Category Archives: JoCoCruiseCrazy

I’m on a boat: Stupid Cell Phone Videos

I’m on JoCoCruiseCrazy 2, and I’m taking an Internet vacation until I get home. So every day while I’m gone, something from my archives will post here automatically, for your entertainment. I had a lot of fun picking these different things out, and I hope you enjoy them again, or for the first time.

Today, I'm linking to the first stupid cellphone videos I did. If you're as easily amused as I am, you can watch them all on my YouTube channel.

We Can't Rewind, We've Gone Too Far

Originally published September 2010.

I'm home for a few days before I go back to Vancouver to finish out the season on Eureka. It's nice to sleep in my own bed, actually see my family, and work in my actual office, instead of sitting at a desk in a hotel.

Doctor Parrish was very heavy in the last episode I shot, so I worked 5 of 6 days, an average of 14 hours each day. It was exhausting work, but I loved every second of it. I wish I could get into the details of it, but that is right in the middle of Spoilertown, so I'll just say that it was a lot of fun, and I got to do a lot of origami.

There's this saying, possibly apocryphal, that actors work for free and get paid to wait. One of my days last week, I was called to the studio early, and then ended up not working for about seven hours. This sometimes happens when the scene before me takes longer than anyone expected, or it turns out that they're not going to see me in the background of a shot like they thought. Rookie actors tend to bitch about this sort of thing, but salty veterans like me have learned to be grateful for the job, appreciate that I'm getting paid to wait, and pack a Bag of holding that's filled with books and games and diversions. (Back in the old days, I'd bring tons of stuff, but now I just bring my iPad and a book.)

On this particular day, I played the hell out of Plants Vs. Zombies HD, re-read Metatropolis, spent some time looking for the end of the Internet, and actually started to get bored.

Once I started to get bored, my brain spit out an idea, that went something like this: "Hey, your cell phone has a video camera on it. You should make stupid videos with it, and upload them to YouTube!"

This sounded like a brilliantly stupid idea, so I did as my brain commanded, producing this:

I told Twitter about it, and there was much rejoicing. A few hours later, I did this:

Then I was finally called to set, where I was no longer bored, and my cretive energy was directed into the very useful and productive task of bringing Doctor Parrish to life.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that my stupid videos had been viewed about 7,000 times. "See, we're entertaining more people than just ourselves," my brain said, "let's make more stupid cell phone videos!"

"Yes, sir, Mister Brain," I said. I enlisted the help of some friends, and made this:

I don't know how long this will last, but it's easy, it's amusing to me, and it's a lot of stupid fun, so I'll keep doing it until I lose interest or get distracted and chase a red balloon down the street. If you want to see these stupid things as they become available, you can subscribe to my YouTube channel.

 

I’m on a boat: Romper Stomper

I’m on JoCoCruiseCrazy 2, and I’m taking an Internet vacation until I get home. So every day while I’m gone, something from my archives will post here automatically, for your entertainment. I had a lot of fun picking these different things out, and I hope you enjoy them again, or for the first time.

Previews

Originally published February 2003.

I used to be a big fan of South Park. I watched it every week, and anxiously awaited new episodes.

When I heard that they were making a movie, I was thrilled, and counted down the days until it opened. Of course, while the creators poured all their creative energy into the movie, the weekly content of the TV show suffered dramatically. It felt like filler with no creative soul, and I stopped watching.

So it is with WWDN as of late.

All of my creative energy and focus has gone into rewriting "Just A Geek," and racing to get it done in time for a late March release.

I love WWDN, and really enjoy writing for it, but I have limited resources in my head, and when I have to pick, the website takes a back seat to the book. I hope readers understand.

Having said all that, I'd like to offer a small excerpt from the book, so you can all see what I've been working on.

This is from Chapter three:

Writing about the satisfaction and love I felt when I was with my family came very easily. I didn't have to put on a brave face, or risk revealing how frustrated and tormented I was in my career. When I focused on my family, I felt liberated, and found humor and happiness at every turn.

 

28 August, 2001
Romper Stomper

From an e-mail I got this morning:
Wil:

I'm writing a book about Romper Room and came across a TV appearance of you on a California show with Miss Nancy. You told the hosts you used to watch Romper Room ?religiously."

I'm writing to people who were on the show, or who watched the show, to get their impressions of Romper Room. I'm hoping you can answer some questions. What made you watch it? What's your strongest memory of the program? Were you ever on Romper Room?

My response:

I was never on "Romper Room", but here is my clearest memory from watching it as a kid:

I would sit on the floor of our house (which was really a chicken coop behind my grandparents farmhouse. Yes, we were that poor), my fingers dug deeply into the golden shag carpeting, my tiny fists balled with anticipation, as Miss Nancy would hold up her magic mirror and ask it to tell her, "did our friends have fun at play?" I would sit up straight, stare into the glorious black-and-white 13-inch Zenith TV and wait patiently as she saw Steven and Jody and Tina and Todd and Michael and every-fucking-body except WIL! Hey! Miss Nancy! I'm sitting right here! I've had LOTS of fun at play! I did the DooBee dance! I ran around pretending I was a fireman! I HAD FUN AT PLAY! WHY CAN'T YOU SEE ME?! AM I INVISIBLE?! *pant* *pant*

I never watched TV shows like the ones I did when I was four. Jesus, does anyone?

 

Writing that made me laugh out loud. I hadn't planned on it turning into a rant, but I was doing lots of improv at the time, and I just wrote what came out of my head. I thought it was really funny, so I called my mom as soon as I was done to read it to her. When she picked up the phone, I could hear wind chimes and a waterfall. She was gardening in her backyard.

"Hey, it's your son," I told her.

"Hi Willow! How are you? Are you feeling better?" My mom always sounds happy to hear from me, and her voice is comforting — like a warm blanket, fresh from the dryer.

I was able to answer truthfully. "Yes, much. I wrote something funny for my website and I wanted to read it to you."

