Because, really, why wouldn't you interview a stick of butter?
Want to know how I know that I'm old, out of shape, spend too much time sitting at my desk and writing, and not enough time exercising? I hurt my back yesterday ... by standing up.
Yep. That's it. Doorbell rang, I stood up to go to the door, and the whole right side of my back seized up. Goodtimes.
It still hurt this morning, so I went out to see my massage therapist to get it worked on just after lunch.
She worked out a lot of the tension, reminded me (as always) that I need to take better care of myself, and I headed home ... so I could write this story that my brain is demanding I write.
Shortly after I got on the freeway, I saw a huge crash happen, entirely because someone was driving like an asshole.
It really shook me up, because just this morning I said to Nolan, "Whenever you go somewhere with your friends, please make sure you are wearing a seatbelt, and never ride with someone who drives like an idiot."
"I do, and don't worry, because my friends aren't idiots."
"I have no reason to doubt you, but there are idiot drivers all over the place, and if one of them decides to crash into you, I want you to be wearing a seatbelt."
"Okay, Wil. Don't worry."
"Sorry, but I'm going to worry, because I'm your parent and that's just my thing," I said.
When I was on the freeway just about an hour ago, I was in the number 2 lane, cruising along with the flow of traffic. I saw that the number 1 lane was slowing down a lot, so I slowed down too, just in case people whipped out of that lane and into mine. It happens all the time, because people drive like assholes.
Sure enough, some asshole was speeding down the number 1 lane, and I don't know if he wasn't paying attention or what, but he whipped around into my lane - about 100 yards in front of me, I suppose - over corrected, spun sideways, and T-boned a van. The van flipped onto its side, and the asshole driver sped into the carpool lane. I'm not sure if he crashed into the wall or hit his brakes, but he stopped and got out of his car. I expected to see a 20 year-old kid, but it was a man in a suit who appeared to be in his late 40s or early 50s.
The van, on its side, was about two car lengths in front of me. I realized that I'd been holding my breath, and my hands were shaking so hard I could hardly grip my steering wheel. Just when I snapped out of it and thought I should get out to help, the door of the van opened and the driver climbed out. I couldn't tell if he was hurt.
I picked up my phone to dial 911, and saw that every car around me was already doing that. I started to get out of my car, and I saw that about six or seven different people had already gotten out and were checking on the people who were involved in the crash. I decided that I'd just be in the way if I stopped, so – very carefully – I drove around the scene of the crash and – very carefully – I drove home. When I got into our house, I immediately called Nolan to reiterate our conversation from this morning.
My hands aren't shaking as violently as before, but now I can't stop thinking that, if I had been less than 15 seconds farther down the freeway, I would have been in the car that was crashed into by the asshole driver.
For this month's Geek in Review, it was only natural that I write a column about the new Star Trek movie. This was much easier said than done:
Since I saw Star Trek a little over a week ago, I’ve struggled to write an adequate review of the movie, and what it meant to me, as someone who was part of the first effort to make Star Trek relevant to the, uh, next generation of fans. I’ve started and abandoned a few thousand words, mostly because I can say everything I need to say in just six:
It was awesome. I loved it.
Seriously. Whenever I tried to write more than that, I felt like it was gilding the lilly, as they say. But I spent a lot of time thinking about the movie, talking about it with my friends, and I noticed that we kept talking about essentially the same thing. That's what I decided to write about:
Star Trek has meant too much to too many people for too long for those of us who love it to blindly accept that whoever makes it will treat it with the same love and respect that we believe it deserves. I think it was normal and natural for all of us to have reservations, especially about Star Trek.
It turns out, I think, that a lot of our fears, while well-founded, were unnecessary. JJ Abrams may not be one of us in the convention-going sense, but I think he has something in common with us, and I think it's a big reason why Star Trek made so many of us so very, very happy.
If you want to know what that is, head on over to the SG Newswire and find out. As always, the content of my column is SFW, but Suicide Girls is NSFW. You have been warned. Approach with the appropriate degree of caution, and enjoy.
PS - A comment at SG pointed me to this strip from PvP, which I think is a brilliant companion to this column.
PS2 - This press conference with JJ Abrams (mp3) is another, longer, companion to my column.
I just got this e-mail from Wilco HQ:
Well, we made it nearly a month with copies of Wilco (the album) floating around out there before it leaked. Pretty impressive restraint in this day and age. But the inevitable happened last night. Since we know you're curious and probably have better things to do than scour the internet for a download (though we do understand the attraction of the illicit), we've posted a stream of the full album at http://wilcoworld.net/records/thealbum/. Feel free to refer to it as "wilco (the stream)" if you must.
