For Real Friday: Snooping


Posting this a day early because of the cover reveal tomorrow.

Dream walking, telepathy, or some variation of getting into someone’s innermost thoughts appears in fiction all over the place. To me, that particular plot device has always been a really interesting commentary on privacy in general.

With most psychic abilities in fiction, there are three levels of acceptance from characters without the power.

1) Ignorance. They have no way of knowing someone is observing. To me, this is the most frightening way to portray these powers in fiction because they are so often treated as harmless.  *note* There is a difference between wild-power and controlled power in this scenario. A character bombarded by everyone’s thoughts no matter what they do is in a different position than one in control of those powers and just using them for kicks.

2) Acceptance. They are not only aware of the other character’s power, but they use it to their advantage to communicate with the other character. Boundaries are in place and accepted and safeguards are typically introduced to prevent unwanted or unintentional snooping.

3) Fear. The character in power actively uses their abilities to hurt or unnerve them, respects no boundaries, and are otherwise powerless against the character in power.

There’s several real life counterpart for each of these scenarios. Take the Facebook for instance. You can Facebook stalk people online without them ever being aware you exist. Technically they aren’t harmed by your creepy lurking, so life just goes on. You can also unintentionally Facebook stalk people because every now and then Facebook changes their settings and suddenly you’re seeing personal statuses of people you aren’t friends with because a friend of yours is friends with them and made a comment on their status.

There’s acceptance. You can friend someone on Facebook. Send them messages, work Facebook to your mutual advantage and communicate.

Then there’s fear. You can seriously stalk people through Facebook. Research where those pictures were taken, get schedules, and cross the internet boundary into the real world.

Pre-internet there were other means of distance stalking but they took quite a bit more commitment than today. So it’s unsurprising to see so many books and movies and TV shows dealing with these magic based snooping abilities today than say, twenty years ago. Don’t get me wrong, the plot device was still there, but there’s a reason it’s used so much more now.

If you want to know what a society fears, read their fiction.