"Oh, honey! That's great! Let me turn off the hose." I heard her set the phone down, and I closed my eyes, picturing their backyard: the beautiful redwood deck my dad and brother built, covered with potted flowers and tomato plants, the railing draped with white twinkle lights. I heard the jingle of their dog Kona's collar, as she chased a butterfly, or the water falling from the hose. I saw water cascading into their swimming pool, and recalled the long summer afternoons spent floating in that pool, and the warm summer nights I spent as a teenager sitting in their spa, looking up at the stars. I breathed in, and I could smell the star jasmine which still grows under my old bedroom window.

"Wil? Did you hang up?"

"No, sorry. I was . . . lost in thought. Can I read you what I wrote?"

"Yes!"

I told her about the e-mail I'd gotten, and read her my response. I paused dramatically, and lowered my voice for the final sentence. I eagerly awaited her response.

"Oh, Wil," she said, "why do you need to have such a potty mouth?"

I resisted the urge to tell her that I had no fucking idea.

"It's comedy mom, and it's not always pretty."

"Well, it's very funny. I just wish you didn't have to cuss so much."

I beamed, knowing that I'd made my mom laugh, and — more importantly — made her feel proud of me.

"I gotta go answer emails, mom. I love you."

"I love you too, sweetie. Bye-bye."

 

 

I’m on a boat: Summertime

I’m on JoCoCruiseCrazy 2, and I’m taking an Internet vacation until I get home. So every day while I’m gone, something from my archives will post here automatically, for your entertainment. I had a lot of fun picking these different things out, and I hope you enjoy them again, or for the first time.

Summertime

Originally published June 2002.

Today is Ryan and Nolan's last day of school.

I can't believe that it's here. The end of elementary school for Nolan, and the end of 7th grade for Ryan.

I recall those days when time was measured in terms of school years, but when I look back at my childhood, the only times I remember with any clarity are the summer vacations.

I remember the oppressive heat and still, smoggy air in the San Fernando Valley where I grew up.

I remember the sense of accomplishment I felt when I forced myself to stay awake nearly all night the day I got out of school in 5th or 6th grade, watching VHS tapes of wrestling on the top-loading VCR, just because summer had started, and I could sleep in.

I remember the progression of water-themed toys: The hose, the thing with the clown hat that spun atop the stream of water that you jumped through, the slip-n-slide, and finally the swimming pool.

The Sunland of my elementary and early middle school days only exists in those summertime memories of ice cream trucks and afternoon naps underneath the wall-unit air conditioner.

Back when the livin' was easy.

 

I’m on a boat: Radio Free Burrito

I’m on JoCoCruiseCrazy 2, and I’m taking an Internet vacation until I get home. So every day while I’m gone, something from my archives will post here automatically, for your entertainment. I had a lot of fun picking these different things out, and I hope you enjoy them again, or for the first time.

I miss doing Radio Free Burrito as much as the people who ask me every day if I'll do another one. Reading all the old entries that I've published this week has inspired me to write more, so maybe linking to some of my favorite RFBs will inspire me to record some new ones.

Radio Free Burrito

Hi there. I'm Wil Wheaton, and I'm from the Internet.

I grew up in Los Angeles, listening to great broadcasters like Jim Ladd, Richard Blade, and Doctor Demento. I listened to radio stations like KLOS, KROQ, and KMET, all during their glory days from the late 70s until the late 80s. I can't remember a time in my life when I didn't love music, and didn't want to be on the radio.

I got a little sidetracked by an acting career, but even when I was at the height of my acting success, my dream of broadcasting never entirely went away. I was never able to make it into actual radio, but when the internet made podcasting possible, I seized the opportunity to play music, tell stories, and finally satisfy my delusions of DJ grandeur.

Radio Free Burrito is an infrequently-updated podcast, mostly focused on podsafe or creative-commons-licensed music. The first 13 posts here at the RFB homepage are considered the archives, and they cover a time period from 2005-2008. Comments are closed on all the archive posts, but as new episodes of RFB are added, those comments will be open.

A note to the listener: these podcasts are old, and the e-mail addresses I mention in them were sent to the land of wind and ghosts a long time ago. You can send all the mail you want to them, but it's just going to bounce.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy the Burrito.

Episode 26

Holy Crap, it's time for a new episode of Radio Free Burrito!

At long last, the planets align, I have time and ideas, and the GDMF construction next door is quiet.

Show Notes:

 

  • The logo was designed by WWdN:iX reader Marc, who asked that I not link to his "in progress" website. Thanks, Marc!
  • Radio Free Burrito doesn't work as hard to earn its [EXPLICIT] tag as Memories of the Futurecastdoes, but it still manages to upset mom and get Twitter breakup messages from sensitive people. You have been warned.
  • This week's theme music is from The Legend of Zelda, one of my favorite video games of all time.
  • On today's show, I read two stories from The Happiest Days of Our Lives, currently available from Subterranean Press as a special edition.
  • There is also an audio version of The Happiest Days of Our Lives, if you'd like to hear me read even more of it to you.
  • Movin' Right Along was performed by 15-16 Puzzle. If you have some time to check out hismusical archives, I believe you will find it worth your while.
  • I decided that this episode was brought to you by coffee … specifically the amazing cup of Sumatra that I made using beans that were roasted by my friend Aric. He's @WayOfCoffee on Twitter, and you can even order your own amazing beans from him at FremontCoffee.net. Did I mention that they're amazing? They totally are.
  • I just realized that I have friends who do awesome things, and I should make them the unofficial "sponsors" of RFB each week, so RFB listeners can discover nifty things. I hope I remember to do that next week.
  • When I read Close Your Eyes and Then It's Past, I played music from Robert Rich as a bed. He has a ton of albums at Magnatune.com; I used music from Calling Down The Sky today.
  • Actually, well over 90% of listeners said the audio levels were messed up, and that the music, which I'd hoped would be a nice background bed, was actually way too loud and distracted from my reading. Since this podcast is all about me, I remastered the episode and removed the music. 
  • Of course, if you didn't get this episode right when it was released yesterday, you probably won't notice the difference. Ahhhh … BLISSS!
  • This episode is about 69.5MB. Yikes.
  • This episode is about 48 minutes long.
  • I am aware that the tags are screwed up and the feed doesn't validate, so unless you're grabbing RFB from iTunes or getting it directly here, it's a giant hassle to get it. I am aware of this problem, but it's a gigantic pain in the ass for me to correct it, given the tools I have available to me. I'm sorry for the inconvenience, and I'm very annoyed by it, but I can make a podcast, or I can be a bug-squashing code monkey. I can't do both, and I quite frankly prefer making the podcast. Listener Dave K. built a workaround that you can learn all about hereThanks, Dave!
  • Again, no embedded artwork. This distresses me, but it's Apple's fault, not mine, and it's too much of a pain in the ass to get it done. Hopefully, they'll fix the bug REALLY SOON.
  • This is the end of the notes. 

