I’ve been trying to work out why this map has captivated me so much. For a start, I love maps. Since I can remember, I can pore over maps for hours, looking at all the little towns, visualising the look of the rivers and mountains in faraway places, planning routes from here to there, imagining what the original inhabitants or explorers were thinking when they named the places where they walked or lived or played or hunted. Why is this imaginary map even more enthralling?
There’s the sense of “what-if”: is such a land possible? How would it be different? (There’s a lot less water, for a start.) What would that island, this sea be like? Where would I want to live and explore? We’re all fascinated by our planet: images of the Earth from space are some of the most iconic and well-known images and most-used desktop wallpapers out there, and who doesn’t love Google Earth?
Closer examination brings to mind the issue of correspondences – what bits are missing? Why has the mapmaker chosen this name and not that? Do the mountains correspond to trenches in the oceans, or are they arbitrary? Why did he not put giant bridges where the Panama and Suez Canals are in our world? The map is strange, yet completely familiar once seen as a whole. My partner and I both started wondering – if this map were used in a roleplaying game, and only revealed little bit by little bit, how quickly would the players recognise it?
Then, there’s the fact that this map is almost an optical illusion. For me, it keeps snapping back to the conventional map of Earth – I have to re-force my brain to see it in its reversed form every few minutes.
Overthinking? Maybe. But yep, it’s just neat.
Categories: fun & hobbies