There's something really cool going on out there, in the world of publishing/podcasting/social networking. I think it's probably the way entertainment is moving, in a big way, and it both thrills and frightens me.
I know that movies and video games have been using various mediums to promote their work for a pretty long time now (websites for fictitious companies like Lacuna Inc. and The Hanso Corporation, "leaked" video footage, fan sites on Facebook, fake television commercials, even messages in bottles!). It helps to draw users in and make them feel like part of the experience.
Now, some of my favorite podcasters are taking this approach even further, creating whole online personalities, side stories and interactive contests and games to immerse their listeners or readers even deeper into the worlds of their fiction. I recently finished J. C. Hutchin's "Personal Effects: Dark Arts", which is the journal of an art therapist working on a very dark and paranormal case. The book comes with "personal effects" (death certificates, photos, IDs) and is laced with websites and phone numbers that provide more meat to the printed story. The lengths that Hutchin's has gone to to create a very real-feeling world for his characters and story are amazing and create an entirely new entertainment experience.
Phil Rossi's "Harvey" is a podcast only novel that began in early July. This is Rossi's second full length podcast novel. His first, "Crescent", went to print earlier this summer and is a must read for any horror/science fiction lover out there. In "Harvey", Phil is also taking interactive universe approach. He has created websites, twitter accounts and even music files to correspond with the story. The amount of energy and creativity being put in to this work is phenomenal. I find it all very interesting and exciting, but also a little troubling.
While these fake websites and social networking accounts do create a very "real" experience for the reader or listener, I have to wonder about the integrity of putting all this fake information out on the internet with no disclaimer. I know that most people today understand that the internet is FULL of bogus information and we usually monitor and judge what we read before taking it as fact. But what about PixelVixen707, one of Hutchin’s characters, who hosts a gaming blog and also posts articles on Suicide Girls? Is it misleading for these authors to create characters and interact with people outside of their fiction? I suppose that as long as the information posted is true, it’s not really hurting anyone and I also know that people make up fake accounts all of the time, but there’s just something about it that makes me feel a little bit uneasy. This doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop following these kinds of projects. I still think they’re freaking awesome. I just worry more about being had by the internet, being tricked into thinking something is real when it’s not. On guard.