2008 was supposed to be the year that I wrote a whole bunch of fiction. I got a lot of things started, finished an important project, but I didn't finish the two projects that were most important to me. I'm going to blame my failure on losing three months to sinus surgery recovery, and a busier-than-anticipated summer convention schedule. Now, I will look forward to 2009 as the year I'll write a whole bunch of fiction, and publish it, even.
As I looked through my archives for 2008, I remembered a year that totally didn't suck. Here are some of the highlights, continued from Part One:
I wrote a post that ended up being all about Stand By Me:
I remember asking Rob why Gordie didn't make Ace give him back his Yankees cap at the end of the movie, since it seemed like the sort of thing that should happen if Gordie and his friends "won." (This made perfect sense to me when I was 12.)
Rob said that Ace didn't keep the cap, and threw it away as soon as he walked around the corner. It wasn't about the cap, Rob told me, as much as it was about Ace being cruel.
I learned a lot about filmmaking and storytelling in that conversation with Rob, and I still feel its influence on my creative life.
I had a disastrous audition, but ended up growing a level in acting as a result of it, leading directly to my role on Criminal Minds:
There is a lesson here about not giving up. There's a lesson here about learning from your mistakes and applying that knowledge, instead of wallowing in self-pity. I'm not pointing that out because I think anyone else needs to hear it; I'm pointing it out because I'm going to forget it sooner or later, and I want to remember it the next time I go searching through my writing for advice from myself.
One more thing: when I had the audition last week, I did my best, even though my best was crap. When I did my audition yesterday, I did my best, and it was much better than what "my best" was just a week ago. Someone once said to me that we should always do our best, and understand and accept that "our best" will vary from time to time. I'm glad I remembered that.
I lamented the closing of Star Trek: the Experience in Las Vegas. I didn't even get to go say goodbye during Creation's big honkin' Star Trek convention in summer, because they barred me from the show.
I created a Flickr Pool for people to share photos of my books in the wild. It has some pretty awesome stuff in it. I did an interview for Mahalo Daily at Comic-Con. Normally, I suck in interviews, but I'm really happy with how this one turned out.
I nearly completed the endless setlist on Rock Band with Ryan. I say nearly, because…
…after already playing for 5 hours, (and not exactly conserving our energy) we started to play this rock epic, knowing it would be the greatest challenge we'd faced yet.
Our first time through, we failed at 84%. It was entirely my fault for holding my guitar too high and deploying our emergency overdrive when we didn't need it.
"Sorry about that," I said as we lost 360,000 fans. "I blame my guitar."
Ryan looked at me.
"Okay, I blame myself."
Ryan laughed and said it was no big deal. He was confident we'd get it on the next try, and when we started the song, I could see why. He was in the zone, nailing 97% of the first solo. I wanted to holler about how awesome he was, but I felt like it would have been the same as talking to my pitcher in the middle of a no-hitter, so I stayed quiet and did my best not to screw things up.
I screwed things up, and we failed the song at 96%. We lost another 360,000 fans, almost wiping out the million we'd picked up when we did the Southern Rock Marathon last week. Compared to the nearly 5 and a half hours we'd spent playing, that 18 minutes wasn't that long, but it sure felt demoralizing, especially because it was, again, entirely my fault we'd failed. See, there's this bass phrase that's repeated over and over and over, and if you're just a tiny bit off (like I was) you're screwed, and . . . well, you get the point.
And because that wasn't bad enough, I managed to shut down the Xbox, sending five hours of work to the Land of Wind and Ghosts. All was not lost, though:
What happened next was astonishing to me: Ryan didn't freak out. He didn't get upset. Instead, he told me, "Calm down, Wil. It's just a game. We can do it again."
I did a three part interview with Comicmix.
I met Randall Munroe, and made a complete ass of myself:
"Hey, have you ever met Randall?" He said.
His companion turned to me and extended his hand. My brain screamed at me, "OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD THAT'S RANDALL MUNROE! BE COOL!"
Before I knew what was happening, my hand shot out from my body and grabbed his. I incoherently babbled something about how much I love his work. He tried to say something, but I just. kept. talking.
My brain screamed at me, "SHUT UP! YOU'RE MAKING A FOOL OF YOURSELF YOU ASSHOLE!"
My mouth, however, was out of my control. I continued to ramble, vomiting a turgid cascade of genuinely-excited praise and gratitude all over him.
