Weird internet conspiracy theories: a primer

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.

9) The cassandra clare one (PDF) 2006 -This one is about the YA author from her Harry Potter fandom days, circa 2002 on LiveJournal. A masterclass in detective work.

8) That Lorde powerpoint (PDF) 2018 – everyone has seen this one recently, I think, about Lorde’s affair with her producer. A fresh take on the typical fan essay, that’s very visual.

7) The Scott/Tessa secret baby one (PDF) 2013 – A view into the mind of a fan who is convinced the ice skaters are not only in a relationship, but have a child.

6)  Kaylor timeline (PDF) 2015 – a collection of meticulously compiled tumblr posts documenting every interaciton that Taylor Swift and Karlie Kloss have ever had. A+ work, here.

5) The real life cult (PDF) 2002 – WHY

4) The terrifying Korean stalkers (PDF) 2012– this gives me chills, still.

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.

2) The inevitable One Direction one (PDF) 2014 – I LOVE THIS. (Also worthy of note: 1D’s rainbow bears)

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?

If you’d like to read more internet analysis, please take a jaunt to my fandom tag on tumblr, which is full of interesting essays and content. If you like my work, you can support me on ko-fi.

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.

Published by Lauren James

Lauren James was born in 1992, and has a Masters degree from the University of Nottingham, UK, where she studied Chemistry and Physics. She is the twice Carnegie-nominated British Young Adult author of The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, The Quiet at the End of the World and The Next Together series, as well as the dyslexia-friendly novella The Starlight Watchmaker and serialised online novel An Unauthorised Fan Treatise. Her upcoming release is The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker. She started writing during secondary school English classes, because she couldn’t stop thinking about a couple who kept falling in love throughout history. She sold the rights to the novel when she was 21, whilst she was still at university. Her books have sold over fifty thousand copies in the UK alone, and been translated into five languages worldwide. Her writing has been described as ‘gripping romantic sci-fi’ by the Wall Street Journal and ‘a strange, witty, compulsively unpredictable read which blows most of its new YA-suspense brethren out of the water’ by Entertainment Weekly. The Last Beginning was named one of the best LGBT-inclusive works for young adults by the Independent. Lauren is a passionate advocate of STEM further education, and all of her books feature female scientists in prominent roles. The Loneliest Girl in the Universe was inspired by a Physics calculation she was assigned at university. The Quiet at the End of the World considers the legacy and evolution of the human race into the far future. Lauren lives in the West Midlands and is an Arts Council grant recipient.  She has written articles for numerous publications, including the GuardianBuzzfeed, Den of GeekThe Toast, and the Children’s Writers and Artist’s Yearbook 2020. She teaches creative writing for Coventry University, WriteMentor, and Writing West Midlands, providing creative writing courses to children through the Spark Young Writers programme.

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