From Star Trek: Next Generation to Geek Blogger
Wil Wheaton's pursuit
of life, love, and fulfillment beyond the Starship Enterprise
By Dana Greenlee, co-host
Sept 18, 2004 -
How successfully can an actor playing a geek on “Star
The Next Generation” move to being a true geek on the
Internet? Actor and writer
is known for playing
Wesley Crusher, Starfleet ensign for many years on “Star
Trek: The Next Generation.” He also starred in the motion
By Me.” He’s now a blogger and author of his second book, “Just
A Geek: Unflinchingly honest tales of the pursuit of life,
love, and fulfillment beyond the Starship Enterprise.”
He took a break from blogging to chat about his acting career,
his attempts to distance himself from
Ensign Crusher in the public’s eyes, his new role as an
author and his Website,
Listen to the audio discussion with:
Wil Wheaton, Actor, Author of "Just A Geek" & Blogger at
58 min. at 32K Stream
mp3 (full 71
min. show; 16 MB
Q: It’s shocking to me that many
people were critical of your role as Wesley Crusher on “Star
Trek: The Next Generation.” Why do you think that happened?
Wil: I think that Wesley Crusher reflected a lot of
things that geeks don’t like about themselves. We tend to be too
smart for our own good; when we were kids, very, very precocious
– extremely uncool. We never got the girl. We wanted to be
Picard, but we were Wesley. For some people, it made them
very uncomfortable to be reminded what they were all the time.
For other people, it reminded them that Wesley was doing what
they wanted to do. They wanted to be on the Enterprise.
Later, I determined that the people who were really, really
cruel – like the Usenet weenies – really are a statistically
insignificant number of people. And I know, just over the years
from people who’ve e-mailed me at my web site and people who
I’ve talked to since I started going to Star Trek conventions
again in last five years, that there are so many more people who
really enjoyed everything about the show, including my
performance, including the character.
Q: For instance?
Wil: I got an e-mail yesterday from a girl and the
subject line said, “Wesley Crusher saved my life.” I thought,
“Oh, man. I don’t need this.” But I read anyway. It was this
amazing, amazing story from this girl who lived in a really
lousy situation with really screwed up siblings. She decided one
day to watch Star Trek - was not a science fiction fan and knew
nothing about it - but watched Wesley and saw how motivated he
was and how driven he was. The first episode she saw, she told
me, was where Wesley doesn’t get into Starfleet Academy the
first time because he fails the entrance test. Wesley vows to
just keep going. He’s gonna go back and try next year. If he
doesn’t get in, he’ll try the year after that. We know, one way
or the other, this kid is going to get into the Starfleet
Academy and nothing is going to dissuade him from it. He’s
focused, he knows what he wants, and he knows what he has to do
to get it.
She told me she grabbed onto that and held on long enough to be
pulled out of a really bad situation, what could have been a
dead end for her. She’s in graduate school now. Went on to get
an engineering degree. Halfway through her engineering degree
she realized she wanted to be a writer and came out to LA. She
told me she realized it wasn’t Wesley’s being an engineering guy
that she thought was great. It was Wesley’s dedication to doing
the right thing and solving problems and being goal oriented and
she was really inspired by that.
Q: Your Website is WilWheaton.net. How long has it been up
and what do you do on the site?
Wil: It started in 2000 and we just had our fourth birthday.
Q: You’ve got audio blogs, the photo blog, information about
“Just A Geek.” Take us on the visual journey through the site
and some of the tools you use.
Wil: The centerpiece of the entire thing is my blog, powered
MovableType.org. I’m running 2.661 with a few vital hacks
worked into the actual executable. I use PHP to do a whole bunch
of server side includes and super minimal browser
MoBlog (photo blog) is powered by
audioblogs, I was using software created by the AudBlog
team. They were bought by Blogger so it’s actually called
AudioBlogger now. I tell people all the time that TypePad is a
fantastic way to run a blog site.
LiveJournal.com’s great, too, and so is Blogger. It just
depends on what the individual wants to do.
Q: I love LiveJournal. There’s a big role-playing Theatrical
Muse community where you can take on personas.
Wil: There’s a couple of Wil Wheaton communities on
LiveJournal. Somebody at
Wil Wheaton Fans at LiveJournal wrote a phenomenally kind
editorial. Not many people give me crap anymore. It’s like one
out of 1,000 people now. And I think it’s probably the same guy
behind a proxy. It’s really changed. I hear from a lot of people
that they like my Website. They relate to something I’ve talked
Q: This may be an embarrassing question, so we’ll see how
truthful you are. How many hours a day do you spend at your
Wil: About eight, because I work there. I write, I’m tuning
up the site. I don’t really read newspapers or watch television.
I get most of my news online. There are blogs that I read. Where
most people go to the office to go to work, well, I go to the
office to work - it’s just on the other side of my house.
Q: Do you plan on writing more books in the future?
Wil: Yes. I have an agreement with O’Reilly to do a book on
Web design. It’s going to be a book on design philosophy, how to
use tools to put together a personal Website.
Q: I really like the flow, the style and the formatting of
“Just a Geek.” Because you used real-time writing, inserted with
blog entries for perspective – it made it so interesting to
Wil: Stephen King said you have to write for your ideal
reader. He wrote in “On Writing” how you have to get rid of
unnecessary words and not use a passive voice and be really
focused and writing quickly and to the point and letting your
audience fill in details that aren’t important to you but might
be important to them in terms of their minds eye. My first draft
of “Just A Geek” was dreadful. But as soon as I figured out what
the book was about, I could keep going. I wanted to keep the
very simple and direct conversational style so the reader
hopefully feels like they are sitting down and listening to me
tell stories about what’s going on. A want to be David Sedaris
when I grow up – except not gay and living in Paris. I want to
make other people feel what I feel when I listen to his books.
Q: Did you always know that you wanted to be an author when
you were growing up?
Wil: When I was a kid, I loved English and I loved writing.
After “Stand By Me,” all the interviewers always asked, “Are you
a writer like Gordy?” I thought, “Geez, maybe I should be a
writer like Gordy.” So I wrote a lot of stories for my family. I
did a lot of “You know it would be cool if this thing happened,”
and then I’d write about it. Today, that’s still how I do
But then once I finished “Stand By Me” and went straight into
“Star Trek,” I really believed the hype. I believed that I would
be the next big thing because that’s what people were telling
me. I’ve since learned that that’s what they tell everyone! So I
focused exclusively on being an actor to the complete exclusion
of everything else in my life. When I was 20 or 21, I started
writing in a journal and I realize that I was being really
confessional and owning up to a lot of things I had done that I
regretted. It was like the “Diary of Regret.” I set aside and I
never picked it up again until after I started WilWheaten.net
and I had been blogging for awhile and I realized that I had
taken eight years off and I kind of picked up again where left
off in terms of what I was writing about and what I was feeling.
Q: That’s exactly what a blog is.
To read Wheaton’s blog, visit WilWheaton.net. His two books,
“Just A Geek: Unflinchingly honest tales of the pursuit of life,
love, and fulfillment beyond the Starship Enterprise” and
“Dancing Barefoot,” published by O’Reilly, are available at all
bookstores and excerpted at www.oreilly.com/catalog/jag. He’ll
be keynote speaking at ApacheCon Nov. 13-17 and reading his book
at the Gnomedex Conference Oct. 1.
Dana Greenlee is co-host/producer of
the WebTalk Radio Show, a Tacoma-based nationally syndicated
radio and Webcast show featuring technology news and interviews.
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