On 21 April this year, Reddit user _9MOTHER-9HORSE9EYES9 posted a small, forgettable comment on the social network that seemed like the strange ramblings of yet another internet madman, but turned out to be the beginnings of a web serial that is growing and drawing an increasingly intrigued audience.

What at first seemed to be yet another paranoid conspiracy theorist trying to tell the disbelieving world his truth, these forum posts turned out to be so much more – a work of fiction, at times unsettling and at others truly beautiful and touching, drawing in conspiracy theories alongside insightful fears of what the modern world, especially the internet itself, might be doing to us, leading us perhaps into some dark and terrible future. Increasingly, many of us are hooked. Addicted. And increasingly it seems that this addiction to internet things is exactly what the author is warning us against. How wonderful.

The author posts the narrative daily on unrelated forums on Reddit, building on disparate storylines that are not yet connected and never fully explained, the sense of mystery perfectly balanced to make us want more. (S)he posts this for free, seemingly for the sheer pleasure of seeing if people like their literature – art for the pure, reckless pleasure of art. The community that has grown up around it responds with impressive fan art and speculation about where the author is leading us, of where the author may be drawing influence – Philip K Dick and HP Lovecraft are among those mentioned – and, notably, who the author(s) could be. The author simply posts the episodes of the narrative, remaining anonymous, undefined.

Except the author did write one post in which they revealed themselves to be a sad, failed drunk. It wasn’t clear whether (s)he believes that the posts are truly fictional. That must have been a ruse, just another character, right? But addiction keeps coming up in the work. Their writing about addiction has been their most compelling, their most sincere.

Serialised fiction is nothing new in itself. Fiction in previous centuries, since the invention of the printing press, was often published in instalments in newspapers, so in that sense this is a return to an earlier time. But what the internet has allowed is quickness of both delivery and response. Within minutes of the author posting, the audience are feeding back their thoughts, their input. The audience, by the way, are the people who gave the narrative its name: The Interface Series.

I sent the author some questions and to my utter surprise I got a response. They said that the speed of feedback is rewarding, “but I do find myself craving the feedback and getting stuck in one of those narcissistic social media loops of (1) post (2) check for comments (3) repeat. I’m not sure if that is ironic or perfectly fitting.” I’m sure many of us have wasted time waiting to see if something has happened on the internet to get that thrill of something having happened. Since I found The Interface Series, I’ve found myself clicking, waiting to see when the next episode lands.

Does (s)he really think the future is so bleak? “As technology becomes more advanced and we are able to get what we want, when we want, we are going to find ourselves in an ‘age of addiction.’ Whether its food or pornography or opiates, society is getting better and better at enabling people’s addictions. If you want a vision of the future, imagine a sad person alone in a room, triggering a dopamine release over and over and over.”

Still, even if it leads us all into a dystopian hell and the slavery of all mankind, at least the internet is allowing new, extraordinary works of fiction with collective forums of audience members contributing fan art and speculation. So that’s good. Click!

reddit.com/r/9M9H9E9/wiki/narrative

Jack Unsworth