Stumping along on pins unused to such vigour is not something I'm particularly fond of. Give me a horseless carriage any day. Hell, give me a horse. I may not be able to control it and end up crashing into a thicket, but at least I won't be doing it under my own power. This, I think, says as much about me as the subject of this thread. I am not, it's fair to say, a huge fan of travelling under my own steam. I'll do it when the situation demands, but an unkind life and too many biscuits have turned my knees to a substance not unakin to jelly - they look firm at first perusal but quickly prove to be a quivering mass of blancmange more suited to an appearance as a Doctor Who monster from the 70s. I've attempted to hire a sedan chair to transport me near and far but only ended up being accused of exploiting the proletariat - as if there's anything to be ashamed of in that. Perambulatory peculiarities aside, I'm still delighted that I live in the here and now and not some generic fantasy world spawned by a teenager addicted to RPGs. That would be absolute hell. The problem is, you see, that traipsing about on foot (or even horse) like a headless chicken seems to have become par for the course. Consider Gormenghast if you will. All of the action, the meat on the bones of the story, occurs in a castle, yet at no point do readers think to themselves 'why are you showing me this area? What am I learning?' What am I learning indeed? This is one of my personal bugbears, a bear so buggy not even Microsoft would attempt to comb its fur. A lot of fantasy novels I read don't seem to have been spawned purely from a strong idea: rather, the authors have immediately turned their heads to creating maps, no doubt spending many hours painstakingly drawing every tor and contour and three-shack village which few in the story will ever visit more than once (if at all). What these writers seldom seem to do is ask themselves one simple question: is any of it really necessary? In the majority of cases, I believe, the answer is a big firm NO. Running from A to B may be great for boosting word count but it seldom serves any other purpose. I'd go as far as to say that most trilogies published today could easily lose the second book in its entirety and a half of the third book and the story wouldn't actually suffer at all. Characters matter in a work of fiction - they're the hook on which we hang our interest. Setting is important but secondary (unless one intends to do a Gormenghast and make the setting a character in itself). There's absolutely no need to have heroes/villains tramping interminably through landscapes only the author cares about unless it's vital to the plot. This, to conclude, is not a diatribe against those who draw maps as way of keeping track of where the protagonists are at a given point. In this respect maps are good. Maps are useful. Rather, it's a rant against those who think: 'I really want to write a fantasy novel. I know, I'll start drawing a map and then fit a plot around all the locations I've painstakingly produced in minute detail.' The map should exist solely to assist the author in his/her pursuit of a coherent narrative; it's an aide-memoire, nothing more. Sadly, in many cases, it seems to have become an end in and of itself, bleeding into the plot and doing a major disservice to the reader. I'd like to think I'm not alone in this view, but judging from what I read online and on paper I sometimes suspect I am. So what do you think, fellow fantasy fans? Should a writer's main focus be on actually, y'know, writing or am I just an old stick-in-the-mud?