Summer Camp Debrief and Reading Challenge 2023 in Sunscald | World Anvil
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Summer Camp Debrief and Reading Challenge 2023

G'day,   So this is my first Summer Camp and also my first time really properly attempting to worldbuild an original setting. It took a couple of false starts (I started and quickly abandoned multiple worlds after a few articles in each) but I finally hit a stride with Sunscald even though I'm extremely neutral on the name lol. I had a lot of fun! I found myself often thinking about the prompts during my downtime at work, and really enjoyed having them sort of link together in a domino style effect. After all, once you have your precious material extracted in tiny quantities from a now-extinct animal, you then of course have to bring up the animal and the people who were doing the extracting...   I'm quite hesitant to share my own work even in my own bloody recap lol, but I will try to cover some of my favourites of my own work very briefly:
  • Leth Bloodaxe and Torching of Leth: The most fearsome raider on the continent successfully sacks and burns down the most prestigious city in the Sunscald, said city then burns him down as revenge. Well, an effigy of him at least. I liked these two especially because I was proud of the 'twist' I put on each prompt, having the character driven by wanderlust essentially being a nomadic raider and the festival involving arts and creativity essentially being a contest to make the most impressive depiction of this guy expressly to then burn him down as a symbolic vengeance.
  • Six Little Kings: This one was really fun to make! I composed the nursery rhyme in an afternoon after work, following some strict constraints (no sharps or flats, no note shorter than a quaver) for the authentic nursery rhyme experience. I'm really happy with how it turned out and I think the tune is actually pretty catchy if you sing along. If I could go back I'd love to have a fully-done and actually sung rendition of it, but my singing voice is a few octaves too low for a nursery rhyme lol.
  • Opening of the Chamber of Curiosities and Letter from Marina-Euthemia Alethe to a Patronised Treasure Hunter, 1407: Catchy titles, I know. These letter ones were very fun to do; I've slowly been working on the character of Marina-Euthemia Alethe and writing some in-universe letters from her POV was a really entertaining part of doing that! Having her essentially trying to suck up to and drag down other nobles in her first letter was an interesting writing challenge, and I like to think with the latter letter I've done a nice in-universe letter without succumbing to the sort of 'as you know' syndrome that letters in need of exposition sometimes have. That being said, it's possible if someone reads it with no clue as to the rest of the setting it'll make zero sense, that's a difficult psychological phenomenon.
Anyway, I did a little bit of reading during the Summer Camp month itself (I'll do anything to procrastinate) but I thought I'd delve into this reading challenge based partly on prompts that I think could be done very interestingly, and partly on articles I was recommended for one reason or another (if I especially liked an article for one prompt, I then committed to checking out the rest of that prompt lol). With that said, here are the prompts and articles I decided to look into a bit more closely:

#40: a "negative" condition that has hidden advantages

This was a prompt I very much enjoyed doing myself, and one that I think has the right balance of being very open-ended but having some baked-in questions to help guide the creativity. What is the condition? What does it effect? Why is it so negative? What are the advantages? Why is it still negative despite the advantages? And the question that caught my eye the most, especially in regards to the prompts I looked at, Who actually benefits from the advantages? My own article was a condition that actually affected blackberries of all things, and could destroy a blackberry farmer's career... unless they were also into beekeeping. I'm not sure how sapient I was when I was writing it lol, but it has officially introduced drugs into my setting so I now have that to worry about. The articles I ended up looking at played with the prompt in some fun ways, and made use of conditions, advantages, and/or beneficiaries we might consider less typical...

Rahjar's "Otter-fingers"

I really enjoyed the prose-adjacent take on this condition, essentially being written like a scientific excerpt/anecdote rather than a more formal condition. That being said, I think the underlying condition it discusses is in itself very interesting. The article does a good job of explaining how the negatives of the condition can actually assist the afflicted species (in this case an otter, which is extra points for creativity of 'victim' in my mind) in fulfilling biological imperatives. If I can roughly synopsise, KN (the 'otter-fingers' disease) seems to pump ethanol into the otter's body, leaving it perpetually drunk (this was originally reported by scientists as simply light-headedness and clumsiness). Too clumsy for its usual prey, and emboldened by the alcohol coursing through its system, the affected otter 'Charlie' instead starts attacking larger fish it wouldn't naturally target, ending up with much more food than it usually would have, which naturally attracts mates. I really love the way the article highlights how this 'negative' condition could actually help the occasional otter succeed from a biological perspective, and thankfully for Charlie it has a happy ending. One small gripe I have with the article is its formatting - the slanted box the main text is in makes it difficult to read for me and half the article gets clipped off on my phone. Nonetheless, it's a good read that I'd recommend.

