A look from beneath the waves - Summercamp 2022 Reading Challenge
Numerous eyes emerge from the depths and gaze through the Anvilspace
Another reading challenge begins! This summercamp has not been very consistent, but I managed to do some articles I'm very proud of. Now I can take a break and just read others' gems. I didn't want to leave out a theme, so instead of the 9 I decided to go for 12 articles, 3 for a prompt of each theme. Now, picking the prompt was a hard one in itself. In the end I went to choose the topics I'm less comfortable with, to learn from the work of my fellow anvilites. By reading how they craft their articles, I hope to be able to take some inspiration and be up to the task.
However, there was a lot of articles I enjoyed, and many are not in the prompts I chose. So be ready, for there will be a lot of features!
In addition, as a way to put my recent MJ addiction to use, I'm adding to each entry I liked a "MidJourney view", where I try to illustrate the article through the MidJourney AI art generator. I want to make things after what I visualize from the article, bear in mind that may differ from what the author thinks. Now to the authors: if I somehow nailed the look of your article, you are absolutely free to include the image! And if it is close but not quite there, do not hesitate to reach out on Discord (Rumengol#1390) to ask for a better version, I will be happy to oblige.
Now, without any further ado, let's get reading.
Copper prompt: Α material only harvestable from nature
Qiao'hon - Saleh'Alire
If there is one thing I like more than being told a good story, it is being explained thoroughly and in-depth what a thing is. And thorough it is! Although I dislike making real-world analogies in my extraterrestrial worldbuilding, I have to admit it is very efficient. If something looks like a macadamia nut, has a skin like snake scales and a vanilla flavour, I can picture it very easily. The use of spoilers to make the list of the Qiao'hon usages is very clever, and the overall layout and CSS of this world are gorgeous!
What I learnt
Resonin - Atocitera
If you need an example of why you don't need fancy layout and images to make a good article, look no further. It is clear, yet full of information and trivia that gives a great overview of the world. I couldn't help but notice that all links had mouseover snippets that don't show the whole target article. I really should do that, so I don't overwhelm people with thousands of words articles when they just want to learn what a Sphere is ahem. A good read and a world I'm already fascinated with!
What I learnt
Wood - World Behind The Veil
An unexpected take on wood, we get to learn the issues and conflicts that arise from wood harvesting. How closely this world is related to ours makes its charm, as real-life information gets mixed up with fiction, like the regulation on the logging industry in the late 20th century. All in all, this third article helped to give me a more complete view of how to write material with its focus on the harvesting part rather than use. Because we all know how wood is used, detailing this part would be less efficient than taking time on the dryad struggle.
What I learnt
So, how to craft a good material?
From these articles, I've taken that material is way more than meets the eye. Besides the description, you can write about the history of its discovery, but also the way it is harvested, processed, and finally used. All three featured articles had their focus on a different part of the material, so reading all of them took me close to a full picture (and that wasn't even on purpose!). I'll definitely keep it in mind for future materials, with the fact that conflict can arise at any part of the material's lifetime.
Silver Prompt: A military conflict resolved through excellent leadership
Plague of Dream - Araea
Plague of Dreams
A plague of collective dreams that soon turned into a living nightmares and invited monsters into the minds of every dreamer afflicted by the Plague.
Wow. Just wow. Qurilion is a master of the craft, and it shows once again. The story carries us to this city on the verge of collapse and the hero's struggle through carefully crafted sentences and a wonderful layout that plunge the whole web page into Araea. I even learned three words reading this article! The use of the sidebar as information text that summarizes other articles is something I've always wished I could do seamlessly like that. What's more, almost all the articles linked there are of the same quality, length, and were written during Summercamp. Personally, I managed to write only two that may be on the same level in the whole month, and I respect immensely Q for that. If you don't know of Araea, you definitely should, as there is so much inspiration to take there for your worldbuilding, and even more stories that will send shivers down your spine.
What I learnt
Operation War Dove - Solaris
Maybe it is because I never know how to describe the core of a conflict, i.e. the battles, but I admire those who nail it. Here, we have a beautiful article which explains first the preparation and the plan, before telling how it unraveled. The layout and smart insert of in-universe snippets are incredibly immersive. It is one of those articles hard to briefly summarise, given how rich they are, yet it remains very clear and the story is not confused despite describing several things happening at the same time. Nnie will never cease to amaze me with her CSS which does wonders to create a great reading flow.
