Posted on March 23, 2018, 11:03:53 PM by Jubal
The Bones of Earth 4: Making Maps
The Bones of Earth 4: Making MapsWhilst the first three parts of "The Bones of Earth" have dealt with features and how to make them realistic, this will deal with some of the first steps towards actually creating a map for a fictional setting, specifically the overall layouts one could go for.
Single CountriesFor some condensed settings, you only need a map of a single country, county, principality, island, or similar. Of course this is very setting-dependent, and it risks restricting your room for maneuver if you're literally not going to plan out more than the absolute minimum land area you need, but there's also something to be said for having a neat, compact setting that's proportionally much easier for your reader/user to get their head around. If it's a pre-modern setting you may need to cover for why national borders are where they are. Rivers, mountains, and coasts are all traditional, though in the case of rivers it's also worth remembering that river valleys often grow fairly culturally similar on both sides: maintaining a really hard border down the middle of a valley may not make a lot of sense for the people living immediately on either side. For a map of this scale, you're more likely to want to work out details of settlement and road positioning carefully - something we'll come back to in future articles.
The East-Facing/West-Facing Generic ContinentThe principle here is simple; you have the continent on one side of the map, bounded by mountains or an impassable desert or unknown lands, and on the other it’s bounded by sea (usually with further desert/mountains in the south and ice/mountains in the north. Examples of this include Narnia, Middle Earth, Calradia (in Mount & Blade), Memory/Sorrow/Thorn by Tad Williams, Guns, Swords and Steam (my RPG), The Inheritance Cycle, Bletsungia (another world of mine), and the list goes on. Europe, the USA, and China can all pretty much fit this in the real world, which explains its popularity partly. Historically having the sea in the west (Tolkien style) seems to be more traditional, though the east (Narnia) isn’t uncommon either. I'm not sure I've ever seen a north/south faced variant on this, though I don't see any particular reason why one shouldn't exist.
The advantage of this generic continent style is that it combines a sizeable land area with effective, natural-looking boundaries that prevent characters from needing or wanting to go far beyond the compact setting. This is somewhat unrealistic, of course, but not entirely so - large barriers like the Sahara have historically been difficult for most people to traverse, though it's worth noting that trade still very much existed and that the presence of large mountains or some tundra certainly doesn't mean that you'll end up with ethnic monocultures on either side.
The ArchipelagoThis is a pretty good alternative to a continent with a particular facing. Earthsea is the most prominent example, though there are large numbers of others. The major advantage of archipelagos is that they allow for very restricted geographical biomes and areas; this is excellent if lots of small political units are desired, or if large variations in wildlife or plantlife are needed in the setting. Of course, the requirement for transport is also a factor; if you want huge tribes of horsemen sweeping across wide open plains they’re going to have trouble on a landmass five miles wide. Conversely, if you want naval journeys and warfare to feature in a setting, an archipelago really lets you go to town and make those a major part of your world in a way that's less plausible in more continental settings.
The Central Sea or the Great PlainsThese are another two continental possibilities, both probably under-used. A Great Plains setting, with little water and no obvious sea, runs the risk that such areas rarely had much in the way of settled city-based cultures for much of their history. That said, nomads are pretty damn cool, and a setting that had more of a focus on areas where there weren’t the resources for larger settlement could work well. A Central Sea setting, with water surrounded by land, is another interesting idea; essentially most of fantasy writing focuses on inland cultures which happen to eventually reach the sea, but a setting where the sea was in itself the major resource needed would mean that the divide between inland cultures and those on the shore (littoral cultures) would become more prominent.
The Planetary Map A planetary map is a fairly large undertaking, and in many traditional fantasy settings doesn’t necessarily make all that much sense – if there’s no reasonable way for your heroic queen with her army to get to the other side of the world, there’s no need to focus your reader on a ton of places they don’t in any sense need to know about whilst losing detail on the places you really want. Nevertheless, for characters going on Marco Polo-like quests or in sci-fi worlds where air travel is easy it can certainly be useful. Generally the number of continents is up to you; you can end up with a bizarre super-archipelago if there are too many. Remember that if there are too few, you probably will end up with some inland seas etc or at least huge deserts in the centre of your vast landmasses. Thinking in plate tectonics terms is far more important at this scale; mountain ranges will go in long lines, ultimately landmasses will border each other at some sort of plate boundary. Looking at maps of prehistoric earth and the different forms the landmasses took is a really good plan here.