Deleyna's "Exoskepticism"

This is a very unique spin on the idea of a condition - those afflicted by it probably wouldn't consider it a condition at all! Essentially, this article is from the perspective of aliens cataloguing the bizarre human condition of disbelief in alien life. It's a very creative direction to take an article, and I'm also a very big fan of the fact that a lot of the 'hidden advantages' of this exoskepticism are actually advantages for the aliens visiting Earth undetected rather than advantages for those suffering from the alleged condition. Though as a human myself it stings a little to hear us described as 'hapless, backward individuals', it's nice to know we're at least being taken pity on for the condition these aliens ascribe to us.

G34RS's "Old Ironbark's Curse"

I initially just clicked on this article cause I thought the name was cool, but this is a really morbid and fascinating look at a culture's relations to a disease. Old Ironbark's Curse is a fungal infection that gradually - and lethally - coats the afflicted Elf in near-impenetrable fungal 'armour' as it progresses. What really drew me to this article, however, is the cultural reaction to this Curse. The Wild Elves that the Curse targets seem to actually be quite capable of delaying or preventing the spread of the fungus - they can use tinctures and solutions to seemingly prevent its spread. However, the fungal infection is viewed as a curse placed upon those who disrespect the forest, and consequently those infected are shunned rather than cured. Instead, the Elves will only administer enough healing to prevent the victim from dying while allowing the fungus to grow over the rest of them, leaving them as little more than a thankless guard for their clan. It's really fascinating to me the way these Elves' culture has interacted with the Curse to create a really horrible scenario for anyone infected by it, and I am very pleased to have come across this article.  

#3: a resource that provides fuel or power

This was a prompt I had no idea what to do with - not that it's a bad prompt, it's just that I don't usually find fuel all that interesting and it really didn't get the creative juices flowing for me. A good mate of mine who also did Summer Camp actually asked me why I hadn't done this or the other material prompt near the end of July, cause from his perspective they were really easy and straightforward, but I had nothing. I never ended up doing this prompt, having found my magic 32 elsewhere. However, on the WorldAnvil discord following Summer Camp, I asked people what their most creative interpretations of a prompt was, and a fair few people actually pointed me towards their articles for this prompt. As it turns out, there are some very very clever interpretations of 'fuel or power', and I'd like to highlight some of the articles I was pointed towards and some I've stumbled across in that regard.  

Stormbril's "For the Betterment of Cathedris"

I don't usually like showcasing articles that have already recieved a lot of attention (by my counting it has the second-largest amount of likes out of any answer to the prompt) but I really wanted to highlight the creativity in response to the prompt here. After all, what resource provides more power than propaganda? Stormbril does a great job of showcasing the methods of spreading propaganda and misinformation, many of which are unfortunately grounded in reality. My favourite part of the article is a little anecdote about the propaganda machine's reaction to a major chemical spill in the ocean - assuring the nearby population that it was safe and healthy to swim! It dredged back memories of some research I did into the brutally polluted sea of Burnie in the 1980s, and (as I mentioned in my comment) that old video from the 1940s of the guy who drinks DDT to prove it's 'safe'.  

mezzopatricia's "Baarandj"

This was another one I had sent my way via asking around on the discord, and I think the concept is fantastic! In retrospect, of course food is a resource that provides fuel, but owing to the use of baarandj (essentially a type of mutton jerky) as a military ration, in some ways you could argue it's a source of power as well! Its use as a staple food in rations is probably my favourite part of the article owing to the cultural perception that has resulted from this association. I especially like that while this food is praised for allegedly 'bringing victory', it's not too beloved by the soldiers that have to constantly eat it! I'd love to hear one of the marching songs about wishing for a nicer cut of meat.  

