Section 8. Mapping Alternate Perceptions of the Past, Present, and Future


1. Synthetica: New Continent of Plastics
Ortho Plastic Novelties, Inc., 1940

When Fortune Magazine published this map in 1940, the possibility of a plastic future seemed more of a fantasy than a reality. While it may be hard for us to imagine a world without plastic, it was not until the Second World War (1939-1945) that the floodgates really opened. During the conflict the United States had to scramble to find substitutes for the strategically important raw materials that they could no longer obtain due to the war. Scientists found countless applications for plastic in fighter planes, battleships, parachutes, tents, rope, and so on. By 1950, the volume of annual plastic production was forty times what it had been only twenty years earlier, making inroads for domestic uses in packaging, toys, gadgets, etc.

2. Humbead’s revised Map of the World
Rick Schubb, 1969

Earl Crabb (1941–2015) and Rick Shubb (b. 1945) first sketched out this map of the world of folk music in a music shop in Berkeley, because they realized that they saw the same people in Berkeley, CA, as in Cambridge, MA, and in New York and Los Angeles. Shubb added other places that loomed large in the mental geographies of counter-cultural “heads”: San Francisco, Nashville, Southeast Asia (because Vietnam “could not be ignored”), North Africa (source of hashish), and the Mexican border. A tiny island signifies the cultural insignificance of the “Rest of the World.” Shubb drew the final map, adding the names of friends, key counter-culture figures, and random celebrities. Crabb (nicknamed “Humbead”) published the map in 1968, followed by revisions in 1969 (this map) and 1970.

3. Gordon-Michael Scallion’s Future Map of the United States
Gordon-Michael Scallion, 1992

Gordon-Michael Scallion (b. 1942) was one of many “futurists” in the 1970s and 1980s, but while most focused on the social and cultural changes that would be wrought by new technologies, Scallion’s prophecies of future cataclysms were literal. He predicted waves of Tribulation that would physically reshape the earth in the 1990s, with climate change, massive vulcanism, and sea-level rise. The USA would be reorganized as thirteen new colonies, each committed to a New Age spiritualism to heal the stricken planet.

4. The Map in Black
Craig Cartography, 2021

This is the map that Mulder and Scully needed in the X-Files, that “K” should have given “J” as part of his orientation to Men in Black, and that Dean and Sam keep in the glove compartment of their Impala in Supernatural. It maps a wealth of supernatural phenomena, dark sites, cryptid creatures, ghostly haunts, and alien encounters across the USA. Wow.

Next Section: 9. Artist’s Maps