We also have our usual guilt abatement plan for downloaders. If you have downloaded the record, we suggest you make a donation to one of the band's favorite charities, the Inspiration Corporation -- an organization we've supported in the past & who are doing great work in the city of Chicago. Information and donation button here: http://inspirationcorp.org/.
That's all. Enjoy the stream. Tickets for summer shows, etc. http://wilcoworld.net/tours/ Note that we'll be holding a free online midnight screening of the "Ashes of American Flags" film this Friday night (at both midnight US Central time and again at midnight Pacific). So get the popcorn or whatever together and be sure to log on and tune in on Friday.
This is so smart, and I hope Wilco gets some public recognition for doing this. Sure, they could play whack-a-mole and try to get it offline until it's officially released, but what's the point of that? It's impossible to win that fight; it just wastes a lot of their time, money, and energy.
Giving their fans a legitimate way to hear the album reduces the incentive someone would have to steal it, builds excitement and buzz for the official release, and acknowledges that Wilco's fans love their music so much, they (we) just can't wait. They even suggest a really great way for people who downloaded the album to get some kind of "I was sort of a dick" offset.
I really admire the way Wilco embraces their fans (and reality) when they do things like this. I'll be listening to Wilco (the stream) in about five minutes, and I'll be purchasing Wilco (the album) as soon as it's available.
On the off chance that anyone from the band sees this: Thanks for all of your music, guys. I love what you do, and it's really meant a lot to me.
Well, you can't exactly play with Acquisitions, Incorporated, but you can go on one of our adventures, because Wizards has put Storm Tower, the adventure that Chris Perkins wrote for the D&D/Penny Arcade/PvP/me podcast online.
I can't wait to read this, find out about the stuff we missed, and see how the adventure was designed.
NB: You have to be a D&D Insider subscriber to get this, and speaking as someone who is a DDI subscriber, I can tell you that I think the membership is entirely worth having.
I've gotten a ton of criticism from people about the I Am a Geek video that launched yesterday, and I feel the need to respond to it.
After watching the video yesterday, I was impressed by the production values, and I thought it was really awesome that it was just one small part of a larger project. I love that the whole thing is supposed to encourage literacy (if you really look for the links) and intends to support a good cause. As a writer, I certainly want more people to be readers!
But as I watched it a second and a third time, something didn't feel quite right to me. I couldn't put my finger on it, until e-mail started flooding in from people who could: this was supposed to be about refuting stereotypes and celebrating the things we love, but it ends up feeling like we're trying to convince the Cool Kids that we're really just like them, and a promotional opportunity for celebrities who don't know a damn thing about our geek culture, and don't care about the people who create and live in it.
I was under the impression that this video would feature actual geeks who are important to our culture, like Woz, Felicia Day, Leo Laporte, and Jonathan Coulton. Instead, I saw a lot of entrepreneurs who have good marketing instincts, joined by a bunch of celebrities who are attempting to co-opt our culture because it's what their publicity team is telling them to do.
When you're speaking to people who read TMZ and People magazine, getting contributions from MC Hammer, Ashton Kutcher and Shaq is a logical choice. But when you're speaking to geeks, it's insulting to us to pretend that they are part of and speak for our culture. Those people are not geeks; they're celebrities who happen to use Twitter. Featuring them as "geeks" undermines the whole effort, because they aren't like us. I've been a geek my whole life. I've suffered for it, I've struggled because of it, and I've worked incredibly hard to remove the social stigma associated with all these things we love, like gaming and programming. It's like a slap in the face to be associated with these people who claim to be like me, and want to be part of our culture, but couldn't tell you the difference between Slackware and Debian, a d8 and a d10, or how to use vi or emacs. In other words, they haven't earned it, but they're wrapping themselves in our flag because their PR people told them to.
Having someone in a video that purports to celebrate our geek culture say that they don't play D&D, like playing an RPG is something to be ashamed of, is profoundly offensive to me, because I play D&D. In fact, it's the chief reason I am a geek. D&D isn't anything to be ashamed of, it's awesome. I don't recall seeing that in the script I was given, and if I had, I never would have agreed to be part of this project.
I loved the idea of creating a video that celebrates our culture and shows that we're proud to be in it. That's what I thought this would be, but I feel like we ended up with some kind of self-promoting internet marketing thing that plays right into established stereotypes, and hopes that The Cool Kids will let us hang out with them.
