Chapter 9 – The Unravelling of the Sockpuppets

@gottiewrites 17/09/18

To address the concerns in the last chapter’s comments: this is not a sponsored promotion. I have had absolutely no contact with Management, regardless of who might or might not follow me on Twitter. This essay is getting huge, so it’s very likely that at least some of Management, if not Rob and Nathan themselves, have read it.

However, I have not discussed it with them, and I have no plans to do so in the future. Listen, guys, I’m just a lady with Type 1 Diabetes, who wants to be a journalist. I’ve got a cat who collects dead mice. I’m not a professional spy or a professional anything, yet. It’s kind of flattering that you’re all making up conspiracy theories about me, but I’m not the one hiding something here. Sorry.

Today, it’s time for another @silentwakes update. You all kicked off in the comments about my cliffhanger at the end of the last LiveJournal chapter – sorry, I couldn’t resist! Hopefully this answers all of your burning questions.


Events of August 2014

In the immediate aftermath of @silentwakes’ crowdfunding efforts, @lillyletters gained eight new friends in the Loch & Ness fandom. This was a big deal for her, because @lillyletter, as seen in her profile archived in August 2014, only had three followers total. She was what I would have called a lurker if I didn’t know better.

A few of her new friends must have been curious about what kind of person can casually donate thirteen thousand dollars to a complete stranger, because @effiemeral wrote this super-locked-down post a day after her donation was revealed.1

Is anyone else getting alarm bells about @lillyletters? Her account is only two months old, and she just kind of started posting out of the blue. Do any of you remember seeing her username commenting anywhere before?

Maybe she just made a new account under a new name, I don’t know. After she friended me back, I had a look at some of her archive and in a review of Loch & Ness book 6, she mentioned a headcanon theory about Lyra’s college years from @helena’s fic Innocence. I’m pretty sure that fic is friends-only?! And @lillyletters is not friended with @helena. So how did she read that fic if she’s not on her flist?2

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a hint of a sockpuppet here.

Comments

@mswriter I am SO glad someone else said this! I’ve been totally thinking this ever since her donation. It’s super dodgy.

@nessiesgirl If it’s a sockpuppet, that means the real user must be someone on @helena’s flist. Would you like me to do some sleuthing?

@effiemeral Inboxing you now.

If you aren’t aware of the term, a ‘sockpuppet’ is a throwaway account set up to post under a fake identity. It’s usually used to comment on other people’s blogs. The idea is that it’s like a hand puppet you use to speak with, instead of using your own mouth.

@effiemeral had good instincts – here is @lillyletter’s first ever blog post, dated only a month earlier:

Hi guys! New account, but I’ve been in fandom for a while. It just took this long to get an invite code!

I’m Lilly, I’m thirtymumblemumble and I live in Montana with my husband and sons. I discovered the Loch & Ness books at Christmas and I read them all in a single week. I have a countdown on my calendar of the number of days until the last book comes out. I honestly can’t believe it’s nearly over.

My thoughts on L&N, let me show them to you: I ship Lyra/Jayden but I don’t mind other ships, especially if Fang is involved (that is one hell of a man, ‘nuff said). I loooove anything with a fake relationship, that is my ultimate guilty pleasure.

Please friend me, I’d love to meet more of you now that I can actually post! (And concrit on my fics is not welcome, thank you.)

– Lilly

@nessiesgirl and @effiemeral started investigating, and they managed to find a recent comment that @lillyletters had made on a post in the @lochandnessfans community.

They got in touch with the mods, who gave them the IP address that @lillyletters had posted from.3 The IP address wasn’t from Montana, as Lilly had claimed, but LA – where @silentwakes lived.

@silentwakes was one of 110 people who were friended with @helena’s account, so he was one of the only 110 people who had access to the fic “Innocence”, which Lilly had quoted. Out of those 110, 67 lived in the USA, and @silentwakes was the only one who lived in LA.

@nessiesgirl was furious about all of this, and left a call-out comment on @silentwakes’ latest post:

Do you know @lillyletters in real life? I would expect a donation of that size to come from a family member or close acquaintance, not some stranger on the internet.

