As noted in the comments, my friend Sandi in Tennessee found The Unnameables in a Barnes & Noble. On an actual shelf. For sale. To anyone who walks in. Like, strangers.
Oy. It's real. My stomach's in knots.
Here's the great thing about Internet friends...right now, someone at B&N and and someone else at Amazon are scratching their heads, pondering these bizarre single sales in Tennessee, Iowa, Montreal, Tokyo and London, to name just a few. Oh, and Australia. (*Waves to MaraudingDon.*)
This particular group of Internet friends is The Marauders, members of a private forum that started as a Harry Potter "theorizing" outlet...lessee, 2003, the year Order of the Phoenix came out. We started out discussing such weighty issues as whether Snape was good or bad (touchy subject, nowadays), what the triumphant gleam in Dumbledore's eye meant at the end of Goblet of Fire, and whether Dumbledore was gay. (Just kidding--most of us figured Lupin.)
As we got to know each other, we branched out and discussed our lives, politics, other books, movies, current events, you name it. Many of us had alter-ego characters for comic relief--in fact, the character now named Durindana in The Filioli was born as Astrella, an overdressed and hapless fairy who lived in a pub chandelier. (My editor's not thrilled with the name Durindana, so maybe she'll end up Astrella after all.)
It wasn't long before Harry Potter was secondary--nowadays, almost nonexistent--as a basis for the forum.
This became most obvious the day Lyny in Montreal discovered she was pregnant with her first child. She couldn't find her husband, Patrick, so she got on line and told us. As time went on, we saw ultrasounds, belly shots, and baby furniture, and the mothers in the group were free with advice. At last, when Lyny was in labor and having a difficult time, her mother and stepfather kept calling Meg in Wisconsin, who kept logging on to the Marauder site and telling the rest of us what was happening. We were prepared to stay up all night with Lyny and Patrick, but little Etienne was kind enough to arrive at 10 p.m.
Just this past Saturday, a group of Marauders (not me, unfortunately) watched via live feed while Meg got married.
Over the years, many of us have met in person. When Rob and I were in London we had dinner our first night with Andrew (known to us as Aberforth) and his wife, Melanie. Last summer, a bunch of us met for a couple of days at Niagara Falls, of all places. In both cases, it was more like a reunion than a first meeting.
When I joined the Marauders, I had just left my newspaper job and was working alone for the first time in twenty years. In some sense, the forum replaced office mates--if I felt like a break, I'd log on there for a chat.
It's hard to figure what this kind of thing will do to us as a species. OK, each of us is sequestered with the computer, ignoring any actual humans who might be sharing space with us. But we're essentially writing notes to each other, which used to be a dying art and has to be good for some part of the brain. For Lyny in Montreal and Emmalinde in Germany, this is a chance to practice written English. The rest of us now have friends who are furriners or Californians. (Sorry...channeling Tim Sample again.)
Does typing on a computer count as human interaction? Maybe not exactly...but it sure feels that way.