Monday, December 10, 2012

How a Fake Internet Friend Helped Write a Real Novel

And interesting read by Richard Cox posted in the Weeklings: Hello, This is Veronika Richard Cox Wednesday, November 21, 2012 DURING THE COURSE of writing my latest novel, I became acquainted with a young woman named Veronika, who makes a brief appearance in its pages. Thomas World is the story of an everyman who begins to suspect his life isn’t real, and may in fact be a game or simulation in which he’s the main character. The novel documents Thomas’ journey through madness as he searches for answers to existential questions, and ends with a world-bending confrontation in Berkeley, California with a Creator who may or may not be Philip K. Dick—himself a well-known science fiction author who struggled with paranoid schizophrenia and turned his own madness into solipsistic thrillers about artificial reality. I first crossed paths with Veronika on MySpace in 2007, back when it still reigned supreme over Facebook (remember that?). By the time she found me, I had been blogging on the site for eighteen months, and had acquired thousands of readers. New visitors were common, and I knew from experience that not all of them were who they claimed to be. The nature of MySpace made it the perfect breeding ground for aliases and fake identities. Veronika was presumably a 21 year-old blonde bombshell from Sweden, and her detailed online profile lent unusual credibility to her claim: hundreds of pictures, scores of friends, including her boyfriend Shane, her cousin Elin (a former police officer in Sweden who served in the army and trained as a military law enforcement specialist in the Livgardet), a roommate, classmates from her university, etc. Her profile also told the story of her arrival in theUnited States, of recent great tragedy (her mother’s death), and featured a voice recording of Veronika reciting her favorite quote: “Hello, this is Veronika. Welcome to my MySpace page! Remember, in the words of Ernest Hemingway: The world breaks everyone, and afterwards many are strong in the broken places!” Even considering the staggering amount of detail on her profile, however, I was highly skeptical of her identity from the beginning. The comments she left on my blog seemed to indicate a vast amount of life experience and wisdom not normally found in such a young adult…to say nothing for her Playboy bunny exterior, which, stereotypically speaking, doesn’t match well with the intellectual type. These suspicions, however, fueled a burning curiosity in me. The effort to create a profile with so many pictures and details would consume hours. Days, really. In addition, the person would be forced to create the fictional profiles of Veronika’s boyfriend, cousin, friends, etc., and then go to the trouble of occasionally signing into MySpace as these characters and leaving comments on her fictional page. In retrospect these suspicions and my subsequent investigation are similar to the plot of Catfish, though my experience occurred three years before that film was released. In any case, whoever Veronika really was, why had she (or he) contacted me? read the essay HERE.

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