I’ve recently become sucked into a wormhole of internet conspiracy theories that’s taken over my life. I’ve written a post before about my massive obsession with books set online:
For me personally, books about internet culture are something I want so much and am never satisfied by. I am 23, and I can’t remember a time without the internet. I’m sure there probably was a time I didn’t use the internet (probably around the time Harry Potter first came into my life), but I don’t remember it.
Despite that, books rarely, if ever, talk about life online. There might be occasional references to Facebook, but they don’t actually talk about the internet. At least not as a vital, relationship defining form of communication, the way I use it. My friendships wouldn’t be the same without the internet. The way I speak to people, and the language and topics we cover, are completely different online to the way we talk in real life. The internet has a language all of its own.
Give me the historical novels set online. Give me the thrillers set on Tor. Give me the YA coming of age novels where a teen is trying to reconcile who they are in real life with who they are on 4chan or on tumblr (or both). I want these stories, and they aren’t being told.
Three years after I wrote that, I finally sat down and wrote a novel set on the internet. And in the process of writing it, I discussed online conspiracy theories with a lot of people. It turns out, most of my favourite, life-changingly bizarre internet events are generally unknown. This is unacceptable, because some of these stories will change your life. Especially if, like me, you crave fiction about the internet.
So I thought I’d share a list of my favourite write-ups of weird events that have happened on the internet. The fan essay is an unappreciated form of artwork that deserves to be more widely shared. Consider this a primer in the narrative potential of the internet, for anyone who hasn’t spent their whole childhood in internet black holes (cannot relate).
Note: these are all looooong. I personally put these on my Kindle and read them as weird bedtime stories, so the second link is to a PDF which you can download if you’d like to do the same.
Second note: You will probably be confused by some of the terminology and events discussed in these essays. That’s because internet culture is fast moving, and sadly, is not very well documented, unlike other periods of history (except by the University of Iowa, who I adore). Treat these documents like primary sources from Ancient Greece, and read them with the expectation you’ll have to pick up certain things as you go along. The fact that internet culture has changed so much in the three decades it has existed is absolutely fascinating to me, and makes these essays all the more interesting.
Okay, notes are done. Let’s begin.
3) The Dan/Phil one (PDF) 2011 – i really hope the person who researched this now works for the FBI because the level of detail is immense. This is the only youtuber one on this list, but I’m sure there’s a lot more of these kind of essays out there.
1) The msscribe story (PDF) 2006 – The original. The best. If you read the above Cassandra Claire saga, a lot of the cast involved in that will be familar to you here. This involves a fan who desperately tried to become friends with Cassandra Clare, and ended up causing a huge rift in the community instead. This literally rewrote my brain and made me the human being I am today. (I am old enough to recognise a lot of the usernames in this story. I wasn’t there in 2001, but i was definitely in the HP fandom a few years after that.)
Happy reading, pals! And if any of the Google drive links go down, please let me know so I can fix them, however far in the future you’re reading this. Gotta keep that fan history preserved, right?
Oh and the book I’m writing, set on the internet? I will keep you up to date on its progress into the world of publishing over the next few months.