I have about ten radio stations I cycle through in my car, but only six preset buttons, so for the stations that are kind of close together I just use the ‘scan’ button to flip between them. So for example, I listen to both 103.5 and 103.1, and when I want to move from one to the other I just hit ‘scan up’ or ‘scan down’ and the radio searches the airwaves for the next viable signal in that direction and, since there’s nothing in between them on 103.3, I can jump from one to the other with no problems. It’s a weird system, and I should probably just get an iPod, but there you go.
Except that sometimes it does stop on 103.3, and all I can hear is static. There’s no reason for it to do this, and it doesn’t do it on any other station I regularly scan through, but 103.3 is different. My radio can hear something that I can’t. It kind of freaks me out.
Several years ago I was at CONduit, Utah’s local SF convention, and I happened to be in the green room while Tom Carr, a local paranormal investigator, was talking about EVPs: Electronic Voice Phenomena, where ghost hunters can find bits of white noise that seem to contain speech. This is a common way of interacting with the paranormal world, and Tom’s point on that day was that the best frequencies–the easiest to use–were all so crowded with radio and TV signals that the entities who allegedly create EVPs can’t make themselves heard. But this was just a few months before the huge switch to digital receivers, as the FCC geared up to abandon those frequencies altogether. “Once we stop flooding those frequencies with noise, who knows how much more we’ll be able to hear of the paranormal world?”
My new thriller, THE HOLLOW CITY, is not about ghosts, and it’s not about EVPs, and it’s not even about the digital broadcasting transition, but all of those elements were rolling around in my brain when they suddenly sparked off of each other: what if there’s something deeper and darker in the world that we can’t possibly understand, that’s using those frequencies in ways we can’t fathom? What if a radio or a cell phone or even just a speaker is a link between us and the shadows behind the world? What if 103.3 FM is the station where my radio listens to me?
I combined these ideas with some others and wrote THE HOLLOW CITY, the story of a man with schizophrenia who realizes that some of the monsters he sees are real. He’s terrified, among other things, that electronic devices are constantly watching him, listening to him, recording his every move. Anything that can create or receive an electromagnetic field is a part of the conspiracy, and it’s a conspiracy that goes so far and so deep the entire world is at risk. Most of what he believes is completely delusional…but some of it is real. He has to act, but who will believe him? And how can he even believe himself?
THE HOLLOW CITY comes out on July 3, with a launch party at Weller Book Works in Salt Lake City, UT, and this is not going to be just another reading and signing–this is a real party, and I am super psyched about it. Tom Carr himself will be there, from Wasatch Paranormal Investigations, and we’ll be playing some of the coolest, weirdest, creepiest EVPs he’s ever discovered. We’ll have treats and special guests and, if we’re lucky, absolutely no Faceless Men watching from the shadows. Because stuff like that is all in your head, right?
Of course it is. That’s the whole problem.