@silentwakes replied within an hour:

No, I don’t know her! Weird, right? I’m so grateful though. ❤

Thirty minutes later, @lillyletters made a new blog post:

I thought I’d share a photo of me and my boys! Here we are on our summer vacation this year. As you can see, I have the worst sunburn. It’s still a bit flaky on my shoulders, ugh.

My boys spent the whole time digging the biggest holes in the sand that they could and eating four ice creams a day (as expected).

Attached was a blurry photo of a woman in a blue swimming costume, sitting on a beach with two small boys laying against her sides.

lillyletters.png

Google reverse search wasn’t available as a function in 2014, but when I ran a search today, I found the same photo on a blog post from 2009 by a Mormon housewife from Kansas. @nessiesgirl and @effiemeral wouldn’t have known that, though.

This is just an assumption, but I suspect that Rob had an inkling that @nessiesgirl had somehow worked out who @lillyletters really was, and was trying to cover his tracks by posting a photo of ‘her’. He googled ‘American housewife’ and chose a picture from the image results. Even if his intention here wasn’t to put @nessiesgirl off the scent, this whole series of interactions is rife with connotations.

As a test, @effiemeral commented on @lillyletter’s post, saying that she liked her swimming costume, and asking where she went on vacation. ‘She’ replied that they went to California.

At this point, @effiemeral and @nessiesgirl could have given up, and decided they were just being paranoid. But then @silentwakes made a new post, saying this:

Thanks for all your love on my new fic. I’m going offline for a few days while I’m in New York for a college trip.4 I’m shadowing a lawyer for a few days while they’re on a copyright trial – it’s a case I was involved in when I was interning last summer, so they’re letting me come and see how it turns out.

I leave tomorrow at 9. Don’t post too much while I’m gone!

At ten a.m. on the dot the next day, @lillyletters commented again on a @lochandnessfans community post, specifically replying to a comment made by @nessiesgirl.

I love your icon, @nessiesgirl! Did you make it? Can I steal it?

Again, this is speculation, but I don’t think it’s a leap to assume that Rob was making a point of posting while @silentwakes was ‘offline’, to prove a second time that @lillyletters was not him.5

@nessiesgirl obviously got this hint that that’s what he was doing, because she immediately logged the IP address of the reply to her comment. It was the same one as last time, located in LA. She replied to the comment with this:

Hah, of course! So, are you still on vacation, @lillyletters? You must be getting a great tan!

@effiemeral went a step further. She made a blog post, which she left public:

TO SOCKPUPPETS AND THEIR OWNERS

We know what you’re doing, and you’re not welcome in the L&N community. Please stop.

From Effie, cosigned by @nessiesgirl

Comments

                    Anonymous Who is this about? *curious eyes*

@nessiesgirl We probably shouldn’t say, but they recently made quite a big donation to themselves….

Anonymous WELL WELL WELL.

Anonymous Why would someone donate money to themselves? I don’t work for the IRS or anything but that seems pretty dodgy if you ask me….

@silentwakes was less on-a-school-trip than he claimed, because within fifteen minutes of this post going online, an anonymous commenter posted on @effiemeral’s call-out post:

Anonymous dick.

@effiemeral *waves* Hi @silentwakes/@lillyletters! How’s the weather in LA?

After that, it was all-out war. But we’ll get to that soon.

So, to recap: @lillyletters was a fake account created by @silentwakes himself. Which means that when he claims that ‘Lilly’ sent him a thirteen grand donation, it was a lie to get attention.

I’ll leave it there for now. I’ve got more Girl Scout-adjacent things to be getting on with.

