Writers tend to research some strange things. Nuclear physics, brain tumor symptoms, the history of ancient Mesopotamia, how long bodies take to rot in the tropics . . . these topics are either the product of a deranged mind or the research material for a pretty interesting novel. Probably a little of both.
A lot of writers I know on Twitter tend to joke around about how we’re all going to end up on NSA watch lists because of our search histories. Well, I decided to delve into my own Google search history and use it as an example of the kinds of strange things we writers get up to, and how it might look to some government agent perusing my history while searching for terrorists.
You can access your personal Google search history if you have a Google account (I have one through my Gmail, and if you have a YouTube account that is also linked to Google). Just visit https://history.google.com/history/ and after entering your account ID and password, you’ll see a listing of all the search terms you’ve googled, going back who knows how far.
As you can see on the screenshot above, the history shows not only what search terms you used (“rowan health and wellness”), but also what site you ended up visiting (Student Health Services @ Rowan University). That means the NSA can tell not just what you’re looking for, but which sites you picked out from the list.
So let’s see what kind of trouble I’ve been getting into:
Irony, ponies, and stalkers. One might almost think that I’ve been stalking a girl who likes to ride horses and I’m planning a clandestine encounter out on the ranch. Either that or I was getting into etymological debates on Twitter.
Someone might wonder what I’m doing searching for the “Mesopotamian word for slave.” I can assure you, this isn’t some kinky fetish thing (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Actually, “Enkidu” ended up becoming the name of a new character in my current novel. The name basically means “Creation of the Deity of Crafts.” I found it fitting, considering my character Tock Zipporah is a golem-crafter.
And of course, in addition to researching ponies and Mesopotamian slave names, I did extensive research into decay rates of human bodies. As you can see, I spent quite a bit of time visiting multiple websites on this topic. It’s almost as if I’m planning to enslave someone and I want to know how long it’ll take the body to decay when I finish killing her. But that seems unlikely . . . maybe if we go a bit further back, there’ll be something in my search history that will shed some light on this and explain what I’ve really been up to.
Well, this certainly looks a bit more incriminating. Nuclear weapon yield, fallout radius, types of nuclear weapons. Either I’m part of a terrorist cell or I’m writing a novel where someone set off a nuke and I needed to research the death count of both the initial blast and the later radiation poisoning. Which might explain the research into human decomposition if I’m trying to find out how long the bodies of people that died of radiation poisoning would last out in the tropical heat before being reduced to bone and ash.
I have no explanation or excuse for this part. I’m just a Star Trek Geek.
Okay, this one looks like it would raise some eyebrows. “Books Having Sex”? “Slut shaming”? “Sex is evil”? Wow, either I’m a conservative Christian fundamentalist writing a sermon about the evils of sex in literature, or I was doing research for a recent blog post about sex and infidelity among the characters in romance novels. Either way, this could be seen as a bit disturbing.
And lastly, we have research into Mumbai, India, malnourishment, the Indian military, and ethnic cleansing and religious violence in India’s history. When you add this together with the research into nuclear weapons and body decomposition, I must seem like a deranged individual. But I can assure you, there’s a rational explanation for all of this.
All of these searches (well, most of them) make a lot of sense if you know anything about my current WIP. Most of it takes place in a fictional foreign land on a made-up planet. I’m modeling certain details of the culture after India because it matches the ethnic backgrounds of two of my characters, Vijay and Indra Pavari. Due to the onset of global disaster, the people in this country are suffering malnourishment and living in a state of anarchy. Because the disaster shut down the government and most law enforcement and other services, there’s no one to enforce order and people are getting desperate. This has led to ancient feuds between different religious groups being sparked again, leading to violence throughout the country. There was even a nuclear attack in a neighboring country because the violence and chaos has spread worldwide. People in some regions are dying and there’s not even anyone to clear the bodies out of the streets, leaving them to bake in the tropical sun.
During all of this, Indra is developing romantic feelings for a certain someone, but the attraction bears the burden of certain religious taboos about sexuality. Which has a lot to do with all my recent research into romance novels and topics related to love and sex. I’ve been trying to learn as much as I can about developing a romance in a novel, expressing emotions in a realistic fashion, and dealing with negativity from people who don’t approve of your relationship.
See? I told you there was a rational explanation for all of this. Now, here’s hoping the NSA cancels the warrant.
Do you have any unusual things in your Google search history? Or should I be afraid to ask?