All posts by Wil

Author, actor, producer. On a good day, I am charming as fuck.

As an ensign on Discovery, Adira is everything I ever hoped Wesley Crusher could be.

This week’s Ready Room features an interview with Ian Alexander and Blu del Barrio, who play Gray and Adira on Discovery.

I respect, admire, and genuinely like both of these young actors. I can’t imagine the responsibility and weight they carry, not just as young people in a cast of adults (something I’m familiar with and will get into in a quick second), but also as transgender actors who represent so much for so many people. I don’t know how they feel about that. We talk about it a little bit in the interview, but it must be exhausting to constantly hear, “…as a trans person blah blah blah” when something like “…as a person blah blah blah” is an option. It’s a fine line to walk that I’m still learning how to navigate, and I hope I did it with respect and grace.

Now I want to make this all about me for a moment, because this week and next week, you’re going to hear a little bit from me, personally, about how Discovery and its characters have directly touched my life in deeply meaningful ways.

Here’s what I said in this week’s Ready Room, about Adira and Gray:

This week, we have two special guests joining me right here in the studio: Ian Alexander and Blu del Barrio, who play Gray and Adira on Star Trek: Discovery. And real quick before we get to the interview, I’m going to beg your patient indulgence for a brief, personal, sidebar.

It is no secret that I have tremendous respect and admiration for these two actors. We share a similar experience, as the only very young actors on a Star Trek series. And it’s comforting to me to know that there are a few other people in this world who, in their own way, also know what it’s like to be a kid in Starfleet. It’s a small club, and it’s pretty cool to be part of it. At least, it is for me. I do not presume to speak for anyone else who meets the membership requirements.

But I do want to share how much Adira, specifically, means to me, personally. As an ensign on Discovery, Adira is everything I ever hoped Wesley Crusher could be. Surrounded by extraordinary adults, they are a respected, valued, trusted member of their crew. And they don’t take it for granted. We get to watch them work hard to earn and keep it. Starfleet is better, because they are part of it. 

In what I think is my best episode of Next Generation, Final Mission, Picard says, “I envy you, Wesley Crusher. You’re just at the beginning of the adventure.” I didn’t fully understand what that meant, then. But watching Adira and Gray begin their adventure, right now? I do. I get it. And that’s pretty cool, too. 

Thank you for your patient indulgence. We now return to The Ready Room, already in progress.

Hosting Ready Room is so cool for me. I get to occupy this space as both a veteran of the Star Trek universe, part of what we’re calling Legacy Star Trek (let me tell you how old that makes me feel), while I am also a huge fan.

It is my goal as the host of the Ready Room to bring my fellow nerds into the room where it happens, by asking questions and relating to experiences that I hope are as interesting to the audience as they are to me. This season on Ready Room, there are a couple of episodes that really landed on me in unexpected and profound ways. I chose to talk about those experiences with my guests, and the part of me that is just drowning in endless, bottomless, relentless anxiety has been screaming at me ever since that I fucked up. The rational part of me is telling that other part of me to take a deep breath and trust my instincts that it’s all okay, maybe it’s even good. But WOW am I anxious about all of it.

Anyway, I appreciate the opportunity to say in public, in front of Star Trek and the world, how much these actors mean to me, and how much Adira, specifically, means to me, personally, as the guy who played Wesley Crusher.

I can almost imagine what it must be like to have a dad who loves you

Yesterday, I posted this to Instagram.

My caption said that I could tell just by looking at those two guys that they used to be cool.

That’s a reference, a call back, to something that happened when I was sixteen. I’ve written about it in at least one of my books, and it’s come up at conventions over the years. But I gather from 24ish hours of comments at Facebook and on Instagram that many of you don’t know what I was talking about.

Allow me to tell you a story that I just love to tell.

When I was a kid on the Enterprise, I idolized Frakes. I wanted to be just like him. I wanted to do everything he did. I wanted to be as cool, as kind, as confident, as Frakes was. Because I looked up to him so much, so did Wesley Crusher. Like, Wesley does The Riker when he sits in chairs because I thought it was cool that Frakes did The Riker when he sat in chairs. Nobody ever asked me about it, but I was ready to defend that choice with my dying breath. Those times Wesley and Commander Riker were on some assignment together were my favorite, because it meant I got to spend my whole day with him at work.

