Books : reviews

Wil Wheaton.
Just a Geek.
O'Reilly. 2004

rating : 2.5 : great stuff
review : 8 September 2014

Just a Geek is the story of how Wil Wheaton faced down his constant companion, the ghost he calls “Prove To Everyone That Quitting Star Trek Wasn’t A Mistake.” The key to banishing that ghost turned out to be the blog that he launched in 2001 at On his blog, Wil shared—with stunning and fearless honesty—his real life: the struggles of being a working-class actor, the joys of being married and raising two stepchildren, and the experience of growing up on the Starship Enterprise.

Just a Geek fleshes out the stories that started on the blog. Join Wil as he auditions for new shows, relives his past at Star Trek conventions, or just hangs out in his living room. Both funny and poignant, the book chronicles Wil’s journey to rediscover himself and come to terms with what it means to be famous, or, ironically, famous for having previously been famous.

Although I’m a fan of Star Trek, Wesley Crusher was definitely never my favourite character in ST:NG. The bridge of the Enterprise is no place for children (unless they are being suitably creepy). But I believe I’m able to distinguish between the actor and the character, so I hold no grudge against Wil Wheaton, just his script writers. Even so I would not have thought to read his autobiography, as I rarely read books about real people: I mainly read about (science) fictional people, and about science, and about other geeky things.

However, I’ve noticed that Wheaton now does non-acting geeky things (mainly from items on John Scalzi’s Whatever blog). So when my other half got this book, I thought I’d have a look too.

It’s very good. Okay, it’s 10 years out of date (published in 2004), and I’m positive he’s done a lot else since, but what it does is provide the background to Wheaton’s then-new blog, Wil Wheaton dot Net (launched in 2001). The book blurb says how On his blog, Wil shared—with stunning and fearless honesty—his real life. The book says how, in fact, he didn’t, initially. It’s mainly a description of how he worked through being an actor no-one would hire, to a writer everyone was reading. In the book he is fearlessly honest (I assume), including being honest about how he was still in denial in his early blog posts.

Some of the insights into behind the scenes on ST:NG and at Trek conventions are fascinating. Ironically, the bits that work least well for me are the passages where he being writerly: writing about incidents from his childhood, because these are more autobiography than geeky. However, the parts where he is writing about how he transitioned from trying to be the person he thought he should be (an actor), to the person he actually wanted to be (a writer), and no longer being afraid of being thought a failure, are very thoughtful, and a great read too.