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Burn the Maps*

Burn the Maps is the fifth studio album of The Frames, one of my all-time favorite bands.

Current Word Count: ~122,500
Pages: ~535 double-spaced
Listening to: Final Fantasy VII OST: Holding My Thoughts in My Heart by Nobuo Uematsu

This will be an embarrassing blog post.

It will be embarrassing because I'm going to reveal some of my very earliest ideas about ARK. I've said in the past that I spent three months working hard on background context before I ever put pen to paper on chapter one, and during that period of pre-production, one of my first projects was creating a map of the World.

I recall quite clearly an episode from when I began work on the map. At the time I was living at the home of my dear friends the Ethridges in Yorktown while teaching in their small church. I was finishing my very first session working on the map in MS paint when I turned to see Allie peeking in a catlike manner at my project (in my mind she was hiding behind something and I only saw her eyes). I threw my hands over my computer monitor to hide my goofy project, and she squinted at me in that familiar, mischievous way.

At the time I hadn't yet revealed that I was finally ready to start work on my long-anticipated project, but she would later tell me it was at that point she "knew something was up."

The original concept of the World was based on the idea that its people returned to it after a time of exodus, following the Tumult. I was heavily influenced in this first rendition by the topography of Blizzard's Azeroth (the setting for World of Warcraft, which I was playing at the time) as evidenced in the "parchment" style of this finished first version of the map. 

Hey, have you guys ever been to Outland?

You will notice a series of black lines and dots around "The Scorched Earth" (someone shoot me for that name). These represent the barrier surrounding a "quarantine zone," a concept I've since abandoned, around the western continent. The idea was that while the Vagabonds had returned to the World, there were still parts of it that were yet to be made habitable. This idea comes partly from the restoration zones on the planet Telos in Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords.

The dome in the bottom right represents the Citadel, which no longer looks anything like that except that it's a floating island. Regarding the names of the regions in red on the right, I have erased these cliched titles from existence.

Regarding the landmasses themselves, you will see as we progress that they remain generally unchanged, however they become significantly more detailed when compared to the ideas sketched here.

You really need to quit playing World of Warcraft.

Though I eventually abandoned the concept of a quarantine zone, I have not abandoned the concept of most of the World's population living in one area or another. While there are people living in what is here called "the Venture Coast" (thankfully another erased name) most don't live west of it. That is still the case in the story.

The word "venture" is related to the idea that one group of people detached from the main group on a venture, which is still a part of the story. The human desire for exploration and settlement has been reborn in this World.

Eventually I abandoned the "parchment" map style as it was inconsistent with a futuristic setting in addition to being a lot of work. Also it looked crappy.

I mean really, there's only so much you can do in MS Paint.

Here we see the first major transition. Notice that the ridiculous faux-WoW names have been sent to the Mythbusters to be blown up. The map is cleaner. In the east, here called "New Earth Continent," we see the names of the provinces of New Earth listed in red. Green bullets represent the landing sites of the Arks and red ones represent cities. Black lines divide New Earth politically. New Earth here is a significantly larger continent than the western one, which at this stage was called "the Wildlands."

The interesting thing about storytelling is how general concepts become fleshed out as the need arises. I may recognize that eventually X, Y and Z are going to take place, and I may set a few stage pieces for those things to happen in their own time, but it is not until I get closer to X that the work of thinking about these places and their stories really begins. This was the case with the name "Wildlands." The idea began as a general concept of a land of frontiers, thus it was wild. I knew for a while this was a ridiculous fantasy platitude mentioned in passing on programs like Dr. Who, and only as the story progressed did I happen upon the much more appropriate "Antipodes," from two Greek terms literally meaning "opposite foot." "Antipodes" as a term has a rich heritage in the history of European colonization and exploration. While the Antipodes in my story (thankfully) had no people to be displaced, I still appreciated the history of the term relative to this fictional World.

Yup, haven't really taken geology into consideration at this point.

Here's a political map of Covenant continent of New Earth. Starting with the purple and moving counterclockwise, we have the cosmopolitan province Westphalia, Tru's home of Tubegalia in the green, Iustinia (ancient home of Photius and the setting for the story's first major conflict) in blue, the sparsely-populated Apollonia in the far south, Agronia (the breadbasket of New Earth and home of Arch Magister Vartega) in sky blue, Eastphalia formerly East Island) in the red, and icy Thalassia, home of Linus, in the far northeast.

