5 Hoaxes That Rocked the Nerd Universe


Earlier this week, dedicated Trekkies (not to mention new-to-the-bandwagon Benedict Cumberbatch devotees) were disappointed to learn that the latest Star Trek Into Darkness poster, showing the Enterprise looming out of an unidentified body of water, was not an officially sanctioned teaser but a fan-made project. As far as fandom hoaxes go, that’s relatively minor; with hardcore dedication comes an equally hardcore rumor mill, and as everyone knows, you can’t believe everything you read. Whether it’s video games or fantasy novels, viral rumors and leaks have often turned out to be just wishful thinking or even elaborate pranks. From Star Wars speculation to a creepy Pokemon rumor, we’ve collected the best (or worst, depending how you look at it) hoaxes and rumors from the nerdy world of fandom.

Zack Snyder Directing a Standalone Star Wars Movie

Most of the Star Wars rumors this year have turned out to be true: J.J. Abrams is directing Episode VII, the new trilogy will be a set of sequels, not prequels, and members of the original cast, including Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, are set to reprise their roles. Unfortunately, Vulture’s report this January that Zack Snyder would be directing his own standalone project set in the Star Wars universe did not turn out to be one of them. Supposedly loosely based on Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai and supported by Disney CEO Bob Iger’s announcement that the company plans “to release a new Star Wars feature film every two to three years,” the rumor was quickly shot down by Snyder’s reps, who claim, “Zack is not involved in any way with Star Wars.” While Vulture stands by their original story, it looks like Star Wars fans will have to make do with a mere three brand-new movies.

George R.R. Martin Splitting A Dance With Dragons Into Five Smaller Books

The problem with playing an April Fools’ joke on a content-starved fanbase is that they’re exponentially more likely to take you seriously. Such was the case with an April 1, 2011 post on the personal blog of A Song of Ice and Fire (you know, the book version of Game of Thrones) author George R.R. Martin, announcing, “In view of the ever-increasing size of A DANCE WITH DRAGONS, [Bantam Spectra] have scrapped their original plans for one single massive hardcover tome, and instead announced that they will divide the novel into five smaller books.” Although there were some dead giveaways in the body of the post that Martin was probably kidding — “Even GRRM should be able to write a chapter a month, and if we get them into print as quickly as he writes them, maybe that will stop him from going back and rewriting them so damned much” — but that didn’t stop the post from blowing up, receiving over 200 comments and necessitating a follow-up post: “Yes, of course it was an April’s Fool post…Yes, of course it was evil.” We wouldn’t call it evil, but messing with the heads of fans who’ve already waited six years for a sequel is certainly a little mean.

Pokemon Red and Green Causing “Lavender Town Syndrome”

One of the most infamous stories in the canon of viral, horror-esque urban legends known as creepypastas purported that the 1996 Pokemon games Pokemon Red and Pokemon Green supposedly caused a mini-epidemic of child suicides, dubbed “Lavender Town Syndrome,” after gamers encountered the fictional site of a graveyard for deceased monsters. Started in 2010 by an unknown source, the rumor was likely based on the real-life phenomenon of “Pokemon Shock,” in which over 600 Japanese children suffered from seizures after watching the television series’ 38th episode, due to the brightly colored strobe lights in a scene where the heroes enter a malfunctioning computer program. As with most urban legends, there are dozens of iterations of the Lavender Syndrome story, but consistent elements include a ghostly “White Hand” and a “Buried Alive” boss battle. Although many savvy Internet users, such as the denizens of 4chan’s paranormal-themed /x/ board, have always been aware that Lavender Syndrome was just a myth, the story has gone viral over the past couple of years on sites like Tumblr and Yahoo! Answers, not to mention plain ol’ Google. Know Your Meme has a comprehensive account of Lavender Town Syndrome.

XBox Planning to Release “X-Surface” Tablet, New Console

Earlier this year, gamers went nuts when an inside source at Microsoft leaked plans to create a gaming-centric tablet called the “X-Surface,” which would function as a “standalone portable gaming system…with multimedia access.” In a lengthy, fairly legit-sounding email from an anonymous email account, the same source also seemed to give updates on XBox’s new console, which “will not be called ‘XBox 720’ as most people seem to expect…[but] simply XBox,” and proceeded to provide extensive details on the device’s capabilities. Tragically, however, the “leak” was actually fabricated by an anonymous blogger as a means of demonstrating the shoddy standard of proof for video game journalism. In a lengthy post on Tumblr, the writer revealed that he or she “made up every single word of it” as “a bit of an experiment to see just how easy it is to get a fake story taken seriously.” Sadly for both gamers and the original blogger, the fake leak went viral within hours, demonstrating both a distressing lack of serious video game journalism and the apparently sky-high demand for a game-only tablet.

Harry Potter Sequels and Spin-Offs Published in Chinese

Chinese-language ripoffs of the insanely popular children’s series are so widespread they became a mini-genre in their own right during the mid-aughts height of the Potter craze. According to a New York Times report, the seventh and final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was preceded ten days before its official release by a completely separate, completely unauthorized book of the same name that sought to capitalize on the Potter brand, not to mention the pent-up demand for a sequel. Other fake Potter novels don’t go as far as writing an entire sequel; Harry Potter and the Leopard Walk-Up-To Dragon simply translates another classic work of fantasy, The Hobbit, into Chinese and switches out certain character and place names. If books could be judged by their covers, the Potter series would also include Harry Potter and the Half-Blooded Relative Prince, Harry Potter and the Waterproof Pearl, and Harry Potter and the Beaker and Burn. We can empathize with the desire for more adventures in the Potterverse — after all, that’s what fan fiction’s for — but profiting off of J.K. Rowling’s ideas, not to mention exploiting people’s desire to get their hands on her work, seems flat-out sketchy.