Book Review: You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)

You're Never WeirdBuffy fan? How about The Guild? Dr. Horrible? Eureka?

No?

Are you a fan of funny, smart writing? Women who are high-achieving but down-to-earth? Famous people who act like real people and seem to genuinely care?

Surely something above rings a bell. And in that case…

I feel perfectly confident that you’ll find something to love about Felicia Day’s memoir, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (almost).

Felicia Day doesn’t shy away from calling herself weird, and credits her weird upbringing for making her who she is today. Moving around from one southern town to another, Felicia never really had to fit in, because after a brief stint in school, she ended up being homeschooled throughout her childhood and teens — although, as she describes:

In retrospect — and not to be mean to anyone who parented me — it doesn’t seem like there was a clear plan going into the whole homeschooling thing.

But Felicia was into it anyway:

Also, homeschooling seemed like something an orphan would do, and I really wanted to be an orphan. Because let’s be real: they have it so good in kids’ literature! They’re sad but special, people love them against all odds, and they’re always guaranteed a destiny of greatness. The Secret Garden, The Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter? Orphanhood was a bucket list item for me!

In funny and honest detail, she describes her college career (double-majoring in music and math, on a violin scholarship!) and her subsequent move to LA to pursue an acting career, as well as an all-consuming obsession with World of Warcraft, generalized unhappiness and anxiety, and her creative breakthrough in writing and starring in the geek-magnet web series The Guild.

Felicia writes beautifully about the power of discovering the internet for the first time, and the awesome experience, especially for a loner, homeschooled girl, of discovering people to truly connect with in a fundamental way through the world of online gaming.

I know the story of my Dragon-hood may sound a little sad and weird and super geeky, but […] for a girl who was lonely and desperate for friends, that group of people was the most important social thing to happen to me growing up. I can’t imagine being as confident about my passion for geeky things today without that opportunity to connect with OTHER people who were saying, “Wow, I love those geeky things, too!”

She shares her self-doubts and her moments of mortification along with her successes and victories, and maintains such an appreciation for people’s investment and connection in her work that you just know she means it all. For example, explaining why she keeps all the fan art and creations that people have given her over the years:

Whether it was by someone volunteering to be an extra in our show, or part of the crew, or someone buying a DVD at a convention, or a superfan who tattooed our characters’ faces on her calf, my career has been built fan by fan. I wouldn’t trade that relationship, or collection of dolls of myself, for all the money and fame in the world.

I was lucky enough to see Felicia speak back in August and got a signed book and everything!

Felicia is adorable, but I didn't like the way I looked in this pic... so I decided to decorate.

Felicia is adorable, but I didn’t like the way I looked in this pic… so I decided to decorate.

It was an amazing event, in a sold-out venue, filled with people of all sorts who all just happen to be big geeky fans. While most came in their street duds or at most, a Supernatural or Guild t-shirt, a few went all out, which was super delightful to see:

I love me some Dr. Horrible cosplay!

Felicia spent an hour on stage in front of an adoring crowd, and she was just as cute and smart and hilarious as you’d expect. (If you’re a fan, treat yourself by watching the video of her appearance!):

Getting back to the book itself, this isn’t a Hollywood tell-all. There’s no gossip here, no name-dropping, no parties/cocktails/living-the-good-life anecdotes. When Felicia does name names, it’s to thank and acknowledge the people who inspired or helped her.

Besides being a great read about an odd-ball girl making good on her own terms, You’re Never Weird is a message book. Felicia shares her own story not to say “look at me! I’m so great!”, but to share the idea that we’re all different, and we should pursue what excites us and makes us happy, no matter how odd or weird or dorky it might seem. And hey, whoever you are and whatever you’re into, there’s sure to be someone else out there who’s into it too:

It might be extremely dorky to point out, but who you are is singular. It’s science. No one else in existence has your point of view or exact genome (identical twins and clones, look for inspiration elsewhere, please). That is why we need people to share and help us understand one another better. And on a bigger level than just taking a selfie. (Not hating on selfies, but a few is enough. You look good from that angle; we get it.) We need the world to hear more opinions, give glimpses into more diverse subcultures. Are you REALLY into dressing your cat in handcrafted, historically authentic outfits? No problem, there are people out there who want to see that! Probably in excruciating details!

One of the things that makes You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) so great to read is that first and foremost, you feel like you’re reading about a person.  A talented, awesome person, for sure, but still, someone recognizably human. Felicia Day’s writing style is chatty and full of good-natured humor, and she succeeds, I think, by making us all feel as though she’s someone we could hang out with, maybe play some video games or watch movies together. You just know that she’d be chill and awkward and non-judgmental, in all the best ways.

image

She signed my book! She signed my book!