A full minute later, I realized, to my abject horror, that my hand was still shaking his. I held it too hard in a sweaty, trembling hand. Darkness flashed at the edges of my vision, and I felt weak. I pulled my hand back, a little too quickly, mumbled an apology, and shut my mouth.
They said things to me, but I couldn't hear them over my own brain screaming at me, "GET OUT OF THERE YOU COCKASS. YOU HAD ONE CHANCE TO MEET RANDALL MUNROE AND YOU BLEW IT! I HATE YOU! YOU GO TO HELL NOW! YOU GO TO HELL AND YOU DIE!"
I remembered the first time I saw Rocky Horror Picture Show. I didn't write as much narrative non-fiction in 2008 as I usually do, but this is one of my favorite posts of the year:
She bent over and said, "are you a virgin?"
I was, in every way that mattered, and in that moment I would have pushed my mother in front of a train on its way into a lake of fire if it meant that this girl would remove from me this . . . condition.
If I'd been standing, I'm certain I would have fainted. "W-what?" I stammered.
She extended one hand and caressed my face. She repeated herself, even more seductively than the first time.
My voice cracked as I said "YES!" a little too loudly.
Her eyes flashed and she squeaked - squeaked! - a little. "This is going to be fun."
She stood up abruptly and hollered, "I have a virgin!"
"A VIRGIN!" Replied much of the audience.
Before I knew what was happening, she stood me up, had me repeat some oath that I've sinceforgotten, and spanked me. I remained fully clothed, but by the time I was done, I was soaked through after everyone in the theater sprayed me with their squirt guns and spray bottles. As quickly as it started, it was over, and she disappeared before I could get her number.
My deflowering was, like most people's, nothing like I'd hoped for or expected, but it was still magical. I loved every second of it.
I fought a bear while boxing a kangaroo and managed to break one of my ribs in the process:
[My doctor] put one hand on my back, another on my sternum, and pressed.
"Does this -"
I made a sound like a giraffe getting run over by a train while they're both hit by a meteor.
"Yeah, we're gonna go ahead and x-ray that."
I went down to the lab and had a series of films taken. I successfully resisted the compulsion to say "HULK SMASH!!" after each shot. When I took them back up to my doctor's office, he showed me where he could see a break, and where he thought my ribs were cleverly concealing at least one other break.
"So . . . do we have to put me down?" I said.
"No, but you're going to be unable to do much of anything for at least another week."
"Can I get a note to that effect to give my wife, and would you leave some space for me to write other . . . doctor's orders?"
"You're sure you only took Motrin this morning?"
I answered in the affirmative.
My friend John Scalzi commissioned, and sent to me, a velvet Wesley Crusher painting. I started The Geek Group at Propeller. It took off, and has become one of the coolest things I've ever done. I came up with five simple ways to Just Keep Writing.
I went to PAX, and got such a bad case of ConSARS, I could barely stay on my feet. When I look back on the show, I'm convinced that I really let down a lot of people who wanted to meet me based on 2007's tales of glamour and excess. I promise to make it up to everyone in 2009.
I took some pictures that I'm really proud of.
After going to PAX and playing D&D for an encounter and a half with my friends, I got a serious case of I'm A Gamer And I Love Games. OMG LIZARDMEN! Um. I ended up writing a lot about gaming in 2008. I'm particularly happy with the codifying of Rule 17b.
I wrote a few Ficlets in 2008, but I'm particularly happy about Hunter & Hunted. Of all the fucking retarded things AOL has ever done, killing off Ficlets and not even making it possible for someone or a team of someones to take over the whole community when they pull the plug next week has to be in the top five.
Several exceptionally geeky unknown facts about Wil Wheaton were revealed in 2008. Here's mine: 36. Every day, Wil Wheaton is afraid that he can't live up to his reputation.
I went to Sacramento for a tiny convention called From the Land Beyond. It was way more fun than I expected:
I had a panel on Saturday, which I thought was going to be shared with some other Star Trek alumni. Turns out I was wrong, and I'd be on the panel by myself. I had a little bit of a last-minute panic when I learned that I was going it alone, because I hadn't prepared anything, but I thought quickly, and decided to read my Datalore review from TV Squad, because it's in Sunken Treasure. I figured this would let me perform and entertain whoever showed up, while fulfilling the "Wil's going to be talking about Star Trek" portion of the program. Thing is, I haven't really looked at it since I wrote it several months ago, so I needed to prepare (being super prepared is very important to me) before I attempted to present it. I spent about 20 minutes reading it, remembering where the beats were, figuring out where it would be safe to drop some ad-libs in and where I should just stick to the material. It wasn't as funny as I remembered it, but Datalore wasn't as good as I remembered it, so I figured those things cancelled each other out. Besides, it's not like I had anything else to perform that fit the bill, so I just went with myself (thank you for that timeless advice, Fiona Apple.)