Anyhow. One day, we wrapped at the same time and I just about plotzed when Frakes asked me if I wanted to walk to the parking garage together. Like just imagine. You’re in high school and the coolest person you know, the person you IDOLIZE is just casually like, “hey, want to hang out?” I grabbed my backpack, made sure I had the keys to my car in my pocket, locked my dressing room behind me, and we walked across the back lot, to the garage, together.

I can’t recall exactly what we talked about. It was probably stuff that happened at work that day, and I feel like he asked me about Depeche Mode, which was my absolute favorite band in the world at that time. What I remember like it just happened was how good he made me feel. Frakes made me feel seen. He made me feel valued, and loved, and worthy. I couldn’t have articulated it at the time, but he made me feel the way a loving father makes his kids feel.

As you know, I did not have a loving father. I had a bully. And it sucked. So the time I got to spend with Frakes was like water to a captain who is dying in a cave on some asteroid or whatever.

So we got to the garage, and it turned out that even though our call times were hours apart, we’d parked right next to each other, a few spaces up the ramp from our captain. Frakes pointed to Patrick’s Jaguar. “You know he got that because the car you bought was slightly better than his, right?”

I had heard this around the set, and it was as hilarious as it was unbelievable. But it was true. In 1988, Patrick bought a pretty standard Honda Prelude, and I bought a ridiculously pimped out Honda Prelude si4WS. In TNG lore, it has become known as “Wil Wheaton’s Slightly-Better-Than-Patrick Stewart’s Prelude”.

I told him I had heard that, and that I felt a little badly about it. Again, he pointed to Patrick’s fancy, expensive, luxury car. I wish I could recall his precise words, but he said something about Patrick going all-in on a fancy car, to ensure he didn’t get shown up by the Teen Idol again.

The walk to the parking garage was brief. Like, maybe five minutes. In that five minutes, Frakes was just so kind and gentle with me. He treated me like a peer, like a person he cared about, like a person he genuinely liked. I felt so safe with him, like I could tell him anything.

I never, ever, not once, felt any of those things from the man who was my father. The man who was my father made a choice when I was young to withhold all of those things from me (he gave them freely and generously to my brother and sister so I know he had them to give), and at sixteen years-old, it was getting harder and harder to pretend that he didn’t treat me differently than he treated my siblings. I began to believe that there must be something wrong with me, and if I could just figure out what it was, I could earn his approval and maybe his love. SPOILER: I could not, because it was never about me. It was always about him.

So Frakes and I are standing in the parking garage and I don’t want to get in my car and go home. I want to stay there and talk with this adult who treats me like I’m a good person who is worthy and valued and seen. And before we part ways, I want to convey to Frakes that, if he were my age, I would want to hang out all the time. I want to communicate to him that he’s a role model for me, that he’s made me feel so good about myself, and that I valued the walk to the garage he’d invited me to be part of with him.

So I gather up all my courage and communication skills, and I say, “I can tell just by looking at you, that you used to be cool.”

Frakes laughed that wonderful, boisterous, joyful laugh of his and said, “What do you mean ‘used to be’?”

I was mortified. I was an awkward nerd (yeah, WAS) and I wasn’t good with words in the best of circumstances. I stammered and sputtered and tried my best to explain what I meant. I don’t remember what was said, but I remember that he got it. He knew what I meant, and he received it with kindness and grace.

The next morning at work, we were all on the bridge, the entire cast. We were either just finished with or about to start a rehearsal, and Frakes told the entire cast and crew what I’d said in the garage. EVERYONE laughed … and here’s something really important: nobody was laughing AT me. Everyone was laughing at the idea that Frakes, who was beloved by everyone with good reason, “used to be cool”, according to the kid.

I remember that I didn’t feel embarrassed or humiliated or stupid. I felt a little sheepish, but I didn’t feel judged by anyone.

Can I just tell you how different that was from how I felt at home? For as long as I could remember, the man who was my father would single me out for ridicule, humiliation, and embarrassment. He reveled in making me feel small, unworthy, stupid, and not just worthless to him, but objectively worthless. He laughed and laughed and laughed when he did these things. My brother and mother joined him. Only my sister did not. Guess who remains in my life from my family of origin?

