Wil Wheaton’s Still Just a Geek in Review
Wil Wheaton’s new book Still Just a Geek is an annotated update of his 2002 book Just a Geek. I listened to the audio version of the book, narrated by the author. This was a mixed blessing. Hearing the text in Wheaton’s voice certainly adds nuance to his words and makes the most of his conversational style of writing. But the annotated format of the book was hard to follow in audio form. On the whole, I think I’d recommend getting a physical copy to read.
In the current book, Wheaton spends a lot of time apologizing for passages in Just a Geek which he now perceives to be sexist, ableist, or coming from a position of privilege. When I first read Just a Geek years ago, I wasn’t offended by the writing. However, I can understand why the author wishes he had phrased some things differently.
Wheaton also expresses considerable regret about not appreciating the time he spent playing Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation. He’s clearly come a long way toward reconciling himself with that period of his life. The book doesn’t include many behind-the-scenes stories about Trek, focusing more on the years since he left the show. He has nothing but praise for his co-stars, whom he credits with being supportive of him during his difficult teenage years. It feels very gratifying when he reunites with them, later in his life.
The villains of this story are his parents. He describes an emotionally abusive father and manipulative mother, who forced him into acting as a child and made their love conditional on his success. When he did achieve success in films like Stand by Me, they proceeded to spend all of his earnings on themselves. Wheaton has clearly made an effort to do things differently as a husband and father himself. He doesn’t let himself off the hook for the occasional misstep, but his genuine love for his family shines throughout the book.
He lays out the reality of life as an actor in the competitive world of Hollywood, with all its unfairness and frustration. He talks about several projects he auditioned for, and how each one fell through. He’s also very open about the practical dilemma of making enough money to support a family.
He shares a lesson that he learned from Patrick Stewart, about how it’s necessary to love acting more than you hate the process of auditioning and the sting of constant rejection, but Wheaton states that he never felt that kind of passion for acting. At its heart, Still Just a Geek is the story of his journey away from being an actor and toward greater fulfillment as a writer.
The book is the culmination of Wheaton’s blog posts and articles he’s written for a number of different websites. He describes the creation of his own website and the generally positive reaction it received. After his Next Generation fame had faded, he found a new kind of celebrity as a blogger. He made real connections with people who responded to his stories. When he had auditions coming up, he received support and encouragement from the online community, in a way he never had from his own parents. This emboldened him to keep writing about his life and gain fans who didn’t care as much about his professional accomplishments as they did about his emotional journey.
Still Just a Geek isn’t a typical celebrity memoir. It doesn’t lay out every detail of the subject’s life, and it isn’t told in chronological order. The book feels like part of a conversation, moving from one topic to the next, with the author occasionally interrupting himself to take a detour or go into more detail about a particular event.
Listening to the audiobook of Still Just a Geek is like hanging out with a smart, funny friend with a lot of interesting stories to tell. You find yourself pulling for Wheaton to continue growing as an artist and a person, as well as wanting to reassure him that he’s done a pretty good job so far.
A staff writer on Star Trek: Voyager, Lisa Klink worked on that series for three years. She has also worked on several other shows, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Roswell, and Pandora. Lisa has written or co-written four novels, as well as short stories, graphic novels and screenplays.