Art, games, life, obsession

Jerry Gretzinger has a project, one that never ends. What started as a little doodle has grown into a sprawling, detailed map that is maintained and expanded by following rules — rules that increase complexity organically, using chance.

It’s cool and strange at the same time.

Gretzinger also has a blog.


  1. says

    Reminds me, in some strange way, of the story “Leaf by Niggle” that Tolkien wrote many years ago. What a wonderful life Jerry leads.

  2. says

    That’s so fascinating.

    I admit I don’t have the patience to do that with my own world in my stories. I’ve shoehorned into my cities exactly what they need to make a good book, but I doubt I could tell you enough about how they grew or how they’re still growing. I feel like an inadequate author for not knowing that.

  3. wholething says

    I suppose we all have some obsession like say, posting opinions and thoughts on the internet, or heaven forbid, reading someone’s opinions and thoughts.

  4. Gregory in Seattle says

    If he started in 1963, as the intro implies, then he has been at this for 49 years. Wow.

    I would dearly love to see a chronological time-lapse of his map, see where the topogrophy changed, where The Void creeped in and how the world changed within it.

  5. Michael Zeora says

    #2 (Katrine)

    One thing to consider when building worlds is the History that brought the world to the point of your story. Even if that history is mostly Myth, Legend, or not even all quite there yet, lost to time like the Library of Alexanderia. Consider some of the more Epic Tales in the Culture, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and even just the History of the world we know today.

    Jerry’s Map started “as just a doodle” then it evolved into “a game” and now it’s a world unto itself with it’s own history, with it’s own people. All starting from a single little doogle of boxes in 1963.

    Making something feel like it’s living and breathing through word and imagination is not an easy thing to do. Maybe I can give three examples from my travels. Note, I’m just writing these on the fly, so they’re raw, but they do thing they have that living and breathing essence thanks to History and Introspection.

    “My home is in a small lower middle class suburb originally built in the 1950s, it has two more modern middle class areas, both of higher status.
    The houses of my little neighborhood are unique to the familes that live there, add-ons built by the families over the years that have lived in them. The paints and outer materials span wood to plastic siding of nearly any color you can find that’s reasonable. Some of the houses were damaged in Hurracane Ike which did leave it’s mark – still present to this day. Every morning 7am like clockwork people walk the little path in the park nearby and some even walk thier dogs there. Sundays are days of soccor/football matches. Lazy little area, quite quiet mostly,”

    “Travling is one of my favorite pasttimes. One year my family and I just got a little pop up crack travel camper hooked it to our SUV and traveled to the Grand Canyon. As city turned into endless highway I was struck as how big yet how small our world is. It wasn’t until we were in the middle of New Mexico I realized the desert’s sands shifted around us. Did I realize that I’ve never seen that exact color of gold before, and out before us on the road it seemed to reflect like water. However, what struck me wasn’t the travel itself, but as we apprroched the New Mexico / Arizona border, the huge ammount of mountian rock that had to be blasted away in order to build the highway that we now travel on. Which just so happened to run right through the same blasted rock that was done in the pre-Civil War days of the American West. Trying to connect the Eastern Rail System to the Gold Rush of San Franciso.”

    “Of all the places in American I’ve been to, and very lucky to do so, nothing ever seemes to match the energy and power that New York City has over me. It’s the city of my family, both sides. Immigrants from the Old Country. Italy on one side, Bohemian area on the other, with a little bit of Irish tossed in for good measure. New York City, where they all came in through. Right through the now tourist attraction that is Ellis Island, right in eyeshot of Her Lady Liberity. Everyone can imangine this city, the hopes and dreams of it’s people. The crushing weight of the millions who have failed to see those dreams, and the few who have. Even then, a lot in the middle maybe not Plan A or B, but somehow, someway managed to survive leaving their home for whatever reason to try and build something better than what they came from. That’s New York City in a nutshell, hell, that’s the American Dream in a nutshell.”

  6. theophontes (坏蛋) says

    Oy Vey! That is just like my job!

    (I get my random input from idjit clients:”天 天 变化”. Nothing ever changes but the changes to the changes.)

  7. Crip Dyke, MQ, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Oh, theophontes:

    you remind me of certain clients I had back during my short programming days (3.5 years, so, okay, not a short time, but not huge in the grand scheme…less than 1/10th my life). A lot of the programming I did was fairly consistent and the work went well, but there were quite a number of clients, especially one infamous one, that couldn’t decide what to do with their projects… so everything changed, all the time. Even when all data gathering was done and we were doing the number crunching, they’d be wanting to change the data gathering methodology – but weren’t paying to gather any more data.

    Fuckin’ Clients – how do they work?

  8. thisisaturingtest says

    Kind of reminds me of the Voynich Manuscript. Someone will uncover this thing 500 years from now and say “what the hell?”

  9. wholething says

    @ thisisaturingtest #8

    And then someone will say “Oh, I get it. It’s from a graphic Nostradamus. Here’s where he predicted WWIII. Over here is where he predicted the demise of the Catholic church. Of course, it is a prediction of the future. Why would anybody do it for no particular reason?”

  10. pacomius says

    Okay, call me sentimental, but my life does seem an iota richer, knowing that he is doing this

    Maybe I just need to get out more…

  11. 'Tis Himself says

    I am impressed.

    my life does seem an iota richer, knowing that he is doing this

    Yes indeed.

  12. vaiyt says

    One could make books, movies and video games about the places depicted in that map. I’m absolutely fascinated.

  13. FossilFishy (TMI, that's not TMI, *THIS* is TMI) says

    We talk of the negative aspects of privilege all the time. And rightly so, for they do indeed need to be address. But here we have a positive expression of privilege. Jerry has the time and resources to do this wondrous, beautiful project and we have the time and resources to appreciate it.

    This made my day.

  14. seculartranshumanist says

    Absolutely fascinating.

    Of course, D&D players have been doing this since 1974… ;-)