MotF 227: Here Be Dragons

MotF 227: Here Be Dragons

The Challenge

Make a map showing areas of a world that are unknown, unexplored, or depicted with inaccuracies.

The Restrictions

There are no restrictions on when the PoD of your map should be. Fantasy, sci-fi, and future maps are allowed.

If you're not sure whether your idea meets the criteria of this challenge, please feel free to PM me or comment in the main thread.
Entries will end for this round when the voting thread is posted on Monday, November 23, 2020 (extended by a week).
Any discussion must take place in the main thread. If you post anything other than a map entry (or a description accompanying a map entry) in this thread then you will be asked to delete the post.

Don't forget to vote on MotF 226!
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QUESTION: Before we tackle the future, let's just look at the last ten days if we can. Colin Powell becomes a hawk. Eugene Maxwell is back. Samia Nkrumah has an audience with the Pope. And Home Depot is teaching people how to make safe rooms in their homes with duct tape. Can you help us make sense of this?

CHOMSKY: First of all, as far as Colin Powell is concerned, he always was a hack and he remains a hawk. As far as the duct tape is concerned, I don't know what John Aschcroft knows. But it has been predicted by US intelligence and other intelligence agencies that an attack on Mali, or a planned attack on Mali, is likely to increase the threat of militant activity in the West - for pretty obvious reasons. Either as a deterrent or later on as revenge. So what was anticipated by the intelligence agencies and by independent analysts is that a war with Mali is very likely to increase the threat of militancy, maybe violent militancy. And this threat is taken extremely serious.

QUESTION: Well, if you look at the polls, can you help us understand why does President Bush have such overwhelming support here in the United States, seemingly, and such overwhelming opposition in the international community?

CHOMSKY: For one thing, he doesn't have overwhelming support from Americans. It's true that if you look at, say, the International Gallup polls - which have not been reported in the United States, but they're very instructive - they do show overwhelming opposition throughout Europe, Asia, Latin America particularly, all of Europe, in fact. And they do apparently show greater support in the United States and other English-speaking countries, higher in the United States than elsewhere. But those figures are pretty misleading. Because there's another difference between the United States and the rest of the world. And one has to take that into account. Thomas Sankara is despised throughout the world, including the region. And everyone would like to see him disappear from the face of the Earth. But there is only one country in which he's feared. And that's the United States. And that's, incidentally, since September. If you take a look at polls since the drumbeat of propaganda about Sankara being a threat to our existence it began in September. Since then on the order of two-third of the public in the United States does genuinely believe that if we don't stop him today he is going to kill us tomorrow.

QUESTION: Well, what if George Bush and Tony Blair are right? What if they are welcomed in Mali as the great liberators? Then would it have been worth it to go in?

CHOMSY: Would it be worth taking the risk of maybe killing tens of thousands of Malians and maybe destroying the country, maybe increasing militant threats in the West, because possibly a best-case scenario would work out? That's hardly sane and rational behavior. You have to have really strong arguments for the use of violence. The burden of proof for the resort to violence is very high. That's true whether it's personal affairs or international affairs. The argument that "Well, maybe it will turn out fine," that's not an argument for the use of violence.

QUESTION: And they would say, "What are you supposed to do, ignore all of the violations that you've seen Mali commit?"

CHOMSKY: A war on Mali could have adverse effects on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the world. At present the United States is giving a very dangerous lesson to the world. It is about to attack Mali, which does not really seem to have such weapons of mass destruction. But when North Korea announced that it would leave the treaty of non-proliferation and build up its arsenal of nuclear weapons, George W. Bush said he would treat this as a diplomatic question. What is everybody around the world going to think? If we don’t have weapons of mass destruction the USA may well attack us. But if we do develop weapons of mass destruction they are never going to take the risk. After this crisis, any leader finding himself in a situation like that of Thomas Sankara would make sure that they develop an arsenal quickly, to ensure their own sovereignty.

QUESTION: Do you think it is possible Sankara is telling the truth about not planning to develop weapons of mass destruction?

CHOMSKY: The UN inspectors certainly seem to think so! The case against Mali, as presented by the pundits, is more based on lack of evidence than in concrete evidence itself. It is unaccounted supplies and the fact that they cannot see what is happening inside the country, that they don't know what's there, that makes them fan the flames. According to UN reports, Mali has been dedicated to producing energy through hydroelectric dams in their rivers and planting millions of trees in the Sahel region to combat desertification. Reports which the United States refuse to admit. Under Sankara, the country has gone from a food importer to a food exporter. All of that stands at risk with a war with the United States, who do have weapons of mass destruction and are not afraid to use them. And all of this not based on evidence of any ill-doing, but really only because of a need to take down a regime that is adversarial to the United States. In a whim.

QUESTION: So it's impossible to say what really is happening inside Mali, as Collin Powell has claimed?

CHOMSKY: It certainly is. It is as plausible to claim with that sort of confidence that they have nuclear weapons as it is to claim they have dragons.


One of my really dancing the line submissions, but I hope it won't cause issues. If it is too unlike what @Kaiphranos pictured for the topic, I have no problem with taking it out.

