Do you know of any resources for "what it's like to live in X environment?" I'm trying to write about a character living in a village in a desert. I've checked your "research" and "resources" tags and didn't find anything that I could use. My google research gives me things like "facts about deserts/tundras/rainforests" but these are more trivia facts instead of how a person has to adjust their life to use/deal with their environment. I want to read about the human experience of living there.
Let’s turn this into a chance to do deeper searches. I don’t know what you’ve already found, but some of the trivia might be helpful later. Don’t discount it when you need to go hunting or gathering for dinner.
Three things before we jump down the rabbit hole:
1. There are indigenous people who’ve lived in climates we Westerners think of as inhospitable for millennia. Focus on people, not climates. (Research both, though.)
2. I’m not going to filter out any results that might send anyone to articles that are culturally insensitive/appropriative/exceedingly white. I haven’t vetted all of them all the way. That part’s up to you.
3. You might want to outline or list the building blocks of the world you want to create so you can focus on those specific topics.
First, make sure you are asking questions in natural, or close to natural, language. Just searching “desert” or “desert life” will probably give you way too many generic articles.
My first search was “what is it like to live in the desert” and actually, the results that looked most promising were some of the related searches all over the page.
That gave me the idea to search for “human inhabited deserts” and that got a lot more promising.
I saw one article, Facts About the People in the Arabian Desert, and it looked like it was meant for kids. But I checked the references at the bottom of the page and found the name of a travel journalist named Ryan Murdock. A few dead ends later, I got to his Articles page on his own website and found a few good links to articles about Jordan and Namibia.
I went back to “human inhabited deserts” just looking for areas/specific deserts/specific peoples and found places like Alice Springs, Australia, the Sonoran Desert, the Kalahari Desert/San people, and the nomadic Tuareg people.
Don’t forget National Geographic. There are articles available online. Hot tip: You’ll need to filter the search to avoid sifting through hundreds of single photographs. Unless you want to do that for landscape ideas.
This looks like a start:
[Beware the paywall … you might need to use a library database. :-( ]
Then I realized I wanted to find other longform journalism articles, so I searched “where to find longform journalism online” and found several promising, free sites where you might want to search for specific articles.
References on seemingly useless articles might be of the best help. You’re going to have to search more than the first page of results a lot, too.
See what other authors have done with the topic. Other searches I dove into:
“books about people living in the desert”
“books about desert cultures” might be good, too.
There’s no guarantee that this is the research path you need to follow, but maybe it will get you started and you’ll find the road you need to take.
If you’re looking for desert living in a fantasy/sci-fi setting, I recommend reading the classic Dune by Frank Herbert. It’s a master class in using setting to frame a story (and in fact an entire epic saga).
If spec fic isn’t your thing, then I offer up Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop – another novel where setting (New Mexico; the book was published in 1927, so keep that in mind.) is as important as the characters.
– mod Aliya