Learning To Think

Tracy King was raised in a house of contradictions—her family was happy and creative, yet shadowed by debt, phobias, her father’s alcoholism, and the illusory promises of a born-again Christian church. The uneasy balance of the King household was irrevocably upended on a rainy spring night in 1988, when her father was killed by teenagers just blocks from their public housing estate.

Her mother’s dysfunctional reliance on the church deepened following the tragedy, and King, suffering from undiagnosed anxiety, stopped attending school. The account of her father’s death remained hazy, made worse by the fact that four of the accused teenagers—neighborhood boys she could not avoid—were never charged. What could have triggered such an act of aggression? Clinging to hearsay and what little information she had from the police, King allowed her imagination to fill in the rest.

Over the years, in a bid to balm her grief and gaps in formal education, King journeyed through multiple belief systems: she distanced herself from fundamentalism, searching for clarity instead in the occult, paranormal beliefs, and conspiracy theories. Amid the chaos of her coming of age, she stumbled upon a copy of Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World on the shelves of a Birmingham bookshop —a discovery that proved transformative. Sagan’s sage caveat, “But I could be wrong,” became King’s guiding light, empowering her to confront her demons.

Tracy King is a writer, producer, and science communicator based in England. She contributes to media on subjects ranging from science and technology to politics and videogames, in outlets such as the Guardian, BBC, Telegraph, and New European. Tracy is represented by Will Francis at Janklow and Nesbit.