One of the things I’d learned in my family at home was that I couldn’t speak up when something upset me. My parents always turned what someone (usually one of them) had done to me into something that I actually deserved, or was somehow my fault. So the very, very few times I spoke up to my mother about how much her husband was hurting me, it was a big deal. It took courage, and effort. It was also a total waste of courage and effort. “Oh, he’s just teasing you,” she would say. “Try not to be so sensitive,” was a popular bit of unhelpful advice. And always, ALWAYS, it was somehow my fault that he hurt me.

I imagine that’s a bit of a trigger for some of you reading this. I see you, and I’m sorry.

One of the things I saw for the first time that morning on the bridge, while my Star Trek family laughed together with me, was that what the man who was my father did wasn’t “teasing” like my mother said it was. It was bullying. It was hurtful. It was cruel. It was a choice to humiliate and ridicule me for his own gratification. He never did it to anyone else. He only did it to me. And it was her choice to ignore it, enable it, and make it somehow my fault for being hurt by his cruelty. I would spend over two decades in denial about all of this, but that morning, I saw it clearly for the first time.

For months after that day in the garage (indeed, to this very day), Frakes would joke with me about how he used to be cool. He told the story at conventions when we were together, he asked me to tell the story when we were in mixed company. And he always gave me a little shit about it, in a loving, gentle, dare I say fatherly way. And whenever he did, I felt loved. I felt like I was in on the joke, because he made sure I was. For 35 years, we’ve told this story, and it always brings joy to us both.

I look at that photo of us together from yesterday, and I can almost imagine what it must be like to have a dad who loves you, who makes you feel like you’re enough, who wants you to succeed and is proud of everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve.

I am so grateful for my Star Trek family. I am so grateful for this memory.

whenever possible, be the person you need(ed) in your life

I got a couple of those Facebook Memories today that I’m glad I wrote. I’m grateful I saw them this morning, and I want to share them.

November 5, 2018

I wrote this yesterday on my tumblr thing. I’m sharing it here for anyone who struggles with the same things I do.

I’m having a bad day. It happens. So I take my own advice for people who are having a bad day, and I get out of my house. I go for a walk. I work hard to push negative and hurtful thoughts out of my head, and I replace them with positive things. It’s little observations at first, like the trees are starting to drop their leaves, a dog has a cute beard, this person’s Halloween graveyard has tons of great puns in it.

I take this positive voice that’s enjoying things in the neighborhood, and I use it to talk to myself. I remind myself that my experience is valid, even if random strangers who know nothing about my experience tell me that it doesn’t, on account of my privilege and success. I remind myself that this terrible way I feel isn’t forever. I remind myself that my wife and children love me. I remind myself to make an appointment with my therapist.

I’ve walked a couple of miles by the time I get back to my street, and when I’m a few houses away from mine, I feel better. I still don’t feel good, but I’ve moved my day from a 1 to a 2 on my 5 point scale. It isn’t the 4 I am hoping to achieve, but it’s better, and just moving from 1 to 2 is enough.

I am enough. I am enough for my wife and my kids and my dogs, and I’m learning to be enough for myself. I’m learning to let go – trying to let go – of the pain I feel whenever I’m reminded that I’m not enough for at least one person in my life, because it’s not my fault.

One of my neighbors comes out of her house and tells me that her daughter’s English teacher is a fan of my writing, and when he mentioned it to her class, she told him that we’re neighbors. He was excited by that, and asked her to ask me if I’d come into the class to talk to them about writing and being a writer.

I tell her that I’d love to do it. I don’t tell her how humbling and overwhelming it is to feel wanted by someone because I’ve done things that matter. I hope she doesn’t see me squeeze the tears back into the corners of my eyes.

Her daughter comes outside, and we talk about me coming to her class to talk about writing and being a writer. She tells me how much her teacher loves me (those are her exact words) and I feel so lucky and grateful to have done something that somebody cares about, something that a teacher feels makes me worthy of speaking to a class of 11th graders.

So I give them my email address, and we resolve to coordinate with her teacher next week. I’ll probably go speak to her class sometime in December.

By the time I’m done talking with them, I have moved from a 2 to a 3 on my 5 point scale, and that’s a HUGE improvement over the 1 I was feeling when I walked down my driveway.