– margot


Footnotes

1. I managed to get in touch with @effiemeral via her inactive but still functioning A03 account, and she gave me some of the background context of this on there. See this screenshot of my messages with her last week. She was incredibly bitter about what @silentwakes had done to her, and talking about it make her very upset, even all these years later. I’d like to thank her again for agreeing to the interview.
She also shared these chat logs from her IMs with @silentwakes from the time they were friends on LiveJournal.
November 2013:
Silentwakes: Loved the latest chapter of Belladonna! I usually skim over action in fics to get to the smut (lol) but your writing keeps me hooked even in the battle scenes
Effiemeral: awwww thank you! You know from my comments just how much I love yours too. the feeling is definitely mutual!
Silentwakes: do you write any original stuff? I’d love to read it
Effiemeral: no, just fic! I’m not sure I have any ideas that are good enough to write about, haha
Silentwakes: I know what you mean, it’s so hard! Whenever I try to come up with OCs they just don’t feel as realistic and 3D as characters from books.
Effiemeral: yes, this! The dialogue is so clunky and forced. Whereas I feel like I really know characters like jayden and lyra, so I can write them so much more easily.
Silentwakes: i already have to think so hard about how to form sentences and scenes, having someone else do the heavy-lifting of the characters and world-building makes it a lot easier.
Effiemeral: totally agree. I’ve g2g to class, talk to you later!
Silentwakes: bye!
–       
February 2014
Effiemeral: totally agree with your post about the Harry Potter fandom. The stuff going on over there is wild.
Silentwakes: RIGHT? Like, I know we have our little squabbles in l&n, but they go full-on nuclear over the most random crap. did you read the msscribe story? It was posted in 2006 but it is so worth reading: https://bit.ly/2Oo6RDY
Effiemeral: noo, I haven’t heard of it!
Effiemeral: this is so long whatttt
Silentwakes: it’s worth it, trust me!
Effiemeral: oh. my. god.
Silentwakes: I KNOW.
Effiemeral: this is it. All I’m doing for the next three weeks is clicking every link in this thing.
Silentwakes: have fun!!! Wait til you get to the fall of Gryffindor tower.
July 2014
Effiemeral: why are you doing this to me?
Effiemeral: hello? Are you really just going to ignore me too?
Effiemeral: I just don’t understand why you’d bother.
Effiemeral: who do you think you are, msscribe? there’s no way you could have pulled off the sockpuppets as long as she did. why did you even try?
Effiemeral: great. bye, then. screw you, I guess.
Silentwakes: sorry.
It’s clear that they were genuine friends, which makes Rob’s betrayal even worse. It’s also very interesting that Rob was apparently inspired by The Msscribe Story when he made the @lillyletters sockpuppet. I hadn’t made that link before now.
2. Friends list = flist = f-list, for the uninitiated. On LiveJournal, you could choose which people saw your posts, giving you varying levels of privacy depending on what you were posting about. 
3. Only account holders can access the IP address of a comment on one of their posts. That single comment on @lochandnessfans was the only one that @lillyletters had posted, as far as they could tell. I’ve done some googling and I would tend to agree.
4. Which does check out – Rob was still studying Law at UCLA in August 2014, graduating in 2015. I don’t know which trial in NYC he was shadowing, though.
5. Let’s ignore the fact that in 2014 he would almost definitely have had internet access on his phone.

Comments (2539)

FantasticBooksAWTFT all of this livejournal stuff is so dramatic! Fandom is not this crazy anymore. Those were really the days.

Evelynhugodeservedanoscar the silentwakes livejournal was deleted last night. Whoever really owns that account, they’re onto you, gottie!

Poppypym wow, I’m suddenly not such a huge fan of rob anymore. Anyone else starting to feel differently about him now they know the stuff he did in fandom?

anxiousalien did effiemeral delete her AO3 account? I can’t find it?

tinyshaz yeah…me neither…. ?? ?


final coverChapter 8 | Contents pageGoodreads | Chapter 10 >

Gottie is a fangirl for Loch & Ness, a TV show about paranormal detectives. She’s convinced that two of the male actors are secretly dating, and she’ll stop at nothing to prove it. When her online investigations accidentally uncover far more than she expects, she becomes complicit in secrets beyond just a romantic conspiracy theory.

An internet thriller told in a ‘true crime’ style recollection of events, the novel includes social media extracts such as modern Tumblr posts and early-noughties LiveJournal blog entries.

More information | Support on Patreon | Discuss theories on Discord | Leave a tip on Ko-fi

 

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