Real World PlusSomething I haven’t really talked about in the other articles is the fairly obvious fact that you don’t need to change the fundamental geography of the real world at all if you don’t want to. This can still lead to a number of possibilities – for example, major climatic change, adding wasteland or megacity areas, moving bits of landscape, simply wiping all the cities off the map and putting new ones in instead, etc etc. Sea level rise is an interesting one which can lead to an eerie “familiar yet different” feel for a map, as is the obliteration of large parts of it in nuclear wars. These ideas are used in a lot of sci-fi (Judge Dredd, for example) and Steampunk (Girl Genius includes Paris and Britain, and is primarily set in what is presumably roughly Germany) stories, and some fantasy too though this is a little rarer compared to a “hole in the world” idea where fantasy stuff invades our world or vice versa.
Star MappingStar maps are in some ways easier and in others more difficult than a planetary or terrestrial map. The bad news is that it’s harder to know where to start; the good news is that it matters very little! All interstellar distances are so large it makes little real difference as far as the world’s inhabitants are concerned. Generally the only advice I can give is to not be too regular or too spread out; have clumps (which will probably be the areas where interstellar civilisations can expand) and also gulfs.
With star maps the other thing to consider is size and depth per planet/location. Authors often spend years if not a lifetime mapping the detail of, say, a continent or even a country, let alone a whole planet. If you’re taking on the job of literally constructing a whole galaxy, you’re going to need to cut corners. Ways to do this; firstly, have very low population densities (this is surprisingly uncommon but I did it with Cepheida). This means that you only need to deal with a small inhabited area on each planet and many planets won’t have inhabitants at all. Good for exploration-based ideas, but less good for giant interplanetary war scenarios where billions die each day blah blah etc. The second solution is to assume that a planet is just one biome. I did that with Cepheida as well, but it’s also been done in pretty much all the big sci-fis such as Star Wars (Tatooine is a “desert planet”, Coruscant a “city planet”, Dagobah a “swamp planet”, with little indication of variation, unlike on earth which happily has deserts AND swamps AND cities AND icecaps). It works well as long as you don’t question it too much, but if you want something believable it may not always be the best plan. Solution three is just to not ask tricksy questions or, depending on the project, to do the “you can make YOUR OWN world, dear reader/player/etc” option.
So there you have it - a range of basic options and ideas for how to lay out your maps. I'm not sure what the next article in this series will be exactly, so do comment if you have preferences - either one on settlement growth and placement, or the importance of rivers and water systems, might be a good next step I think. As ever, I hope you enjoyed this, and do stay tuned for more!
Posted on March 18, 2018, 05:37:27 PM by Jubal
An Unexpected Bestiary: The Second Parchment
An Unexpected Bestiary: The Second ParchmentSo, I was hoping to get a few more bonus articles than we're going to end up with today, but hopefully this will be a reasonable offering - moving on from An Unexpected Bestiary, my previous article discussing some interesting and lesser known real creatures and thoughts on how they could inspire creativity in game design, creative writing, and beyond, I can now proudly present The Second Parchment, a continuation of that article with seven more bizarre and wonderful creatures. Some of these you may never have heard of: others you'll be familiar with, but hopefully I can show them to you in a different light. Read on to discover more...
QuollsThe quoll is a marsupial (well, one of six species of marsupial) roughly similar in build and ecological niche to the mustelids of the rest of the world. The name has aboriginal roots – early settler names like “spotted marten” or “marsupial cat” were dropped in favour of the more distinctive word. Solitary hunters and scavengers with a powerful bite, the smaller species eat small mammals and frogs, whereas the larger ones can take on birds and slightly larger mammals like echidnas.
The quoll could have a lot of fictional uses similar to a weasel or stoat – they’re a good “exotic mage’s familiar” option, and their spotted appearance gives them a very particular and striking look that differentiates them from a marten or polecat. If you’re willing to play around with their behaviour, size, or biology, there’s a lot more you could do with them – a giant one, or a pack of large ones, could be a pretty interesting threat to a character. Whilst I’m not aware that you can train real quolls very easily, I can imagine they’d also present a fun twist on “sneaky animal sent in with enough smarts to steal keys and pick locks”, if you’ve used monkeys one time too many for that.
