“What on earth did nerds do in the 1980s to figure this all out?”

I'm way late to the party on this, but I just started reading Spook Country this week. Unlike most Gibson books I've read, it doesn't ramp up slowly, and instead hits the ground running (that's not a bad thing). I'm only 30 pages in (it's been a busy week without a lot of time to read) but I'm pretty sure I'm going to like it; I can easily connect to the tone, the characters, the setting, and the storytelling style he uses.

When I logged into Goodreads this morning to put it on my bookshelf, I saw that people had Memories of the Future on their lists, and a few readers had reviewed it (overall, they seem to like it, which pleases me.) One of the readers mentioned that my book was recommended to her by a blog called Stacked. I took at look, and here's what I found:

Christina [Stacked's editor] is watching the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation for the first time ever and reviewing episodes in conjunction with Wil Wheaton's book Memories of the Future.

Christina calls the project Amnesia of the Future, which I just love because it's clever, and I enjoy clever things, as you may already know. I've just read the posts she's done so far (she's up to Code of Honor), and I really enjoyed them. Allow me to share some highlights:

Farpoint

Episode: If someone were to tell me that in a few hundred years humans will regularly be traveling vast swaths of space and encountering other intelligent life forms, I would not at all be surprised to find giant. space. jellyfish included amongst the aliens. Actually, I think it’s kind of cool and in my next life would like to come back as one.

MotF: Post entertaining recap of the episodes, was the “Behind the Scenes Memory” which brings a rather cool dimension to the show. Despite the faults Wil Wheaton points out about the two part episode, they were obviously doing something right. I didn’t notice the repetition of background actors during the mall scene and, even after having it pointed out, re-watched the episode and still missed them despite telling myself “Hey, self, look out for the repeat actors!”

The Naked Now

Episode: …the assistant engineer is acting like a five-year-old attempting to master Jenga and Wesley Crusher is speaking way to coherently for a drunken fourteen-year-old. In fact, he doesn’t seem much different from the previous episode’s overly-exuberant puppynerd self. Shouldn’t a normal drunk teenager be slurring and trying to get laid? 

Dear Wesley, I hope you enjoy being a virgin for the rest of your life. You might want to start stocking up on pocket protectors now.

MotF: I’m so smart! Wil Wheaton also feels that this episode came too soon.  I definitely think that moving it back to a later spot in the season would have been a wise move and an opportunity to play with the repressed desires of the characters that would be bound to come out when intoxicated.

Code of Honor

Episode: Ultimately, the episode was just as hokey for me as The Naked Now. I appreciate the analogy and moral questions raised and the set-up for what happens rolls out very nicely. But where is the Jell-O? If you’re going to have juvenile boy-thoughts about a girl fight, shouldn’t they be in bikinis and Jell-O?  Give them such “advanced” weaponry and have them fight on the set of Flashdance, but Tasha gets to remain in her uniform with her communicator on?  At least Yarinna got to wear a pink lamé bodysuit and come out like the reigning champion.

MotF: Really Wil Wheaton? Pillow fight was as good as you could come up with? Were you afraid of trademark issue in mentioning Jell-O? Because Jell-O fight trumps pillow fight any day. At least you had the Beavis and Butthead running joke. I found that to be infantile and pointless at first, but you pulled it off nicely.

Now I kind of can't wait for her next bout of amnesia (cue the All My Circuits theme) because it's interesting and entertaining to read the first-time impressions of a new TNG viewer 22 years after we made the show, especially when that viewer is reviewing my book in tandem with the episodes. It's just so delightfully meta, I couldn't not link to it. I'll be interested to see if she gets the same facepalm fatigue I started to get, and when it arrives if she does.

Speaking of Memories of the Future, I thought some of you may like to know that work has begun on Volume Two; Angel One is ready to go beneath Andrew's Red Pen of Doom.

44 thoughts on ““What on earth did nerds do in the 1980s to figure this all out?””