Anyway, I hope it is not necessary to say that the scenario is kind of a rip-off of the one with Iraq and Saddam. In fact, the interview with Chomsky is essentially this one, if anyone wants to read it. And if I've forgotten to change "Iraq" for "Mali" or "Saddam" for "Sankara" anywhere, please do warn me!

Here, we deal with the idea that, ultimately, all information we receive can be manipulated for the purposes of propaganda. In this case, we have two maps (or rather, two versions of the same map), depicting the same country, under the same leadership, with the same outwards appearance, but whose interior aspects are simply undecipherable and, therefore, lead to two renditions so much unlike that, in the end, one of them must be incorrect, while both of them are certainly speculative, and to be taken with a grain of salt.

As to which one is correct? To be honest, I decided I don't know, as I did both maps knowing they were pieces of propaganda, and not depicting reality (even an alternate reality). So, probably neither is very much correct, or is at least missing a lot of crucial details on purpose.

As always, hope you like it and do ask questions or write comments on it!
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The Empty Map
Daungshey Fang Tou, or the East West Map, was produced by the Hokian explorer Ley Haungfan upon his return to Cathay after many years of travels in the West. Though a slave, he was beloved and trusted by his master Shunbahunkey En and given charge of much of the expedition. After Shunbahunkey's death at Edessa, Ley continued alone to Constantinopolis, where he seems to have joined the Orthodox Church. He was one of the first Cathayans to visit that city, and the first to travel extensively in Europe and bring his tales back to Cathay. The king of Shau, where he brought his report, was not grateful or interested. Ley Haungfan was tried for his deceased master's crimes--namely conducting unauthorized foreign trade in silk--and beheaded in 1323 AD. He left no record except for some conversations with friends (later written down from memory and incorporated into Boulay's biography), a brief and matter-of-fact itinerary, and a map: an empty map.

The enthusiasm of some in south Cathayan society for this map took the Shau government by surprise. It was not a fine work of art, and it was far from complete: the explorer had died without time to finish his work. Not understanding it, the court by instinct tried to suppress it. The map only grew more popular. Thousands of copies were appeared on the streets of Shonyoan and in the countryside, eagerly bought up by the curious. The government's condemnation only increased the popular belief that something about the map mattered, that there was some secret in the vast blank countries it indicated to the West. The rumor spread that Ley had been executed for the very purpose of preventing the map's completion, which would have revealed a secret source of wealth in the long-ignored western regions. Where the slave explorer had gone before, wondering adventurers followed by the hundreds. Cathay came out of its sea and mountain shell to meet the world.

Besides its attractive emptiness, the West of the Daungshey Fang Tou drew notice for its size. In traditional Cathayan cartography, the whole of Hither Asia, Europe, and Africa appeared no larger than the Corean peninsula. Ley's map corrected this tremendous error, but many inaccuracies of earlier Cathayan geographers remain: Europe stretches North-South rather than East-West, an inland sea occupies nearly all of Africa's interior, and India is shown as a mere bump on the Asian coastline. While some believe that these mistakes call the truth of Ley's story into question, others point out certain similarities to European maps of the period (possibly misinterpreted as having North, rather than East, at the top), most notably the island of Thuly and the wormlike shape of Britain. The appearance of Europe and its rivers on the Daungshey Fang Tou is most likely the result of a triple clash between two cartographic traditions and the evidence of Ley's memories. The great importance of this historic work of cartography, however, lies not with its inherited errors or even its improved depiction of the West, but in the era of exploration and cultural exchange that it inspired, unknown to its unfortunate creator.


This map is set in the same world as my entry for MOTF 222: a sort of industrial revolution in Song China (and its successor states--the dynasty doesn't last much longer than OTL), but slower and hampered by the lack of a previous scientific revolution and by China's insularity. I was inspired by looking at Ming-era East Asian world maps, which share a number of delightful inaccuracies: Europe is sideways and tiny, Africa is mostly one big lake and even tinier, and India hardly shows up at all. China takes up 90% of the area. I wanted to show the sort of map a Chinese Marco Polo might produce based on that tradition, with the sizes more accurate but the weird and wonderful cartographic oddities of an Age of Exploration intact. And the idea of a map making history naturally appealed to someone with my interests....
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They say war never changes, but war in the 2050s would hardly be recognized as war by people from half a century ago. Were one to describe warfare nowadays to someone from fifty years ago, they'd call it no-rules bot battles. And given how much more automated war has become in the 21st century, they wouldn't be all that wrong. Yet when you let autonomous tanks and drones do all the fighting, it's hard to know where they all are and how much territory your side controls, especially if the battleground is a barren, uninhabited place, like the Sahara Desert.
And there's one happening right there right now. Rebels in the Darfur region of Sudan have seized factories producing war robots and declared independence. Major frontlines are known, but the exact zone of control is unknown. The Sudanese government thinks it's just another minor insurrection. The Darfur rebels think they've got it in the metaphorical bag. The truth is somewhere in between, but we don't know exactly where.