I worked on Naruto, which made my kids think I was cool for about five minutes (which is nearly a day in teenager time.)
If you count Macross, Robotech, and Battle of the Planets, I've been watching Anime since I was a little kid. If you're more of a purist, I've been watching since I got Akira on a fifth-generation VHS bootleg at a con when I was 14. (Funny-but-true story: my friends and I watched that tape over and over again, but since the original Japanese dialog wasn't subtitled, we had no idea what the story was. We built one of our own that we thought was pretty good, but turns out was completely wrong.)
I'm not super hardcore or anything, but I enjoy anime and manga, and I was awfully excited every time I got to do all the traditional anime sounds, like the various gasps, and the occasionally-awkward translations and bits of dialog we had to add to match the mouth movements (which were originally animated to go with Japanese. Mostly, though, I felt the tremendous satisfaction that comes with bringing a character to life and making him my own.
I removed any doubt about what a total dork I was in the 80s.
When I recorded my lines, Seth MacFarlane directed me. My scene was with Peter Griffin, and I am as proud of myself as I've ever been that I didn't lose my shit when Seth read me into my first line in Peter's voice. I also told him that I'm still laughing about Surfin' Bird, and nearly convinced him that members of The Trashmen were all deadbeat dads to the same former groupie, so the increased sales on iTunes was finally feeding her numerous bastard children. (This was way, way funnier than it seems now. Making outrageous shit up like that and committing to it completely is one of my favorite ways to amuse myself.)
I know, right?
I repeated some advice for actors on auditioning:
This is something I tell actors all the time: you have to find ways to enjoy auditions, and as hard as it is, as counter intuitive as it is, you just can't make success or failure about booking the job. You have to make success or failure about enjoying yourself. You've got to enjoy the process of creating the character, preparing the audition, and then giving the people on the other side of the desk whatever your take on the character is. You absolutely can not go in there and try to give them what you think they want. The way you stand out, and the way you enjoy it whether you are hired or not, is to take the material, prepare it, and find some way to make it your own. Even if you don't book the job (and the ratio of auditions to jobs is something like 20:1 for successful actors) you've been creative. Casting people will recognize that, and even if you're not right for this particular job, they are more likely to bring you in for other parts, because they've already seen you take a creative risk.
I didn't get the gig that inspired that post, which I think it kind of perfect.
I worked on Criminal Minds, and wrote a series of production diaries about the whole experience. I'm so proud of how they turned out, I'm considering making them into a little chapbook from Lulu or something like that.
I realized that I'm not going to be an old man and wish that I'd played less frisbee with my son.
"Come on, Nolan, we can sit here and have our backs to each other, or we can do something fun together."
I didn't say it out loud, but I thought to myself, I'm not going to be an old man and wish that I'd played more video games ...
"Augh!" he said, with mock irritation. "Why do you have to make so much sense!?"
"Because I'm weird." I said.
I attempted to collect all my writing resources into one post. My son began to drive. The Geek in Review returned, this time as a monthly column. I began a new weekly column at the LA Weekly. The consequences of gay marriage were revealed. Subterranean Press commissioned a special edition of The Happiest Days of Our Lives, which will be released early next year, and announced the pending free release of audio versions of the expanded material. I recalled the Concert For the Masses.
For about 24 hours, the Internet was convinced I was going to be on Heroes, but I kept everything in perspective. I told a story about how I started watching The Simpsons. The Happiest Days of Our Lives sold out. My dogs barked at a stealth bomber. I went to Seattle for Child's Play dinner and a day-long session of D&D Fourth Edition with my friends, which was recorded for a podcast. I was on Major Nelson's podcast, finally.
My roof poured water into my house, but I found a way to feel good about it.
As you can imagine, I was very unhappy when I saw water pouring down my living room wall this morning, but we made a call to the roof guy, and he told Anne that there's nothing we can do until it dries up.
After talking to him she told me, "He'll come out tomorrow, but as far as today goes, freaking out about it won't accomplish anything."
I was already on my way to a serious category five freakout, but she was right. I needed to figure out a way to pull out of the spiral of anger and frustration, especially since I'm writing a column today on how you can deal with holiday stress and actually enjoy the season. I commented on Twitter that I was enjoying the cognitive dissonance.
