Non-SF Fiction Where Online is Central Milieu?
February 6, 2004 5:56 PM   Subscribe

Fiction that centers on online interaction? [mo' inside makes it mo' inside]

Fiction that centers on online interaction? [mo' inside makes it mo' inside]

I'm looking for any and all novels, short stories, plays, or (non-documentary) movies that deal with online communication—specifically, but not limited to, community interaction—as a central milieu and/or story element. BBSes, message boards, Usenet, weblogs, mailing lists, etc. But I'm not after SF/cyberpunk—I want stuff that deals with the contemporary realities of online life. (It doesn't have to be up-to-the-minute, though; a novel set in 1983 involving a BBS would be great.)

Also, please don't limit yourselves to works you've liked and would recommend; I'm equally as interested in fiction that does a hamfistedly awful job of dealing with this type of material. Genre fiction, self-published novels, chick-lit about online dating, whatever.

Yes, I have seen You've Got Mail. I'm also already aware of the following:

The Cybergypsies, Indra Sinha
Angelica's Grotto, Russell Hoban
Lucy Crocker 2.0, Caroline Preston
Virtual Terror, Jeri Fink
Love at First Type, Epstein LaRue
Men Seeking Women, anthology

And while we're at it, any nonfiction with in-depth first-person narratives of online experiences, along the lines of Deeper by John Seabrook or My Tiny Life by Julian Dibbell, would be great as well.
posted by staggernation to Writing & Language (15 answers total)
Response by poster: (Um, sorry for including the text of the question in the comment.)
posted by staggernation at 5:58 PM on February 6, 2004

Letters from the Fire by Alma Hromic and R. A. Deckert, about an American and a Serbian who fall in love over the Internet during America's intervention in the region. (Highly autobiographical.) It's out of print now, but I know the authors and can score you some copies if you need.

Safe Sex: An E-mail Romance by Linda Burgess and Stephen Stratford. I believe this was only ever published in New Zealand. It's a somewhat more racy tale.

The Hacker, a 1980s psychological thriller/horror novel by Chet Day that centers around a bunch of BBS users in New Orleans. It's, well, not so good, I'm afraid (sorry Chet). Part of the problem is that the publisher apparently insisted on a bunch of "horror" stuff beyond the BBS-driven part of the story, and it feels rather bolted-on. It's out of print too.

And while we're at it, any nonfiction with in-depth first-person narratives of online experiences

Well, I don't know if The Cuckoo's Egg would count there, but it certainly was an online experience.
posted by kindall at 7:08 PM on February 6, 2004

Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom has online interaction as a central component of the story. The book is a little weak as a work of fiction, in no small part because of its Disney ride obsessiveness and some some slightly cardboard characters, but calling Cory's vision "impressive" understates it by much.
posted by majick at 8:32 PM on February 6, 2004

Cory Doctorow's Eastern Standard Tribe is set maybe 5 or 15 years from now (depending on your optimism level) and has a lot of online interaction.

William Gibson's Pattern Recognition (not sci-fi, unlike his previous novels) is very Internet-centric -- the main plot involves tracking down an anonymous poster of video clips on the 'net. I enjoyed it a lot.
posted by Aaorn at 8:47 PM on February 6, 2004

Did Doug Coupland's Microserfs have such things, or just emails? I don't quite remember.
posted by Marquis at 9:09 PM on February 6, 2004

e by Matthew Beaumont - A story of high egoes and incompetence at an advertising agency in London, told entirely in emails.

You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll read it in half a day, and turn back to page 1 and start all over again.
posted by contessa at 9:40 PM on February 6, 2004

Oh yeah, and The Net had a whole story element wherein the main character (played by Sandra Bullock) got help from her online geek buddies to get to the bottom of her stolen-identity problem. On a very cheesy looking BBS. With circa-1987-type avatars.
posted by contessa at 9:46 PM on February 6, 2004

If you can find a copy of the novella "True Names" by Vernor Vinge, I strongly recommend it. Science Fiction is often called "prescient" but this is one of the few that really nailed it. It was written in 1981.

Neal Stephenson's novel "Snow Crash" has a curious take on cyberspace, which he called the Metaverse; less prescient, that, as it was written in 1992, but it is probably responsible for our current usage of the word "avatar" and is a joy to read.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:52 PM on February 6, 2004

probably responsible for our current usage of the word "avatar"

Bzzt. Online personae have been known as avatars since 1985.
posted by jjg at 12:05 AM on February 7, 2004

R.U Sirius and St. Jude, How to Mutate and Take Over the World... amusing but I didn't find it particularly memorable. Hadn't even thought about it in years. Wanders into sci-fi near the end though. The novel is like a collection of emails, text files and usenet posts.
posted by bobo123 at 1:19 AM on February 7, 2004

Pam Ribon's novel, Why Girls are Weird.
posted by bendy at 10:35 AM on February 7, 2004

fiction, or creative writing in second person narrative form: carl steadman's old project two solitudes, which initially ran as real emails to anyone who joined the mailing list.
posted by ifjuly at 2:17 PM on February 7, 2004

Exegesis by Teller, which isn't very good, but is very short, is a story told entirely in email.
posted by raaka at 3:28 PM on February 7, 2004

second the eastern standard tribe and pattern recognition.
posted by juv3nal at 10:43 PM on February 7, 2004

I lovelove Kevin Fanning's 'Emails from Dead People'.
posted by hot soup girl at 7:15 AM on February 9, 2004 [1 favorite]

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