Part Seven: An Army of Sockpuppets

The Wikipedia Project

In early 2006, a series of articles (about twenty-five, actually) were created on Wikipedia. An edit war ensued between the pro-Stanek users (who, I suspect, were all actually Stanek himself, although at the time it was assumed they were a group of rabid Stanek fans. However, as we know, Stanek doesn’t really have any fans) and the regular Wikipedia editors. You can read a good recap of the incident on this LiveJournal post.

After they were deleted, someone re-posted them onto Squidoo, with a note at the beginning:

Setting aside the fact that Wikipedia is not a place for people to create “tributes” to you, it was not deleted by author bashers or because it was threatening. It was deleted because it wasn’t notable:

There was even a warning posted on the administrator’s page about it, titled, appropriately enough, “Beware the Stanek”.

The most ridiculous, I think, were the insertions of Stanek’s work onto completely unrelated pages…such as the page for literacy:

Interestingly enough, Stanek has a reproduction of the page on his personal website, with this note:

It’s rather odd how both Stanek’s page and the Squidoo page uses the exact same phrase “so threatening to certain persons”. It’s almost as if they were written by the exact same person.

The Robert Stanek Message Board

Robert Stanek’s message board is incredible. If you’ve never been there, I strongly recommend spending a few minutes browsing through it.

I don’t think it’s a real stretch to guess that 90% of the users and the posts are from Stanek himself, with one or two posters being actual fans and the rest of the registered users being people who hate Stanek and just registered to read the members-only forums.

As far as I can tell, this is the only Stanek messageboard on the internet. Which is odd. Most authors have several good-sized messageboards devoted to their works, with a few smaller ones floating around. If Stanek is truly the internationally bestselling author he claims to be…shouldn’t he have a few more members on his messageboard?

I decided to scout around the internet and see how many members the messageboards for other fantasy authors had (numbers collected on April 23, 2011). This is without even bothering to try and find the largest board for each author, this is just the first results through Google:

It’s interesting to note that the last post was made on Dec 2, 2012. Stanek’s rabid fanbase hasn’t bothered to make a single post in over two and a half years? (as of June 2015)

I guess Stanek either doesn’t have the time or doesn’t care enough to keep a fake conversation going on the board. For example, last fall his new graphic novel series, A Daughter of Kings, was published. The board admin, “Shire Hobbit”, started a thread about it. It’s been over a year since that thread began…and no one has replied to it.

Another interesting thing to note is at the very bottom of his forum, he has a link to his top 25 fan sites.

You would expect, that if the Official Robert Stanek forums have a link to the top 25 fan sites, these must be pretty legitimate sites, correct? Well, you’d be wrong. In fact, it doesn’t even link to the top 25 “fan” sites, it links to the top 34 “Ruin Mist” sites. Note the specific lack of “fan” listed there. So let’s go through and analyze these links, shall we?