  1. I shall have to check out this Christina’s blog.
    I’m thinking about getting my dad the complete TNG series (he has TOS already) for Christmas, so we can watch it together. I haven’t watched Star Trek with my dad since I was a kid.

  2. “Delightfully meta” – too true.
    I don’t know if nerds in the 80’s tried to figure it out. There’s a good chance they were so thrilled with the show that they just absorbed it.
    – I get to say “they” because I was in primary (elementary) school and didn’t know that I was a bit of a nerd then!
    I just knew I really liked the show and would try really hard not to miss it.
    Now its my turn for le sigh – I still haven’t got the box set of Star Trek: The Next Generation and to think I call myself a fan.

  3. I too have been watching the first season having not seem most of them previously (I came in part-way through season 3 and through part of season 4.) I have so say that so far (I’m up to “Too Short a Season” that “Haven” is one of the creepiest episodes of any TV program I have ever seen. Something about the late 80’s innocence mixed with the overt sexuality juxtaposed with the teenagers “playing ball” that was just too weird.

  4. Speaking of MOTF:V1 –
    23|08
    01|20
    19|20
    08|05
    11
    05
    25?
    I am up at nights, I have emailed your friend who designed the book – I can’t figure it out. Is it “Wesley”?
    Seriously, please give me a hint Wil. Please.

  5. I can’t wait to get my copy of Memories of the Future. Have to wait one more week before I can order it, though.
    Grr, gotta kill the italics.
    Tried to end the tag. Didn’t work.

  6. WOW. I just had a heart attack in line at the grocery store while reading Twitter. A minor heart attack.
    I am SOOOOOOO glad you like what I’m doing. For a moment I got nervous that I was Twitter-stalking you (which I sort of am) and was stepping on toes or some such.
    Offically, I just finished watching through “Where No One Has Gone Before” and caught up on my reading on the subway. It’s such a fun ride and despite all the pop-culture references over the years and friends spoiling things by asking me if I’ve gotten to “the episode where xyz happens” it’s been incredible to see things happen that are totally unexpected in the context of what I do know.
    Thanks so much for writing the book and being part of the catalyst to finally introduce me to the shows/get me hooked.

  7. Searching through a box of old stuff recently I found the first three seasons of TNG in video tape format. Unfortunately I no longer own a video tape machine so I have to rely on Sky TV repeats when they’re on.

  8. ACK! Please, Mr. Wheaton, for the love of God, don’t do the math that points out just how much time has passed since you did The Next Generation. I just don’t want to accept that right now. I’m about the same age as you, and sadly my youth, like yours, is two decades gone.

  9. This seems like a good time — me being one of those GoodReads people — to tell you that I eagerly await Volume II. It’s been much more difficult, and way less fun, for me to get through the second half of Season One without it. I’m a first-time TNG viewer, although I’ve been reading your blog for some time, and I liked the company.
    So . . . Volume II? Please?

  10. Nice idea. I vaguely remember watching scattered episodes of TNG at the tender age of eight and thinking it was the coolest thing since oversized Tonka trucks, but it’s too cheesy for me to get back into as a cynical adult. It doesn’t help that Star Trek upholds the noble tradition of making the first season the worst season, and Babylon 5-obsessed me refuses to start anywhere else. Maybe if I ran a blog where I can mock what deserves mocking, I might have enough interest to stick with it until I get to the gems that my friends assure me are in there.

  11. Yes! I’m a big fan of William Gibson and got Spook Country as soon as it came out. He gave a talk soon after at my university and I even got him to sign it. ^_^
    I enjoyed it, although I did find the setting to be somewhat dry compared to his other novels. No AIs bent on world domination, not as much cool tech. It’s more of a present day thriller. I’m re-reading Neuromancer now and it’s still my favourite.

  12. Yay volume 2! And it’s pretty cool her reviewing the book at the same time as the episodes. If only I could do the same. Alas, my mother’s collectors edition of TNG is all on VHS. And sealed in 3 boxes on a shelf in the garage.