I am a geek. I have been all my life, and I know that those guys are nothing like me and my friends. If we're going to celebrate and embrace geek culture, we should have geeks leading the effort, not popular kids who are pretending to be geeks because it's the easy way to get attention during the current 15 minute window.
I want to be clear: I wasn't misled, I think that the project just changed from conception to release. I think their heart was in the right place, and I think their fundamental idea was awesome. But what I saw isn't what I thought I was going to be part of. I thought I was going to be part of something that said, "Hey, I am a geek, I'm proud of that, and if you're a geek you should be proud of it too!" What I saw was more like, "I am using new media to reach people. Yay!" There's nothing wrong with that, but it doesn't mean the people doing it are geeks, and it's not what I thought I was contributing to.
There was a great conterpoint on Twitter just now, while I was wrapping this up. Wyldfire42 said: "Seems to me that we shouldn't be deciding who is or isn't a geek. If we start passing judgment, we just become the bullies we hated." I can't disagree with that, at all, and after reading that, I feel a little grognard-y. Who knows, maybe these celebrities who have recently shown up in our world love these things as much as we do. Maybe it's not their fault that they bring hordes of celebrity-obsessed non-geeks with them wherever they go. Maybe they're as upset about people telling them they're not "real" geeks as I am about marketers pretending that they are.
Maybe I'm overreacting, but I care deeply about my fellow geeks and there is a fundamental difference between embracing our culture and exploiting it. Please, come and be part of our culture. Read our books and play our games and watch our movies and argue with us about what is and isn't canon. But if you try to grab our dice, and then don't even know or care why we're a little touchy about it ... well I cast Magic Missile on you, dude.
ETA: I've been pretty active in the comments of this post, because I see the same misconception over and over again, largely the result of me being unclear when I wrote part of this post.
Somehow, a bunch of people have turned into "Wil Wheaton says you have to do a, b, and c or you're not a geek, so fuck him because he's a dick."
That's not what I meant, at all. Most people seem to get that, but there's enough who don't that I feel a need to respond, in case you don't feel like digging through hundreds of comments to find my replies in there.
I never meant to say that unless you do a or b or c even ∏, you don't "qualify" for admittance to some super secret clubhouse where I am the gatekeeper. When I said, "...couldn't tell you the difference between Slackware and Debian, a d8 and a d10, or how to use vi or emacs..." I didn't mean that unless a person does know what these things are, they don't pass some kind of test. I was making an example, picking out some things that I happen to be geeky about, in an attempt to illustrate a point, and I did that poorly.
I was not trying to be, and I don't want to be, some kind of exclusionary geek elitist. That's just the most incredibly stupid and offensive thing in the world.
As I said in a comment somewhere in this post: Creating a world where my kids don't have to grow up being picked on for loving RPGs is awesome. But what I see - not just here, but in general at this moment - is a bunch of marketing jerks trying to take the things we love and turn them into something from Hot Topic. I didn't mean "you're not geeky enough..." at all, and I hate that people seem to latch on to that, because it means I wasn't clear enough. If these guys I mentioned truly love what we are, and they have been here all along (and I've just missed them for my whole life) than it's great that they're not ashamed to love the things we love ... but I haven't seen anything to indicate that they genuinely are interested in the things we love as much as they are riding a pop-culture wave that's driven by Twitter's explosive and pervasive popularity. It feels calculated and planned out by PR and marketing people, and as someone who loves this culture, that bothers me. I didn't mean to imply that you have to meet this list of criteria to come be part of our club (vi, d10, etc) as much as I was attempting to illustrate a point: we know what at least some of those things are, and Cool Kids have teased us for it our whole lives. It feels to me like those same people are now trying to take our culture away from us and make a quick buck off of exploiting it, and us. It was not my intention to create some sort of Geek Literacy Test. That's lame. Like I said, all are welcome, but at least make an effort to understand why we care about these things.
Finally, I've been trading e-mails with Shira Lazar, who had this idea in the first place. She says:
Well, I think the hornet's nest was stirred up a bit. But that's ok. I rather open, honest discourse than people to feel shut off or alienated. That would be ridiculous and horrible.
Anyway- from reading the post and comments it's important off the bat for people to know this isn't a marketing ploy or some evil plan to take over the world. ha
also, It sucks that the d&d line got misconstrued. It's important to point out that a lot of ppl besides you in the video actually do play the game- the line was more to say yes lots of geeks play d&d but you don't need to play d&d to be a geek.