Ready? Then put down your kazoo, step away from the punch bowl, and 

Download Radio Free Burrito Episode 26!

Episode 20

Holy Crap, it's time for a new episode of Radio Free Burrito!

I must say, I'm pretty proud of my ability to get this one out on time. If I keep this up, I may have to remove the phrase "infrequently updated" from the show's description.

Show Notes:

  • The logo was designed by WWdN:iX reader Marc, who asked that I not link to his "in progress" website. Thanks, Marc!
  • Radio Free Burrito doesn't work as hard to earn its [EXPLICIT] tag as Memories of the Futurecastdoes, but it still manages to upset mom and get Twitter breakup messages from sensitive people. You have been warned.
  • This week's theme music is Super Bon Bon by the legendary Soul Coughing, fronted by the equally-legendary Mike Doughty.
  • On today's show, I read a story from the forthcoming special edition of The Happiest Days of our Lives, called Green Grass and High Tides Forever (and ever and ever and
  • If you liked that story, you may want to check out the audio version of The Happiest Days of our Lives.
  • Green Grass And High Tides can be yours for 99 cents at Amazon. That's, like, 10 cents a minute, which would have been a big deal in long distance pricing back when digital watches were a pretty neat idea.
  • You know what's cheaper than building a time machine and going back to 1977 to watch Wizards? Yep. Watching it on DVD right here in the future.
  • I don't know why Thundarr The Barbarian isn't out in a deluxe Criterion edition, which it obviously deserves. We will just have to console ourselves with the Dungeons & Dragons animated series.
  • The Dark Tower at Boardgame Geek.
  • The Dark Tower online.
  • The Dark Tower commercial featuring ORSON FUCKING WELLES.
  • Flash version of The Dark Tower.
  • This link that has nothing at all to do with The Dark Tower.
  • This episode is just over 27 minutes long.
  • This episode is about 26MB.
  • This episode doesn't have artwork embedded, because I still can't figure out how to get it into the goddamn file without exporting as .m4a and converting to .mp3, doubling the filesize in the process. I mean, I could probably figure it out if I spent a lot of time working on it, but that's not nearly as fun as just producing the show.
  • This is the end of the notes. 

Ready? Then put on your awesome dragon shirt and

 Download Radio Free Burrito Episode 20

And finally, the RFB Mixtape, Volume One

As long as I can remember, my friends and I made mix tapes for each other. We'd grab stuff off the radio, record each other talking, tape tracks from records, and even grab stuff off the television.

A few minutes on the Internets revealed that I was not unique at all in this activity, which is as unsurprising as it is totally awesome.

I found myself in an empty house this weekend, and I became inspired by a midnight viewing of Videodrome to audio hijack some dialog from the film, drop in some of the weird audio I've scraped off the tubes in the last couple of months, and put it all together just like I did with those magnetic tapes so many years ago.

The audio levels are not as equalized as I'd like, but that's the way it was back then, too, so try to think of it as part of the charm, instead of an annoying technical failing on my part.

There aren't any show notes for this one, because we didn't bother to make show notes back in the old days. There are some titles embedded in the file, though, so you can imagine that they're scrawled on the TDK cardboard insert in blue Bic pen.

This was fun as hell to make, and I hope you like it. If you can spare a mirror, I'd be most grateful, because the file is quite large to preserve the audio quality.

Torrents, from Brian May:

High (orig):http://athena.unearthed.org/torrents/radio_free_burritos_mix_tape_volume_one.mp3.torrent

Low (mono, VBR bit rate range 0-24, 5.6 megs):http://athena.unearthed.org/torrents/radio_free_burritos_mix_tape_volume_one-low.mp3.torrent

Download radio_free_burritos_mix_tape_volume_one.mp3

TRT: 32:30
Filesize: 29.6 MB (Yep, it's all music, so it's huge, even encoded at 128).

(Image via Make)

 

I’m on a boat: The Yeah-heah-heah-ha-ha-hah-heaaah! Guy

I’m on JoCoCruiseCrazy 2, and I’m taking an Internet vacation until I get home. So every day while I’m gone, something from my archives will post here automatically, for your entertainment. I had a lot of fun picking these different things out, and I hope you enjoy them again, or for the first time.

Yeah-heah-heah-ha-ha-hah-heaaah!

Originally published November 2005.

A one-armed Chinese man, a drug dealer wearing a gaudy gold Virgin of Guadelupe pendant on a gaudy gold rope, and Shane Nickerson.

Yeah, it's just another night in the $100 NL game at Commerce.

Shane, I've decided, has the worst luck in the universe. I watched him lose a buy-in to a donkey who called him all the way down with an underpair, only to catch her one-outer on the river to bust his flopped top two pair. I also saw him lose a buy-in to the guy we're pretty sure was a drug dealer n Shane flopped a set of nines against the his pocket queens, and the villain caught running clubs to make a flush. Aiyah!

When I got home, I wrote to Shane:

The Flush Suckout Guy has this great set of speakers in his van that he can sell you, straight from the factory. I think he has some designer cologne, too, but he may have to run around the corner to pick it up.

Shane wrote back:

That guy writes himself, man.

