by Sherwood Smith
Okay, you’ve got this grand idea for an epic fantasy, and you’ve outlined your story, listed your cast of thousands, and you’ve got all these cool maps of your kingdoms, empires, territories, free cities, and so on.
You start writing, and as your cast gets split up all over the place, you find yourself trying to keep track of who is where when, and above all what time it is where. “Oh, calculating that is easy,” says your math friend. “You simply plug your numbers into an easy equation, beginning with yadda-blither-garble-goo.”
You nod and smile and go away whimpering, because if you’d ever managed to get anything above a D- in simple math you probably would be earning megabucks in some math related industry, not living on ramen as you try to follow your writing dream.
So what do you do? Simple, sez I. Buy a beach ball.
What you have in those colorful orange/blue/red/yellow slices an instant time-zone calculator, as well as an easily transportable 3-D map. The tough part is getting your maps onto the globe. I made mine when I was nineteen, and as you can see it’s been corrected a lot over the decades with white-out and a weird variety of paints, depending on what I could get my hands on at various points in my life.
The best thing was, I was able to see how my plate tectonics worked, which enabled me to better imagine weather patterns, climate patterns, and how those would affect the various cultures and economies in the paracosm.
That thing has traveled to Europe once, and across the North American continent countless times. It deflates and packs up easily. And figuring out who is where when is a matter of a moment for this math-challenged writer.