Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sometimes Research Is Tricky

...especially when people you don't expect to be anywhere near you read the tabs open on your laptop. Latest moment of horror?

Imagine if you will--a completely innocent person walking by my beat-up laptop and finding about ten windows open on demonology and exorcisms?

Ye-eah. Here's the scene:

When I'm in a working frenzy, it may look like a disaster to other people but I always know where everything is. I'm one of those really annoying people with a little bit of knowledge about a lot of stuff, and that's reflected in my library. I have books spanning a full four millennia, but sometimes they don't provide me with everything I need. Because I like to be thorough in my research, I have to look things up online--if for no other reason than to find out where to go for real (as in book form) source material. So, I was working on my modern day retelling of the Bell Witch legend. I have the two major primary sources for that legend in book form, but I needed more background material so I could set up my plot's climax.

Cue the demonlogy sites.

If you know the Bell Witch legend, you'll know why. (If you don't, here's a brief and not altogether unaccurate summary of it.) The reported activity of the Bell Witch kind of mirrors more recent reports of demonic activity. So, I needed to know not only how to determine what demonic activity would be like but also how to combat it. On tab one--a purported Satanist site. On tab two--a site with the Catholic rite of exorcism.

Cue clueless wandering and nosy human looking at my laptop while I'm occupied elsewhere:

"Celina! Are you a Satanist?"

"Um, no. I'm an agnostic."

"Then why are you trying to learn how to do a black mass?"

At this point, I looked at my computer in confusion. A black mass? You can figure out how to do that online? My first thought (as a writer) was "Cool!" My second thought was "Why would anyone look that up online?"

Of course, my third thought was "You idiot! If you hadn't of stuck your big fat warty nose into my business, you wouldn't be asking such a stupid question!"

After said clueless wandering human wandered off, however, I started to think about the whole situation. It was then that it occurred to me that if for some reason I was arrested for a crime I didn't commit and someone pulled all of the history out of my computer's hard drive, all of this could be used against me. For example--I edit erotica books and my publisher has a very successful erotica division. I pop onto a lot of sites dealing with erotica. If someone like -- oh, I don't know, my holier-than-thou sister-in-law found out about that, she would assume I was either a prostitute or addicted to pornography. Add the demonic activity research sites and suddenly, she would be able to construct a case in her mind that I was a porn-addicted prostitute who practiced Satanism.

(While watching football; most of my bookmarked sites have to do with the University of Tennessee athletic department.)

But just think about that for a moment. We've all heard cases about people accused of child pornography and the things investigators found on their hard drives. What if some bigoted attorney made a mountain out of a molehill--using things like this against a falsely accused person?

Not saying, of course, that the clueless, nosy, wandering asshat who strolled by my computer would ever be intelligent enough to even get into law school, but you never can tell. Am I worried about it? No, not really. It's just one of those things that made me think for a few minutes. And now, naturally enough, I've set up a whole section of my bookmarked pages in a folder that reads "These sites will help you convict me."

I'm such a smartass. Good thing I'm not a Satanist to boot.