Indeed, he did. His fingernails were stained black, the same color as his black Los Angeles Dodgers cap. His huge adam's apple pushed out against two or three days worth of stubble. His blue eyes were bloodshot and pinned, and when he walked up to the table, he bounced his head around, pealed a one hundred dollar bill off a thick gangster roll from his pocket, and said, "Yeah-heah-heah-ha-ha-hah-heaaah!" He was one of the worst players I've ever seen, and that wad of bills came out of his pocket for several rebuys while I was there.

While it's very convenient to play online, one of the major benefits of playing live poker is seeing characters like Suckout Guy and One Armed Man. Shane and I also saw a guy in a floor-length oilskin duster who had a Texas Rangers star to accompany the feather on his fedora, as well as a gaggle of outrageously hot girls in too-tight cowboy shirts. (As if there's such a thing!) The guy in the 8 seat at our table said he took the SAT with me at Granada Hills High about sixteen years ago, and at one point stacked up over $500 in front of him by making boat-over-boat.

The game down there is extremely loose, and if you're not careful, you will get killed by some jerk who calls your fifteen dollar pre-flop raise (the blinds are 2 and 3) with a raggedy ace and ends up making two pair on the turn to bust your AK. So I played outrageously tight, raising with Group I and II hands only, and only limping with all other pocket pairs or medium suited connectors if I could get in late with at least two limpers ahead of me. I didn't play many hands, but I got paid off twice with pocket queens and a successful continuation bet with AQ when a king hit the flop. I played for about three hours, and I left $53 to the good after tokes and blinds. Not great, but better than losing, and when is the last time you got to say that you played with a one-armed man?

Yeah-heah-heah-ha-ha-hah-heaaah!

I’m on a boat: The Monster in my Closet

I’m on JoCoCruiseCrazy 2, and I’m taking an Internet vacation until I get home. So every day while I’m gone, something I love from my archives will post here automatically, for your entertainment. I had a lot of fun picking these different things out, and I hope you enjoy them again, or for the first time.

Flash Fiction: The Monster in my Closet

Originally published October, 2011.

About two hours ago, I thought to myself, "'There's a monster in my closet' would be a neat way to start out one of those scary short stories I loved to read when I was in middle school."

I wrote it down, then wrote a little more and a little more. Right around the time I realized I had no idea how it ended, the ending tapped me on the shoulder and said "boo!"

I've never done this before, but I thought it would be cool to publish it here without the usual editorial and rewrites I do on everything, because the idea of conceiving, writing, and releasing a short story in just a couple of hours is intriguing to me.

Added on 10/19: I made free-free and DRM-free ePub and Kindle versions of this story.You can get them at my virtual bookshelf if you like.

So, without any further introduction, here is my scary short story that I hope 12 year-old me would enjoy…

The Monster In My Closet

by Wil Wheaton

There is a monster in my closet. It’s standing in there behind my clothes, and it wants to come out. I don’t know where it came from, I don’t know how it got in there, but I know that it’s been there for a long time, waiting.

Mum and dad don’t believe in monsters (and until yesterday, neither did I), but during dinner tonight, I had to tell them.

“A monster,” dad said, wiping mashed potatoes off his beard. “Like, with claws and fangs? That kind of monster?”

“I haven’t actually seen it,” I said, “but I know it’s there.”

“How can you know it’s there if you haven’t seen it?” Mum asked.

“It’s like…” I thought for a moment. “It’s like when it’s cloudy, and you can’t see the moon, but it sort of glows behind the clouds, so you know it’s there.”

“So your closet was glowing, eh?” Dad said.

I shook my head. I could tell that they thought I was making the whole thing up. “No, dad,” I said, “but I could feel it in there, and –”

“And what?” He said.

“And if it comes out,” I said, carefully, “It’s going to kill us.”

“Well, I should expect so,” dad said. “Monsters are usually very serious about that sort of thing.”

Mum scowled at him. “Richard! Don’t make fun.”

Then she looked back at me and said, “you can have a night light in your room to keep the monster away.”

“And keep your closet door shut,” dad said, gravely, “everyone knows that monsters can’t open doors.”

“But –”

“But nothing. Now stop all this chattering and eat your peas before they get cold,” mum said.

I’m trying to deal with a monster, and all mum cares about is me eating my peas. Typical parents.

They walked me into my room when it was time for bed. Dad made a big production of opening the closet and looking inside. “Well, it looks like we scared it off,” he said. He didn’t notice that the lid of my toy chest was lifted up slightly, and I didn’t bother telling him. He pushed the door and it shut with a click. He shook the knob and pantomimed looping a chain around it that he secured with a pantomimed pad lock. He swallowed a pantomime key and rubbed his belly.

Mum brought in one of my old night lights, the one with the blue pony on it, and plugged it into the wall next to the bed. “There, sweetheart,” she said as she turned it on, “let’s just leave this on tonight.”

She kissed me goodnight. Then dad kissed me on my forehead.

“There’s a good girl,” he said, “sleep tight! Don’t let the monsters bite!”

“Richard!” Mum smacked him on his arm. “Sorry, sweetie, he’s just having a bit of fun.”

“Good night, mum,” I said. I tried not to frown too much at dad.

I heard them talking as they walked down the stairs.. “She just has a wonderful imagination, doesn’t she?” Mum said.

“She’s a dreamer, that’s for sure,” dad said. I heard ice clink into glasses, then, a moment later,  the creak of their armchairs as they sat down to watch television. 

I was starting to fall asleep when I heard it.

“Psssst.” 

I thought that maybe I was dreaming, but I pulled the covers up to my neck, as tightly as I could, and listened. 

“Psssst.” 

It came from the closet. “Psssst. Hey, kid. Come and open the door, hey?”

I felt my eyes widen, as a chill ran down my spine.

“Come on, kid, I won’t hurt ya, I just want to get out of here. Open the door and I’ll be on my way.”

The voice — its voice — was gruff, but not as gruff as I thought it would be.

“No,” I said in a small voice, barely a whisper. “You… you just stay in there.”

The handle shook a bit, and I screamed. Mum and dad were in the room before I knew it.