  13. I have just started reading the stacked blog, and I’m enjoying it. (I re-watched all the 1st season earlier this year, but haven’t yet got myself MotF.)
    It’s interesting what both you and Christina say about the Naked Now. I have always thought it was inspired and very brave to have that episode so early, when you don’t know the characters. But I think the fact that it raises all these questions is a great way to develop the audiences opinion of them, and also to make you want to find out more. For example Christina asks of Tasha: “Why is she so desperate – self-esteem issues?”. When you find out more about her, you know how clever it is that a writer can get an audience member thinking something like that so early on in a series.

  14. Amnesia of the Future: AUTOSUBSCRIB’D
    Wil, is there any explanation as to why the episode was called “The Naked Now?” I didn’t understand it in 1987 and I’m more perplexed today.

  15. I should have prefaced that I knew it was a sequel, both now and then (no pun intended). It’s just such a weird name for an episode, but then again, we get a binary number in the same season, so what do I know? (not much)

  16. Hi Wil and Wil’s People. *waves from the UK*
    This is such a longshot, but there’s a pretty good chance there might be a few geeks hanging out here who might read this… ;) It’s just driving me mad that I can’t remember the name of the fantasy battle game me and my brother played in school (mid- to late-80s).
    You each had a sort of A5-sized book which represented your chosen character. Then you SWITCHED books to actually play the game, so that the pages you looked at showed you what your opponent is doing, depending on what battle moves you made. There were various warriors, and I seem to remember a wraith character… (or something like that).
    Anyone? Bueller?
    (And thanks, Wil, for letting me borrow your blog to ask this. I know I didn’t ask permission first, but my friend Caitlin says you’re cool and I hope you don’t mind. *g*)
    Cheers,
    Karen

  17. I think you’ll enjoy Spook Country; like another poster, I got it as soon as it came out, and Gibson was doing a reading+signing within the same week, so I now have a signed copy of it.
    I liked the way he described how he approached writing it, compared to how it approached writing Neuromancer. He said that in Neuromancer, he was trying to write a story about twenty-odd years in the future. Now it was twenty-odd years later, the time that Neuromancer was roughly set in, so he wanted to see if he could write an equally compelling tech story set in the same year. I think he succeeded.
    Also, you make me want to read it again :-)

  18. Holy shit, I literally started slapping my knee laughing when Christina went into the whole Jell-O fight scenario! That was an extremely funny take on how they could have improved the episode’s chick-fight! This Christina is funny, I’m definitely going to stay tuned into her interpretations of your interpretations.
    Oh, and not to say “I told you so…” or anything to that effect, but screw it, I’m doing it, anyway. I told you that MotF was going to bring in new viewers for TNG, because in just my circle of friends alone there are at least five or six people listening to the Futurecasts, two of them have bought the book and one of them has already started watching TNG for the first time in her life. Look at what you up and did, Wheaton. You’ve already begun recruiting Trekkers, you slick little shit!
    Hey, nice job!

  19. Be cool, sodapop. I’m pretty sure that everyone’s read The Outsiders, but then again, what the hell do I know? I’m just some Annoying Chick from Philly™.

  20. Hey! Your post reminded me to open up the newest Futurecast, and guess what I found? An mp3 sound FX of a bell transitioning into a record scratch! I made it to cut my teeth on a new music software, but it came out pretty good. Your welcome to have it; never know when a bell-into-record-scratch sound FX may come in handy. Maybe at some kind of “Ringing Vinyl” convention. I included a link to the download. Don’t worry; it’s a safe site. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go create Ringing Vinyl ’09. Thanks for being awesome!
    http://www.mediafire.com/file/y4mlwz4jymj/Bell into Record Scratch.mp3

  21. Synchronicity rocks. I’ve just checked out MotF from the library, planning it as decompression/post-writing reward reading. I now also look forward to the meta meta meta levels of reading and reflection with the blog and your response.
    And speaking vaguely of Trek, I don’t know where better to ask this: I am in the possession of some Trek memorabilia I’d like to donate to Desert Bus for Hope. In the meta spirit, would you be willing to re-sign something from back in the day?

