I can't ever remember not being a Wil Wheaton fan. And when I think about it, I guess he's the reason I became a fan of the Star Trek franchise. See I'd already seen episodes of Star Trek The Next Generation at the video store but thought the front cover showed a really cheesy show - girls with CFM boots, some guy with a shiny headband over his eyes, WTF 80s hairdoes. A cheesy scifi show that I was not interested in. (And yeah, sure, the show *is* totally cheesy but that's not the point of this story.) But then, one day, I saw the movie Stand By Me and thought the young actor who played Geordie was AWESOME! And instantly, I needed to see everything else that he was in, which as it turned out meant discovering ST:TNG. I don't think I saw the early seasons til well after the show finished but I definitely got my fair share of Wesley Crusher in that silver jumpsuit.
Wesley off course went off to Star Fleet Academy and then off with the creepy Traveller dude to do ... um, not really sure? And I remained a big fan of Star Trek, in all flavours. And wondered whatever happened to Wil Wheaton. Until one day, a few years ago now, I discovered that Wil Wheaton had a blog - back when it used to be called something about 50 000 monkeys and a typewriter. And I admit, I started reading it because it was *Wil Wheaton*. But it turned out that Wil Wheaton the man is actually a truly awesome geek - funny, up to speed with what's going on, an old round nice guy, a loving husband and father and an interesting blogger. And I got addicted to reading his blog just like I read hundreds of others. I think when I first tuned in, his cat was very sick.
Which neatly segues into this book review. Wil Wheaton started writing books. And he discovered that he had a bit of a following on the internet - enough of a following that people bought his books in decent numbers and wanted to read more. I sadly didn't grab copies of Just a Geek and Dancing Barefoot but they seemed to get really good reviews. And then I think he did Happiest Days of Our Lives and again I thought about buying a copy but didn't because it was a collection of his blog posts, which I knew I'd already read. But when Subterranean Press announced a special limited edition hardback of Happiest Days of Our Lives, I thought, you know, it's time to grab one. And I rushed to preorder because I didn't want to miss out. And then the book didn't come. And it didn't come. And it didn't come. And I hadn't been charged for it so I started to worry I wasn't going to get one. And every now and then I'd check back on the Subterranean Press website to check that it hadn't yet been released.
And then it arrived! And it was beautifully wrapped in clear plastic and bubblewrap. It arrived in the mail just as I was heading off to Canberra so I grabbed it for plane reading. And I read slowly, but I inhaled that book on the first half of the flight. I'd read most of the blog posts but not all of them. Wheaton has added a little introduction to each piece talking about why it was in the book or what had spurred him to write it in the first place. And it was just so joyous to read. He speaks fondly of his days on ST:TNG. He speaks of those times with bittersweet regret of them being over, even though he was too young to fit in with the rest of the adults or to really appreciate it all. My favourite pieces are about the con circuit - the way he started doing them as a young actor and all the various highlights and lowlights as well as how much he enjoys going to cons now as a fan - and also when he talks about his everyday life with his family. The book portrays a guy who is "one of us", just another geek gamer and scifi fan. He's the kind of guy you'd enjoy having a drink with at the bar, or take some beers at a salad to his place for a BBQ, I suspect. And I admit it, I cried when I reread the piece about his sick cat.
Interestingly, this was not actually the first book of Wheaton's I ended up buying. In the waiting for Happiest Days of Our Lives to come out, I bought Wheaton's next work Memories of the Future, Volume 1 - a book that he is self publishing after a column he was writing about his rewatching the first season of ST:TNG was pulled. What book would be better suited for this fan than one of Wil Wheaton sniping at the cheesiness that was season 1 of the series that he was in?
But I actually have not yet read it - I bought it and then tuned into his promotional podcast, Memories of the FutureCast in which he reads excerpts from the book, one episode per podcast episode and then talks off on tangents and around the material. And I discovered what a great medium the podcast can be, particularly for trained performers who can talk off the cuff. He is funny, snarky, quick and also eclectic. He wanders off the point, mutters to himself, and answers back, and is completely entertaining. And he also showed how cleverly technology can be used to add rather than detract from the paper book. I'm not really someone who enjoys being read to so initially I didn't think that I would like the podcast, and bought the book instead. But I must have subscribed at some point and one day found myself on a plane trip that was delayed and then became an arduous journey home and I decided to listen to these on a whim, and found a relaxing, entertaining and enjoyable companion to an otherwise truly hideous experience.
I am now listening to Radio Free Burrito, another podcast of his, in which he is currently reading excerpts from Happiest Days of Our Lives and I highly recommend checking them out and buying your own copy of the book.