This is a guest blog by Alex Hurst, author of The Bell Tower. Over to Alex.
A strange notification on your feed. A stranger trying to add you on Facebook. Being ‘followed’ by a macabre avatar on Twitter.
In our lives, these small events happen daily, and they are usually brushed off or even encouraged by a massive online community that does little to protect privacy or the locations of its members.
In Aymaran Shadow, Hemanth Gorur uses the social media platform Facebook to drive the plot forward, building suspense through cryptic messages left by those we know next to nothing about. The protagonist uses her connection to these unknowns to try and understand the truth of a terrible reality unfolding in her life. She often pits them against each other as well, using her knowledge of human psychology.
The effect on the narrative is brilliant and timely. In a world where you can’t really know everyone you friend, follow and link-in with, how much of ourselves are we leaving vulnerable? How do we decide who we can really trust with our personal information? How do we really know who has access to what we share?
Only a decade or so ago, fear of the stranger could only be accomplished through mysterious phone calls or back alley stalkers. Men sitting in the corner of a bar. Threatening letters made out of cut up magazine type. Most of what we were given to fear was attached entirely to gender stereotypes. Aymaran Shadow doesn’t give us even that most basic grounding, as the gender of the assailant is not a given. Faceless people without origin connect with the protagonist and we must constantly re-evaluate who or what ought to be feared, believed or accepted as fact. With little to no reassurance of what is truth, the story forces the reader to grapple with the same uncertainty the heroine faces, thus intensifying and prolonging the tension until its thrilling climax.
Social media in the modern narrative is a new fountain of possibility for contemporary authors. Imagining all of the different ways we can be taken advantage of online, through individuals, ex-lovers, stalkers, our jobs, the government and even hacker groups taps into a new potential level of stakes to be gained or lost in the fictional narrative. Scandals, stolen identities and blackouts are just a few of thousands that come to mind.
I’d like to end this post by thanking Mr. Hemanth Gorur for inviting me to guest blog over here. If you’re interested in getting to know more about me, feel free to drop by my blog at Memoirs of Here-After: Musings from the East. I’d be happy to have you. -Alex