So I’m sharing this good news that I hope inspires and comforts anyone else who is having a bad day. It’s possible, through loving ourselves and allowing the kindness of others to get past our defenses, to turn a day that’s awful into a day that’s okay, and it can happen really quickly.

I’m glad I took my own advice, and I’m grateful that I have an opportunity to share it with all of you who are reading this.

I ended up talking to that class of 11th graders shortly after I wrote this. It was as terrifying as I expected. The few times I’ve been on a school campus as an adult I have felt all the anxiety, insecurity, the feeling of not belonging, that overwhelmed me for the very brief time I was in public high school (as it turns out, I touch on that in the other memory I got today, which is coming up). This time was no different. But when I access my memories from that day, I recall feeling that the kids in that class were all on my side. It was like they sensed how weird I felt, and they made a choice to put me at ease.

I don’t recall everything we talked about in our Q&A, but I clearly remember the last minute or so before the bell rang. I have this short list of  … I guess you’d call them rules? Maybe guidelines? Values? These are my guiding principles, I suppose, and they’ve worked out well for me. So I share them with kids whenever I have the opportunity.

“We’ve been talking about about an hour, and if I’ve earned some credibility with you, I hope you’ll take some of this to heart,” I said, pulling a piece of paper out of my pocket. “You know how you would get in trouble for doing something ‘on purpose’? I want to take the concept of “on purpose” and make it literal. When you choose to do these things I’m about to share, you will be doing them “on purpose”. I don’t know if this will make sense now. If it doesn’t, maybe you’ll remember it later in life and it’ll be relevant to a choice or a challenge you’re facing.

“These are the things I do ‘on purpose’, to literally give my life purpose.”

I looked up. I saw that I’d lost some of them, while others seemed to be listening intently.

“I’m a reasonably successful person. I don’t mean in my work, or only in my work. I mean in my life. I have great friends, I get to do cool things, and I’m happy a lot more often than not. I believe that I got where I am in my life by choosing to do these things:

  1. Be honest. I’m a very old man, relative to y’all, and I’ve learned that the only currency that really matters in this world is the truth.
  2. Be honorable. This dovetails with number one. You attract to yourself what you put into the world. Dishonorable people will take everything from you and leave you with nothing. Do your best to be a person they aren’t attracted to.
  3. Work hard. I don’t mean, like, at your crappy minimum wage job you hate. I mean do the hard work that makes relationships work, that gets you ahead in your education, that gets you closer to your goals. Everything worth doing is hard. Everything worth doing requires hard work. Sooner or later, you’re going to run into something in your life that’s really hard, and you’ll want to give up, but it’s something you care so much about, you’ll do whatever you can to achieve it. It’s going to be hard, but it’s going to be less hard for someone who has practiced doing the hard things all along, than it is for someone who doesn’t know how to do the hard work because they’ve always chosen the easy path.
  4. Always do your best. Even if you don’t get the result you wanted, doing your best — which will vary from day to day, moment to moment — is all you can ever do. We tell athletes to leave it all on the field. Whatever your version of that is, do it.
  5. This is the most important one. This is the one I hope you’ll all hear and embrace. This is the one I hope you’ll share with your peers: Always be kind.”

When I read number 5, I looked up at them. I was so happy to see a classroom filled with teenagers who were all listening intently, even the ones I thought had tuned me out. “Here’s the thing about being Kind, versus being Nice,” I said. “I have interacted with lots of nice people who are incredibly unkind. Why is that? How do you choose to be nice but not kind?”

I pointed to my head. “This is where nice comes from,” I said. Then, I put my hand over my heart. “This is where kind comes from.” I lput my hands out, like, “get it?”

There was this collective gasp of realization that I did not expect, at all. One kid said “Oh damn!” I saw a few kids look at each other like the trick had just been explained to them. They heard me. They really, really heard me. And it was amazing.

This happened … three years ago? So these kids are all around 20ish today. Since then, they’ve been challenged in ways I can’t imagine. We had a Fascist in the White House until last year. The pandemic we all hoped we’d overcome has been deliberately prolonged by people who want these kids and their peers to suffer, because it owns the libs. I could go on and on about the ways America has failed this generation, and I could righteously rage against the people who are perpetuating that. But I do that already, and that’s not what this is about.

