a fight against Johnny Depp’s older wizard Hitler, Grindelwald.

The second movie takes on a far darker tone and digs way deeper into the lore of the universe (much like the later Harry Potter stories), and this tonal shift colors the first with an interesting bit of hindsight.

Depp’s character perfectly highlights the weird and uncomfortable air this change creates. He’s sometimes doing a goofy Jack Sparrow-esque routine of glancing into windows wide-eyed, but those moments happen concurrently with scenes where he and his people are slaughtering families.

I wasn’t sure I liked the dichotomy being played out until later scenes came up that showed how his almost goofier, more relatable side makes him an enticing figure in the wizarding world, the kind of leader people will follow no matter how monstrous his means to an end are.

It plays well into the rise of fascism undercurrent to the movie (which conveniently takes place before World War II and uses the impending war as a plot device), and in the end I loved the way every character’s story weaved in.

… Except for one of them, which became such a problem for me that I’d almost say it ruined a significant chunk of the movie.

Ezra Miller’s Credence was a huge part of the first movie, as it was revealed the boy who essentially housed a demonic creature was being conditioned by Grindelwald to help destroy the government. As the Pop Culture Detective lays out in his video, part of the tragedy that made Fantastic Beasts so compelling comes when Newt cannot save Credence before he’s torn apart by magic attacks.

It was a really powerful scene…

Until you get to this movie and find out he’s somehow still alive?

Unless I missed something, there’s no explanation as to how or why Credence survived. Just that fact that Newt won’t help the government try to kill him again.

As a result of this early reveal, most of the plot lines for main characters are extremely reiterative of the first movie. They’re searching for Credence before he can be used by Grindelwald for evil.

It made me feel like the first movie mattered far less, and Miller’s portrayal of a far more darkly-influenced Credence was a less compelling compelling subject to save than the scared child of Fantastic Beasts.

My problem wasn’t that his character has developed, it’s that his character should have been dead.

Without that, it felt like so much of the world and it’s characters took too many steps back from their developments.

That was enough of a problem for me that no matter how much I enjoyed the slowly-converging plot threads, the lovely European backdrops and the beasts that made the first movie so fantastic, the overall package felt much more empty.

… Oh, and for some reason all of the advertising focuses a lot on the Deathly Hallows imagery, but I don’t believe any of that showed up in the movie. Just saying.

That’s just my opinion on what really hurt an otherwise great movie, though. But if you have a different take on the issue, feel free to let me know!

I’m always up to opening a den of discussion.