Using the internet to ruin someone's life

Mark Mauer says: "Josh Olson, who wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay for A History of Violence tells a bizarre story in LA Weekly about a friend of his who falls in love with someone over the internet who is not what he claims to be. Yeah, yeah – old story, but this one is seriously twisted, goes for almost two years, results in a woman leaving her husband and deciding to move to another state to be with this imaginary man who is a firefighter/cowboy/poet/9-11 survivor. It's a sad, scary yet funny story where Harlan Ellison of all people comes to the rescue."

200710121431 (Illustration by Ronald Kurniawan) The strange thing about something like this, about an encounter with a genuine monster, is that our minds tend to default to what's normal, to what we know. We found ourselves talking about the situation as though Audrey had simply made friends with an eccentric person we didn't like. Surely, it's Audrey's business whether or not she wants to be friends with Janna, isn't it? Then someone would remember that a potentially dangerous lunatic was in the house with our friend.

I called Harlan. He understands people like no one you've ever met. We were at dinner once, and he started chatting with two biker dudes at the table next to us for a couple minutes. He asked one guy, "How long have you played chess?" The guy was stunned. Harlan had deduced from the way the guy carried himself in idle banter that he was a chess player. I'm pretty good at figuring out what makes people tick – you have to be to be a decent writer – but Harlan knows. He thought my plan was pretty solid, but offered one variant on it that was brilliant, and completely out of left field.