What I learnt
War of the fishes - Stormfarers
This time, the entire focus is on the conflict. We know from the get-go how it ended for both sides, so the question is how Roya turned the table of this dire situation. In addition, we're met with a numerical summary of the conflict in the style of Wikipedia, which always gives a rough idea of how bad the conflict went, and for who. The layout is clear and efficient, with the extract of the planetary broadcast to take us in the midst of the battle. Overall a great read!
What I learnt
Too low they build who build beneath the stars - Edward Young
So, how to tell about a conflict?
From what I've read, describing the core of the conflict and the battles that occurred is an important part. But one should not forget that conflicts involve peoples and that they are what cause and end them. Almost every article had a focus on one or more people, most of the time the leader for obvious reason, but also a key person like in Nnie's article. Having direct insight into the psyche of the belligerents helps to understand their plan and actions. Lastly, conflict articles were often in three parts: Preparations, Battle and Aftermath. Conflicts are bloody, and the consequences of a war are never joyful as it is time to mourn the deads on either side.
Gold Prompt: An explorer, researcher, or other character motivated by discovery.
Cécile - Divine Tyranny
I really like how Amélie crafts her characters, strong-willed but clever and knowing when things are out of their scope. Not everyone is a godslayer, so what good would it be to foolishly oppose them? And I can't help but relate to Cécile and her thirst for knowledge for the sake of it. I like the fact that Cécile is the one telling opinion from the archives in other articles, which is somewhat like the Obloggian perspective that I give in this world's articles. I feel that giving the point of view of an in-world character really adds to the immersion of an article, but doing so via the main character is even better!
What I learnt
Dr. Gearmo - The Mortal Lands
Another great article, and an interesting way to describe a character. The history is told as a real story, reliving the past of the doctor to his awakening. We get so much information there about the person he is and how he understands the world that the next parts are almost superfluous. The sad story of the Memoria species and how all the mechanicals were shut down including those who had unfinished business really got me hooked. Now, all that is left to know is the present days of this good doctor!
What I learnt
Jerna - Jerna's Diary
I already knew that Mochi was good at writing species, but they show great character writing skills there! As obvious as it may seem, The first person works wonderfully well as Jerna is full of life and mischievous and tell her story in a way that reminds me of the tooltips in Amelia Korp. It's hard to tell if she is completely carefree or trying to push her feelings back when comes to her father's death. Either way, this part is great a characterisation! AwsmChimera drawings are the cherry on the top, as his style fits really well Jerna's personality.
Fun fact: I read just before this one another article, The author named L, and the first mention of Little L was quite unnerving.
What I learnt
So, what makes a good explorer/researcher?
The main thing I get from what I read is that the best articles are either written in the first person or in the form of a story. This applies to all characters and not just this category, but that's still worth noting. However, what they do with the knowledge they gain is a theme that was often underdeveloped. We know that Cécile seeks it for the sake of it and doesn't use what she knows out of fear that the gods take notice of her existence, and that Dr. Gearmo uses his medical knowledge to heal people to his best. We don't really know what Jerna does with what she learns beside her diary.
When I wrote a full article about exploration, I realized that exploration is often driven by the need of something, be it better life, new trade routes or other worldly matters, as the money invested is important. I didn't read that many articles, but I feel like only a few explorers took this into account. That may just be me being nerdy about a subject I spent quite a time researching, you all did great.
Diamond prompt: A person considered villainous or monstrous
Silas Von Ekechart - Istralar
Silas von Eckehart
The mysterious master of the haunted Eckehart Mansion, and a powerful necromancer to boot.
We're given a very good story about the tragic life of a father who lost everyone dear to him and became feared out of his desire for vengeance or salvation. I never had the feeling that Silas is truly a monster, but simply a desperate soul. The story is long but reads well as it is fascinating. The map of the mansion that shows its state across different planes is a nice touch, too. Finally, I adore the idea of the magician who became a dungeon master out of his own will but was too blinded by his quest not to take on the role.
Fun fact: my own entry for this prompt is named Sylas Van Dirken, and I find the accidental similarity funny.
