Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Oh, the humanity! (by Patty Blount)

All this month, we "Outsiders" are blogging about things like masks and fear.

This is a post about fear, which is good because a long time ago, an author I admire told me to write about the things that scare me the most and I've tried to do that with all of my novels.

I need to work this into a story:

In my day job, I often work from home. Last week, as I was busy developing an article for our company's blog, my home phone rang. I glanced at the caller ID before I answered it and my heart simply stopped. The call was coming from my own house. I stared at the phone, each ring making my flesh crawl with goosebumps the size of marbles. Should I answer or not? I did not but long after the phone stopped ringing, I sat frozen in my seat, convinced that every groan the house made was obviously caused by the hockey-mask-wearing ax murderer slowly sneaking up my stairs.

You'll be happy to know I did not foolishly explore the basement. No, no, I sat with my back against a wall and my window open, in case I needed to leap out. I learned later that this is a new telemarketing ploy -- they hijack your own number to confuse you into answering the phone.

Note to self: inquire if a wrongful death suit can be brought against a telemarketer for the heart attack this practice is likely to cause? 

You know, the only time my phone rings lately, it's some political survey or a telemarketer.

Anyway, back to fear. Heart thundering against my ribs, knees knocking under my desk, and clammy hands still clutching the innocent phone that had been transformed into a tool of the devil, I suddenly wondered when was the last time I felt such bone-deep fear? We're pretty fortunate. We live in a society where fear is not often a daily occurence -- emphasis on the not-often part. As I'm writing this post, I just saw a link someone posted on one of my social networks about Gamergate. If you're new to the term, it refers to a culture of misogny and sexism in the gaming community. Most recently, it concerns a developer named Brianna Wu, who has been the target of the most despicable threats made online from an anonymous account.

Because: FEAR -- guess the guy behind the keyboard is too afraid to identify himself.

While the Wu situation played out, Utah State University was supposed to host an outspoken critic of female game characters, but the speaker, Anita Sarkeeshian, opted to bow out after the school was threatened with the "...deadliest school shooting in American history" if the event took place by someone who apparently blames feminists for every damn thing wrong in his life.

Several days after this, news of author Kathleen Hale STALKING a book blogger who gave her a negative review lit up my Twitter feed.

Terrorism is alive and well on the internet and this scares me down to the depths of my soul and please don't misunderstand me -- I'm not criticizing Ms. Sarkeeshian for her decision. On the contrary, it scares me that it ever needed to be made. It scares me that a terrorist's threat worked. It scares me that such deep misogny exists in our society. It scares me that the very ideals this country was founded on are threatened and nobody seems to care.

It scares me because the only thing I can do about it is to keep writing the things that scare me.


  1. That scares me too, Patty! I had no idea this kind of stuff was going on in the gaming community. It's awful and sad and it needs to be publicized more. Also, I like your line about your phone being transformed into the tool of the devil! :)

  2. Your opening reminds me of the movie, When A Stranger Calls (the original). I had a hard time babysitting after seeing it as a teen.

    It's good you are bringing attention to other issues like gamergate as well.


  3. That's exactly how it felt! Like the opening to a scary movie.

  4. I'm sitting in front of the news, looking at info about another school shooting. I don't understand the level of anger / fear that seems to be running through our world right now.

  5. Woah. That was like my worst nightmare when I babysat as a kid. I would have freaked the hell out. Now I know what to do if I see that.