The Curious Art of Science Fiction Road Maps

Illustration for article titled The Curious Art of Science Fiction Road Maps

Adrian Leskiw is one of the rarest kinds of science fiction creators: He does his world-building entirely through the medium of road maps. A self-professed road geek, Leskiw creates extremely realistic road systems for fictional countries or alternate versions of existing ones. Here you can see a map he's created of an imaginary island called Breda in the south Pacific, in the year 2040. On his website, Leskiw gives us a terrifically detailed portrait of this imaginary Pacific Island nation (see a much larger version of the map here), with an especial focus on the future of its road systems:

This nation consists of three principal islands: Breda: the most populous island and home to the nation's capital city, St. Paul and largest metropolitan area, Aberdeen-Portsmouth-Oxford; Wright: the smallest and least populous island; and Mann: the largest island in area, but dominated by mountains and an active volcano and thus largely wilderness, although the western coast is densely populated and home to Wellington, the nation's third-largest city. The nation is located somewhere in the south Pacific and was most likely a British colony at one time and consequently roundabouts and European interchange designs are prevalent. The nation's roads are divided into five classes and each one is identified by it's own unique color-coded signage. Motorways are blue, primary highways are green, secondary highways are red, regional roads are yellow, and local roads are white. Motorways are identified by the label Mx beside the international symbol for limited-access highways, primary and secondary highways are identified by a black on yellow Australian-style shield affixed on the appropriate background color, and regional and local roads are referred to by name or primary destinations. All motorways and the Route 99/Manton Bay Tunnel are tolled. Prior to 2007 all motorways on the Isle of Breda operated on a system-wide toll ticket system, however the M2 extension. M8, and M9 were opened using electronic toll collection via overhead gantries and in 2025 the entire system on the Isle of Breda switched over to this system eliminating the need for toll booths. The M7 and M10 motorways employ mainline toll booths. Driving is on the left; distances are in kilometers; national speed limits are 120km/h: motorways, 90km/h: rural, and 40km/h: urban, however dual carriageways are usually posted at 100km/h and urban arterials at 60-70km/h.


Roads are a crucial part of the landscape in most countries, and yet we rarely think of them as a storytelling medium. Still, Leskiw manages to explain through his fictional maps what the future of a small nation might look like. He considers very pragmatic details about what the future might hold for mundane objects like toll booths. You can call this world-building for everyday life. We've got no zeppelins or floating cities - just overhead gantries for toll collection.

Illustration for article titled The Curious Art of Science Fiction Road Maps

Because he lives in Michigan, Leskiw has also created a map of an alternative Michigan, above. I'm not sure what region this is supposed to correspond to, or what exactly changed historically to make his alternate Michigan come into existence. I love the idea that he's traced Michigan's road history back to some critical point and changed one or two things so that the state's road system evolved differently.

Illustration for article titled The Curious Art of Science Fiction Road Maps

Here is another one of Leskiw's imaginary islands, called Pellie Island (bigger version here). He's been designing these road maps for years, and has dozens on his website. He also collects old road maps of actually-existing regions. His eccentric, beautiful work is a reminder that science fiction stories lurk in every medium, even the humble road map. The Map Realm [Leskiw's fictional map gallery]

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I wish more sci-fi and and fantasy authors paid this much attention to the geography of their worlds...

I can't count the number of time I've started a book (esp fantasy) that had a map right at the beginning...then on the fist damn page the author mentions a city/region/lake etc - I turn back to the map, and it's nowhere, nothing on the damn map at's infuriating...

The Tolkien maps are great...if not super detailed, but you can at least follow the general path the characters take...