June 2004

Gena Anderson

nonfiction

Dancing Barefoot by Wil Wheaton

I think my lifelong foray into geekdom began when I was a little girl and my dad rented Star Trek II. I had nightmares for weeks that someone was going to stick a worm in my ear that would control my brain. Thanks, Dad! However, along with the earworm terror came a fascination with science fiction that my dad was only happy to fuel, mainly because everybody else in my family would flee at the hint of any Star Trek reference. Now I think that I have seen more Trek and read more science fiction than he has.

I have never been to a Star Trek convention, or owned a costume or technical manual, so when I came across WilWheaton.net, it was more curiosity than fan frenzy that made me keep reading. I am glad I did, because the website isn’t really about Star Trek, but about the everyday struggle of a regular guy -- a geek like so many of us. Wheaton’s first book, Dancing Barefoot is actually a series of five essays, the first four of which have nothing to do with Star Trek (Wheaton portrayed Wesley Crusher on The Next Generation). The book seems to be a preview of sorts to his upcoming autobiography, appropriately titled Just a Geek.

The first four essays are short and simply written vignettes on childhood, growing up, and finding love. “Houses in Motion” describes the feelings someone goes through when packing up and selling a house after someone dies. “Ready Or Not, Here I Come” is about that obligatory game of any childhood, and “We Close Our Eyes” is a rain-soaked look at love. The story “Inferno” was probably my favorite of the non-Trek selections, describing the awkward crush of a boy on someone he thinks is out of his league. These stories are a bit maudlin at times, but forgivably so because the nostalgic tone Wheaton takes is nothing but sincere.

The fifth, and by far largest, story is entitled “The Saga of Sponge Bob Vegas Pants: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Star Trek." It takes place during the thirty-five year anniversary convention in Las Vegas. This story seems to be where Wheaton hits his stride, touching on everything from pushy fans to public speaking anxiety, as well as detailing his own struggle with William Shatner, who was rude and dismissive of him the first time they met, prompting Wheaton to refer to him as WILLIAM FUCKING SHATNER throughout the story. Wheaton also writes about getting a little homesick while touring Star Trek: The Experience, an entertainment venue where you can tour the bridge of the Enterprise (and according to their website, get married there for as low as five hundred dollars, although the thousand dollar wedding includes an “intergalactic bouquet”). It's interesting hearing about Star Trek from Wheaton’s perspective, and he does a good job describing how hard it must be dealing with people who have made an obsession of it in their lives.

Dancing Barefoot as a stand-alone book may seem a bit weak to some people. I, however, view it as a nice sample of things to come, and am looking forward to Wheaton’s autobiography. The next time I visit my parents I am definitely loaning the book to my dad, and that’s a high compliment.

Dancing Barefoot by Wil Wheaton
Illustrated by Ben Claassen III
O’Reilly and Associates, Inc.
ISBN 0595006748
115 pgs