The experience of translating an original handwritten manuscript into an online exhibit is one that required translation, and in some cases, transformation, of the source text into various different literal and physical mediums.
From the very beginning, those of us that worked on this portion of the project had frequent conversations about defining the exact purpose and function of this interactive exhibit. Unlike many more polished works of fantasy literature, Tales of the Peries did not come with an author-created map, nor did it explicitly outline geographic details. It was difficult for us to consider how to make a geographically accurate map that could still stay true to the text’s original intentions; any attempt to plot locations and distances would involve some assumptions and creative imagination on our part.
Instead, we chose to translate the manuscript into an interactive map that enabled the reader to understand the tangled chronologies of the three different threads of the story. Our maps were designed so that the reader could engage with the story on a visual and interactive level, as opposed to attempting to define a physically coherent world. It enables the reader to more easily follow the travels of the protagonists, aided by visual elements such as a map and symbols of the characters.
M. John Harrison once wrote of his Viriconium series, “‘What would it be really like to live in the world of…?’ is an inappropriate question, a category error...There is no place, no society, no dependable furniture to ‘make real.’ You can’t read it for that stuff, so you have to read it for everything else. And if its landscapes can’t be mapped, its threat of infinite depth can’t be defused but must be accepted on its own terms, as a guarantee of actual adventure” (Harrison 2001).
It is the potential for infinite depth that enthralls fantasy readers, but also spurs them to seek mediums that enable them to establish some sort of rational control over the material. A casual survey published in Strange Horizons in 2006 of fantasy forum members noted that the majority of readers saw the map as a legitimizing factor of the text that not only made the fiction world more realistic, but also pointed to an author’s professionalism and thoroughness in crafting the work. “The map was seen as the key to understanding the travels of the protagonists, and following them without such help often resulted in frustration” (Jonsson 2006).
It is our intention that this interactive map will enable those engaging with this manuscript to better visualize and imagine the richly imaginative storylines of Tales of the Peries.
Harrison, MJ. “What it Might be Like to Live in Viriconium.” Fantastic Metropolis. Blog Post, 15 October 2001. http://www.fantasticmetropolis.com/i/viriconium/1/
Jonsson, J. “The Reader and the Map.” Strange Horizons. 10 July 2006. http://strangehorizons.com/2006/20060710/reader-map-a.shtml