Back in April, a mysterious series of Reddit comments began to appear, piquing the community’s curiosity. Strung together, they produced the beginning of a creepy sci-fi/horror serial that became known as The Interface Series. It was swiftly compiled and analyzed by fans, and received a smattering of media attention. Now, the story has been concluded (for now), and it’s both a compelling serial and a great example of the collaborative capacity of internet writing.

_9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9 captured our attention with far-out, conspiracy theory sounding stories that incriminated the CIA, MK Ultra, and Charles Manson, among other things, as part of a vast history of “flesh interfaces”. It was so creepy, unhinged and vividly written, but also meandering and vague, it seemed doomed to disappoint. When Inverse reported on it in May, we worried it would trail off and disappear. Others speculated that, worse, it would turn out to be a marketing hoax. (Seeing the very flesh interface-like monster portal on Stranger Things is what reminded me to check back with the series. Fortunately, the similarity is merely coincidental).

Did Nancy venture into a flesh interface?
Did Nancy venture into a flesh interface?

But The Interface Series continued, and grew increasingly meta, as the main narrator emerged more clearly, casting himself as an alcoholic and a frustrated, wannabe writer. He writes about struggling to find an ending for the story. He even begins to make references to his own Reddit posts within the story. All along, the narrator toes a line, refusing to confirm if his posts—stories of alternate timelines—are his own fiction, or his own delusions. And readers loved it.

The Interface Series remained a source of dedicated speculation. Readers shared theories and fan art. One user made it into an audiobook. Some claimed the series was the secret work of some already-famous writer. If the narrator is to believed, _9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9 is not a published author, but he will be soon.

In the post where the narrator reveals his frustrated novelist ambitions, he writes: “As you may know, a few websites wrote articles about the series, and some very lovely people created a very wonderful subreddit about it, and this drew the attention of people in the publishing industry. They contacted me, and just like that, my long-held dream was again revived, and now it seemed more in reach than ever. I had been struggling to contact agents, and now they were contacting me!” Another Reddit user, GabbiKat, emerged as a collaborator and editor of the series, and has confirmed that there is a book deal, and that the author will be extensively reworking the series into a published novel.

Fanart by Reddit user mothbot
Fanart by Reddit user mothbot

The author made it clear that his post on July 17 was the final installment that would appear on Reddit, and the collaborators are now soliciting feedback from fans. If the author really did begin writing this story on the fly with the aim of publishing it, he has found something that many authors long for: people actually interested in reading and discussing a sprawling, messy, first draft. (Of course, plenty of writers are equally horrified at the thought of early drafts seeing the light of day.)

It’s still not clear how much the author planned this experiment in serial narrative, but if the narrator is to be believed, it was written mostly on the fly. If the writer really was grappling with coming to an ending, how much was he influenced by fan feedback? Will the rewrite amount to crowdsourced fiction? Of course, so far the responses from readers are all over the map as far as their preferences and suggestions, and the author doesn’t seem foolish enough to fan service all their theories. But all the exposure and response the series has received has certainly already had its influence, most notably in the fact that it was completed at all. Such a meandering story, that relied heavily on opening questions without answers, required some pressure to actually finish.

Fanart by DeviantArt user Pegritz
Fanart by DeviantArt user Pegritz

As to whether or not the ending was satisfying, not everyone agrees, of course. Stories that rely on vagueness and endless questions never end perfectly for everyone, but it avoids a total cop-out that angers everyone. I liked it, but I also liked one character and storyline that was frequently panned in the feedback thread. It’s fascinating to be able to go back over the narrative and see it’s progression, bobbles and all, from a series of linked vignettes to a full circle story.

The Interface Series has it’s missteps, and its vagueness wavers between captivating and annoying, but at its core is creative horror imagery and a talent for character voice. It is a messy, but promising rough draft, uncharacteristically made public for analysis and discussion. The mystery of the author is yet to be fully unraveled, but we may finally learn more if The Interface Series returns as a fully-fleshed novel. And if it does, we expect it to be a hit.

Photos via Bustle, Deviantart (1, 2, 3)