  1. – this is Robert Stanek’s site.
  2. – also Stanek’s site.
  3. – Stanek’s message board.
  4. – dead link to a geocities account. Okay.
  5. – another dead link.
  6. – a website with a few paragraphs about Stanek, written in the exact same style as most of the other Stanek wikipedia pages, and then a list of all of his books.
  7. – dead link.
  8. – a website that hasn’t been updated since 2005 with essentially no information on King’s Mate or gaming.
  9. – hasn’t been updated since 2003. The website is about why Robert Stanek and independent publishers are awesome. The arguments are remarkably similar to arguments Stanek makes on his own pages in favor of independent publishers.
  10. – active link, someone talks about how Stanek, Tolkien, and Lewis are his favorite authors. But mostly Stanek.
  11. – active link, someone who says she’s Adrina Alder. In terms of actual content, there’s an interview that is also on Stanek’s website, although they disagree as to who exactly is doing the interviewing. There’s also two exhaustive lists of Stanek’s books. Odd how random fans on the internet take the time to list all of Robert Stanek’s books, the ISBNs, and the recommended ages.
  12. – dead link
  13. – essentially, it’s a list of Robert Stanek’s books, with a short comment about each one. Like, “I love Robert Stanek’s books. Start here” on the first one, and “I love Robert Stanek’s books. This one rox!” on the second one. You can really see the time and dedication this fan put into explaining why Stanek’s books are so good. The best comment, though, is “The BEST in the series! This makes everything else look like Harry Potter.” You mean in the way that this series is absolute shit and other books are good, like Harry Potter? Okay then.
  14. – a tastefully bad fan side with hilarious misspellings because the author is clearly a young girl. My favorite part of this is the quote about Keeper Martin’s Tale “Totally kewl but since it’s the adult versin my moms won’t let me read it!” Of course. After all, it’s not like the adult and children’s versions are completely identical…oh wait. Also, if her mom won’t let her read it….how does she know it’s totally kewl?
  15. – dead link
  16. – dead link
  17. – dead link
  18. – this appears to be the odd fantasies of someone who has been to Imtal. There’s a few pages with a short paragraph about nothing, and then a bunch of links to Stanek’s books on Amazon. I can’t believe this site is #18. There’s no content on it!
  19. – Robert Stanek’s site.
  20. – A list of Robert Stanek’s books. Apparently they’re awesome. That’s about it.
  21. – dead link. Also a duplicate of #16. You’d think the author of this list would notice that.
  22. – dead link
  23. – dead link
  24. – Robert Stanek’s site. Also, a dupe of #19
  25. – dead link. Also, apparently this was supposed to be Robert Stanek’s bibliography. Yes, apparently all that’s needed to get into a list of Stanek’s top 25 fan sites is to have a list of his books. Instead of…I dunno, a review of Stanek’s books? Thoughtful discussion of Stanek’s books? Any type of actual user-created content related to Stanek’s books?
  26. – hasn’t been updated since 2005. All of the posts were made by a single account and no one ever discussed any of them.
  27. – dead link
  28. – Robert Stanek providing links to how you can advertise his books. Also, a duplicate of #19 and #24.
  29. – dead link
  30. – dead link
  31. – Stanek’s site. Duplicate of #19, #24, and #28
  32. – dead link
  33. – Stanek’s site. Duplicate of #19, #24, #28, #31
  34. – Stanek’s site. Duplicate of…well, you get the idea.
Here’s my question for you, Robert, when you read this, and preferably before you send a tweet at me telling me that things “meant to harm” are not okay. I can, for essentially any author under the sun, go out and find fans of their work. For any popular author, I can find fan websites with thoughtful, in-depth reviews that analyze the books and talk about why they are good to read. Do you know how I know this? It’s simple. Whenever someone recommends an author to me, I can run a quick Google search and find websites and review sites from fans of the work (or people who didn’t really care for the work). And I tend to do this before I buy books from unknown authors, so I can make smart buying decisions. I can do this for both very popular and very obscure authors. And yet I can’t do that for you. I can’t find a single legitimate website that has written a positive review of your fantasy series. I cannot find a single fan website that can pass the most obvious bullshit detectors.
You say that your books are popular, and you say that you have a lot of fans who love your books. I can’t find any evidence of this, so I say: Prove it.

LibraryThing is like an online book club. You can list all the books you own, get recommendations for new books, browse your friends’ libraries, and things of that sort. Of course, it was only a matter of time until Stanek got wind of it…and decided to start spamming it for all he was worth.

It began in early January, 2011:

The discussion was quickly moved over to the official spam reporting thread, where founder Tim Spalding got involved:

It didn’t stop there:

Or there:

Just what, exactly, did Tim Spalding do? I’m glad you asked:

This warning is at the top of every single Robert Stanek page on LibraryThing.

Tim Spalding was kind enough to email me with his phone number. I called him and we spent some time chatting about Robert Stanek and his many exploits, including the evidence that Tim had amassed – particularly IP addresses. Stanek, is, of course, a computer expert – he’s written a number of nonfiction computer books for Microsoft, which I believe is how he makes his living, considering how poorly his fiction sells – and that’s how he’s able to exploit computer systems that are automated. If a person stops and spends the time examining the evidence, like Tim Spalding did, they can figure out what Stanek is up to. I assume that much larger companies like get millions of reviews a month and can’t individually track down people like Stanek. So a clever computer expert who can falsify IP addresses can get away with it.

Until someone with too much free time on his hands, like me, gets annoyed with him.

FAQs. Acknowledgements, and Further Reading

  23 Responses to “Part Seven: An Army of Sockpuppets”

  1. If Robert Stanek devoted as much time to actually writing and getting his book properly edited as he does falsifying praise and fans, he’d probably have actual books legitimately published by now. Sadly this kind of behavior seems to run rampant through the self published crowd.

  2. wow.