  22. And that’s a bad thing? “Youth” (trust me, it’s all relative) being two decades gone, I mean. I turned 36 about a month and a half ago. Do you want to know what immediately popped into my head when I woke up that morning? “Wow! It’s been eighteen years since I turned eighteen!” And the sad part about that is that I wasn’t even trying to do the math on that, it just sort of happened. I found that to be quite humorous for some reason, and while I admit that there are times when I think to myself ‘Damn! When did I get so frigging OLD?!’ for the most part I’m content with the aging process. Plus, I always have the old stand-by that I continually rub in Wil’s face all the time: He’s one year, two months and two days older than me. Which basically makes us the same age, but I just love pointing it out to him all the time because it amuses me.
    Don’t sweat the whole “getting older” monster. Just try to make the most of life as it is now, because eventually you’ll be in your 60’s and 70’s, looking fondly back to when you were in your 30’s and 40’s. There’s still a lot of “youth” to live through.

  23. Funnily enough, I’m actually watching TNG for the first time now with Memories of the Future (not mammaries of the future as firefox spell checker thought I might have meant…) and it’s quite a strange experience! For a start it’s strange that I have been able to survive in such a geek-orientated world for so long without having seen it, but it also makes me feel completely part of it from square one. It’s like watching it with a friend who has seen it thousands of times before! Being a Wil fan before being a TNG fan (For now, I imagine I’ll end up as a trekkie in the future…) has made me totally immune to the Wesley effect! He’s like my wee buddy who somehow infiltrated the bridge crew! Whoooo!

  24. I got to thinking about the title of this post. I was alive, well, and geeky in the 80’s. For the life of me I can’t imagine what I did without teh interwebs back then. It seems possible that I might have gone outside every once in a while, though my almost 40-year-old self finds that hard to comprehend. I didn’t go to a lot of cons; I don’t think I was really a very sociable kind of person in those days, when being a geek meant you were the one the preppies picked on. Most of my social interaction was through gaming groups and comic stores, which I suppose must have been the networking sites of the age. And while I’m nostalgic for hanging out in the comic shop with my friends, I wouldn’t go back – because a life where I can’t log on to my computer and (in)directly interact with someone like Wil Freakin’ Wheaton (you know, that guy who was on Star Trek!) is not a life I want.

  25. I can’t wait until she gets to compare notes on Datalore. Good golly Miss Molly is that episode the worst next to Shades of Grey. Evil twin? Only the CMO’s kid knows what’s up? Contractions? Really, contractions?

  26. Hello Wil,
    I just wanted to tell you that I’ve had a little trouble with Lulu.com. Ever since I ordered your book, I have been getting newsletters from them. I don’t remember ever signing up to them, but what the hell, let’s do the nice thing, use the “unsubscribe” link that they provided, shall we? We shall.
    Next thing I know, they don’t send me newsletters, but friendly reminders to the fact that I haven’t visited them in a while. I know I didn’t, morons, take a hint. And the best part is, they don’t have an unsubscribe link anymore! They tell me to visit their site and use the “email support feature”. Which I would, except I am not entirely convinced that if clicking on the unsubscribe link wasn’t enough, sending them an email from a Web form will do any more good. So, emails from Lulu.com go to the Spam folder, and Lulu.com itself goes to the “Dicks” folder. Too bad, they totally seemed like nice guys.

  27. Hey Wil, I’m so sorry to be all spammy and self-serving in your comments section, but I was just wondering if there’s an email address or Send Message form or something somewheres for a well-meaning freelance writer to reach you in your role as a champion of geek culture?
    Apologies if I’ve missed it somewhere. I figured this was a better bet than an @reply on Twitter.
    Thanks!!

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