Saiga AntelopesThe Saiga is a small, critically endangered species of antelope from the central Asian steppes – only around 50,000 are left after a major population crash in the past few years. They are best known for their bizarrely shaped face, with bloated nostrils that help filter out dust and cool the animals down in the summer months. Males have impressive horns, and the species lives in large, highly mobile herds – their main defence against predators and natural disasters is simply to move on to literal pastures new.
The Saiga have traditionally been hunted – the Chinese population has now been entirely wiped out – both for their meat, and for their horns, which are used in Chinese “traditional medicine” much like rhinoceros horns are and can sell for large sums of money. Steppe antelopes like this are definitely an option for hunted beasts. I think the distinctive look and relatively small size of the Saigas could make them a fun mount for some sort of little folk in a fantasy setting: unlike a lot of antelopes, they look sufficiently different and alien to creatures we know better that it could really mark out riders as otherworldly.
Mata mataThe Mata mata is one of the most bizarre looking vertebrates on the planet. It’s a South American freshwater turtle with a huge head triangular and exceptionally long neck, and an extremely knobbly skin. Its feeding method is pretty simple. It sits under the surface of a pool, with its up-pointed nose allowing it to breathe as if through a snorkel; thanks to its less than elegant appearance, it just looks like floating detritus, fooling predator and prey alike. It sits there and waits for a fish to come past – then simply opens its huge mouth and throat and sucks, dragging fish and water alike in and swallowing the lot.
I think the above – and the species’ unique appearance – speaks for itself when it comes to using the Mata mata in games or writing. A giant one would make a ready-made “trap-type monster”, waiting to just suddenly gulp down an unsuspecting player or even boat, depending on how big you made one. They’re also not hard to keep as pets, especially since they don’t tend to move around much, so they’d be a good exotic pet for… well, I leave the imagination of the sorts of characters who’d want to keep a Mata mata up to you!
DesmanDesmans are essentially aquatic moles, which is a pretty cool starting point for an animal. There are two species of desman: a southwestern European species found in the Pyrenees and northern Spain, and a Russian species found in the Urals. They have extremely sensitive snouts, and their paws are adapted more for swimming than digging: they rootle around for small creatures on the edge of mountain streams.
The desman has some pretty cool features like echolocation, and has been hunted and trapped for furs in the past, which gives it a baseline of relations with humans. I think there are some other interesting ways one could use them in stories, though: I quite like the idea of desmans as message carriers, perhaps with a little waterproofed bag tied to their leg and trained to slip out through a castle or mill’s stream to carry messages to a partner in crime or spy in the enemy camp. They’d also of course make endearing children’s characters much as water-voles and other semiaquatic creatures seem to in many actual works of childrens’ fiction. A story of how the desman learned to swim could be a nice Just So Stories style idea to work on. In general, I think it’s nice to have animals for fiction that are alike enough to a well-known creature for people to relate to, but with a twist to make them sufficiently different to be interesting, and so the desman’s position as a water-mole is a nice one to play around with.
HoopoeFew birds have so rich a literary and mythic tradition as the hoopoe, yet so little showtime in modern writing. These little birds have extremely distinctive Mohican-style crests, and orange colouration which makes them very noticeable and distinctive. They’re found across much of Europe, Africa, and Asia.
From the earliest times, hoopoes have been noticed and. They eat a number of insect species including agricultural pests, which gives them some positive attributes, and in many middle-Eastern and early cultures they had royal connotations. In ancient Egypt the symbol of the hoopoe was related to legitimacy in birth; in Aristophanes, the hoopoe was the king of the birds, and in the medieval Persian Conference of the Birds, the hoopoe becomes the birds’ leader as they attempt to find the Simurgh, their king. In Abrahamic and European folklore they have less positive connotations: they are not kosher in Judaism (though this didn’t stop them being named the national animal of Israel in 2008), and they have associations with thievery and death across parts of central and northern Europe. In Scandinavia they were once seen as harbingers of war, and in Estonia their song is said to foretell death; meanwhile in medieval ritual magic, they had further death associations, with the sacrifice of a hoopoe called for in magic books to aid in the summoning of demons.
With so many associations, and their extremely striking appearance, it’s very surprising to me that we don’t see more hoopoes. Whether you’re writing a Middle-eastern ruler, a Minoan trying to claim your birthright, a Viking looking for portents of the future, or a medieval German necromancer, give these little guys some thought – they may be more important than you know.