    I gotta say, this was a very interesting read. It surprises me someone would go to all these lengths just to create a fake ideal of fame, fortune, and talent. I guess some spoiled kids never grow up.

  3. I don’t remember if I ever sent you thanks for mentioning my livejournal entry. So thank you anyway just in case. =) … Then I noticed that the LJ entry was not particularly well written. I think I need to someday go and look at some more details on how the Wikipedia mess evolved over time, and write something coherent this time around. I will look at the deleted revisions and see if that jogs any memories.

    I remember reading a lot of stuff about not-so-good authors when I rekindled my writing hobby around 2005. I was involved in Wikipedia discussions in 2006, so Stanek managed to combine two of my hobbies in one fell swoop. OK, I’m also kind of interested about all sorts of internet cons and frauds and other cunning manoeuvers, so make that three hobbies. =)

    And holy cow, that’s a lot of Tripod and Geocities sites. (Wonder why Stanek took the Wikipedia article deletion so personally, but didn’t bemoan his fans when Geocities shut down.)

    #18 is definitely my favourite. “In Hindell we encountered trouble the likes of which I care never to see again.” …that does remind me there was this one author who had severe problems with telling and not showing. Wonder who he was again? Hmm…

    #26’s info page says it’s a TVPress newsletter, so it’s not even trying to hide the Stanekness. (“explore”… why, a very confusingly named mailing list.)

  4. My favourite fake fansite is the “young girl” one. It seems Stanek has problems imitating children well.

  5. I’m shocked at this long history of fabrication. I own several of his nonfiction books, and was completely unaware he was the same guy whose fiction recently came to my attention by being temporarily free. He does well at noncreative nonfiction, so I wonder why the simultaneous desperate decade-long efforts to prop up a fiction career. What a strange hobby.

  6. I got bored, so I went around checking if any of the GeoCities mirrors (,, had these pages. And lo and behold, many were available:

    * ultimatescifi2002
    * mac_t5
    * teamvickers
    * wishidgonefishing
    * temporalgates
    * wishidgonefishing/robertstanek (served as plain text; note that this is actually a subsite of the one above)
    * palewizard
    * tekken527

    Not found in these mirrors yet:

    * barbjackson5
    * admtbama
    * bookpress2002
    * benjamintaylorus

  7. Some of these sites really don’t stand up to scrutiny and make me ask all sorts of awkward questions.

    #8, “Ruin Mist & King’s Mate Gamers Society”, is an obvious suspect.

    Imagine you are a famous author. You create a clever little game that the characters in your novel play. You have real fans, and your real fans notice that the game is actually clever enough to be enjoyed. So they form a society for the cause.

    What would you do then, as a founder of the society?

    You’d establish some ground rules. You’d first clear up the legal status of the game. Are you even allowed to make this sort of a fan society? At very least, you’d want to put the author’s approval on display on the site somewhere.

    Now, authors aren’t necessarily brilliant, systematic game designers. Some may be, of course, but not everyone wears a game-designer hat while writing fiction. Authors don’t engineer, they research. They make research plausible enough for the stories. Bugs usually get ironed out through use, and the ideas might not get used frequently enough in the stories for all of the stuff to get ironed out. Authors are initiators, not necessarily refiners – that’s the job for the fans! The new society should get people actually playing the game, and ironing out the bugs. There will be rules disputes. They should be collected, and new rules should be formed. The rules should be publicised so everyone playing the game by the society’s rules and in the tournaments should be aware of the rules.

    For a real-world example, think of The Klingon Language Institute. They took a piece of fiction and ran with it. Paramount folks just nodded along and let the enthusiastic fans to enjoy the language (barring a few pertinent legal questions). But the KLI doesn’t honour a vacuum: they refuse to promote a position that all of the real information about the language should come from Paramount, Marc Okrand or other such sources. They’re happy to tell us what Okrand said about the language in some obscure corner of debates, all for the benefit of people who want to learn the language. They don’t just tell you “dude, go buy The Klingon Dictionary” at every turn, as every answer to every question. Such a society would benefit no one. There’s a dialogue between Okrand and the enthusiasts on how the language works.

    So in this light, the site is quite odd. No rules information. Not even an overview of the rules.

    Here’s a fun fact Stanek hasn’t quite grasped: the fans of popular fictional works don’t hoard information. It may not descend into wholesale copyright infringement, but you’d think that true fans would start summarising and explaining works and telling us what they think of the stuff. If there’s a group of King’s Mate fans, you’d definitely expect them to at least explain what the hell the game is about and how it’s played, on general terms. Or at least add an invitation in, like “if you want to learn to play, come to the events.”