What I learnt
Doctor Crowle Parlow - Fyria
Another doctor, with a bitter taste. The article is well-written and illustrated, with a mastery over MidJourney showing Parlow over his lifetime. I really like the short summary at the beginning of the article. I'm reading several articles for each prompt until I find one I can extensively talk about, and sometimes discard the longer ones if I'm not quickly hooked. And just with that summary, I knew that I wanted to talk about Crowle Parlow. The pictures of him slowly decaying and turning more undead than alive accompany his descent into the dark arts beautifully. A great story, and presenting a dead man that only had the best interest of his country as a villain of this very country is a good idea, well executed.
What I learnt
Valentine, King of Vampires - World of Wizard's Peak
Valentine, King of Vampires
Valentine, the charismatic King of the Vampires allied with the elves after the tragedy of the First Armada. He was one of the leaders of the Shattered Moon Coalition that led the world to victory in the War Against the Far Realm.
A hero-villain, that is something I love. A ruthless and cruel vampire that eventually saved the days by sacrificing himself, how noble! I like how we get quotes from two people at the beginning agreeing that he was a horrible person but still remembered as a hero in the end. How dire situations can make people forget centuries of misdeeds... The article covers many subjects in a few paragraphs without losing a reader who knows nothing about the world, and it is well done. Succinct but efficient mouseover snippets are of great help in this.
What I learnt
So, how can one be a good villain?
A common theme across the articles I've read is that villains rarely do evil deeds out of pure malice. Most of the time, they do it with the greatest intent like Crowle Parlow, or don't even consider the good or evil in their actions like Silas von Eckehart. This is probably the most important lesson, that villains are people like any other, not driven by evil for the sake of it. There was an impressive number of doctors among the articles, and surprisingly few greedy or power-hungry folks, or at least few that I have read. The sickly look seems to be a prerogative, as most of them have a pale, almost emaciated look.
Here are articles that I really liked, but did not get the chance to be featured either because I have too few to say about them, they are not under one of the prompts I chose or I already selected another article of their author. They are equally good, so I could not just ignore them. Here are some of my favourite articles of this Summercamp:
The Author Named L
An author from Kholodno who mysteriously vanish while exploring.
I really liked the idea of having an unknown explorer with little to nothing known about them, as the only information available is from its journal.
I've long considered making a full feature of the article. I didn't learn much from it so it did not make it in the end, but I really enjoyed the read!
Doctor Orjuus Crowval-Gritzgale
"A man whose knowledge of the natural world borders on the arcane, and whose singular purpose may build or ruin the world."
The only reason this one is not featured is that I already had two doctors and wanted to find something else. A very good read.
Far beyond our borders it lies; the offcuts of our creation. A vast array containing everything that once made us, stretching thousands of times vaster than our own system. In the dead silence of space, it whispers.
Spooky and fascinating!
A close tie for a feature! Another great explorer illustrated by Chimera.
The Golden City of Tolra, located in the region of Gwyn Tira'Kie
If I was featuring settlements, I would definitely put this one. Just look at how complete and full of details it is! And gorgeous with that!
A squid species from Hothiri. Red-eyed deepsquid are typically deep ocean inhabitants.
A critter by Mochi, and even better, a deep-sea squid! Always nice to see a Novelgens image!
There is a song in the darkness, in the metal that bears the will of something divine. The Called have answered it, giving their flesh and their thoughts to something greater.
I read a few articles from Araea on purpose, not to be tempted to feature them all. But here's another great one, which even has its own support article!
...And more gems that I didn't find or didn't read yet!
What lies ahead?
I learnt quite a lot by reading all these lovely articles, especially regarding design and layout ideas. I aim to apply that in my numerous projects. Now, what to do? First, I'm getting close to writing all the fundamental articles in the Spheres of Oblogga. Once it is done, I would be able to begin plotting the novel that will take place in the Expanse. But before that, I already want to know what I will write for NaNoWriMo: a collection of short stories regarding the adventures of an alchemist in a fantastic Victorian London filled with vampires and night creatures. It will be light in terms of worldbuilding, but requires more plotting and research than I'm used to, so it will take a lot of my time.
I will try to translate most articles from the french worlds of the A.I.D.E. (the English version came to be during SC, in the form of the I.D.E.A.) and Après la Brume by the end of the year, and of course I'll be adding more article to the Real-Life WorldBuilding Project. So stay tuned, a lot more is coming! Not to mention the reason why I got Grandmaster, a WA add-on that will make the life of many (especially mine) a lot less stressful!