Sorting Hat SpidersSo, these guys, Eriovixia gryffindori, are mostly being included here for the name, but there’s some interesting discussion to be had around that. The sorting hat spider was discovered in 2016 in India, and its distinctively shaped cephalothorax (the back half of the body) is thought to have developed in order to make it easier for the spider to mimic leaf litter and hide from predators. Both the common and Latin names were given based on its similarity to the Sorting Hat in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books – originally owned by Godric Gryffindor.
Invertebrates and other animals, especially ones added anew into an existing language, are often named after existing forms, animals, ideas, or cultural phenomena, and when making up fantasy creatures for your worlds and settings that’s something to take into account. The idea of having animals that are seen as reflecting the human world in their shape, style, and form is something that’s a pretty interesting one to play around with too – in a fictional setting, there actually could be some sort of symbolism in the creation of such animals, or alternatively one could play around with giving animals very different connotations to the ones our own culture has come up with.
WalrusThe walrus is certainly a well known animal but, I think, one that gets underplayed in fiction. I think a lot of people have the same issue I do with them, which is that I basically think of them as “those seal things with the tusks”, and then mentally assume they can’t be that much bigger than a regular seal… whereas in fact a pacific bull walrus can weigh in at two thousand kilos, about equivalent in weight to a white rhinoceros and not far off the bulk of an Asian elephant. These things are biiiig. And pretty dangerous as a result, of course – though the amount of blubber and ivory that can be gained by hunting one made it worthwhile for many throughout human history. Walrus ivory has been a particularly major part of creations across the arctic and subarctic world - the Lewis Chessmen are mostly carved from walrus tusks, and they've been an important basic carving medium for cultures across that part of the world.
I’m admittedly not well read in fantasy generally, but I really can’t think of many settings that involve a walrus – but as a serious level opponent, they’re as dangerous as a bear or shark. Metre long tusks are a formidable threat, to say the least, and they come in literal herds rather than just being solitary. Their semiaquatic nature can make them a potential target/threat on both land and sea, as well, which adds to their potential versatility. In the wild, only orcas and polar bears ever seriously attempt to hunt them, and even then mostly only older or infirm individuals. If you want a really heavy-duty opponent in a snow-bound adventure, think about the walrus – its size and power alone make it a genuinely formidable beast to include in any sort of writing or game design.
And there you have it, seven more unexpected creatures and some thoughts on their potential roles in your creative works! I defintiely have more than enough animals left for a part three, so let me know if you want that to happen sometime - and I hope you found this a good bonus article to have for Exilian's tenth birthday today!
Posted on March 18, 2018, 05:37:16 PM by Jubal
The Two Cows (Llamas?) Theory: Exilian Edition
Cows Llamas Theory: Exilian Edition
A special 10th anniversary edition of the Two Cows theory! I'm not sure that trying to explain anything about Exilian makes any more sense when done this way, but given none of it made sense to start with... well, why not? As such, I present to you the Two
Cows Llamas Theory: The Exilian Edition!
The Church of Bunneh
You have two llamas. You put them in your signature in an attempt to achieve world domination. The two llamas fall out in a terrifying religious schism.
Cyril & Methodius
You have two llamas. You invent an alphabet perfectly attuned to llama noises and teach them to write.
Exilian Democratic Union
You have two llamas. You attempt to abolish the concept of ownership.
Forums for Internet Freedoms
You have two llamas. You give them the vote.
The House of Generals
You have two cows. They are armed with a disconcerting number of rifles, and at least one thermal pod.
The House of Glaurung
You have two llamas. You sell them and hoard the gold.
The House of the Phoenix
You have two llamas. You’re convinced that one of them is a guanaco.
The House of Scholars (Jubal)
You have two llamas. You also have two golden moles, two echidnas, two owlbears, forty-one penguins, and an extremely large number of pangolins. This is as it should be.
Internet Democrats of Exilian
You have two llamas. You pledge to do something different with them in a way that is also exactly the same as all the other systems listed here.
You have two llamas. You attempt to preach the word of Krishna to them, and are disappointed when they spit in your face and short out your bot-circuits.
You had two llamas, but that was many, many years ago…
The SOTK Clan
You have two llamas and a soup dragon. You clone them. One falls from a high place.