    Oh, but they do that, don’t they? And there’s information about events on the page. (Or at least on events between 2002-2005.) Just not where exactly they were held. “Oakfield”, all it says. Which Oakfield, and where, and where specifically in those cities, is never explained.

    Becoming a member is apparently a matter of paying a membership fee. Wish they’d actually tell how much is it.

    And in my opinion, whoever wrote the stuff on the web page has been exposed to a lethal dose of PowerPoint over his or her lifetime.

    “Here we will explain the purpose of our organization. We may also include our mission statement on this page.”

    (You may? If you commit that atrocity, we may never forgive you.)

    …wait, I seem to recall some author with copious experience with Microsoft products. Now who was it?…

    OK, sorry for a bored rant, just thought that was a bit relevant =)

  8. Ooh, ooh! Looks like Hobbit fellow posted whopping three brand new posts in March. This forum isn’t dead!

    …and I learnt that Stanek has no eye for book titles. “The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches” is quite a mouthful, of course. I also knew of “A Daughter of Kings” (which we, mortals, here in normal world would merely call a “Princess”). But I had not heard of this alleged prequel, “Rise of the Fallen”.

    …wait, what?

    You know, the art of titling fantasy books is about choosing Words of Power and Legend. To “rise” is a rousing activity, fit for heroes of the old to vanquish their foes. Much was sung of those deeds. The “fallen” are who remain in the field of ravens after a glorious battle, and who shan’t continue their earthly journeys. Their names shall be carved in mighty tablets of history.

    But put the two together, and you somehow paint a picture of a guy who tripped a little bit.

    Not epic.

  9. I discovered Robert Stanek’s message boards in 2010 and signed up for them. Every time I tried to log on, I got a message saying, “Account Pending Approval.” A few days later I created an account using the name “rob3rtstan3klover.” I had to change all the e’s to 3’s since I got a message saying, “Sorry, you may not use the name Stanek in your username.” Three days later, that account was still pending approval.

    It’s been 30 months since I signed up for his message boards. Surprise, surprise—”Account Pending Approval.”

  10. I think Stanek has given up on his sock puppet message borad.

    He has a new strategy: buying thousands of twitter followers and facebook fans:

    It is almost funny – over 60,000 twitter followers, yet not a single review for any of his books on Amazon.

  11. I stumbled upon this absurdly intriguing story through the Worst Fantasy Books section at And guess what – after following a couple of links and reading more about this weird author I suddenly discovered that I actually own one of his Microsoft books and that he is quite successful, maybe even bestselling, with his nonfictional stuff. This makes his behaviour even more rummy – makes one wonder why he is such a twit when it comes to his fictional pulp

  12. These message boards are sooooo fake! I am a member of the biggest Star Trek forum about, among others, and know a thing or two about how real people communicate in da internetz. It is most definitely not like this. No matter what thread you click on, the “discussions” have that distinct artificial feel to it that just screams FAKE at you. Man, Stanek is in dire need of a new hobby.

  13. Hi there, I am very rarely moved to leave any message on a site. I tend to avoid any comments section for the sake of my sanity. I’d just like to say this was a thoroughly interesting read and very well researched. Congratulations and I hope you find something else you’d like to investigate in the near future.

    Kind Regards, Mark.

    P.S Glasgow is misspelled as ‘Glasglow’ a few times, as a native Glaswegian I feel honour bound to bring it to your attention. Great work once again.

  14. Someone pointed this out in another thread, but it’s worth repeating here; It’s absolutely incredible how author-centric the Stanek message board is.

    The forum is meant to be for fans of his fiction, but everything resolves back to him. Almost every thread contains at least one post saying what a great author he is, or how much they love his series of books, or what a brilliant world he has created, or that they wonder what he’ll write about next. It’s genuinely difficult to find any thread that doesn’t contain at least one mention of his name; try it, you’ll see!

    Now go to another authors forum, e.g. the RA Savatore one linked above, or a Harry Potter forum like Have a browse of the boards, and you’ll see they’re incredibly content-centric, i.e. they’re all about the books, characters and stories. This time the opposite is true; It’s almost impossible to find any mention of the authors except in a few very specific threads!