It really started as a fun way to bring people together, geeks of all extremes. To break down stereotypes. I consider myself a geek. Yes, the level of geekiness changes depending on the context. Amidst developers and my gamer friends, I might not know a lot but with some of my friends I'm queen geek. While I might not know certain things in certain situations, I still have a yearning and passion to know and learn and a love of accepting those geeks who do know it all. I was the editor of my high school newspaper and the first person to make it digital. I would hang out in my computer room at school until midnight working on photoshop and quark while my friends were out and about doing their thing. I participated in my high school science fairs and went to regionals twice. My mom is also a coordinator for children with special needs- i've seen kids that are alienated from their peers who need to know it's ok and they have a place.
While some of us have struggled and some have not, some know more, some don't- this was simply a video that was supposed to be a fun way to bring everyone together.
This gets less funny over time, but it made me laugh really hard the first time I saw it (NSFW language):
Somebody once said that you can't successfully write a blog and a book at the same time. I am here as supporting evidence for this claim.
Happiest Days Expanded Edition – This would have been turned in to Subterranean Press 6 weeks ago, but OpenOffice totally fucked me on formatting and notes, so my copyeditor and I have had to go back to the old "print it out and mark it up with a red pen" method of editing that takes considerably longer. I may have to get [choke] Word for Mac [gag] [bloat] so this doesn't happen again. Yes, I am extremely annoyed.
Memories of the Future – Rewrites are almost completely finished. Cover design is pretty much nailed down, and interior design should be finalized shortly. I have to tackle The Last Outpost, which I'm dreading, but if I could make Farpoint entertaining, I'm sure I can do the same with it. I'm still on pace for a late spring/early summer release.
Convert Sunken Treasure to Various eFormats – This is harder than I thought it would be, and is temporarily delayed while I finish the other projects on this list.
Project X – Nothing to see here. Move along.
I'm not going to lie to you, Marge: I'm especially excited about Project X.(keyboard cat via Fark)
Between work and meetings, I'll be AFK for most of today, but this is important enough to warrant its own quick entry until I can write something more in-depth later today: I went with Chris Hardwick and his girlfriend to see Star Trek last night.
Speaking both as a member of the Star Trek family, and as a fan of what we do, I can tell you that it is fucking incredible. As I said on Twitter: Star Trek has been reborn, and it is SPECTACULAR.
The story is such a perfect Star Trek story, the cast is pitch-perfect, the visuals are brilliant, and the sound design will blow your mind. I loved it so much, I wanted to watch it again RIGHT AWAY as soon as it ended, and I hope they do eleven movies with this cast and creative team. After seeing it, that satire from the Onion is even funnier than it already was.
Here's a picture of me and Chris looking, um, excited after the movie. Well, Chris looks pleased, and I look ... maybe excited isn't the right word. Maybe "crazy as shit because OMG I just saw Star Trek and it blew me away" is more accurate. Anyway, it should tell you all you need to know (both about how much I liked it, and how much of a complete dork I am when I'm excited about things like Star Trek.)
On Twitter yesterday, I said, "And now, a useless fact, brought to you by 'I need a break from rewriting Encounter At Farpoint': I loved Mike Tyson's Punchout on NES."
I was flooded with replies that were variations of "WTF? Rewriting Encounter at Farpoint? Why?" I can see how, lacking context, it would appear that I'm actually rewriting the script, instead of the entry that's going into Memories of the Future.
Whoops. My bad. My efforts to clarify my error lead only to further confusion, so I just stopped talking about it, confident that the Internet would quickly turn its attention to something else. I was not disappointed.
Anyway, as if being sick for five days didn't suck up enough of my time, work on Memories of the Future has brought everything else in my creative life to a complete halt. I'm not complaining, because it's been a lot of fun, but holy shit The Last Outpost and Encounter at Farpoint are just killing me. It turns out that there are "so bad they're good" episodes in season one (Justice and Naked Now, for example) that are a lot of fun to write about, but The Last Outpost is so bad it's just … bad. It's an incredible challenge to find humor in it, and I have a new appreciation for what the crew at MST3K did for so many years with some truly horrible films.
Encounter at Farpoint, which I've been working on exclusively for a little over a week now, isn't the best, but it's certainly not the worst. However, it has given me a new appreciation for the challenges inherent to writing a pilot. A pilot's main purpose is to set up the series, and introduce the characters and the world to the audience. There's a lot at stake, because the pilot also has to convince the audience that the show (or in my case, my book) is going to be worth their time.