You have two llamas. You attempt to sell them a badly made second-hand kitchen from China. They are unimpressed.
You have two llamas. You get them drunk on bootlegged alcohol.
Posted on March 16, 2018, 09:53:25 PM by Jubal
The Beauty of RSS
The Beauty of RSS
The RSS logo - look for this to find feeds!Algorithmic content finding is at the core of the modern internet. Search engines and social media sites line up some of the best minds money can buy to design systems for showing you content you want to look at, articles you want to read, and products you want to buy.
...or at least, that's how it's marketed. There's a lot of downside to the sort of hyper-targeting that goes on nowadays, especially in that it ultimately means you have. Facebook is the most egregious example of this: which posts appear on your news feed is determined far more by what Facebook thinks is popular than what you think you want to see, making it extremely difficult to get updates from people who Facebook doesn't think you want to see news from. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this latter category is especially populated by smaller content creators, businesses, and hobbyists, who can't afford the increasingly exorbitant sums needed to pay to break through Facebook's content algorithms and build a large audience. Twitter operates a similar model, allowing promoted tweets to stay in view as others shoot down the timeline at a rate of knots. Facebook is, despite some signs that its market share may arguably be dropping, still extremely dominant in how people use the internet, both in how they discover content and how they get updates on it. In other words, if your Facebook page gets a new user, that's not necessarily a promise of future engagement: to access all of the users who've "liked" your page, nowadays, you now often actually need to pay to boost your posts in order to do so.
To put it in starker terms, Facebook is actively using the fact it controls the main platform for content finding and social updates to choke off creators who aren't prepared to pay them. Of course, they're a business, and that's their decision - but if you want smaller creators to survive, or if you just want to make sure you're actually seeing the content you want to see, it's time to start thinking harder about how you get updates.
RSS, or Rich Site Summary, is one possible answer. RSS is, essentially, a way for websites to create easy feeds for content in a format that can then be picked up by aggregators. It's essentially a standard XML sheet format that can be updated by the site, published to a known URL, and then picked up by aggregated "feeders" which can then show people the content and notify them when it's updated Created in the late 1990s, it was a major part of internet ecosystems through the mid-2000s until social media really started taking over people's content feeding habits.
So why go back to it? For one thing - no algorithms. RSS will just list the sites you add to it, and tell you when one of them updates, it's as simple as that. No more rolling a d20 to see if you're one of the lucky 10% who gets told what your favourite comic artist has actually published this week. These days, RSS feeders will sit as a little taskbar icon at the top of your web browser - you can then click on it, scroll down your list of feeds, and see what's new. I guess it's possible this could get difficult if you were trying to syndicate a really large amount of content this way, but I tend to find that I can leave off sites I check super regularly anyway and that even the fairly sizeable amount of content I look at doesn't pose a problem. For content from sites where I really need to get those updates, RSS is especially good: I won't run the risk of missing something like I would with a social media follow. It also ensures I can better support and read stuff from smaller creators, most of whom will have RSS running for their blogs or comics as it's easy to set up the feed. Even better, I don't need to give anyone my email address like for a mail newsletter - I just pick up the RSS newsletter via my reader, without risking it disappearing into the dark abyss of my inbox or cluttering things there up at the wrong time.
I mainly use the Firefox add-on Brief as my main feed reader, and I'd really recommend it. I've also got the free version of Feeder running on my chrome browser, which has a few annoying features telling me to upgrade to the non-free version but is otherwise very good. Other options for different browsers or app systems include Feedly, Panda, and Reeder. It's worth having a hunt around to find what's good for you; another advantage of RSS systems is that there's genuine diversity and choice in what's out there, and the standard XML format is open for all sorts of readers and aggregators to parse it. Once you have a reader, all you need to do is go to the URL of a feed, and your browsers/readers will offer you the option to subscribe to it. That's it!
So there you have it - the beauty of RSS. I don't think it's the only solution or part of building a more open internet, but I think it's a very good first step and I'd really encourage people to use it especially to support smaller content creators. If you liked this article, go get a reader and get finding sites to subscribe to (look for the RSS logo like the one above). And of course, make sure you add the Exilian newsfeed to get more like this in future!
