by Lucia Mapp, Cartographer

One of the many confusing aspects of travel for Agents is the fact that most of The Past is utterly devoid of locational tagging. You scan a street with your iDictaBrain, and it just lays there, being a street, refusing to reply. It doesn’t say what street it is, or offer you directions and approximate travel times to other places. It doesn’t include colourful and quite possibly true accounts of things reported to have happened on this street at various dates. It doesn’t list, at your request, notable personages and landmarks to be found on this street, past and present. It doesn’t tell you the street’s Secret History, even if you have Clearance for such knowledge. It doesn’t, even if your Clearance is pretty comprehensive, allow you to browse through iDrone footage of that street at various times.

In fact, until about the midpoint of the Early Digital Era, streets were utterly mute. Perhaps they knew lots of secrets; poets and hard-boiled detective writers often claimed that they did. Whatever they knew, however, they were not talking. This means you’ll have to navigate without the use of street tags.

Depending on where and when you are, your navigational options may include some fairly simple and comfortable alternatives. Most large cities have been extensively mapped by the Lighthouse Agents who came before you; you ought to find, in your mission-specific data packet, a fairly up-to-date navigable map of any large city you are likely to need to visit. Large cities have been mapped at a minimum of 50 year intervals, so your map may be anywhere from spot-on to wildly inaccurate, depending on where in this interval your mission falls. If your mission falls near the middle of the time between two mapping events, you may find that your file is a composite map, in which elements of both maps are present. I recommend, by the way, asking not to be loaded with a composite map. They are usually rubbish. Anyway, my primary point is this: if you are in a big city, you ought to be able to navigate with your iDictaBrain, and thus will not be taken far outside of your comfort zone.

If you are traveling in the early days of the Early Digital Era, navigation will also be pretty simple. Your iDictaBrain can receive satellite positions, and thus you can navigate as the Residents around you are navigating: by simple, invisible geometry. Your iDictaBrain will handle the geometry for you, and really you don’t even need to know about the satellites. There will be a dot on the area map you will see before your inner eyes; you are that dot. When you move, the dot moves. Thus, you can see if you are moving away from or towards your goal. If you wish, you can have a dulcet-toned Voice whispering directions into your ear. The Voice will probably pronounce most place names incorrectly, but generally you’ll know what it means.

But let us suppose that you aren’t in a big city, and it isn’t the Early Digital Era. Your iDictaBrain will make a map of the area as you travel, but that, of course, will only show you where you’ve been. To get from where you are now to some previously unvisited other place, you will have to use the methods available. There are two methods commonly available: you can obtain and read a map, or you can ask for directions.

Asking for directions seems a simple and elegant solution. However, you have to remember to take human nature into account here.

You are lost. On the road ahead of you is a courting couple. Remembering your Sexism 101 training, you ask the man for directions. “How do I get to the Postern Road?” You ask. The man does not know. He has often been to that road, of course, but getting there isn’t a thing he is able to explain. Your question, however, marks you as “foreign.” The man therefore feels no compunction in showing off for his lady by giving you some well-sounding but useless information. In the man’s opinion, you can go chase yourself. He will tell you how to do that. What are you doing in Littlemud-on-Grime, anyway? That’s what he wants to know. 

“Go back the way you’ve come and turn left at the red barn and then go down the road a piece and take your right,” says the Man. This is all nonsense. There probably isn’t a red barn–not what you’d call a red barn, anyway. It used to be red, when Directions Man was a child, before time and change weathered all the red paint away. If you were From Here, you’d know what the Man meant by “the red barn.” It was a scandal, the painting of that barn. Farmer Halloway had only done it to irritate Farmer Travers, that was obvious. Now, that barn is red forever, no matter what colour its exterior may superficially bear. The fact that there is a barn a little bit before The Red Barn, and that that barn happens to be actually red, will not matter to the Man.

We could go on, but will not. You get the idea. Asking for directions is no good. Therefore, you must obtain and read a Map.

“But my dear fellow, I do that every day!” I hear you saying. I answer: no you don’t. You view digital maps, with moving dots. I don’t mean a map like that. Nor do I mean an Experiental Map, as Mr. Golightly gave you, I understand, a couple of entries ago. What I mean is a confused tangle of lines drawn on paper. This is a map you hold in your hands. You will find it almost impossible to fold it back up again when you are done with it.

There is no dot on these maps showing you where you are. You will have to find that out for yourself. You will then need to determine which way you need to go to get where you want to be. This means ascertaining how the map in your hands matches up with the world it purports to represent. If you have a compass, or if the sun is in the process of rising or setting, you are in luck. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. On your map, there will be something called a compass rose, which will give you a sense of which way is what.

You will, we trust, figure the thing out, in time.

Good luck!

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  1. People who successfully re-fold sewing patterns and fitted sheets always succeed in re-folding maps.

    Living in the Early Digital Era, I think I would enjoy the advantages an iDictaBrain offers — without all the noise.

  2. What happens if it needs to recalculate?

    Tale Spinning

  3. This is why I could never be a time traveler. I get lost in my own time!

    Jayden R. Vincente
    Erotic Fiction Writer

  4. What Jayden said – I have the worst sense of direction in the world and even with my digital map (containing the red dot) I nearly always set off the wrong way!

    A-Zing this year at:
    Normally found at:

    • No, Debs. I have the worst sense of direction in the world. Suppose I am browsing the shops at my local mall. I walk out of one shop, intending to walk towards the shops I haven’t seen yet. Like 80% of the time, I end up walking the wrong way in that situation, and only gradually notice that I’ve seen all of these shops before. Then I do one of those awkward turn-around-and-go-the-other-way-while-trying-not-to-lose-all-dignity things.

      • Oh that is the *perfect* description. One good thing about our failing, we’d cause all kinds of havoc to anyone trying to follow us!

  5. LOL! This was fantastic! almost an antropological study of the evolution of mapping and using maps. Loved it.

    Sorry I’m reading this late. I fell hopelessly behind in reading blogs sometimes halfway through the month, but I’m slowliy catching up now. Will take some time, but I’ll make it!

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