This is about a moment I shared with some kids who I honestly should have been calling young adults all along, and how I remember feeling like that moment made a difference in some of their lives.

I’d forgotten about this, until I saw the memory this morning. I doubt very much that anyone who was in that class will ever read this, but if you do: thanks for making me feel comfortable enough to share these things with you. I hope it was helpful and meaningful to your life.

The next memory Facebook coughed up is a little more recent, but it dovetails with the first one in an unexpected way.

November 5, 2019

One of my biggest regrets in my life is that I didn’t go to college. When I was 18 and desperate to get out of my parents’ house, I moved to Westwood, where UCLA is, and moved in with Hardwick, who I’d known for a little bit, and who was already attending.

I planned to enroll in two years of Extension, and then apply to the university after. I have no idea if that is even a thing that a kid can or could do, though, because the instant I started filling out my Extension forms, I panicked.

What if I didn’t know how to *be* a college student? What if I failed? I was certainly going to fail. I was a stupid actor. I knew that. Mrs. Lee told me that in 9th grade, and my dad has spent my whole life making it really clear to me that I was worthless (fun sidebar: when I was 19 or 20, I read The Portable Nietzsche. I thought a lot of it was bullshit nihilism, but some of it resonated with young me. I wanted to share that with my dad, whose approval and affection I craved, desperately. When I did, he told me I was “being a fucking intellectual” and “nobody likes a fucking intellectual.” I was so humiliated and kicked in the balls by that statement, I never pursued any further reading of philosophy, or mentioned it to him, again). I didn’t even have real public high school experience beyond one awful semester when I was a Freshman. I had no idea what to do, and I was so afraid of failure, I never turned the forms in.

Here’s how sheltered I was and how unprepared I was as a kid, crawling into adulthood: I thought you *had* to be in a fraternity if you were in a college. I didn’t know any better, and my dad was in a fraternity (which explains SO MUCH about what a jerk he was hashtag not all frat guys), and TV and movies were heavily focused on that whole thing, so I just extrapolated from what information I had and … well, garbage in, garbage out.
For years I told anyone who asked me about it that I had to withdraw because I was getting work as an actor. That’s partially true. I *was* getting work as an actor, but it wasn’t enough to justify not going to a single class. The truth was, I was terrified of the uncertainty. I felt like the only thing that mattered, the only thing I was any good at, was being an actor. And even then, at 18, I knew that it wasn’t my passion. I wasn’t ready to admit to myself that I was living my mother’s dream, and trying so hard to do the only thing I was good at because I hoped it would make my dad love me, but when I met other actors my own age who hadn’t been pushed into it by their parents, they had a totally different energy around them. They had this incredible and wondrous knowledge of theatre and film and acting technique, that they’d devoured and studied. They had the artistic calling, of art for its own sake.

I had the fear of failure, and the growing awareness that I didn’t love the one thing I was good at. And, I have to be honest: I wasn’t even that good at it, then. I was OKAY, but not great. I knew that, and I knew that I would get better when I understood technique the way those other young actors did, as opposed to leaning on the instincts and experience I already had.

When I got older and eventually went to drama school, where I studied Meisner Technique for years, I did get better. I’m good at it now, I like being on the set now, and I’m proud of the work I’ve done, even the stuff that isn’t that great like The Liar’s Club. That work and those years of study actually contributed to me finding my own path, and discovering the confidence to be a writer and storyteller. I learned when I was in those workshops and scene studies that the performing wasn’t what I loved; it was the preparation, the deconstruction of the scene and the character, the *work* that went into getting to know who the characters were and *why* they were in *this* scene, what was at stake, and what all their obstacles were. As a writer, now, I use all that training I had for scene preparation, when I’m creating a scene from scratch. It’s awesome.

But, way back in 1990, I was just afraid of so many things, and I wasn’t supported in the ways I needed, so I let that fear consume me, and didn’t attend a single class. I have always regretted that.

A few weeks ago, I decided that I was going to take an online course, not for credit, but just for knowledge. I looked at TONS of courses, and decided that I would take a writing course. I have a lot of practical experience writing essays like this one, narrative nonfiction, and short opinion pieces, but I have no formal writing education, beyond reading some books. This is not to say that reading some books hasn’t been helpful! I have learned a TON about structure and character design and pacing from books. I’m a competent fiction writer, and I credit the books I read with helping me understand my own writing process a little better.

