Chapter 8 of Prophesies and Penalties, and maps

Emily now has a base of operations from which to conduct her investigation of Stephen Nash’s murder. So it’s time for her to take stock of her situation, and start planning her investigation. And maybe pump her new servant Tanya for information. It’s going to be an education for Emily, and for the reader, in “The geography of a religion,” chapter 8 of Prophesies and Penalties.

I grew up as a map fiend. Put a globe or map in front of me, and I would be all over it, getting a sense of the geography, looking for odd and intriguing features. Fortunately for me, my parents subscribed to National Geographic magazine in those days, which gave me a steady supply of maps with interesting geographic, historical, and anthropological notes.

Korzybski (well, actually only a photo of Korzybski, since there is a difference)

Korzybski (well, actually only a photo of Korzybski, since there is a difference)

However, Alfred Korzybski (1879 – 1950) made the point that “the map is not the territory.” It’s something to keep in mind: maps provide only a simplified and often distorted rendition of only some of the features of a territory. People also supply their own interpretations of both the map and the territory. I hope my readers enjoy exactly how Emily does this in the opening section of chapter 8.


About Brian Bixby

I enjoy history because it helps me understand people. I'm writing fiction for much the same reason.
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13 Responses to Chapter 8 of Prophesies and Penalties, and maps

  1. danagpeleg1 says:

    BTW, Robert Anton Wilson was a great fan of Korzbyski.

    • Brian Bixby says:

      I’m sure that I, too, have read reference to Korzybski in RAW, but my acquaintance with his work came through an earlier science fiction writer, A. E. Vogt.

  2. E. J. Barnes says:

    Dana, it’s in RAW’s work that I first came across the quotation “the map is not the territory.”

  3. crimsonprose says:

    A map is not the territory, no more than books are reality. But both books and maps are useful guides when exploring a new land.

  4. Judy says:

    I liked the continuity of point on your caption under Mr. Korzybski’s picture!! Made me laugh!!

    I also love maps, especially old ones. In working on some of my lighthouse cards I enjoyed learning about early cartographers like Joseph Speer and Bernard Romans. I love visualizing the map maker in a little vessel of some sort doing shore lines and depth soundings with ropes and rocks. Very manual…no satellite GPS for perfect images. Just sections meticulously pieced together area by area. Plus, I like the art of map making every pen stroke, compass rose, and dedication cartouche are marvelous stamps in time.

    In reality, I am terrible with direction. Have to think about it logically…not second nature. Maps with created worlds of fiction I do find a very helpful aide in understanding the relationship of towns, regions and character stories to those. I actually pay more attention as a reader to directional information in text when there is a map for me to refer to. Makes the created world a lot more tangible.

    • Brian Bixby says:

      Which makes it a pity I don’t have the software and talent to draw up a map for you, Judy. I have felt the lack before, but now I know it matters to a reader!

      The other major geographical feature to keep in mind, which Emily doesn’t mention because she knows it without thinking, is that in Quasopon the valley is to the east, the hills to the west, so going west means going uphill, generally. That’s one reason why Hilltop is west of West Village.

      Back some years ago, I had great fun reading Mark Monmonier’s books on maps and mapmaking, in which he would go into issues from projections to symbols to discuss how maps are made, used, and misused.

  5. Judy says:

    Not to worry! Your descriptions are clear anyhow 🙂

    • danagpeleg1 says:

      I’ll second that! Your descriptions are more territory than maps, really. I also can add that growing up in a flat suburbia of a city-on-a mountain-by-the-sea like Haifa, I knew from an early age that the map wasn’t the territory. On the one hand, the map of my suburbia was pretty griddy and straight-forward. Seemed very much like the territory. But once you got to Haifa itself, there was nothing straight or staraight-forward about it. Streets that seemed nearby where really across a ravine or a gulch. And if there were straight lines there, you knew it was straight only on the map. Here’s a typical map of Haifa:

      • Brian Bixby says:

        I suspect road/street maps are where many people first realize that maps don’t tell you everything, and don’t always get things right. In the small New England town in which I grew up, the street maps showed paved roads and impassible dirt roads as if they were the same, and failed to show a well-known connection between two streets.

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