Surfing on the Internet

by J.C. Herz

Little Brown and Co.

321 pp., $ 19.95

Flames, myths, MUD's, MOOs, caffeine and sugared cereals. For months, such was the life of J.C. Herz '93, former CrimeEd, as she immersed herself in the culture and subculture of the Internet to research her debut effort, Surfing The Internet (Little, Brown, & Co). The result of sleep deprivation and stimulant overload is a sassy, hypercharged piece of cyberculture shock which reads like an extended Internet session and takes J.C. to the furthest points of cyberspace and back. Through virtual worlds full of meaningless babble and technological romance, around connection obstacles and cultural consequences, Herz's faster-than-a-speeding-bullet style whizzes through the tangle of the Internet and delivers a book equally accessible to initiates and those who are terminally offline.

How did the book came into being:

I was an intern at the Boston Phoenix, and I wrote an article researched on the net about netheads' reaction to the TIME Magazine cyberpunk story. Of course, they all hated it, and the irony was that TIME Magazine didn't really look on the net. The people who it would have called cyberpunks hated what it had to say, so it was this typical punk reaction of, "Go home, leave us alone, under our rock, and don't talk like you know what we mean." So, I wrote this article called "Netheads," and I started thinking.

One morning I was in the shower, where I am when I get all my good ideas, and I thought well, this world is just so bizarre, it would be a cool book, idea, to just explore. I thought about it, and I called this author I knew, who I'd actually met interviewing for the Crimson. He said, "Well, cool, write up a proposal, and send it to these two publishers" One week, I got a series of calls. Monday, an agent called and said, "I hear you've got a proposal on the table at Little, Brown, do you need an agent?" That was more than I knew, Tuesday, I got the book deal, and Wednesday I signed a lease for an apartment in South Beach.

I just cranked. I figured hell, I could write my thesis in a week, why not a book in seven months?

Did you spend a lot of time on the net researching?

Entirely too much time; I spent more time on the net than any human being should. It was stick, I mean, I didn't sleep for about six months, honestly, I didn't sleep, I existed on various forms of sugared ceral and lots and lots of coffee. But I mean, I didn't mind, I was barely legal to drink, I was writing a book, my life was so bizarre, but I figured hey, I don't know anything different, so I might as well do it.

What was the funniest thing you ran across on the net?

There are things that are predictable, but there was this episode where a fan of David Hasselhoff bursts into the Douglas Hofstadter newsgroup and says, "David Hasselhoff rules the world, do you agree? And that kind of random confusion is just so classic, and so funny. You get on the net and sooner or later you're going to see some sort of online, interactive erotica, that's just a function of time and where you are, but the Hasselhoff thing was so random. I just told my mother.

Did you ever have a bout of cyberromance?

No...I think all of this cybersex stuff is just so amazingly campy that it's hysterical! I just can't personally see how people get aroused by this stuff, it just doesn't do it for me...I think the net, if anything, is more romantic than sexual.