I don't like wallowing in pity or other negative emotions, so I gave myself a task for the day: focus only on the things that make me happy. I picked out the very first thing that came to mind: Sleigh Ride was playing on Soma's Christmas Lounge. Ever since I was a little kid, that was the song for Christmas. It's so upbeat and evokes such wonderful images of happiness and joy, it never fails to put a smile on my face.
Project Procrastinate Under Deadline required me to share this moment with Twitter, and in so doing, I remembered something someone said to me many, many years ago. I forget the precise wording, but the suggestion was to take a moment every day to identify three different things that I was happy or grateful for. The exercise is awesome, because the first thing is always very easy to list, but it's a challenge to just pick two more things.
I wrote a review of D&D Fourth Edition:
I've been playing Dungeons & Dragons for 2d12 years. I remember when magic-users couldn't wear armor, when edged weapons didn't hurt skeletons, and even when an elf was a class. I have more polyhedral dice than [SOMETHING NORMAL PEOPLE HAVE A LOT OF]. I routinely tell my wife and friends that I have to "save vs. shiny" when I go to my friendly local game shop, and I didn't realize that graph paper existed for a purpose other than making dungeons until I'd been in high school geometry for a semester...and even then, I remained skeptical.
If you'd told me six months ago that I'd be sitting here today writing about how much I love D&D Fourth Edition, I would have laughed in your face and called you a silly person. It is almost certain that I would have taunted you a second time, called your parentage into question, farted in your general direction, and observed that you were best suited for a career in empty animal food trough wiping.
Since we got the news yesterday, a lot of people have asked me if I can tell a story as a way to remember her. I've dug around in the attic of my mind for hours, and the best I can do is: We always had fun when we were working on Next Generation, but when Majel was on the set, it was a party.
The audio version of Happiest Days of Our Lives was released:
Like the audio version of Just A Geek, this is a super-annotated edition, filled with tons of what I call "audio footnotes" for lack of a less stupid-sounding term. I hope we've created something that's more like sitting down in a room with me while I tell you stories, than it is a typical audiobook. I don't think a traditional publisher would let me get away with doing it this way, which is a big reason I do these things on my own. If you've ever heard me perform my work at a show, or listened to any of my podcasts, you should have some idea of what you're getting into.
So far, it's getting really good reviews.
I got my whole family back together under one roof for the holidays, and played Munchkin with my kids:
Neither of the kids would help me, and I kept getting the Truly Obnoxious Curse, so I was having a hard time gaining levels. As a result, I was stuck at level 3 forever while they were sitting around level 7. I decided that my goal in the game would be to mess with them as much as possible, and forget trying to gain levels on my own.
Nolan was to my right. He kicked in a door and didn't find a monster, so he looked for trouble, playing a level 3 something from his hand. "Does anyone want to mess with me?" He asked, avoiding looking in my direction.
"It's funny you should ask," I said. "That's an illusion. You're actually fighting a level 18 Squidzilla." I played the appropriate cards.
"Oh, okay." Nolan pulled a card from his hand. "It's now enraged, so it gets an additional treasure." He pulled another card from his hand. "And with this Polymorph Potion, it turns into a parrot and flies away." He paused dramatically. "And I take five treasures."
"OHHH!" Ryan and Michael said.
"Man, that's a really great move," I said. "Too bad I'm playing Annihilation on it."
He was forced to discard the potion, and face the Enraged Squidzilla on his own.
"OHHH!" Ryan and Michael said."
"Okay, then." Nolan said. "I guess I'm running away."
We all laughed. Nolan rolled a one. He stopped laughing. We looted his body. There was much rejoicing. (Well, there was 3/4 rejoicing.)
We had an awesome Xmas, and the next thing I knew, the year only had one day left in it, so I spent a couple of hours putting together a WWdN: Best of 2008 post that was so long, I split it into two posts.
I didn't accomplish most of the things I wanted to accomplish in 2008, but it was still a really great year where the awesome stuff vastly outweighed the not-awesome stuff. I have some very big plans for 2009, but I'm not saying anything about them until they complete the journey from "plans" to "awesome things," lest they end up as incomplete as my hopes to publish a book of fiction this year.
As I end this look back at 2008, I need to take a moment to acknowledge how lucky and grateful I am for the success I've had, and I want to thank you for continuing to be part of this journey with me. I will continue to work hard to earn your support and make the time we spend together worthwhile.
Happy New Year, everyone. See you in 2009!