Wanted: Novels Set on the Internet
January 3, 2013 9:50 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for examples of fiction that heavily involve transcripts of online communication - forum posts, website content, emails, IM conversations, the more and more varied the better.

What I'm specifically looking for are examples of formatting and flow between standard narrative and dialogue and these transcripts, so a straight epistolary novel would be less helpful than one that happens to include a bunch of emails, and anything that isn't email would be more helpful still.
posted by restless_nomad to Writing & Language (37 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
(I have a feeling you've already read these but...)

Do the future-email-equivalent communications between the ships in Banks' Culture novels count? If so, those.

Email also comprises an important part of the contemporary third of Stephenson's Cryptonomicon.
posted by griphus at 9:54 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh! John Burdett's The Godfather of Kathmandu features a formatted excerpt of a Wikipedia article in it. Only happens once, but it is the only time I have ever seen Wikipedia in a novel. There are also emails in that, as well, IIRC.
posted by griphus at 9:56 AM on January 3, 2013

Half of Super Sad True Love Story is future-Facebook messages between one of the main characters and her friend.
posted by sonmi at 9:56 AM on January 3, 2013

Feed by Mira Grant -- zombie novel as told in blog posts.
posted by mochapickle at 9:57 AM on January 3, 2013

Postmortal is told in the form of data recovered from the protagonist's cell phone, so it's a collection of e-mails, blog posts, personal journals, etc.

And if you've never read the (really great) short story Wikihistory, it's a time travel story told as a series of forum posts.
posted by Oktober at 9:58 AM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon.
posted by cushie at 10:02 AM on January 3, 2013

e by Matt Beaumont.
posted by Too-Ticky at 10:03 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, wait.
e constists solely of emails, so it may not be what you're looking for. Never mind then.
posted by Too-Ticky at 10:07 AM on January 3, 2013

Meg Cabot's Boy series is written primarily in email and IM.
posted by asperity at 10:10 AM on January 3, 2013

Meg Cabot works bits of ephemera, from menus to receipts to e-mails and even doodles, into her novels. It's my favorite thing about her writing. The best examples are from her Boy chick lit series. The main format is e-mail, but all sorts of other things work their way in. I've always thought Cabot's work was at the forefront of what chick lit should/could look like.
posted by brina at 10:10 AM on January 3, 2013

Ender's Game.
posted by empath at 10:12 AM on January 3, 2013

Stand of Zanzibar by John Brunner predates the web, but holy shit are the predictions about global communications accurate. There are stylized sections of the novel that may as well be a Twitter feed.
posted by griphus at 10:13 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Chopsticks is told in letters, chat transcripts, photos, screengrabs from Youtube videos, ticket stubs, playbills, and so forth. At the time it came out, at least, the text included URLs to Youtube videos which added to the story in one way or another.
posted by johnofjack at 10:14 AM on January 3, 2013

Another probably-read-already, but Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep is peppered with conversations from a late-'90s vision of USENET extrapolated to a galactic scale.
posted by McCoy Pauley at 10:15 AM on January 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

Hae not read it, but Lauren Myracle's "ttyl" is apparently "the first novel written entirely in the style of instant messaging conversation," says Wikipedia. The Internet Girls Series by Lauren Myracle.
posted by MonkeyToes at 10:17 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Mirage by Matt Ruff does exposition dumps in a Wikipedia-equivalent.
posted by calistasm at 10:18 AM on January 3, 2013

"Aisles" by Paul Magrs has chunks set in chat rooms including the appearance of a character you really don't expect taking part in a virtual conversation ...
posted by LyzzyBee at 10:42 AM on January 3, 2013

The Fifty Shades of Grey books include a lot of emails between the two protagonists.
posted by fuse theorem at 10:42 AM on January 3, 2013

Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge - its pan-galactic usenet, awesome.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:42 AM on January 3, 2013

The Sluts by Dennis Cooper takes place almost entirely in a Web forum for guys to discuss the various male prostitutes they've picked up and to review them. A few segments are email or transcribed phone calls. The unreliable narrator aspect of an Internet forum is an important element to the plot.
posted by The Whelk at 10:53 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Stephen King's novel Duma Key has emails between the protagonist and some of his friends and family. You can get a peek at the formatting choices if you go to the book's page on Amazon, select "search inside this book," and search for the term EFree19.
posted by theatro at 10:59 AM on January 3, 2013