“It’s in there!” I cried, “it’s in there and it told me to open the door and let it out!”

They looked at each other. Mum walked across the room to me and sat down on the edge of my bed. “There, there, sweetie,” she said, “you just had a bad dream is all.

“Richard, open the door and show her that there’s nothing inside but clothes and toys.”

“No! Dad! Don’t open it!” I practically screamed.

“Fear not, my petal,” he said, gallantly, “Any monsters inside this closet will get the thrashing of their lives!” He walked to the closet and knocked on the door. “Anyone in there? Hmm?”

He winked at me and shadow boxed the air in front of him.

“Richard, stoppit and just open the door. She’s had an awful fright.”

“Daddy, don’t do it,” I said, suddenly feeling like I was seven years-old again. “Please.”

He smiled and said, “it’s all right, sweetheart. Daddy’s just going to show you that there’s nothing to be afraid of, and then we can all go back to sleep.”

Mum squeezed my hand. An audience laughed on the television downstairs. Dad turned the handle on the closet door and opened it. “Now, see? There’s nothing to–”

The monster was covered in dark scales, like a lizard. Its eyes were jet black, but reflected something red in their centers. It grabbed my dad by his shoulders and bit into his neck with long, sharp, white teeth.

Dad screamed and struggled against it. Clawed hands held onto him and a spray of blood shot across the back of the closet door, black and shiny in the dim light.

It slurped and gurgled and crunched, and in a few seconds, dad stopped moving. I realized that my mum hadn’t made a sound, but had let go of my hand.

She stood up, and walked toward the monster. It dropped my dad’s body to the floor and grinned at her, dad’s blood dripping off of its teeth and running down its chest. They stood over my dad’s body and embraced.

“I’ve missed you, darling,” the monster said to my mum.

“I missed you, too, my sweet,” she said, in the same gruff voice.

“Mu– mum?” I said. She ignored me.

“I would have come sooner, but you know that we can’t open them from the inside,” the monster said.

“Everyone knows that!” Mum said, and they laughed together. She turned to face me. Her skin was starting to crack on her face, revealing dark grey scales beneath it. Her eyes were turning black, reflecting something red in their centers.

“Come on over here and give us a hug,” she said, as sharp white fangs pushed her teeth out of her mouth and onto the floor where they bounced around like marbles. “Come and be mommy’s little monster!”

“WHAT IS HAPPENING? I screamed.

“Stop that horrid racket and say hello to your dad — your real dad,” she said.

I reached around for something, anything, to use as a weapon to protect myself. When I stretched out for the lamp on my night stand, the skin on my arm cracked and split open. There were grey scales underneath it. 

“Oh no. No no no no no,” I said.

I reached up to touch my face, and pulled the soft pink flesh away. I felt the rough scales underneath.

“What’s happening to me?!”

I looked at my mum.

I looked at my dad.

I looked at the body on the floor.

I realized that I was ever so hungry, and my food was getting cold.

I got out of bed and joined my family for dinner.

Copyright 2011 Wil Wheaton. 

Creative Commons License
The Monster In My Closet by Wil Wheaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

 

I’m on a boat: Hunter – a short pay-what-you-want Sci-Fi story

I’m on JoCoCruiseCrazy 2, and I’m taking an Internet vacation until I get home. So every day while I’m gone, something from my archives will post here automatically, for your entertainment. I had a lot of fun picking these different things out, and I hope you enjoy them again, or for the first time.

Hunter

Originally published February 2011.

Hunter is a short Sci-Fi story set in a dark and desperate world

Here's a small preview:

Pyke chased the girl down a street still wet with the afternoon’s rainfall. A thin sliver of moon was glowing behind the thinning clouds, but it wasn’t bright enough to pierce the darkness between thefew street lamps that still worked. The girl was fast. He had to stay close, or she’d escape. 

Pyke had let the girl put about 500 feet between them when she ranthrough a bright pool of light and was swallowed by darkness. When she didn’t reappear, Pyke knew he had her, for there was only one place she could have gone. He followed her through a once-ornate gateway into the old city, where the colony had been founded a century before.

Her footfalls echoed off rows of empty windows down narrow streets that seemed to turn back on themselves, an ancient trick intended to confuse invaders. When the Gan arrived, they solved this puzzle by simply bombarding most of the buildings and walls from low orbit until there weren’t many places left to hide. Hunters like Pyke—a second-generation Goa colonist who’d grown up in the old city—knew every twist, every turn, every blind alley and every hidden basement.

It wasn’t the first time Pyke had pushed a rebel into the avenues. In the six months he’d been working for the Gan, he’d let dozens of terrified patriots think they were making their escape into the old city’s maze-like streets, only to trap them in one of its countless dead ends, where he’d have a little fun before turning them over to his masters.

He heard a splash just down the block, followed by a yelp. She must have fallen in a puddle, Pyke thought. Shallow craters were everywhere in these streets; filled with water, they made quite effective traps. Pyke slowed to a jog and grinned. It was only a matter of time now.

It is just about 2500 words, which is about the length of a story you'd read in a magazine. I'm not really sure what the appropriate cost is, so I'm experimenting with the Pay What You Want model that seems to be working really well for a lot of artists I respect and admire.

If I sold Hunter to a magazine, I'd probably get around $125 or so (assuming I could get the SFWA professional rate of five cents a word. I figure that at least 125 people will want to read this, so if all of them donated a dollar, I'd feel really good about this, and I'd be able to do it again in the future. If you're interested (and I hope you are) you can downloadHunter and pay what you want (even the low low price of NOTHING AT ALL) at Wil Wheaton Books dot Com.

A couple of FAQs:

Is this about the amazing 80s cop drama HUNTER starring Fred Dryer?

No, it's an original work of fiction set in a world I made up. 

Where could I find out more about HUNTER and Fred Dryer?

Oh, I bet Wikipedia will help you with the show and its star.

Don't you mean "it's"?

No, I don't. This rhyme from Strongbad has served me well: "If you want to be possessive, it's just I-T-S … if you want to use an apostrophe, it's I-T-APOSTROPHE-S!"

