The Year The Internet Ended
I spent most of my summer working on a novel, but I turned over the first third of it to my agent at the end of last week and just received a very disappointing response. The feeling is that it is “too fantastical,” that “no one would ever believe it,” that it is “the worst kind of wish-fulfillment outside of slashfic,” and that “all books are terrible but this is especially bad because it’s so over-the-top dreamy that no one could really accept the premise.” I heartily disagree and want to show the powers that be that there is in fact an audience that is hungry for this kind of material, so I am putting a brief excerpt here in hopes that you all will find it pleasing and demand more. All you really need to know about the story, which has the working title of The Year The Internet Ended, is that it opens with our protagonist, a brilliant blogger named Alan Falk — a handsome, sensitive, tortured soul who feels everything too deeply but is irresistible to the ladies — waking up from a seven-month coma that he fell into after being electrocuted by a surge suppressor. He is released from the hospital but finds himself in an unrecognizable world where no one speaks to him or anyone else. In this scene he wanders around New York City trying to understand what has happened.
He staggered up the street acutely aware that the only sound he heard as people passed by was that of his own labored breathing. The occasional siren in the distance was even more pronounced because of the strange, oppressive silence that surrounded everything. Birds chirped and the wind rustled through the trees, but no one spoke or even made eye contact as he wandered along. It was as if they were afraid to engage with each other and his pleas for help were met, if at all, with scolding stares.
Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a finger signalling him on. In the doorway of a nondescript apartment building a beautiful woman about his age gestured him to follow her while seemingly looking around to make sure that no one else saw. He entered the lobby and she quickly pushed him into her ground-level dwelling. She bolted the door behind him and sat him down at a small table away from the window.
“You’re Alan Falk,” she said, her voice hushed.
“How… how did you know that?”
“I used to follow you on Twitter and Facebook. In the before time. I’ve been reading you ever since you had your blog I’ve Heard There Was A Secret Chord,” she smiled.
“That all seems so long ago,” he said. “But what… what happened? Why is everything so different now? So… quiet?”
And that was how he learned about the end of the Internet, about the strange electrical signal that came from space and shut down everything on the worldwide web and beyond, even, thank God, all the idiot apps, rendering browsers useless and smartphones elaborate and expensive instruments with which to make terrible sounding phone calls and take pictures of things you had to show other people in person if you wanted them to be seen.
“At first all the governments of the world banded together with private industry in a desperate attempt to bring everything back online but every effort failed. And then, as the weeks went on, we started to realize that life was much better without the Internet. Everyone became so much less angry. We solved climate change. Restaurants started to focus on how food tastes rather than if it would show well enough to be photographed and shared. The Kardashians stopped being a thing. All the VC scumbags on Sand Hill Road had to find new scams to pull, mostly involving pharmaceuticals. It’s almost like heaven on earth.”
“It sounds like some beautiful dream,” he said. “But why is everyone so quiet?”
“Well, that’s the Vow. It came from The Moment of Great Shame, when we all realized how fucking stupid and intolerable and just generally gross we were by always having opinions and sharing them as loudly as we could as soon as they popped into our idiot heads. Once there was no Internet on which we could be gigantic fucking loud morons shouting our imbecilic, poorly informed thoughts about things all the time, we were so embarrassed by what we’d done that we all promised to stay silent in public for a year.”
“Everyone agreed to this?” he asked incredulously.
“Well, not everyone. But the men — and it was mostly men — who refused to be quiet were sent to reeducation camp in North Dakota where they were sentenced to read every thinkpiece about Jonathan Franzen, and they all died of boredom and/or rage.”
“So no one speaks in public?”
“Or writes anything either,” she beamed. “We finally realized that there was already so much that has been said even in this century alone that adding more to the pile would be like smearing a six-foot layer of shit on top of a heaping, fetid landfill. The Vow keeps anyone from expressing themselves in any way, which is good because everyone’s so fucking stupid and full of all the most dumbass possible thoughts any human could have but was ashamed enough, before the Internet, to shut the fuck up about.”
“It sounds like everything is finally amazing,” he said, after thinking about it for a couple of minutes. He could already tell how much better this world was because of the fact that he had actually spent a couple of minutes thinking about something before saying anything about it. “But if no one talks or writes, what does everyone do for fulfillment?”
“We do sex to each other, S&M; bondage style!” she proclaimed, handing him a whip while stripping down to show an amazing but submissive sex body.
It gets a little graphic at this point, which I am ashamed to admit is purely for commercial purposes. But what do you think? I’m sure some of you literary types are all, “Alex, it seems incredible so far, but where is the conflict? You’ve set up an amazing utopia, what problems could there be?” Well, I have that covered! The problem is the Vow is about to expire and a bunch of stupid self-important types who feel like the world has missed out on their opinions are ready to unleash their streams of pompous windbaggery once more through the medium of the printed word, and our protagonists need to find a way to make sure everyone stays shut the fuck up. It’s full of drama, tension and subtle social commentary. There’s no way this wouldn’t be a best-seller, right? Register your support on social media or whatever and let’s make Big Publishing give me millions of dollars for this. Thank you.