Here’s something interesting: a horror-science fiction “novel” related entirely in the form of Reddit posts. Comments, specifically, found on various Reddit.com threads (such as “There is no historical evidence for any pirate having ever owned a pet parrot”) that when placed in chronological order form a cohesive (if fragmented) narrative. The posts, written by an individual who identifies himself as “_9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9,” commenced on April 21, 2016 (on a thread about the Penguin edition of George Orwell’s 1984) and concluded on July 18.
Since then THE INTERFACE SERIES, as it came to be called, has inspired a Reddit webpage devoted to it, complete with downloadable epub versions and audio readings of the text. There are also articles on the series in The Guardian, Gizmodo and elsewhere, none of which have succeeded in explaining a mystery that, over a year after THE INTERFACE SERIES ended, seems destined to remain unsolved—although _9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9 has left a number of tantalizing clues about his motives and identity.
The author has identified the novels of Jack Vance and Frederick Pohl’s GATEWAY as antecedents, while others have suggested Jeff Vandermeer’s SOUTHERN REACH TRILOGY may have had some influence. I was reminded of the alleged time traveler John Titor, who in 2000-01 made a number of predictions about future events (including the break-up of the U.S. and World War III occurring in 2015) on various internet bulletin boards that were later collected in book form (as 2003’s JOHN TITOR: A TIME TRAVELLER’S TALE). I’d also point to what is perhaps the most famous experimental genre narrative of our time, Mark Z. Danielewski’s HOUSE OF LEAVES, which like THE INTERFACE SERIES is alleged to have originated on the internet (it’s been speculated that _9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9 may in fact be Mark Danielewski, although no evidence exists to support that claim).
Like the Titor posts THE INTERFACE SERIES proclaims itself a “true” story containing alleged predictions of future events—it being, in its author’s own words, “a warning to humanity. I believe we are rushing headlong toward a focal point at which the future of our species will be decided.” Like HOUSE OF LEAVES it has a highly eccentric, self-referential format that is nonetheless quite readable. THE INTERFACE SERIES also happens to be one of the most invigorating works of fiction I’ve read in some time, an altogether fascinating mixture of cyberpunk sci fi, Lovecraftian horror and (seemingly) autobiographical musings.
Synopsizing the insanely wide-ranging, multi-pronged narrative is no mean feat. Suffice it to say that it involves interdimensional portals known as “flesh interfaces” and an otherworldly entity known, variously, as “Mother” and “Q” that aims to wipe out humanity. Encompassing quantum physics and time travel, the series has a tendency to haphazardly flash back and forth in time, from prehistory to a futuristic America in which people are hooked up to virtual reality feeds as a form of therapy, and has a cast of characters that includes Countess Erzsebet Bathory, Philip K. Dick, the Manson Family, a sentient wolf, a Treblinka death camp commander and the author himself, who frequently breaks the fourth wall to comment on, and eventually insert himself into, the ongoing narrative.
That narrative is as fluid and unprecedented as the timespan, relating its various strands in short posts/chapters that aren’t always entirely coherent (with poetry and song lyrics often utilized in place of storytelling). The overall format is certainly unique, beginning as a collection of seemingly fragmentary statements (“In Vietnam, the U.S. government tried to pacify the country village by village using the Strategic Hamlet Program, basically creating villages where there was no or little Viet Cong influence”) that gradually coalesces into an intense character-based series of intertwined accounts, only to conclude in much the same way it began, in fragmented and somewhat abstract form (with postings consisting entirely of sentences like “Walls were broken, now they are up” and “It is okay”). The author has admitted he had a difficult time concluding the tale, whose “endgame” is “simply that the story comes to a conclusion and everything is made clear…I am fairly in dread of the task. I don’t know exactly how I will do it.”
Another noteworthy element is the author’s penchant for the grotesque, which will surely turn off many readers. The Treblinka set passages, which graphically depict the ugliness that went on there from a Nazi’s point of view, are especially grievous in this regard, so much so that the author, in a postscript—or “Mourning Phase”—to the narrative, essentially apologizes for the “lurid style” of those descriptions, and assures us that “I reject Anti-Semitism in all its forms.”
THE INTERFACE SERIES is said to read best in its original, fragmented format. That’s based on testimony from readers who did just that, obsessively combing through Reddit posts to find the next installment, and in the process experiencing all manner of (possibly fabricated) intrigue as certain of _9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9’s posts were inexplicably blocked and/or deleted (as a Vice article about the series proclaimed: “Something suspicious is definitely afoot”).
Now, of course, all the intrigue has long since died down, leaving us with a completed narrative that exists in epub format. That was the form in which I read it, and as such it wasn’t entirely satisfying. The copious typos and grammatical errors might have seemed acceptable in internet postings but are a constant irritant in ebook format; so too the oft-fragmentary chapters/postings, which at times appear to be direct responses to queries put to the author by fellow Reddit users (queries that aren’t included in the text).
Which brings me to my final question regarding THE INTERFACE SERIES: who exactly is _9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9? According to emails sent to the BBC this person is “male, in his thirties, lives in the United States, works as a freelance translator and was once a heavy user of LSD.” Not unlike the story’s narrator, who likewise describes himself as a thirtyish recovering addict, one who’s fallen on hard times after kicking drugs and attempting to become a novelist.
Particularly striking are the descriptions of the ravages of drug addiction (“You cannot understand the power of addiction until you have seen it firsthand. Until you have seen it eat like an acid through everything you are”), which are as terrifying in their way as any of the more overtly horrific portions, and were evidently informed by direct experience. How much so I don’t know, and, given that the author has faded into obscurity following the completion of the series, I strongly doubt any concrete answers about that, or anything else regarding THE INTERFACE SERIES, will be forthcoming any time soon.