My debut novel, Amity, is on the streets...
One of the over-arching themes in Amity is anonymity--specifically, the potential for abuse thereof in online worlds.
In general, the ability to say what you feel in a global forum without fear of personal reprisal is a powerful thing with huge, Peter Parker-esque clauses hidden in the fine print: use it for good or be confident that somebody will eventually swoop down on your favorite online haunts and take that anonymity away.
The internet is rife with examples of free-range anonymous trolling, particularly the chan-style forums.
Imagine Lord of the Flies, but the island inhabitants are cloaked head-to-toe, unidentifiable by size, gender, or age. And there are tens, hundreds of thousands of them lurking about at any given time.
The users have the default option of being anonymous, and that insulation breeds interesting results. Intellectuals become perverts, teenage introverts become leaders, cops share their snuff fantasies, conservative professionals show skin to strangers. The walls are painted with racist jokes and hateful pranks.
Creativity soars. Bits of artistic brilliance often float in unremarkable slime.
Sometimes good deeds are done from behind the wall--recently, thousands of the anonymous users from 4chan called a 95 year old WWII veteran to wish him a happy birthday, much to his delight. They are also known for peaceful protests of the Church of Scientology (and peaceful protests are always a good thing, both the Peaceful part and the Protest part).
But, when a crowd of that size is both self-regulated and anonymous, you can't expect that they will behave themselves often. The collective id tends to take over. And those stories aren't hard to find.
Amity takes the concept of a chan-style website (I feel compelled to repeat that the fictitious website Amity is not, in fact, 4chan, although 4chan did serve as an inspiration) and takes it to darker places. The worst of 4chan is comparable to the most innocuous parts of Amity. It's a kind of thought-experiment: what is the logical conclusion of that world, drawn as a characterization of itself?
The results were, as you'll find in the book, creepy.
And thanks to Mr. Polson for giving me a day on his blog!