But I decided to take a writing class, anyway, because I thought I would get some insights that would help close up the gaps in my knowledge. I spent a lot of time looking around online, and decided to take Brandon Sanderson’s course at BYU. It’s a series of 11 lectures and a Q&A, that was recorded in 2017. I’ve been watching one lecture a day, taking weekends off, and tomorrow I’ll finish.

It’s been a fantastic experience for me. I haven’t learned as much new stuff as I thought I would, but even more importantly, I’ve had many of my instincts and experiences confirmed and validated by someone I respect and admire, who is successful in my field. The new things that I did learn have been PROFOUND for me. Like, huge, epic, explosive revelations and insights that I did not expect at all.

The biggest revelation hit me this afternoon, as today’s lecture was wrapping up: I doubt myself way too much. I’m smarter and more capable than I was raised to believe I am, and it would serve me well to trust my instincts more. I should listen to my OWN voice when I’m creating, and not invent voices that criticize me, humiliate me, or minimize my accomplishments.

I got a lot of good, useful, practical, experience and knowledge from Professor Sanderson’s class, but the most profound thing I got out of it wasn’t even directly related to what he was teaching, which I believe is what going to college is all about.

I don’t know what it’ll be, but I’m going to start another course when I finish this one. Maybe something in history. I’ve always been interested in learning more about the American Civil War and Reconstruction, and that seems really, grossly, horrifyingly relevant to this moment in our history.

I’m really grateful that I can pursue knowledge for its own sake, and I’m even more grateful that I’m not afraid to do it

So these two things were written on the same day, a few years apart. I never would have thought to put them together, didn’t even know that they went together, until I saw them side by side today.

I see that, when I talked to those kids, I was telling 17 year-old me all the things he didn’t hear, that would have made such a big difference for him. I was being the person I needed in the world, even if I was like thirty years late.

I still live by that list. It is my guiding star, and it has served me well.

Today, I’m adding to the list: whenever possible, be the person you need(ed) in your life. Do it on purpose.

the width of a circle

While watching Discovery to prepare for Ready Room, I had this sudden realization that my journey and Wesley’s journey are almost identical. I don’t think I’ve ever thought about it until just now. But check this out.

When we were about 20, we walked away from everything we knew, every expectation that was ever put on us, every person we ever cared about, because we both knew that something was wrong in our lives. We both needed time and space (he needed all of time and space, if you accept my headcanon that he’s a Traveler) to find out who we were, and what was important to us.

Wesley’s bit in Nemesis is not canon, because it was cut. So his whole “I’m going to serve on the Titan” thing we’ve all seen didn’t actually happen. In fact, I think current actual canon is that he wasn’t even there. I think actual current canon is that he is off on some other plane of existence doing donuts on someone’s lawn.

But let’s presume, for a moment, that it actually did happen. I want to talk about how that mirrors my own journey. To get there, let me put his appearance at Troi and Riker’s wedding through my headcanon … uh … headcanonizer.

He’s been off on his own for a long time. He is in touch — barely — with his family, even though he doesn’t serve on their ship or even exist in their reality. He loves them, and he misses them. He wonders if they think about him. He rarely sees them, but when he does, he is so careful about every word he says every choice he makes. He wants to make them proud, though he knows in his heart that he doesn’t have to do anything to achieve that. They love him already. Still, it’s just part of how he’s wired. But he knows he’s loved.

A quick jump cut, now, to me. I’m in my twenties, I’m wearing Wesley’s haircut from The Game and holy shit I have just got to get away from everything. Yeah, it’s mostly my shitty parents, but also it… well, that’s all of it, actually. Every choice I made from my late teens into my early twenties was driven by needing to get away from them and see if I could find myself, find what was important to me. Because what I had been forced to do by them for my whole life wasn’t it. And honestly? I was just so tired of feeling like shit all the time.
Back to Wesley. What he’s been doing his whole life isn’t what was truly important to him, it turns out. Unlike me, he is loved and supported by his mom and all of his father figures. He’s exploring other planes of existence, gaining valuable experience and context that his life had been lacking until that point. I mean, his entire life had been essentially on a starship, doing what other people expected him to do. It’s scary and exhilarating to be Out There, and he discovers this world beyond Nanites and Holodecks and laying in coordinates and impressing people with his science projects. He discovers this world where, as a Traveler, he can actually make a meaningful difference in this universe in a way he never could if he had stayed in Starfleet.

