Calenhad is GIS for fictional worlds.
It’s a software project which aims to provide tools inspired by terrestrial (real-world) Geographical Information Systems (GIS) for the design and depiction of imaginary, fictional, made-up worlds. Mapping of made-up worlds I suppose began when J R R Tolkien inserted maps of Middle Earth into the front pages of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, although clearly the realms of Midgard and Hades described in antiquity had some internal geography. When the real world was still poorly mapped, some places, like Ultima Thule or Camelot, were thought of as “somewhere” on the Earth, but remote enough in space and thought to be assigned invented or supposed geographies that were meaningful enough for the tales told about them. Even latterly a fantasy world could be inserted into the real world, like the Rev. W H Auden’s Sodor, the setting for Thomas the Tank Engine, or the dinosaur-infested plateau of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. Finally, an author could take part of the real world and adapt it to his own ends, as in His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman or in Richard Adams’ Watership Down.
Tolkien’s works kicked off a whole new genre of high fantasy and mapping fantastic geographies was carried on by a whole row of authors that followed him, was practised by a wider church of creators inspired by role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons, and is now driven to higher levels of detail and volume by the demands of modern film audiences and computer game players.
There are two different problems going on now. On the one hand, computer games may need to generate large amounts of landscape (many planets) which look realistic at a distance but are not interacted with closely, looked at for very long or require detailed explanation. On the other, a setting for a fantasy novel or game may be created and explored over many volumes or hours of play, looked at in parts in some detail, and want to be explained in scientifically-plausible terms. It is this latter set of problems we are trying to address by learning from geospatial techniques used in the real world.
An overview of what Calenhad will try to do and how I go about it appears in the About page. Source code in C++ / Qt5, which is presently of a highly experimental nature to say the least, is on Github (for the time being, use only if you enjoy linker errors and segmentation faults).