Cassie Storyweaver's "Gold"

Sometimes it's the simple titles that catch your eye. As soon as I saw 'Gold', I immediately wanted to know whether it was an article talking about how money is power, or if there was some innovative use for gold in the setting. Not only is it the latter, the article is presented in a fairly unique way that I very much enjoyed. It appears to be somewhat of a scientific paper, complete with an in-universe annotated bibliography which I think is just genius! The article also offers a nice spin on the classic question of why dragons are so into hoarding gold: contrary to the assumptions of our forebears, this groundbreaking new scientific report alleges that gold emits a small level of 'arcane raditation' that dragons accumulate as a form of energy. The format of the article is my favourite part here, but it is a unique spin on both gold and dragons which I can appreciate.  

#13: a job that takes its practitioners to remote or faraway places

I picked this prompt to look into because I wanted to see what directions it got taken in. The prompt was worded just nebulously enough that I think there are a lot of interesting places you could take it, and I was very keen to see what people came up with. I did do this prompt as part of my own 32, but didn't really take it in a particularly interesting direction even though I'm content with the article - it was a bit of an obvious take and really more set up for other articles - most of which I didn't end up writing during Summer Camp lol. In tracking down my three for the challenge, I very much looked for articles where going to remote or faraway places wasn't the be-all and end-all of the profession - that's an entirely valid way to approach the prompt and sorta the way I approached it, but I wanted to see what else people could do with it, and there are some good spins on it that (at least as I write this) haven't gotten a lot of attention so far!  

Belerion_Bard's "Master of the Scroll"

I really enjoyed the direction that this prompt took with the theme! Far from being simple travelling workers, the Masters of the Scroll hold the most prestigious position in the most prestigious university in the known world. Rather than relying on travel for their livelihood, travelling to remote locations is essentially these people's reward for a lifetime of academic excellence - they're essentially given carte blanche to be paid to go wherever they want to for their research! I'm very much intrigued as to the selection process for new Masters, as I imagine it's hotly contested - it seems like a pretty good gig, after all!  

Ser_Richard's "Bog Ranger"

This was a great little subversion of the classic ranger archetype - rather than being the sorts to safeguard nature or that sort of thing, these rangers of the hostile and treacherous Dunwich Bog are willing to guide foolhardy adventuring types through... for a price, of course. I love this spin on the classic fantasy depiction of rangers, and its fitting in with the prompt - this is, after all, a prompt about a job. The article is also generally very well-written: I was sold on the uninhabitability of the bog and the unique dangers it presents, and found myself surprisingly interested in the actual economics of 'bog ranging', with the rangers very much operating on a 'feast or famine' model where they might go months without a penny of income and then suddenly make more in days than most do in years! It's a very nice article, and I'd be interested to know more about what these rangers get up to.  

Demongrey's "Fai Tala"

This is a very interesting case with the prompt where the 'remote or faraway place' in question really steals the show! The Fai Tala are local shamans and storytellers, but that's all a bit overshadowed by their ability to seemingly physically enter and traverse 'the Dream', which from my understanding is a bizarre parallel realm encompassing all thoughts and stories. The Fai Tala also have the capacity to bring items back from the Dream, which has a whole bevy of its own ramifications because everything in the Dream has its own 'associations' which can cause more than just what is intended to leak into the real world... I'm sure the article can explain it better than I can. It's a really intriguing little article which sounds like a great jumping off point for so many stories, and, of course, a very unorthodox choice for a 'remote or faraway place'!

And finally, my worldbuilding goals for the rest of the year:

Well, I'm sad to say that I probably can't get away with prioritising worldbuilding for the next couple months; I'm juggling work and uni and really can't justify using much writing time or writing energy for worldbuilding instead of assessment. That being said, I am liking the Sunscald quite a bit and am hoping on getting a bit more of it done even if I might have to wait until November or December or so. Nonetheless, my goals are:
  • Flesh out the major cities of the Sunscald - or at least the ones I've come up with so far - a bit more. Medaris needs more than a history section and Argyria, Keld, and Destries need actual articles lol.
  • Bring a bit of life into the world with some actual living characters - at the very least a few prominent leaders or interesting characters with agency like Marina-Euthemia.
  • Do a good article on the Chacolian Mountains cause someone left a nice comment about it :)
  • Get at least 10k in this year's WorldEmber and actually beat my friend this time how the hell did he manage to shoot out 3000 words on December 31st it isn't fairrrrrrr
Hopefully these are all achievable, we never know what the year might hold! Anyway, Summer Camp was fun, happy reading!


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Aug 8, 2023 20:45 by Stormbril

Thank you so much for the inclusion and the really lovely comment! :D <3