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March 10, 2004

"Dancing Barefoot": Geek + Blogger + Actor = Author Wil Wheaton

Sebastopol, CA--Not all geeks are into sci-fi, and not all sci-fi fans are geeks, but there's enough of a crossover to explain the appeal of Wil Wheaton--self-proclaimed geek, blogger, and former ensign Wesley Crusher on "Star Trek: The Next Generation." Even non-sci-fi fans have been drawn to the candid, highly personal, and occasionally opinionated account of his life that Wheaton offers on his blog at www.wilwheaton.net. The reason? While it's true that in the grand scheme of things, the reflections and musings of the typical blogger-geek-actor-turned-book-author are not expected to be momentous, Wheaton writes with an honesty and disarming humanity that resonates with geeks and non-geeks alike.

In his book Dancing Barefoot (O'Reilly, US $14.95), Wheaton offers a collection of five short but true stories about life in the so-called space age. Based on pieces first published in his blog, the stories in Dancing Barefoot chronicle a teen TV star's journey to maturity and self-acceptance. Far from the usual celebrity tell-all, the book is a vivid account of one man's version of that universal story--the search for self. If you've ever fallen in love, wondered what goes on behind the scenes at a Star Trek convention, or thought hard about the meaning of life, you'll find a kindred soul in the pages of Dancing Barefoot. In the process of uncovering his true geek self, Wil Wheaton speaks to the inner geek in all of us.

Like many authors, Wheaton hadn't considered writing a book until the idea was suggested to him, and even then he resisted. As he explains, "I sort of know Dan Perkins, who draws 'This Modern World.' I linked to one of his brilliant comics on my web site, and he emailed me about it. We exchanged several notes over a few months, and one day he said, 'You ought to write a book about your experiences.'

"I never considered myself a writer, and told him that. Dan pointed out that I'd been writing for my weblog almost daily. This fact sat in my brain for a long time, and I did everything I could to ignore it." In spite of his intentions, many visitors to his site encouraged Wheaton to write a book, and the suggestion became harder to disregard. He finally decided to collect a year's worth of blog entries from WWdN (Wil Wheaton dot Net) and publish it. "I figured I'd sell ten, maybe even fifteen of them at a Star Trek convention or something," says Wheaton.

"I cut and pasted the web site for a few days, and then wrote some behind the scenes stuff to tie all the weblog ideas together, narrative-style," Wheaton recalls. "In my head, I heard some strange voice...it was like Danny Stern's 'Wonder Years' VO meets the 'Behind the Music' guy.

"I worked on that for about a week, and I had about 50,000 words. I realized that there was sort of a character arc in there, where 'Wil' went on this quest to cast off Wesley Crusher and find out exactly who he was. A few weeks later, I had several hundred thousand words, and it was looking like a freakin' phone book. My friend Andrew said, 'Don't put all your best work in your first book.' It was very good advice, and I cut out a bunch of stories that I liked, but weren't central to the story. Those stories became Dancing Barefoot."

The five stories in Dancing Barefoot are:

  • Houses in Motion--Memories fill the emptiness left within a childhood home, and saying goodbye brings them to life.
  • Ready Or Not Here I Come--A game of hide-n-seek with the kids works as a time machine, taking Wil on a tour of the hiding and seeking of years gone by.
  • Inferno--Two fifteen-year-olds pass in the night leaving behind pleasant memories and a perfumed Car Wars Deluxe Edition Box Set.
  • We Close Our Eyes--A few beautiful moments spent dancing in the rain.
  • The Saga of SpongeBob VegasPants--A story of love, hate, laughter, and the acceptance of all things Trek.
  • First self-published by Wheaton in May 2003, available only on the Internet and in select independent bookstores, Dancing Barefoot quickly sold out of its first run of 3,000. Wheaton's next, longer work, Just a Geek will be released in early summer 2004.

    Praise for Dancing Barefoot:

    "I just put down Dancing Barefoot. Simply put, it was terrific. If you are a fan of Wil's Weblog, WWdN, then you will love this book. It's only 117 pages from cover to cover, but it is definitely worth getting...I really want to talk about the stories a lot more, but I think it would be cruel to take away anyone's chance to read it for themselves. I give the weblog 4 spuds out of 4. Enjoy!"
    --Mitch Malone, BananasOnToast.org, December 2003
    http://www.bananasontoast.org/archives/2003_12.html

    Further reviews can be found at:
    http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/barefoot/reviews.html

    Additional Resources:

    Dancing Barefoot
    Wil Wheaton
    ISBN 0-596-00674-8, 115 pages, $14.95 US, $21.95 CA
    order@oreilly.com
    1-800-998-9938; 1-707-827-7000

    About O'Reilly

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