Posted on March 02, 2018, 10:54:20 PM by Jubal
The Bones of Earth 3: Worlds In Space
The Bones of Earth 3: Worlds In SpaceSo, having done The Bones of Earth 2 on more unusual fantasy world ideas, here are some thoughts on some sci-fi world building – how we can take into account the conditions in which planets form and their physical characteristics emerge, and some hints on how that might translate into world-building and the basis of different settings. One of the major issues with sci-fi is that we frequently have to work on an inter planetary scale, such that it's often hard to do more for planets than "this one's an ice planet" or "this one has trees", whereas of course planets should have a wide variety of different biomes. Whilst the sheer scale makes it hard to envision entire planets, thinking about how they work physically may be a helpful place to start. So without further ado...
Diameter and densityThere are two things these affect; firstly, the planet’s size, and secondly its surface pressure. Size is fairly self-explanatory – a planet with a larger area has more surface on which to fit continents, etc. Pressure is more complex but worth considering for sci-fi settings in particular: it relates quite heavily to density. If you, for example, had a planet which was the same diameter as earth but more dense, then the surface gravity would be higher. There’s also the question of atmospheric density as well; a dense atmosphere will mean more pressure at surface level. This, in turn, affects how evolution might take its course at the planet’s surface. A high pressure world will make it harder for plants to grow tall and animals to move, likely leading to stockier and more muscular forms of life, and vice versa. It also affects what sort of structures can be supported – exoskeletons, for example, have something of a size limit on earth, because the weight of the external plates becomes too great above a certain point. In a world with lower gravity, insectoid creatures could be much larger as a result of the lower pressure & gravity.
VolcanicityVenus is an incredibly volcanic planet; having suffered from a form of runaway global warming as a result aeons ago, it’s pretty much a sulphurous, burningly hot hell-hole. Earth, with moderate volcanicity, is considerably more pleasant. Other planets that have no volcanicity at all will often correspondingly have no atmosphere at all, which doesn’t tend to bode well for the future of life thereon. In other words, volcanoes and having a hot core to a planet are vitally important to life, but within certain levels. Life evolving on a high-volcanicity planet, or whose planet somehow became more volcanic, might have need to adapt to higher levels of toxic gases and extreme heat. The reverse situation, perhaps more likely, might be if a planet with little life was “dying” as a result of its volcanoes steadily going dormant and insufficient carbon dioxide being pumped out to replace losses. Volcanoes of course also shape the landscape – be that shield volcano mountains, volcanic plains, or simply the fact that volcanic ash is rich in nutrients and tends to lead to areas of very fertile soil in the locality.
OrbitOrbit affects solar radiation levels; too close to a sun and the planet is burnt to a crisp, too far out and it is frozen solid. However, how far out that is depends on the size and heat of the star; it’s also not always the case that an inhabited body will primarily orbit a star. Gas giant planets have large moons which could equally be the basis for space colonies if not life itself. Stars need not necessarily be sun-like, either, and systems with two suns certainly exist – though in a system with a much larger or much smaller star, or a binary star system, the whole planetary system could end up rather more volatile; only a third of binary star systems have planets, whereas the majority of sun-like stars have some.
SpinWarmth and radiation levels are also affected in terms of how different parts of a planet experience them by spin. Spin is integral to planets forming – the disk of particles from which planets form is only thrown out by their star spinning in the first place, and that spin then leads to any eventual planets still having their own spin as well. A planet that spins fast will have shorter days, a planet that spins slower will have longer ones. But that’s not all: a planet doesn’t actually necessarily spin on exactly the same plane as the one in which it orbits its sun, and the tilt is what causes seasons – the bigger the tilt, the sharper the seasonal effects. One final thing to think about is planets that don’t spin, or rather don’t appear to – these “tidally locked” bodies often end up with one side constantly facing their star (an effect we can see in our own moon, one side of which is never visible from earth). This could easily lead to extreme differences of climate on a planet, with a thin “habitable” zone at the edges, and an inhospitable a hot face and cold face. Any inhabitants might either need to stay in the habitable zone, or have some pretty serious adaptations to allow them to venture into the extreme regions of their world.
And there you have it! I hope this was useful, and helps you build some worlds where your characters, players, or whoever can develop in a more natural-feeling way based on the properties of the little ball of rock they're clinging to as it passes through space. Sometime in the next few weeks I'll hopefully get to finishing The Bones of Earth IV, so stay tuned for that - in the next article in this series, I'll look at different varieties and styles of maps commonly used in SFF fiction and hopefully help you get closer to drawing your own.