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1/25/2011

Xothique: Continental Maps

Map by Tim Kirk
Map by G. R. Hager
Map by Porter
Map by Lin Carter
One of the first things I'd like to offer you is a standardized continental map of Xothique. Unlike Robert E. Howard's Hyborian Age, Clark Ashton Smith left us no sketches of the Zothiquean landmass for future cartographers to base their own works on. Each of the maps above attempts to piece out the landscape of the Last Continent based on hints in Smith's story cycle -- and each proclaims something a little different. Right away you'll notice that the overall shape of Zothique is a matter of some debate. This is perhaps less significant than how the regions, kingdoms and city-states are organized in relationship to each other.

Lin Carter's map is the least detailed and exhaustive in terms of labeled locales. For this reason it's going in the mental dustbin. The real head-scratchers come when we start comparing the other three. In Kirk's map, the desert of Cincor is entirely land-locked and surrounded by mountains. In Hager it's part of a south-western peninsula. And in Porter Cincor occupies much of the mid-western coastline. All three seem to be in relative agreement over the placement of Calyz on the eastern coast. The Isle of the Torturers, Uccastrog, wanders across the southern seas of all three maps. Interestingly, Kirk offers us a large territory labeled the Northern Wastes, but this does not appear on the others.

The question is whether or not it's worth sifting through the stories again to see if I can "get it right." Given the ambiguities of Smith's directions, I might just be better off devising my standardized Xothique map as an average of these three maps. Another consideration: What is the scale? None of our cartographers even offer a hint. We could be dealing with a landmass as large as Eurasia (which Smith himself may have suggested somewhere) or as small as Australia. If we go with the former, it implies that in the spaces in between the locales Smith describes there may be unmentioned lands -- perhaps even cities. If we operate under the latter assumption -- that Zothique is essentially the size of Australia -- then there is less room for non-canonical regions and we can look at Smith's cycle as (pretty much) a complete gazetteer of the (sub-)continent.

8 comments:

  1. I've always thought someone should use the projected last continent Pangaea Ultima as the basis for a Zothique map.

    http://strangemaps.files.wordpress.com/2007/12/pangeaultima_scotese_big1.jpg

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  2. Now that's a continent! It's tempting, but the area that CAS covers would probably only fill a portion of that larger northern landmass.

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  3. I understand what you're saying about the Carter map, but I've always appreciated the aesthetics of it.

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  4. Yeah, my gripe is really its lack-of-completeness. As cool maps in the front of books go, it's got a nice look. Kind of reminds me of the map in the front of A Wizard of Earthsea.

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  5. Zothique is an awesome project and I can't wait to see it realized. As for the geography, I think it would be worthwhile to scan all the stories for clues...who knows what other weird details might crawl out in the process?

    Also curious about opinions of Hager's D20 Zothique...

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  6. I use/d a methodical approach to cull all the names and terminology and descriptions of magic from the cycle, and I suppose you're right -- I probably should jot down the geography too. Though I imagine that, ultimately, I'll have to do a lot of guessing when it comes to the map.

    I read over Hager's Zothique PDF and thought it was pretty cool. As far as looking at other setting books to guide my work, I find Carcosa to be really inspiring, both in terms of content and simplicity of layout. The early Arduin books are right up there too, though their contents are not as focused or organized as Geoffrey's work.

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  7. It's all the more a shame considering Smith was an artist: it would've been amazing for him to map out his Zothique, Hyperborea, Xiccarph, and other places.

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