It's kind of poetic justice that the entry that starts my book, which is one of the most important for me to get just right, is based on an episode that I mock pretty mercilessly for struggling so hard to get it just right. Just like with a pilot, the stakes are really high: It's really important to me that the entry for Farpoint lets the reader know right away that this book is going to be a mixture of memories and insights, wrapped up in a tasty candy shell of snarky humor ... and it's not nearly as easy to do that with Farpoint as it is with Hide and Q. There's a ton of pressure to knock this one into the seats, and it makes silencing the ever-present internal voices of dissent more difficult than it usually is. I got some good advice from a good friend today, though, that I'm attempting to embrace. He said that when you're doing creative things, it's really easy to over think it and talk yourself out of doing things, because nothing is as safe as not taking the creative risk at all. He said that we creative people have to push past that, and take the chances over and over again, because even if things don't work out the way we hope, we'll learn something from the process. I guess it's sort of like Gretzky saying that you miss 100% of the shots you don't take.
Well, here's some of the stuff I've been working on lately. It's from Farpoint part one, right after the Enterprise runs into Q's giant computer graphics net thing:
Well, now the Enterprise has a problem: fight, or run away? Lieutenant Commander Bedemere wants to build a large wooden rabbit, but Picard decides that the best way to protect his crew is to do a little of both. He’ll take the ship to maximum warp speed, drive it away from the mysterious net, and separate the saucer section from the stardrive section, because this isn’t your mommy’s Enterprise, bitches. This spaceship comes apart, just like that TIE fighter you got for Christmas in 1979.
All the families head up into the saucer section, which will be commanded by Lt. Worf. (Did we mention that there are families aboard the Enterprise D? Yeah, turns out that there are, because Starfleet did this study and realized that space herpes – also known as Kirk’s Syndrome – spreads considerably slower if its officers have their spouses and children on board their ship. Also, who wouldn't want to drag their entire family with them out into the potentially dangerous and totally unexplored mass of the galaxy? I know, right?!) Meanwhile Picard takes Tasha, Data, and Troi with him into the stardrive section, where he assumes control of the battle bridge, and makes plans for a sexy party, complete with a precious spandex sailor suit.
The mysterious net turns into a mysterious shiny ball that chases the Enterpise at mysteriously fast speeds. After a mysterious minute, Picard orders the emergency saucer separation, a process which, though untested at warp speed and therefore theoretically deadly and dangerous, is made kind of silly by our knowledge as the audience that it's obviously going to work. It doesn’t reach Star Trek: The Motion Picture levels of excess, but it sure comes close, especially when the saucer section pulls away, and the stardrive section makes an actual burning-rubber-hot-rod-racing sound as it turns past the camera and heads back to face off against Q.
Once they get there, Picard surrenders (hey, he isFrench!) and Q transports the crew to a late-21st-century courtroom, where the cast of Time Bandits prepares to watch them stand trial for "the multiple and grievous savageries of the species."
Well, this should be interesting . . . except it really isn't. It's page after page of Q and Picard arguing about mankind. Q says we’re a bunch of assholes, and Picard says that we’re actually pretty awesome once you get to know us. It's not as preachy as some future episodes will be, but it could get to its point much more quickly than it does, and it delays what the audience really wants: getting into far-out situations involving robots and magic powers while solving real life problems. Eventually, even Q gets bored with the scene, and sends them all back to the battle bridge after declaring that the fate of humanity rests on how Picard handles his encounter at Farpoint. Oh? Is that all? Listen, Q, I don’t know who you’ve been talking to, but in Starfleet, we're pretty awesome once you get to know us. We save the universe and fuck the green alien chick twice before breakfast, every day. We’ve got this one, dude.
I'm not entirely satisfied, but it's almost there. I wrote the Farpoint posts for TV Squad after I'd already done like 8 or 9 other entries, and there was a real sense of fatigue in them when I grabbed the originals. I took all of the "omg this is so lame just get on with it" stuff out, because that isn't the tone I want for the whole book, and I didn't want someone who starts reading it to think that this is going to be Wil Slags Star Trek for 50,000 words, because it's not that at all. I still need to find more funny in these two specific episodes, but I think I may just have to accept that Farpoint and The Last Outpost aren't going to be as entertaining as some of the other entries in the book. I have to remember not to let perfect be the enemy of good.
This is such perfect satire, I have to believe that there are some Class 5 Trekkies writing for The Onion. To them, I say: Q'Plah!