Tao Lin does this a lot, I think.
posted by spanishbombs at 11:09 AM on January 3, 2013

Walter Jon William's Dagmar Shaw series has some of this, maybe not as much as you want. I think the Fourth Wall may have the most? bunch of blog posts and the blog comments are actually advancing the plot. (for once, you should read the comments)
posted by ansate at 11:19 AM on January 3, 2013

This has been written so long ago that it's like a time capsule now. It deals with all corners of the net, as it was around 1995, and their specific modes of communication. Plenty of dialogue in different media: MUDs, IRC and Usenet, and so on.

Surfing on the Internet, a Net-Head's Adventures On-Line by J.C. Herz. I read this in 1997 or so and it hit me like whoa. Mostly because of the content. I just knew I had to get out there on the net and see all of these miracles for myself.
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:08 PM on January 3, 2013

Bridget Jones's Diary does a great job with this, actually.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:08 PM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Lev Grossman's The Magician King includes a few sections where one of the protagonists becomes involved in an exclusive/tight-knit online community, and there's one point where she is physically in the same space as some of these other people but they choose to have a conversation online.

Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad includes a chapter written as a PowerPoint presentation, but the whole book reads more like a collection of interconnected short stories so there isn't a lot of flow from text to PowerPoint and back to text - I mention it mostly because I'm not sure how many other novels you'll find that incorporate PowerPoint slides.
posted by jessypie at 12:13 PM on January 3, 2013

Oh and big parts of Ernest Cline's Ready Player One and Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash take place in virtual worlds, but also involve the protagonists interacting and working together in person.
posted by jessypie at 12:21 PM on January 3, 2013

Will Grayson, Will Grayson includes a lot of transcribed IM/chat conversations, but as part of a more varied kind of narrative (not least, with two different first-person narrators)... There are also a few stretches of live dialogue that are reported in a written-play style. ("me: what? her: you know...")
posted by acm at 1:41 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'll check for sure when I get home, but I think the book Play Money had a lot of e-mail correspondence in the text.
posted by xedrik at 1:50 PM on January 3, 2013

Nick Hornby's novel Juliet, Naked is practically an epistolary novel driven by emails and forum threads.
posted by brilliantmistake at 1:54 PM on January 3, 2013

I don't remember how much of it there is, but Daemon by Suarez definitely does this.
posted by adamdschneider at 2:25 PM on January 3, 2013

Candle Cove is well worth your time.

Densha Otoko/Train Man is a romance that was originally created as a thread on an anonymous text discussion site, 2ch—the Japanese equivalent/precursor to 4chan. The thread was published as a novel (and adapted into a movie, TV show, TWO comic books, etc.). There are also translations of the original thread available online.
posted by nicebookrack at 5:16 PM on January 3, 2013

This is more iPhone-text-based, but you should still see this work of art from last year's Yuletide fic exchange:

Texts From Cephalopods (1547 words) by volta_arovet
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Octopus Steals My Video Camera and Swims off with It While It's Recording (Youtube)
Rating: General Audiences
Warning: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Octopus/Squid
Characters: An Octopus, Squid
Summary: It is a well-established fact in marine biology that the octopus is the drunk texter of the cephalopod family.
posted by nicebookrack at 5:21 PM on January 3, 2013

Gibson's Pattern Recognition transcribes a number of email conversations and forum posts.

Further, in Zero History, two characters trying to keep things quiet communicate using private messages on Twitter.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:45 PM on January 3, 2013

Quite a few here.
posted by Artw at 12:13 AM on January 4, 2013

exegesis by Astro Teller, the current Director of New Projects for Google (source: Wikipedia) - It's the story of an artificial intelligence program that becomes self-aware and starts e-mailing its creator. It's a very interesting and surprisingly touching story, and it's told entirely in e-mail messages.
posted by signsofrain at 6:01 PM on January 5, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! I will dig up a bunch of these. Of course, now I realize what I really need are manuscript format examples, but those aren't nearly as easy to come by.
posted by restless_nomad at 12:15 PM on February 2, 2013

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