Thursday 28 April 2011

X is for X Marks the Spot

I've always been fascinated by maps, not so much your average A to Z (although I still get a certain frisson from poring over Ordnance Survey maps) but the kind of illustrated maps that were popular in less accurate times, where pictures of trees stand for forests and where there is a village, a picture of a village is drawn.I remember spending hours studying the maps in my dad's copies of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings so, as you can imagine, when I came upon Jackson and Livingstone's Fighting Fantasy series and when those books started to include maps, I was hooked.

As a teenager I drew all sorts of maps of fantastical places but I never thought my work would be good enough to ever be published. So, when I was commissioned to write Spellbreaker, my first Fighting Fantasy gamebook, in 1992 I just drew up a very simple map for the illustrator Alan Langford to embellish in his own unique style.

When Spellbreaker was published a year later, to say that I was disappointed by his efforts would be an understatement. Where other books had fantastic cartography produced by the likes of Leo Hartas, Alan had pretty much copies what I'd submitted, but just added a dragon-styled compass to one corner. It was a major letdown.

When I was commissioned to write my second FF gamebook, Knights of Doom, a year later, I decided I had nothing to lose by drawing the map myself. If they publisher wanted to use it, he would. If not, he'd just get the artist to re-draw it. I'm pleased to say that my map was the one that was used.

I produced the maps for all of my books after that (although the one for Curse of the Mummy isn't my best) and was even asked to draw the map for Revenge of the Vampire, which I hadn't even written.

And that wasn't the end of my career as a fledgling cartographer; I was also commissioned to draw many of the maps for the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay campaign The Dying of the Light, put out by Hogshead Publishing in 1995.

I personally believe that my best map was the one I drew of the Port of Crabs for Bloodbones, which I have reproduced for you here.

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