So, I’m finally done. I created my own star map, covering Human Space as I will describe it in my science fiction series.
This image was scaled down considerably; the original is at 200dpi – 6622×4677 pixel. It’s 72MB in size as a PNG file. Here are some 800x800px crops from the main map:
I’ve worked on this map on and off for three years, taking some detours in between. In the end I learned a whole lot, and I think i can honestly say, improved as a mapmaker and graphics person. I will never compete with the true professionals, but just consider these early versions of the map:
First Version: The Milky Way Galaxy. This was actually a trace of a NASA image, and I was really just experimenting.
Second Version: Zooming In. An entire Galaxy is an awful lot of real estate. So I began to zoom in on the Region around Earth. It was still a very crude map.
Third Version: The Orion Spur. At this stage I began to nail down the setting. You see an early draft of the political situation in this image.
Fourth Version: Human Space, Revisited. As the old map wasn’t really working out, and was ugly to boot. I started a new version from scratch. It was based on a solid timeline and a detailed setting design. At this stage, the map was very basic.
Fifth Version: Let there be Color. The next two images are just later versions of the above; as you can see I added a great deal of detail over time. The second map probably has 200 named star systems – that’s a guesstimate, I did not recount them.
Sixth Version: Near Space Distraction. At one point, I began to doubt my design – and decided to go more small scale. I began to map out individual star systems near Earth based on Hipparcos data. In the end, I abandoned this approach – the setting wasn’t bad, but I felt it did not really match what I had in mind.
The Near Star Map’s styletests, of which this was the last, showed me that I wanted a map that was not just functional. Working on the style tests taught me a lot.
Seventh Version: Back to Square One, Just Prettier. After I discarded the Near Space idea, I reset certain things, changed some assumptions, and experimented with a galactic map. This was the result.
Eight Version: Full Circle. I liked the techniques I was starting to develop, but as in the very beginning, decided that an entire galaxy was just too much space. I zoomed in and concentrated on the Orion Spur. The rest, as they say, is Galactic history. Here is an early version of the map that I completed this week:
And the future?
This map is done – but that doesn’t mean I won’t work on it. The settings needs to be built, detailed maps for at least some regions need to be produced, and of course the entire thing will continue to evolve. In another three years this map will probably not look the same.
Update: Welcome, Reddit users – thanks for the compliments, you have no idea how happy it makes me that someone enjoys my work!