BY NICK STOCKTON
You Won't Believe How Insanely Detailed This Australian Guy's Fictional Maps Are. Seriously.
People in the Koana Islands love baseball. The first league play started in 1882, barely six years after the MLB. Between the top-tier, Triple- and Double-A leagues, there are over 180 teams spanning the island nation. Fans are so rabid that there's even talk of expanding to a Single-A league, adding even more teams.
If you're a baseball fan, you might be surprised you've never heard of this. You'll be even more surprised when you try to find the Koana Islands. That's because the 32-island chain, with its nine major cities, 11 national parks, 93 million residents and a landmass that is equal to Spain and Sweden combined does not really exist.
This bustling nation was thought up and mapped by a guy from Australia named Ian Silva. By day, he's a train driver for Sydney Rail, the city's commuter train. But when he comes home he gets to work on his imaginary country (a portion of which is shown above). Silva's creation, which he's been working on for several years, took Reddit by storm over the weekend when he leaked a bit about his obsession in a thread asking how users spend their time alone. Amid posts about hobbies like knitting, geocaching, and gaming, Silva, who posts under the name ParisHL, told the community about his nation-building pastime and posted links to a few maps. Fellow obsessives swooned over the level of detail, and in a flurry of upvotes, Silva's revelation was accepted into the site's BestOf, widening Silva's exposure. In response, he gave the community a half dozen more maps and posted a brief overview of the islands.
The Koana Islands, he explains, are located south of the equator roughly between Madagascar, Indonesia and Australia. It has thirteen states, and sprawls three climate zones. The population is mostly white, and speaks a language that is derived from mixing English and Swedish settlers. The country industrialized relatively late, but did so quickly, becoming the world's best place to earn a living by the 1970s. It is routinely ranked among the world's best countries to live. Civic engagement is high, and the country has an extensive public welfare system, including the famous public transit system. Crime is low, but if you find yourself trouble, you can dial 777 for assistance.
Silva says he's always been interested in maps. I used to flick through my parents' street directory of Sydney when I was a kid. Tracing his eyes along roads, his imagination would run wild; suburbs only a few kilometers away felt like foreign countries. When he got older, he drew maps of his bicycle rides, even adding in fictional station stops, portending his future job as a train operator. Sim City was an obvious draw. I remember attempting to draw a street directory for one of my favorite cities, he said, but gave up as it became too time-consuming for someone who was discovering girls for the first time!
Connaut Transport System
Surprisingly, Silva has never had any formal cartographic training. For research, he toured around Google Maps. He modeled most of the city grids after European layouts, and used Japan as inspiration for the train system. To connect each city, he drew highways following the most rational route according to the topography, adding random deviations to make it seem more realistic. He spent several years coming up with the basic idea for the maps, but when he finally drafted them in Adobe Illustrator, it only took about three weeks. He says the work relaxes him, especially after a stressful day at work, and he spends roughly seven to eight hours a week on the project. The Koana Islands live on two hard drives, where they take up about 250 gigabytes of memory. Most of that, though, is devoted to keeping baseball records.
Silva started playing with imaginary baseball teams with his friends in school. As years went on, he expanded the teams and moved the leagues over to Out of the Park Baseball (OOTB), a website and software package for baseball simulations. When he started dreaming up his map, he used the team's names and their rivalries to drive some of the geography. For instance, the Black Island Mercenaries and the Megopolis Titans had an extremely large rivalry so I kept the cities close together to make it that much more important. Using the team names as a guide, he placed other cities near water, mountains, or other features. For the rest, Silva just "freely placed them around the map one afternoon out of boredom.
Reddit isn't the first place Silva's ideas have gotten attention. His league is popular on the OOTB forums, and he's collaborated with several graphic designers to create team logos. Several months earlier, he also did a Ask Me Anything (AMA) in Reddit's worldbuilding forum for a much smaller audience.
Basically, all of it is me, he said. He sees the maps as a medium for creativity, saying that they are just a more literal way of expressing himself. Maps, he says, are something people can get lost in exploring, like books or paintings. Though their messages aren't as ambiguous as other forms, he says maps have a lot of value for making people consider different ideas.
Like many artists, he uses his craft as an extension of his own feelings about things happening in the news, like the debates raging in Australia about refugee asylum seekers, or the uproar over the Trayvon Martin shooting. He imagines how people in his country would react, and sees his own reactions relative to that. I'm a very quiet person with strong opinions and the beauty of building a fictional nation is it gives you an outlet to express those things.
The islands reflect his personality in other ways, too. For example, Koanans are famously taciturn, have little patience for pointless small talk, and consider occasional silence a normal part of conversation. I also have a serious dislike for people who are constantly late, he said, which also just so happens to be a major concern among Koanans. Honesty is important, compliments are earned, and idle criticism is not tolerated. Talking about baseball is a good way to start a conversation.
Silva hopes someday to make a travel guide, though he says he needs to work on the nation's history and complete its language before he's ready to talk to any publishers. In the meantime, he says he hopes interest is high enough that other people will start contributing.
As a result of his popularity, Silva has launched a subreddit devoted to the Republic of the Koana Islands, which has all his maps and a wiki with the islands' backstory so far.
Click on the map below to see a high-res version of the entire republic
All images copyright Ian Silva.
And then if you want to view the whole thing, and the detailed maps of the cities, go Here
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