If you consider yourself a geek, if you’ve ever felt lost in a crowd, if you had weird/unique hobbies, if you’ve ever felt a passion for something completely out there… well, I’m pretty sure you’ll find something in You’re Never Weird that will inspire you, or at the very least, make you smile or even chuckle for a while.

‘Scuse me, but I gotta go binge-watch The Guild right now.

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)
Author: Felicia Day
Publisher: Touchstone
Publication date: August 11, 2015
Length: 262 pages
Genre: Memoir
Source: Purchased

Book Review: Redshirts

Book Review: Redshirts by John Scalzi

If this book doesn’t bring out your inner nerd, then you clearly lack the nerd gene, end of story. Reading Redshirts, I couldn’t help but wish that I’d watched more Star Trek episodes in my youth — despite clearly recalling that I never did enjoy the original Star Trek all that much.

Redshirts is funny and surprisingly touching, and certainly the most original writing I’ve read all year. (Yes, I know it’s only January 6th; I still mean it as a compliment).

It’s the year 2456, and being a crew member of the Universal Union’s flagship Intrepid is not a career move with a whole lot of job security. Junior crew members seem to die on a regular basis, particularly whenever they accompany senior officers on away missions. Their deaths are gruesome, horrible, bloody, and sadly unavoidable. In fact, the crew have taken to hiding whenever the senior officers are about, in order to avoid encounters that may lead to death, or they rely on unproven ideas such as that only one crew member ever dies in the company of a certain officer — so if one person has already met their death on a given mission, the rest will be safe if only they manage to stick with the officer. Life kind of sucks, and death seems to be lurking right around the corner.

When Ensign Andrew Dahl is assigned to the Intrepid, it seems like a plum assignment — until he and his friends, also new to the ship, notice just how weird thing onboard truly are. People die in ridiculous ways (Borgovian Land Worms! Ice Sharks! Killer robots with harpoons!). At key times, pieces of previously unknown information just seem to appear in their minds. Everyone freaks out about away teams. An elaborate tracking system warns certain crew members when a senior officer is en route, at which point those in the know take convenient coffee breaks. When a scientific problem seems impossible, a mysterious machine called The Box is ready to spit out a solution within the designated time frame, usually only minutes before cataclysmic disaster is sure to strike.

Dahl and his four colleagues are doing their best to avoid away missions, but it’s only a matter of time before they get caught in one of the death-inducing assignments… and really, they’d rather not get blown up or eaten. As they start putting clues together, they encounter Jenkins, a former science team member now hiding out in the ship’s cargo tunnels. Jenkins has a crazy theory — but given events on the Intrepid, his craziness might just be the only explanation that fits.

Jenkins’s theory? The reality of the Intrepid is being warped by events occurring during episodes of a sci-fi television series from the early 21st century. He gives an ominous warning: “Avoid the Narrative.” As Dahl and friends dig deeper, they come up with a desperate plan to rewrite their own reality by changing the TV series they seem to be living. Will it work? I won’t ruin the fun by revealing anything further, but suffice it to say that this wacky space odyssey takes on all the tropes of space opera TV serials and does them up to the nth degree.

John Scalzi’s writing is smart, funny, and full of insider jokes and references sure to warm the hearts of fanboys and fangirls everywhere. As the characters try to make sense of the rudimentary technology and information systems available in 2012, we’re treated to gems such as this:

Kerensky grabbed the phone and read the article sullenly. “This doesn’t prove anything,” he said. “We don’t know how accurate any of this information is. For all we know, this” — he scrolled up on the phone screen to find a label — “this Wikipedia information database here is complied by complete idiots.”

Little moments throughout the book led to irrepressible giggling on my part. The plot itself is so clever and mind-bending that I could only stop and admire how crazily convoluted it had all become, and yet with its own internal logic that literally defies the laws of physics as the heroes figure out a solution to their reality-challenged existence.

Redshirts ends with three codas, and they are a nice touch indeed, adding a human element to the story’s wrap-up that is sweet, sentimental, and completely fitting.

If you enjoy science fiction, have a basement full of Star Trek memorabilia, or ever became hooked on a TV show that features warp speed and space battles, you simply must read Redshirts. I haven’t had this much fun since finishing my Big Bang Theory viewing marathon. Geek heaven!

This book is my first encounter with John Scalzi’s writing, but I’d love to read more. Have you read other books by John Scalzi? Which book do you recommend as a starting place?