SC 2022 Reading Challenge

Lessons I learned from reading other people's Summer Camp articles.

The Challenge

According to the Reading Challenge blog post, this is what I was supposed to do:  
pick 3 Summer Camp prompts
pick 3 articles per chosen prompt
read the articles and comment on them
write down what I learned from each one
summarize my new goals
publish the article and post the link on the blog

The Chosen Prompts

Religion and Society

Prompt #2: Somewhere in your world setting, describe a religion or organisation connected to a natural phenomenon.


What fascinates me is the arrangement regarding the criminals from the mainstream society. Although partly out of necessity, they make the effort to understand what led to the crime and find a way to safely employ the new community member in a meaningful position.
This strongly resonates with me because I can definitely see the Rilsu law system working in a similar way. So far I haven't really thought about how they deal with criminals after the arrest. But I suppose they, too, would place heavy emphasis on fixing the underlying problem rather than just locking the culprit away.

Protectors of the Herd

It never occurred to me that the "natural phenomenon" could be migrating animals - but it makes perfect sense. Large animal herds have a major impact on the ecosystem through which they pass. Especially when people can hunt them for food or fur.
I've been wondering what kind of influence my herd of living spaceships may have on the cultures in my world. I already figured that they would be part of their mythology, and Those Who Know definitely monitor and interact with them. I suppose I should dig into what the other sapient species know and think about them.

Wishing for Stability

I like how important mental control is for this order, and how it allows them to safely manifest desires or emotions via the Clay of Thought. Also, their role as a mostly-neutral party is interesting - supporting both sides of a war in order to stabilize the political landscape does not make them popular.
This gives me some food for thought regarding Those Who Know - while manipulating matter is deeply engrained in their nature by now, they face similar problems when applying these powers. They see the good and the bad in both sides and are always torn between letting events unfold naturally and trying to help. I still need to figure out what exactly they did during the Final War on Ranul and what they try to do differently regarding the superpowers on Chryphóra/Qentora. The reaction of people who are aware of them could explain why they are hesitant to act openly, and the "careful what you wish for" aspect of the Clay of Thought makes me want to have some well-intentioned meddling go very, very wrong.

Nature's Beauty

Prompt #18: Somewhere in your world setting, describe an astonishing natural wonder.

A Glimpse Through The Mist

After a precise description of the waterfall and its cultural significance, there is a section about the local ecosystem. I like how the mist from the waterfall gives rise to a tropical climate in this area, and the grottos behind the waterfall sound like truly wonderful places for worship.
The article as a whole is short and sweet, right to the point. When I write an article, I often arrive at ~700 words before I feel confident about calling it complete. Seeing how well this article describes the natural wonder in way fewer words, I think I can be braver about putting out short articles, too.

Medicine and Mystery

A beautifully described and illustrated lake, surrounded by plants with medicinal properties. On top of that, there are legends about a healing spirit and about a boat disappearing to mysteriously re-appear elsewhere.
I like the parallel between actual healing plants and claims of a supernatural healing power. This looks like a nice approach for developing myths around a place - take a grain of truth and connect it to something fantastical (or at least, unconfirmed). I also see that I need more environment art in my world - sure, maps are fine, but a view of the actual scenery adds a lot.

Otherworldly and Unexplained

A "pond" of amber, complete with plants and wildlife trapped inside. Little is known about it, especially because examining the amber would bring the risk of damaging it. So people just enjoy the sight and tell stories of something mysterious moving in the deep below it.
I remember when my physics teacher explained how you can't measure some things without changing them. Especially when it comes to chemistry or particle physics - which play a major role in my world, with Those Who Know recombining subatomic particles on purpose and the Kaleidoscope having that effect naturally. Now, I'm a very scientifically-minded person and I enjoy digging into explanations behind my worldbuilding - but maybe sometimes it's better to just leave it at "no-one knows why" and let the reader's imagination fill in the blanks.
(On a darker note, this also reminds me that ROCHIM does not have X-ray technology and has to use cruder methods for examining the Pasutgiruta crew...)

Evil Things

Prompt #31: Somewhere in your world setting, describe an artifact that embodies a hideous or monstrous idea.

Report with Remarks

This article takes the form of a report, written by someone who appears to be a young and not very diligent researcher. It includes remarks by her supervisor and conversations which further bring the story to life.
This is a nice inspiration for writing documents, or adding quotes to articles in general. So far I've put very little thought into the people behind certain inventions, historical events or legends. Correspondence or annotated/redacted documents may be fun to write - I've seen a couple of examples here and there, but never written something like that myself.

Messy Misunderstandings

A scary-looking device which removes people's sense of humour... because an ancient dark magic user misunderstood the way humour works. I love the absurd black comedy here. Misunderstandings with dangerous outcomes make for great stories.
It also reminds me of outdated medical practices which may have done more harm than good to the patient, or scientists dying early because they were unaware of necessary precautions.
Yerrechin's conspiracy theory probably works on a similar principle - picking up on something real, misunderstanding the rest and extrapolating it into a mess of crazy nonsense. I can also imagine that Those Who Know ran into similar problems a lot. Their evolution took a completely different path, so the emotions and social structures of the younger races used to be completely alien to them in the past.

Scary and Gory

This one made my skin crawl. While the artifact's appearance sounds eerily fascinating, the way it disposes of spellcasters is really cruel and gruesome. Picturing such a scene is not for the faint of heart.
For my main story, I've been toying with a few ideas that are too bloody for younger readers. I'll certainly need some switch to enable/disable such scenes for the branching narrative that I'm aiming for. So far I've tried to keep my articles suitable for general audiences, but maybe I should start exploring these darker topics.

My New Goals

Religion and Society

  • Write about the Rilsu approach to dealing with convicted criminals.
  • Write about the role that The Herd plays in my cultures' mythology.
  • Write about the political stance of Those Who Know, including lessons that they learned from interacting with younger cultures.

Nature's Beauty

  • Turn the geographical area stubs into minimal articles.
  • Create environment art for important places.
  • Add more myths to important places, anchored in truth.
  • Explore phenomena for which Nimýric or Rilsu science has no explanation yet.

Evil Things

  • Write some scientific report or correspondence in the context of ROCHIM's investigations.
  • Add quotes to the "Demon of Nalanmar" myth article.
  • Write about an incident where the alien worldview of Those Who Know caused problems.
  • Write about the conspiracy that Yerrechin (believes to have) discovered, hinting at what may be true and what may be a misunderstanding on his part.
  • Explore gorier topics, either in private articles (because spoilers) or accessible through appropriate subscriber groups.
Table of Contents

Cover image: by Kathrin Janowski


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