Can I use something other than PayPal to give you filthy money?

Not at the moment, no.

But PayPal is evil!

I know. Luckily, you can stick it to me and PayPal at the same time, if you want. Yay!

What about Google Checkout?

I'm working on it. Well slap my fanny, I figured out how to use it. Yes, you can use Google Checkout. The only thing is, I couldn't find an option that lets you set your price, so I set it at $2.00, which seems to be the average people are choosing to pay.

Can I download the artwork and use it for the cover?

Yes! I tried to embed the neat image Will Hindmarch designed into the files, but apparently I haven't unlocked that skill yet.

Are you going to expand this story?

Maybe. I know a lot about the world and other stuff that would be spoilery, because I've thought about it a lot, but I don't know if I'm ready to expand this particular story much more. I think I'll be revisiting [spoiler] at some point, though, because it's very intriguing to me.

So I've decided to pay for this. What do you suggest?

A billon dollars seems about right to me, but most people are choosing between 1 and 5 bucks.

Can I print out the PDF?

Yes.

I bought the [mobi | pdf | epub] but now I want [some other format] do I have to pay you again?

Of course not, but thank you for asking. You're a good guy or girl.

Can I give my copy to a friend?

Yes, but I'd prefer you link them to the Hunter page at Wil Wheaton Books dot Com where they can download their own copy. I hope that this will introduce new readers to my work, and if they're at my virtual bookshelf, maybe they'll check out my other work.

Are you doing an audio version?

I don't know. Maybe in the future.

Isn't Wall of Voodoo an amazing band?

Hell yes! I've been listening to The Index Masters pretty much non-stop for three days.

Okay, that just about covers it. If you like this, please tell your friends.

 

I’m on a boat: This isn’t a book; it’s a time machine

I’m on JoCoCruiseCrazy 2, and I’m taking an Internet vacation until I get home. So every day while I’m gone, something from my archives will post here automatically, for your entertainment. I had a lot of fun picking these different things out, and I hope you enjoy them again, or for the first time.

This isn't a book; it's a time machine.

Originally published March 2009.

This is how I go to my happy place.

This is where it all began for me: the D&D Basic Rules Set. When I opened this book in 1983, I had no idea that it would change my life. Back then, if you told 11 year-old me that I'd be 36 and wiping tears from my face because reading it brought back so many joyful memories, he would have called you one of the names the cool kids called him for playing it. (Don't judge him too harshly; he's only 11.)

My original D&D Basic set was a garage sale casualty, but the book in this picture is a first printing that I bought at a game store about ten years ago. It's perfect in every way, except for a missing character sheet in the middle, which I printed from the PDF copy I bought from Paizo last year.

The Keep on the Borderlands module beneath it belonged to someone named Randy Richards, who wrote his name and phone number (as we so often did in those days) on the cover. I don't know who Randy Richards is, if he cares, or if he'll even read this, but if he does, I want him to know: your book is in very good hands, Randy, and its current owner loves it as much as anyone could.

I've been on a real D&D kick lately (blame the Penny Arcade podcast, and how much I love 4e) but I hadn't actually gone back to the beginning and read the Basic Rules for a very, very long time. So late last night, after my family went to sleep, instead of watching TV or reading blogs, I went to my bookshelf and grabbed the Player's Manual you see in this picture. I read it cover-to-cover for the first time in over 20 years, and played the solo adventure, which was the very first dungeon I ever visited. I named my fighter Thorin, just like I did when I was a kid. I made a map on graph paper, rolled dice on the floor, and felt pure joy wash over me. I scared off a Giant Rat and killed the remaining two before I failed – like I did when I was 11 – to solve the riddle of O-T-T-F-F-S-S, losing all my treasure. I tried to talk to the Goblins … before I killed them and took their treasure: 100 sp and 50 gp. I battled the Rust Monster, who was just as tough and unreasonable an opponent for a first level fighter as I remember. Thorin eventually managed to defeat it with some … creative … trips back to town to replace his armor and weapons, just like he did a quarter century ago. Luckily for him, the Rust Monster didn't heal between battles … just like the last time he faced it. I decided to leave the skeletons for another time, and walked back to town with my 650 gp and 100 sp. When I calculated my XP, I had earned 1084 … not too shabby. I closed up my book, and went to sleep happy.

When I was a kid, the D&D Basic Rules Set was never just a game to me; it was my portal into a magical, wonderful world that I still love. Now that I'm an adult, it isn't just a couple of books to me; it's a time machine.

The world I live in is filled with uncertainty and occasionally-overwhelming responsibility, but for an hour or so last night, I was 11 years-old again, and I went back to a world where the biggest problem I faced was trying to save up for a Millennium Falcon. When I read "You decide to attack the goblins before they can get help…" I could hear my Aunt Val tell me “That’s a game that I hear lots of kids like to play, Willow. It’s dragons and wizards and those things you liked from The Hobbit. The back says you use your imagination, and I know what a great imagination you have.” I could feel the weight of my Red Box, which I carried with me pretty much everywhere I went, and how huge the thing felt in my tiny arms. I could feel it get heavier as I added modules and characters, and my own dungeons, drawn on graph paper. I could hear the snap of the thick green rubber band I eventually had to wrap around it, and I could see the yellowing scotch tape I added to the corners.

I enjoyed it so much, I'm going to reread the Dungeon Master's Rulebook next, and run the Group Game adventure it contains, "for use by a beginning Dungeon Master." Then, it's time to go back to the Keep on the Borderlands, using just the Basic Rules, where Magic-users can't wear armor, Fighters have 8 HP, Dwarf and Elf are classes, and everyone dies at least once before finally taking a character to second level, because that's where it all started for me, and sometimes you just have to go back to your roots.

 

I’m on a boat: On the Delivery of Technobabble

I’m on JoCoCruiseCrazy 2, and I’m taking an Internet vacation until I get home. So every day while I’m gone, something from my archives will post here automatically, for your entertainment. I had a lot of fun picking these different things out, and I hope you enjoy them again, or for the first time.