Hi, it’s me again, I’m doing all the stuff that I wrote about in Just A Geek (AND STILL JUST A GEEK WHICH YOU CAN PRE-ORDER NOW THANKS), and I am learning so much about myself. I’m starting to figure out what’s important to me. During this time, I realize how much I love Star Trek and my Star Trek family. I realize that the things associated with Star Trek that hurt me don’t really have anything to do with the show and universe I’ve loved since I was a child, and they have nothing to do with my relationship with the cast. It’s all my parents, a small but relentless group of shitty fans who thought being shitty to a child was great, two greedy and shitty convention promoters who made that child feel unwanted and unworthy, and an executive producer who, like my mother, treated me like a thing. And like my father, didn’t treat me with any kindness, empathy, or respect.
When it was all set out in front of me, I could see the shit that hurt, and I could do the work of separating it from the stuff I loved. WOW was that a lot of work. It’s work that continues, I think.

A significant component of that work was letting go of the shit that hurt. I don’t mean condoning it, I mean not letting it make decisions for me, any more. I had to find a way to stop carrying it, since it didn’t have anything to do with me, in the first place. It was never about me. It was always about the people who hurt me.

I got rid of as much of the shit that hurt as I could, and I looked at all of it, set out in front of me, again. Without all that shit everywhere, what I found was wonderful.

Cut to Wesley, seeing through space and time for the first moment in his new life. He is changed, and he is ready to go home. Not to stay, but to visit, and to love every moment of it while he’s there.

Back to me. I’m ready for it when I am asked to host an after show for Picard. I say yes so fast. I don’t even have to think about it. Are you kidding me? I fucking LOVE Star Trek and you’re telling me I get to be a guy who is not just a Starfleet veteran, but also an unashamed superfan? Who gets to take other nerds into the Room Where It Happens? Yes yes yes a thousand times yes!

And then they ask me to do it again, for Discovery. And then for Lower Decks. And for Prodigy. And Discovery again. And oh my god how is this even real. Maybe I’ll get to do Strange New Worlds. I can not believe this is happening to me.

So, like Wesley, I chose to come back, in a different way. In a different context. As a different, changed, person. What I choose to come back to is everything I loved, and what I have left behind is everything that hurt.

Wesley didn’t need to find he way out of the hurt like I did. He was loved and supported in ways I was not.

But we both left this thing that had been our entire lives, that looked to be the rest of our lives. We left the only thing we knew, because we knew it just wasn’t right for us. I don’t know if it was as risky for him as it was for me. He’s a character. I’m a person.

But if we accept my headcanon, (and if you’re still reading I presume you do) I love it to death that Wesley came back to this thing that he loved, deliberately not the way he was expected to be part of it. The whole “I’m serving on the Titan” thing? I write it out, and just put him at the wedding, in an appropriate uniform, because he loves his family and wants to be with them. I don’t know if he Traveled off again or not, but I know that, when he left that wedding, he knew that he could come back whenever he needed to. He would always have a home with his crew.

And I did the same thing. For him, it’s a cool story arc. For me, it’s one of the most beautiful closings of a circle I’ve experienced to this point in my life.
Now I’m going back to watching Discovery, loooooong before it’s released to the rest of my fellow nerds, because I have the best job in the world. Yes, that was a little bit of a nerd flex. (Disco S4 is AMAZING don’t tell anyone I told you.)

Oh, real quick: don’t read anything into this about the plot of Disco. I have no idea what makes the part of me that writes stuff and thinks about this kind of stuff wake up and go to work, but I know it wasn’t related to the story. I just saw [CHARACTER REDACTED] and my brain was all, “Hey, did you ever think about this?”