    One you’ve seen this difference it’s very bizarre, and points again to sock-puppet generated fake posts, though lord knows what’s going on in the mind of the maniac behind them..

  15. Now not only is he buying “likes” on Facebook, but he’s almost buying comments to make his page look busier. Go to any of his FB posts and check the 1000’s of comments; they’re all either gibberish, ASCII art or discussion in a foreign language (looks like Indonesian).

    It’s impossible to find a *single* comment that related to any of the news he posts or his books; seriously!

    Seems like Stanek is embarrassed by this, as he constantly double-posts in the comments section under his news updates. This pushes the gibberish posts to be under the “view more comments” button, hidden from a casual viewer browsing his page.

  16. Heh, exactly what I was thinking. Making all those fake accounts to post in forums and add reviews must be time consuming.

  17. Not to mention that in most book fan forums, there tends to be a bit more debate, and pretty much all of the discussion is on the book, not the author. From the threads I looked at in the Stanek forum, most of them are about Stanek, not the book’s characters, settings, or themes. When I was younger I would frequent a forum for a book series I liked, and the threads were nothing like these. People would argue about characters, gush about the story, maybe do a little shipping, make guesses on what they thought was going to happen in the next book… The author of the books was almost never mentioned, unless somebody was comparing the series to another book by the author. Shoot, even the average Twilight fan I don’t think knows much about Stephanie Meyer, they just care about the sparkly vampire and shirtless guy.

  18. 2 years and still no one accepted my account. Looks like we’re not getting in.

  19. Also, there are often tons of disagreement, even on a forum where everyone ostensibly likes the same thing, plus off-topic discussions as well.

  20. Ah, this is great. Thanks so much for taking the time to put it together!

  21. I’ve noticed that most of his titles are either hopelessly bland, play heavily on fantasy stereotypes or are just a garbled mouthful. I can’t say “The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches” or “The Elf Queen and the King” with a straight face, while “In the Service of Dragons” could be written by twelve dozen fantasy authors. Some he’s clearly just aped more successful authors with, such as his latest “re-release” of some of the Keeper Martin books with names like “A Clash of Heroes” and “A Storm of Shields”, which I only wish I was making up.

  22. i said the same thing today, after reading over some of his stuff, i was not overly as horrified as i thought i would be. His prose needs to be worked on and his ideas are not in any way original, but with some hard work, he could pass himself as, i don’t know, maybe the next terry good kind, bubble gum, fluff writer? That is if he had a good idea, and stopped cutting corners.

    He needs to find his own voice, and stop borrowing so heavily from JRRT and every dungeons and dragons book out there. Oh and to stop being a weasel about it.

  23. This is probably the saddest thing about this entire affair. Lots of authors start off terrible and get better the more they write. Terry Brooks’s Sword of Shannara was one of the most puke-worthy pieces of shit I’ve had the misfortune of attempting to read, but later Brooks is at least passable. Sam Sykes’s first novel had all the marks of a first-time writer but later volumes of his Aeons’ Gate series are quite readable.
    But Stanek is not interested in personal improvement. He cannot handle even the most constructive of criticism. He believes he is perfect, or at least a great enough writer that he doesn’t need to really work on his books. He brags about his sheer volume – “I have written over 150 books!” – without realizing that checking the math shows that this is a rate of about 2 books a month. There is no way anyone can write that fast and produce anything worth reading (unless the book is very short. Like short-story length). The most prolific authors in the world still only give us one or two books a year.
    I’ll add to the comments on other pages about Stanek and his apparent lack of second drafts; someone said that maybe he did indeed start a second draft of his Ruin Mist book(s) but got tired and decided he didn’t really need to do one. After all, his “dark path” versions start off reading like a different (earlier) draft, then revert to being exactly the same. Real authors, Billy-Bob, usually have a bare minimum of three drafts; a rough, a re-write and an edit of that re-write. Usually far more than that, even. And we’re not talking just the small-timers here, either. I mean people whose names everyone knows usually re-work their manuscript umpteen times before they have something they consider publishable (and they still might not).
    Of course, Billy-Bob thinks he’s on the level of Tolkien or Rowling (odd that he keeps mentioning them; they aren’t even close to the same level) and somehow believes this means first drafts are acceptable. And since he keeps re-releasing the same four books with different titles, he never improves (though he has written other stuff; he’s got a spy/thriller series, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi series and another fantasy series that as far as I can tell is unrelated to Ruin Mist).