On the Delivery of Technobabble

Originally published May 2011.

I was in three scenes yesterday, one of which contained a massive amount of technobabble.

For those who don't know what that is: on a sci-fi show, technobabble is what we call pseudoscientific dialog like "I'll have to run a level four diagnostic on the antimatter inversion matrix to be sure." It's pretty much the worst dialog an actor can have to deliver on a show, because it's rarely connected to anything in reality, and if we're talking about the inertial dampeners in a scene, we're pretty much infodumping to the audience, instead of doing something interesting with our characters.

…or so I thought until yesterday.

The thing about technobabble is that it isn't usually connected to reality. By that, I mean that though it does follow the logical rules of the show's universe, and references things the fans know about, for most actors, it's like being asked to perform in a foreign language that you barely understand (if you understand it at all.)

The other thing about technobabble is that the character delivering it is supposed to be an expert on the subject, and should have a point of view about it that stays alive through the whole scene. For example, maybe Doctor Hoobajoo is the leading expert in the galaxy on ion resonance within the subspace induction processor core, so when Doctor Hoobajoo talks about that subject, she's an expert. You can't ask her a single question about the subspace induction processor core that she can't answer. But for the actor playing Doctor Hoobajoo, she has to deliver a bunch of dialog based on something that doesn't even exist as if she's been studying it her whole life.

This is a tremendous challenge for the actor, because, unlike normal dialog that comes from an emotional place, technobabble comes from memories that don't exist. While the actor who plays Doctor Hoobajoo can draw on the emotional memory of being betrayed, or being afraid, or being in love to inform a scene, she can't draw on the memory of studying and mastering the twin fields of ion resonance and subspace induction. As an actor, it's easy to fall into the trap of delivering technobabble by rote, and for a lot of us, it's the only way we can remember those lines at all.

But sometimes, a scene is emotionally important, and is filled with technobabble. That's just the reality of working in science fiction. So when Doctor Hoobajoo is trapped in the power conduit with Commander Framitz, her former lover from her first deployment who left her for an android, and can only save them from certain depolarizaion by repairing a malfunction in the subspace induction processor core, the actor has a lot of work to do. Not only does the actor have to be an expert who can solve the problem and save their lives, she has to be emotionally connected to the scene and the history between the two characters. Oh, and she has to remember that the stakes in this case are pretty high. And she has to do this over and over again for several hours, during the master shot, the VFX shots, and all the coverage.

Boy, writing those three paragraphs just exhausted me. I'll be back in a little bit.

Okay, some coffee and steel cut oats seem to have revitalized me, so I can get to my point now, about what I realized yesterday:

I had a scene that was almost entirely technobabble. It sets up a lot of the action for the episode, tells the audience what's at stake, and gets them excited enough to sit through commercials for MegaSomething versus Giant Other Thing to find out what happens next. I drove the scene. Everyone else was reacting to me and the information I gave them, and I think I had one line in two pages that wasn't technobabble. It was challenging, and I knew from experience that I was going to have trouble remembering the jargon, so I did a lot of extra homework to make sure I was totally prepared. 

As I did my preparation, I realized that while the technobabble is just a dump of information, it's information that Doctor Parrish has an opinion about. The function of the scene is to get the action going and give the audience some important information, but that doesn't mean it has to be an infodump. The way Doctor Parrish feels about the other characters affects the way he talks with them regardless of the words. It affects who he chooses to give certain bits of information to, and it affects how he delivers the information. So I found ways to be emotionally connected to the scene and the characters, while caring about the information I was giving them, so it wasn't an infodump. A scene that could have been tedious and boring became a scene that was a lot of fun to perform.

Still, it was really hard to remember all the technobabble I had, and at one point, when I blanked on a line, my Star Trek skills automatically sprung to life, went into failsafe mode, and made me say "blah blah emit blah pulse blah blah blah." (The fun of technobabble is that a lot of the words are interchangeable. The frustration of technobabble is that we can't paraphrase or use any of the interchangeable words, because a subspace matrix is different from a subspace array.)

It honestly could have been boring and exhausting to spend much of a day delivering technobabble, but when I realized that I could keep it interesting by endowing the technobabble with emotional resonance, the whole thing came to life in a surprising and unexpected way. It was like I'd detected anomalies in the starboard neutrino emitter, and instead of adjusting the warp plasma induction subroutine to compensate for multiadaptive fluctuations, like you'd usually do, I thought about it, and equalized the portable phase transmission with a self-sealing warp core transmuter.

I know, right? I bet you never thought to do it that way. Well, I did, and it worked.

 

I’m on a boat: When the MCP was just a chess program

I’m on JoCoCruiseCrazy 2, and I’m taking an Internet vacation until I get home. So every day while I’m gone, something from my archives will post here automatically, for your entertainment. I had a lot of fun picking these different things out, and I hope you enjoy them again, or for the first time.

When the MCP Was Just A Chess Program

Originally published November 2008.

My extremely active imagination was forged in the playground fire of a childhood spent weak and strange. I read books while other kids played football; I played and wrote computer games while other teens went to makeout parties. While I couldn'’t get to second base on the kickball field at school or in Justine Baker’'s house, by the end of middle school I had taken the One Ring to Mordor, destroyed the Death Star, and designed and populated countless dungeons.

The real world was a pretty miserable place for a kid like me. I did everything I could to find ways to step out of it: one page at a time in a book or one quarter at a time in the arcade, the more immersive the game, the better. I was never a huge fan of Battlezone’s gameplay, but it remains the closest I’ve ever come to actually driving a tank. I always favored the sit-down versions of games like Pole PositionSpy Hunter, and Sinistar. They felt more . . . real . . . than their stand-up brothers, providing a cleaner escape from the kids at Pinball Plus who took pitiless joy in pointing out that my shoes were Traxx from Kmart, not Vans from the mall.

