True Tales of Brief Viral Fame Day Thread



Or, It Could Happen To You!

Six months ago today, I was playing a game of Overwatch and noticed I was singing H. P. Lovecraft’s “Nemesis” – an obscure work I knew as an epigraph at the beginning of his “The Haunter of the Dark” – to the tune of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.” And that was such a ridiculous thing that I tabbed out of the game, threw together a tweet with a screencap and a typo, and tabbed back in.

And that, as it turns out, is what it takes to become famous on the internet in 2018. In the following days I watched – first with delight, then awe, then fear – as a startling number of people looked into this.

The first recorded version of the song came just a couple days later, from a man named Julian Velard:

An oral history of Velard’s end of things can be seen here. He’s received the lion’s share of attention, which is absolutely fine with me. All the articles I linked above were nice enough to say I connected the dots, which is all I did, and all I wanted credit for.

More to the point, if anyone had actually contacted me, I’m not sure what I would have said. “This is terrifying,” probably. “I hope it passes soon.”

And, in the fullness of time, I achieved my full Lovecraftian destiny by becoming the thing I most detest:

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Six months later, a few things stick out to me. The first is that it was nice to give the internet something it could enjoy. This feeling was summed up by a YouTube comment to the effect of, “So this is a thing in 2018. Cool.” The internet really likes it when you take two things they know and mash them together in a weird way. I hope this was more on the Neil Cicierega end of the scale, less toward the Ready Player One end.

The second was that “Nemesis” and “Piano Man” actually sound like they belong together. I’m fairly certain this was a lot of people’s exposure to “Nemesis,” which I think is a fantastic piece of writing. The narrator is a deathless, pseudo-Satanic figure who roams an Earth that has nothing but horrors and loneliness for him. The mismatch between that and “Piano Man” – a song about everyday nobodies trying to forget their lives for an evening – is funny, but it’s still a little poignant. You can be just as lonely and doomed if you’re still in the navy, and probably will be for life.

The last thing is that “Nemesis” was written in 1917, and “Piano Man” in 1973. Anyone between 1973 and 2018 – a length of 45 years – could have connected the two. It feels like the weirdest, and best, privilege that it was me. And who knows! Maybe you could be the Next Big Thing, reader! My advice: Remain completely still until fame subsides.