The suffix ia is Latin, and you will see a good bit of it looking at a map of the Roman Empire. I wanted to create a sense culture, and I felt the use of Latin and Greek-sounding words elicits those feelings for us Westerners as evidenced in our architecture and art.

Here's an uncolored map with the names of the cities on the right. I eventually abandoned the concept of a city key and just listed the names by their corresponding bullets.

Psh, don't label me.

I eventually resized New Earth and the Antipodes, realizing that it affected the actual storytelling. I wanted the Antipodes to be the larger continent, showing how little of the World had been settled in the two centuries since the Return. The Antipodes are supposed to be a wild frontier, a land of adventure and mystery where anything could happen. By making it larger, there are more uncharted, unsettled parts of it. 

In this map you'll notice that I developed a region key on the left for mountains, bodies of water, etc. This concept was eventually abandoned. As with the city key, I eventually decided to simply place labels on corresponding regions.

Now we're cookin' with gas!

There are a few major changes in this version. First, I've added a mountain range in the Upper Antipodes. You'll also notice speckled land just to the south of this mountain range, which represents volcanic land riddled with natural geysers. In the bottom left of the map, you'll notice a zoomed view of the east of the Antipodes, showing more closely the cities of the Egnatian Confederation: Three Taverns, Egnatia and Fair Havens.

Southeast of the big island in the far north are the smaller Snowstorm Islands, the purposes of which have not yet been revealed in the story.

I wanted the northern section of the Antipodes to be far colder than the northernmost point of of New Earth, so I moved the eastern continent south. I also realized that it would be easier for the Egnatian Confederation, in the southeast of the Antipodes, to trade with Iustinia if the two were across from each other.

This map is from August 2011.

Bob Ross© mountains copyright Bob Ross.

This is the most up-to-date version of the map. I've expanded the zoom of Egnatia to include a large section of the eastern Lower Antipodes including the Argurial Forest, Argurial Mountains, Autumnalia and all of Egnatia. For New Earth, I've created a zoom of Iustinia and southern Tubegalia, a key area of the story thus far. Because it gets messy to try and draw topography on the larger map, only in the zooms have I chosen to show the forests and river tributaries. You'll notice on the top right zoom that I had fun making some Bob Ross© style mountains, but I have yet to do so for the Iustinian mountains.

You'll notice in this map the that island in the far southwest that hugged the Antipodes has come much closer to the mainland. The reason for this is that I couldn't see the island factoring into the story if it was so inaccessible. I wanted it to be a part of the story, so I brought it close enough that it could not only have a history, but play a role in what's going on.

The isthmus linking the Upper and Lower Antipodes has been named the Isthmus of Nicolaita. The Upper Antipodes have become the graveyard of an ancient civilization which refused to flee the Tumult. The massive volcano in in the Upper Antipodes has been named Angels' End. South of the Isthmus of Nicolaita is a salt flat called the Halasoptros, which serves as a natural buffer area portending doom for those who would dare to venture north; during the ancient times it kept outsiders from entering the Nicolaitain Empire. This salt flat was added after I discovered Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni. It's a beautiful place and I look forward to being able to write something about a similar geologic formation in my own story.

Because of the geology of a salt flat, it was only appropriate to add mountains and badlands nearby, thus creating a more vivid backdrop for the inventor's city of Machindoun, southeast of the entrance to the salt flat.

The map has been a work in progress for over two years, with probably 50+ hours of work into it and all its revisions. A close examination will show that I've gone over all the coastlines, meticulously carving out the land with my mouse pointer. The entire map has been made by me on MS Paint. When it is finally complete, I would love to get a Photoshop genius to go over it and make it real pretty.

Concerns over proper geologic formations have grown, and I have even changed the story and effects of the Tumult to more properly reflect geologic reality as we know it on earth. This will be reflected in future alterations, many of which I have planned. I also plan on making a map of the Pre-Tumult World at some undetermined future point.

Thanks for reading, and I hope this look at the context of ARK has been informative and entertaining!