So, when we started cleaning out our offices at O’Reilly Media, we had an epic ton of books that needed to be disposed of. New hires like myself and our intern set about scrounging in the pile for anything that might possibly strike our fancy and came away with mountains of books, including two by Wil Wheaton. I couldn’t hide my joy when I stumbled across these two personal essay collections by Wil–especially since I had just started rewatching the entire Star Trek The Next Generation from start to finish (while studiously drawing figures for all sorts of geektastic books). For me, the bridge of the Enterprise just isn’t complete without Wesley Crusher on board. And I’ve been loving his appearances on things like The Big Bang Theory and The Guild. So, I decided to sit down and read these memoirish books. I’m sad I’ve only started working with O’Reilly and missed the opportunity to work on these books with him, but just knowing I’m now only two degrees of separation away from Wil Wheaton is pretty dang cool.
So, the two books are Just a Geek and Dancing Barefoot. Just a Geek is a fairly long and comprehensive look at this life and career after ditching the Enterprise and Dancing Barefoot is a small volume of stories that basically wouldn’t fit in the larger volume. I read Just a Geek first, so I guess I’ll start with that one.
I have to say, I was a bit unprepared for the amount of angst that is in the collection of reminiscence. Wil was deeply and truly unhappy with his decisions around TNG and some of the impact that the show had on his life for a very long time. I thought it would be a career launcher, but apparently Wesley Crusher is what prevented him from getting a lot of jobs later in life. That, and not being “edgy” enough. I found the whole thing to be a fascinating journey from angst and loathing to acceptance and happiness. He’s got a great family, loves writing, and finally loves the cons, too. And yes, he’s as much the uber geek as he claims, and that is truly wonderful.
I found the writing style to be a bit informal for my taste, but that has a lot to do with the fact that a good portion of the book is pulled from his old blog site and simply cleaned up. It didn’t interfere with the experience of the book, but it was an interesting choice. I feel like the five stories that comprise Dancing Barefoot are more polished and of a more conventional memoir style.
It was nice seeing these additional stories by Wil, though I’m not sure why they all couldn’t have gotten folded into one collection. I know the response to Dancing Barefoot helped to spur on the idea of becoming a professional writer, so maybe that is it. He just wasn’t ready to create the larger memoir yet.
The one thing I found interesting was his stance about having patience and tolerance for everyone, especially the fans who have paid to see you, and then he has such a mixed bag of animosity and admiration for one “WILLIAM FUCKING SHATNER”. I kid you not, that is how Captain Kirk is referred to throughout the entire memoir. Including the capitalization. It just feels a bit hypocritical, but I can understand the anger he felt when he was dismissed by Shatner the first time they met. But they’d had some decent interaction since then, so…
Anyway, if you’re a fan of Wil or a fan of TNG, these are definitely a fun read. They give a different perspective on the cons, on the cast and crew, and are a unique behind-the-scenes teenage angst story.