Saturday, August 20, 2005

Cartography Suggestions?

I have been working more on the new novel, and I've realized that I desperately need to make a map of some of the key locations on the surface of Mercury, Venus, and Mars, as well as some underground locations (mines, underground habitats, etc.). I am quite skilled with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop (part of the job), but I'm looking for an easier way to do it. In particular, the mines will follow veins of ore in 3D, so that doesn't lend itself to mapping. I have a Bryce (not as skilled with that) and 3D Game Studio (ditto), but I don't think they will do what I want, either. I've downloaded the demo of Campaign Cartographer, but it looks like its geared more towards surface maps (logically enough), so I'm not sure how much better it will be than Illustrator for what I need. For example, I need to place actual features in the correct scale (craters, rills, etc.) on the surface maps. I'm not sure what the best way to do that will be. There's the 3D mine mapping issue mentioned previously. Inactive parts of the mines will be used for office, living, and entertainment space, so I'll need to be able to make floor plans of those. I will also need to design the interiors of some of the habitats -- which will also be 3D, not 2D spaces.

I will report on my efforts with the CC2 Pro demo as I work with it, but so far, I'm not confident enough of it to make me want to spend the money. Of course, there are some add-ons that seem like they might be helpful, but there isn't a demo for me to be sure -- and the base CC2 Pro is pretty strongly fantasy oriented. It's hard to tell from the demo if it will serve in the tasks I need. If I'm good with Illustrator, is there any real advantage in trying to learn this program?

I also need to try to find diagrams of some existing mines. Surely that kind of thing exists on the Net somewhere. There are copper mines in Arizona that are still active, but I'd hate to drive all that way into the mountains if I can avoid it. I'm open to suggestions here!

I strongly believe that having a good sense of place makes a huge difference in the depth and authenticity of our stories, particularly science fiction stories. This novel is a "hard" science fiction novel, so I need the locations to be as accurate as possible. Raw data on the planets I can get, even highly detailed surface photos (and of Mars I can even take my own!), but getting that into a more accessible form is the real challenge. There's just too much raw data available, so I need to be able to boil it down to its essentials.

Kind of a fun challenge, though!

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