While game designers and arcade owners did all they could with cabinet systems and sound design (I defy anyone to tell me they didn’t want their Slush Puppy “shaken, not stirred” after a particularly rousing round of Spy Hunter, with music blasting behind their heads, their feet jammed down on the gas, and imagined breezes blowing through their feathered hair), it was our imagination that did most of the work of creating the alternate reality, especially on our console systems at home.

The earliest video games didn’t just encourage us to use our imaginations when we played them, they forced us to. Yar’s Revenge, the best-selling original title on the Atari 2600, has simple yet entertaining gameplay, but it was supported by an extraordinarily rich backstory, turning it into one chapter in an epic struggle for cosmic justice. When I was 9, I wasn'’t just chipping away at the shield while I readied my Zorlon cannon; I was helping the Yar extract revenge on the Qotile for the destruction of their planet, Razak IV, as illustrated in the comic that came with the game.

When I was 10 or 11, I arranged a TV tray, a dining room chair, and a worn blanket to make a small tent in front of our 24-inch TV set. I carefully moved our Atari 400 onto the tray and plugged Star Raidersinto the cartridge slot. I flipped the power on, picked up the joystick, and booted up my imagination as I sat in the command chair of my very own space ship. For the next hour, I was a member of the Atarian Starship Fleet. I was all that stood between the Zylon Empire and the destruction of humanity. Through my cockpit’s viewscreen (developed at great expense by the RCA corporation back on Earth) I blasted Zylon starships and Zylon basestars, and I would have defeated them all, if my meddling mother hadn'’t made me stop and eat dinner!

Over the years, I built bigger and better immersive environments for myself, using transistor radios and walkie-talkies to complete a cockpit with a Vectrex as the main viewer. I made maps of whatever jungle I explored as Pitfall Harry and hung them on my bedroom walls. I created star charts and galactic maps for everything from Asteroids to Cosmic Ark. When I copied game programs out of Antic magazine, I dimmed the lights and did it in the dark, because that seemed like something real hackers would do. (This probably explains a rash of headaches suffered by real hackers throughout the ’80s and ’90s.)

In 1984, after cutting my teeth on the Atari 400 and TI-99/4A, I got my first Macintosh computer. While it had word processing and drawing ability like nothing I’'d seen up to that point in my life, it didn’t have any real games, and its programming environment was confounding to the point of uselessness. There wasn’t enough combined imagination in the world to make MacVegas fun, especially when my friends with Commodores and PCs could show off a game like King’s Quest. I was despondent.

My disappointment softened when I discovered Macventure games by ICOM Simulations: DeJa Vu in 1985, Uninvited in 1986, and Shadowgate in 1987. While these games weren’t as technologically advanced or immersive as some in the arcades, they gave me access to worlds that were richer than the ones I'’d visited before. They felt less linear, less finite, and engaged my imagination in ways I hadn’t felt since I built my first Atarian Starship in our living room so many years before. And when I finished them, I got a diploma that I could print out – slowly –on my dot-matrix Imagewriter.

As I grew older and came of age in the ’80s, I looked to gaming more for stimulation and entertainment than for escape. I was still attracted to immersive environments, though, and loved games like Defender of the Crown and NeTrek. Around 1988 or 1989, an unlikely game captured my imagination and transported me to another world like nothing had before. Maybe it’s because I was such a huge geek, maybe it’s because I’d been reading Choose Your Own Adventure books since I was in fourth grade, or maybe it’s because I was working on Star Trek every day and my imagination was constantly in an excited state, but Infocom’s The Lurking Horror completely pulled me into its virtual world. It was just green text on a black background, and there wasn’t even any sound, but I was Flynn to its MCP. I spent hours – okay, days – exploring G.U.E. Tech and the nightmares therein. My imagination took the words and created something scary and real. I had finally found the totally immersive game I’d been looking for my entire life in my fragile eggshell mind, where I got to control everything from the sound of a floor waxer to the darkness of the steam tunnels. After I finished it, I played every interactive fiction title I could get my hands on, from Zork to Leather Goddesses of Phobos to Planetfall to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. (I think I’ll get over Macho Grande before I get over my inability to capture the babelfish without using Invisiclues™.) 

My kids live in a very different world than I did. Their immersive, narrative gaming experiences are the space shuttle to my paper airplane. Several months ago, I showed my 17-year-old stepson some of the classic Infocom games that I loved when I was his age. After growing up in a world where our Xbox 360 is more powerful than every console I owned in my entire childhood, combined and squared, he could appreciate the historical significance but was otherwise unimpressed. (“This is what gaming was for you? That’'s weird.”) I was a little saddened, but it quickly passed. After all, when I was his age, I could only dream of one day putting myself into a living, breathing world like Liberty City. It’s a consequence of progress, I guess, and I’'m sure that one day he’'ll show my incredulous grandchildren these games he used to play that were confined to a television set. (“You had to use an external console, not a wetware chipslot? That'’s weird.”)

As I wrote this column, I got a jones to hop in a bathysphere and spend some time back in Rapture. I already finished Bioshock once, but it wasn'’t the plasmids or the music or the visual design that pulled me back; it was the story. It was a desire to experience Andrew Ryan'’s world once again, to find every single diary and explore every single room, to feel like I was back under the sea in that incredible place.

I played for several hours one day, discovering some new areas and reliving some half-remembered favorites. I eventually found myself under Sander Cohen’'s spotlight, pulled away only when my wife asked me –- for what was apparently the third or fourth time -– to come to dinner. I saved the game and shut down the console. After we ate, I grabbed my controller, and prepared to go back to Fort Frolic.

What I found was worse than a room filled with Splicers: the dreaded Red Ring of Death. To anyone who doubts the narrative power of modern video games, I submit myself: I felt like I was in the middle of a book, only to have it ripped from my hands and thrown into a fire. I felt like I was watching a movie, only to have the film catch and burn through somewhere in the fourth reel. It was fabula interrupta. 

Waiting for my 360 to get back from the gaming doctor and restore my access to Rapture and points beyond isn'’t as bad as one might think, though. I still have all my books and movies and hobby games and other nerdly escape routes. And, I confess, I keep a Z Machine interpreter on my Mac, so I'’m never too far away from an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door.