That was like 35 minutes ago and I really need to get back to it. I just told Anne, “I should be watching Disco, and instead I’m writing about Wesley and me. This is how you know your husband is, in his heart and soul, a writer.”

still just a geek: an (annotated) memoir

 

I wrote a book in 2004 called Just A Geek. Literally dozens of people read it, and a lot of them seemed to like it, but I have felt for years that it’s just been forgotten by pretty much everyone. About two years ago, I wrote a novel, and got it as close to finished as I could. My agent shopped it, and it was universally rejected. Like, it was so rejected, nobody even gave us notes on how to make it better. They were just, like, “NOPE.” I think it’s a neat little story, but clearly capital-P Publishing disagrees. Not gonna lie. I was devastated. But one of those editors remembered Just A Geek. He was also familiar with the writing I’d done since then, my mental health advocacy, and my story of surviving narcissistic abuse and neglect. He had this idea to revisit Just A Geek, annotate it, and include some more recent writing. The whole thing would go together and be an annotated memoir.

So I’ve worked on that for about two years, and today we get to announce that it’s a thing.

My publisher and I have this fantastic plan to do an awesome video announcement for the upcoming release of Still Just A Geek, my annotated memoir, which comes out April 12 in America, and 14 April in the UK.

I had this plan to maybe read a little of it, do some cool video stuff, and be fancy. And then I realized it’s Thursday, which is when all the gardeners come into my neighborhood, and the cacophony of leaf blowers and lawnmowers is just a little too much. I also have a ton of Star Trek: Discovery homework to do for Ready Room tomorrow, and holy crap I suddenly have more things to do than I have hours to get them done.

So that great video idea will be delayed for a little bit. It’ll still happen, I just don’t know when.

Am I just killing it with this book announcement or what? This is how you go viral and get lots of free media attention, y’all.

Really important stuff I want you to know:

I went through the entire text of Just A Geek, and annotated all of it. I feel like I’m only supposed to focus on the stuff I did that’s great, but … well, here’s a little bit from my introduction:

“Many times during the process, I wanted to quit. I kept coming across material that was embarrassing, poorly-written, immature, and worst of all, privileged and myopic. I shared all of this with my editor, my wife, my manager, my literary agent, and anyone else in my orbit who I trusted. “This really ought to be buried and forgotten in that landfill with the E.T. cartridges,” I told them. “Digging it all back up is not going to go well,” I said. They all assured me that confronting and owning that stuff in public, something I’d done privately, was important. I had to confront the parts that still fill me with shame and regret.”

So I did that, and it was uncomfortable, embarrassing, awkward, but ultimately healing and surprisingly cathartic. You may have noticed that I’ve spent much of the last several months remembering and writing about childhood trauma. Now you know why.

I also wrote

“I’m going to be honest: I’m terrified that I didn’t say the right things, take away the right lessons, atone appropriately for the parts of this that are gross. I know that I am not the person I was when I thought it was funny to make a childish, lazy, homophobic, joke. I am not the same person who didn’t even consider that a young woman, doing her job, was worthy of respect and kindness, because she was more useful to my male gaze as a character in a story that isn’t as good as I thought it was. I know I’m not that person, because those things—which are a small but significant part of my origin story—revolted me when I read them for the first time in over a decade. I mean, I physically recoiled from my own book. Those moments, and the privilege and ignorance that fueled them filled me with shame and regret. They still do. But confronting and learning from them allowed me to complete my origin story, as it turns out. It’s another thing I was unaware I needed to do, but, having done it, cannot imagine not doing.”

That’s the first … I don’t know, half, maybe two thirds, of this volume. The rest is new essays and speeches I’ve written in the last few years, which are also annotated.

If it all holds together the way I hope it does, it should tell a story of surviving childhood trauma, surviving a predatory industry, and in the most unexpected way, finding out exactly who I am, versus who I always thought I was supposed to be.

I hope it’s inspiring. I hope it’s entertaining. I hope it doesn’t suck. As you can tell, I am terrified.

I will be doing the audiobook, OBVIOUSLY. It will be released at the same time the print and ebook copies are released. We’re working on a plan to offer signed copies through indie bookshops. We’re talking about a virtual press tour. I’ll give you all more information as it gets locked in.

Finally, we have made a page where you can pre-order right now. Just pick the appropriate link.

Okay. That’s it. That’s the big news. Please tell all your friends.

%d bloggers like this: