I’m coming soon to a TV near you

At MegaCon, I announced that I’ve been developing a television show that I host, write, and produce. Here’s a little bit more about that show.

I can’t say which network it will be on, but the network picked us up for 12 episodes, and we’ll start airing in May. If everything goes according to plan, and they make a full order, I’ll be on your television almost every week for the rest of the year. This show is really funny, and I can’t wait to get permission from the network to talk about it in more detail. I heard today, though, that the network plans to make a formal announcement next week sometime.

Wednesday, I met with my entire staff of writers and producers, and I was blown away by the talent and brilliance of the team I’m going to be working with for the next three months (and hopefully the next few years). I wish I could talk about this in more detail, but until I get the go-ahead from the network, know this: For at least 12 weeks this summer, I’ll be coming into your home to share some funny and awesome stuff with you, and I’m really super excited for you to share the experience with me.

the return of the infamous clown sweater

Longtime readers of the blog are probably familiar with the Infamous Clown Sweater, and the strange role it’s played in my life for over ten years.

I don’t know what happened to the actual sweater, and I’ve never heard from its owner since that one fateful night at DNA Lounge so long ago, but for a few of us* it is a silly thing that makes us happy. It’s sort of an inside joke that we share, and I love that.

So, today at shirt.woot, you can get your own version of it, designed by me and my pal Rich Stevens. If you’re one of the few, you may want to pick one up. In fact, I hope you will, so that we can coordinate some massive picture at GenCon or something like that, where a bunch of us are wearing it … because people need help with their nightmares.

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*probably a few thousand, but still, a few

status

Hello, World.

I am not dead, I have just been very busy with the travel and the secret projects and etc.

I have many stories to tell, and they will be told as soon as I have the time to properly tell them.

Until that time arrives … COMMERCE!

The new Humble Bundle has a bunch of really great books, and one of them is mine! My book The Happiest Days of Our Lives is available in ePub and MOBI formats for the very first time, as part of this bundle.

You can also get Steven Gould’s JUMPER, the Zombies vs. Unicorns anthology, Scott Westerfield’s Uglies, and even more.

The whole thing is pay-what-you-want, but if you pay at least $15, you will get the audio version of Cory Doctorow’s HOMELAND, read by me. I’ve done a lot of audiobooks in the last few years, and I can honestly say that this is one of my favourites. I’m intensely proud of the work we did on it, and I want everyone who enjoys my audiobook performances to hear it.

Okay, before I go help Anne with a thing, a picture of me being classy in a sequined bow tie:

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this is my script. there are many like it, but this one is mine

Wil Wheaton Big Bang Theory Script

On Wednesday last week, I picked up my script in my dressing room, and in the upper right corner, it said that the script was for Will Wheaton, playing the part of Will Wheaton.

I picked it up, and walked into the stage. I found one of the assistant directors, and told him, “I think there’s been a terrible mistake. I’ve been given someone else’s script.”

I showed him the name. He looked mortified. “Oh god I’m so sorry. We’ll fix that right away.”

I laughed. “It’s not a big deal, and I can fix it myself right now.” I grabbed a pen and turned the superfluous Ls into little boxes, like I’ve been doing my whole life. “I really don’t care. I just thought I could make a joke about it, and I’m easily amused, so…”

He laughed with me and apologized again.

“I’m not a prima donna,” I said, “and people have been doing this my whole life.”

He spoke into his walkie. “I have him here, and we’re walking.” He turned to me. “They’re ready for you, sir.”

We walked around the back of the stage and along the space that separates the audience from the set. Today, that space is filled with cameras and equipment, but on rehearsal days, it’s empty and quiet.

“When I was in grade school, I went to this really authoritarian parochial school, and they were all about conforming to the rules. One of my teachers — I’m pretty sure it was my third grade teacher — used the dreaded red pen to add an extra L to my name for the first few days of school, until I got really upset about it and asked her to stop.”

“Jesus, she really did that?”

“Yeah, it was not a particularly awesome time for young me.”

We arrived at Howard and Bernadette’s apartment. “So I learned early on that it’s important to not be too precious about it, and now it’s funny to me.”

Later that day, after our rehearsals were finished and the script was updated to reflect changes the writers made, I got a new script, and it was actually mine, because it had my name on it and everything.

We’re shooting some scenes without the audience today, because there are something like 16 scenes in this episode, and if we shot all of them in front of the audience, it would make for a very late night.

Tomorrow, we’ll shoot almost the entire show in front of the audience, including the scenes that I’m in, where I play Wil Wheaton. He’s just this guy, you know?

a few memorable moments on the set at big bang theory

A sharp knock on my door, seconds before it opened. The assistant director poked his head into my dressing room and told me they were ready for me on the stage.

I closed my book. “Here I go!”

We walked into the stage together, and I continued on into the set where we were rehearsing this particular scene. Kaley and Johnny were already on there when I sat down next to them.

“You should never take that hat off,” Johnny said to me.

I looked at him to see if he was being sincere, or giving me the business. Before I could figure out which one it was, he said, “it looks really good on you.”

I smiled. “You are one of my fashion heroes, so that really means a lot to me.”

Inside, I secretly felt cool for almost three whole seconds.

“I mean it,” he said.

“Thank you. That was very kind.”

Kaley dramatically put her script down. “WOULD YOU TWO GET A ROOM ALREADY?!”

I gave Johnny a sly look that he did not return. “Do you want to just sit on that couch together?” I asked.

We all laughed together, and the director called for quiet.

We ran the scene, and I killed a joke*. We ran it a second time, and I nailed the beats I needed to nail. I felt calm and focused and — for the first time I think, ever, since I started working on the show — like I really and truly deserved to be there. I’m not gonna lie to  you, Marge: it felt really good.

I thanked the director for the notes he gave me, and returned to my dressing room where I waited to be called back to the stage, to bring Evil Wil Wheaton (who is decidedly less evil than he used to be) back to life.

Later, I saw Melissa and Kaley waiting to run one of their scenes. “Let’s take a picture for the Internet,” I said.

“I really like that hat on you,” Melissa said.

“Thanks,” I said, “I was just lazy this morning and didn’t want to do my hair, because it’s just a tiny bit too long and I can’t get it to behave. But I’m getting compliments, which is pretty awesome.”

I held out my camera, and we took a silly picture that I put on Twitter.

The writers all came into the stage, and we ran the entire episode for them. Everyone laughed really hard in all the right places, and it’s pretty clear that this episode works. I can’t wait for the audience to see it on Tuesday, and I am so grateful that I get to be part of this wonderful experience.

 

*Note that this means I wrecked the joke, because I delivered the line poorly. This can be confusing to normal people who hear us talk about comedy, because when a joke works, we say that the joke “killed”. So: killing a joke is bad, but making a joke that kills is good.

Comedians are obsessed with death, I guess, or at least dying on stage.

midnight highway

The second song on the Kill Bill Volume 1 soundtrack is a fantastic rockabilly number called That Certain Female. It has this great thick guitar riff with a lot of echo and delay and, for me, it conjures up images of Route 66 under a new moon, windows down and radio blaring as a ’58 Chevy puts miles between its mysterious driver and Chicago as fast as he can lay them down.

This music fills the dark and bug-spattered spaces between Amarillo and Tucumcari, staccato white lines flashing by in the headlights, the smell of exhaust and old tobacco swirling with dust.

Is he running toward something or away from something? Or is it a she behind the wheel? What’s in the trunk? What’s in the backseat? When we see the driver’s eyes in the rear view mirror, briefly lit by the glowing cherry of a cigarette, are they determined? Resigned? Afraid? Tear-stained? Vengeful?

Maybe they are all these things.

The road goes on.

 

 

Guest Post by Will Hindmarch: The Record

Will Hindmarch is @wordwill, a writer and designer of games, fiction, and more. He blogs at Gameplaywright and wordstudio.net. 

This is both a plug and a confession. Wil Wheaton is back on dry land, so I’ll make this quick. I’m terrible at interviews.

Almost ten years ago, at the foot of an unfinished Atlanta high-rise, I interviewed architect Turan Duda for Atlanta magazine. My assignment was for a one-page spotlight on creative people doing exciting work in the ATL — one page including a picture of the skyscraper. So it was more like one column of text.

I kept Mr. Duda trapped in that interview for an hour.

We talked about spatial design, about his history and his vision, about Atlanta in general. It was a good talk for the first 35-45 minutes, before I realized how long we’d been talking. Before I realized, I didn’t know how to end an interview. (Spoiler: It’s easy. End it like a conversation, maybe.)

Mr. Duda was very generous, obliging, and impressive to this newbie interviewer. I learned a lot that day about architecture and interviews … and almost none of it helps me when I’m interviewed myself.

Interviews with me make me nervous, whether they’re in person or in text. I’ve done a few interviews lately for my new tabletop RPG, Dark. (The Kickstarter ends today!) I talked online with the Misdirected Mark podcast and I was interviewed via email for this piece at The Escapist. I ramble and I talk too fast and I’m concerned that I’ll say something — something insipid or casual or thoughtless — that will undo or overshadow a work that I’ve spent a long time crafting.

John Updike once put it like this to Terry Gross:

Once you’ve put yourself on record in an interview, and you’re sort of thinking fast and saying the first thing that pops into your mind, basically, anything to fill up the air time or the reporter’s time, it’s a little disconcerting, when you’re younger than I, to realize that these remarks which you toss off, once they’re in print, have an equal weight with all the words that you’ve labored to polish and make come out exactly right.

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Part of it, for me at least, is my Impostor Syndrome. Why should anyone be listening to what I think, right? Who the hell am I?

Here’s what helped me out: the live-lit storytelling scene. I co-produce a show in the Story Club series and we have an open-mic component to our events. It’s never been wasted. Everyone has stories to tell —  I’ve known that for a long time — and I think everyone should get a chance at a mic to talk about their passions, their projects, their past, and their plans. Some of these mics are mics, some of them are blogs, some of them are Twitter, some of them are cameras — whatever.

If you get the chance to tell your stories, take the chance. And if you get a chance to interview someone, to help them tell their stories, try it out. Ask your friends friendly questions. When you meet people, politely ask about them. Let’s get more stories told, more perspectives shared, and more voices at the mic.

It’s like what Wil did this week. He invited people to speak in his absence. He shared stories he might not have been able to tell on his own. Thank you, Wil.

Speaking of which, he’ll be back any minute and I’ve got to clean up. Think he’ll notice if I use his 3D printer to replace all the beer we drank?

 

Guest Post by Ryan Wheaton: Lawst Balloon, Part Two

Ryan Wheaton is an aspiring fiction writer and graphic novelist. He’s been trying to grow a beard too. So there’s that.

(This piece was written in response to a prompt “about a lost balloon.” Part one appears here.)

“Fiona, please,” her mother said. “We’re already late and we don’t want to upset your Grandf—,” a trumpet cracked over an unseen intercom.

“Well, would you look at that,” a voice called out. “My, my, my, my, MY what a beautiful girl. You’ve grown up quite a bit my little Potato.” Fiona’s eyes widened in utter confusion.

“Honey, look up there,” her mother crouched down and pointed at a factory window. A dusted silhouette of a man waved frantically.

“My word, you’re even more majestic than I remembered. Please, please, come in, come in.” The trumpet sounded once more as the man disappeared from the window. Not a second later, a small hatchway swung out from the middle of the monstrous steel doors. Fiona stepped back as her mother dropped her hand and rushed forward. A balsa-framed man shuffled under the half-sized door frame and popped upright.

“Hello, hello, hellOOO,” he said, spinning in place.

“Oh, Grandfather. It’s been far too long,” Fiona’s mother said, bent halfway down, and embraced him. Her shoulder smashed into his nose and jostled his small spectacles.

“Oof,” he said.

Fiona hadn’t moved an inch forward and, in fact, had been slowly tip-toeing her way back to the car. She hoped that the displacement of her Grandfather’s glasses by her mother’s clumsy shoulders would allow her to flee beneath the cover of temporarily muddled vision.

“Fiona,” her mother said. “Fiona, get over here this second and give you Grandfather a hello and a hug.”

Fiona stopped mid-tip and set her toe back to the earth.

“Excuse me, young lady.” It was once her mother resorted to florid address that she knew any objection led only to public abjection. “Fiona Loreli Lawst, you turn right around, march over here, and give your Grandfather a hello and a hug immediately!”

Fiona grumbled before contorting her furrowed face into a plasticine smile.

“Hello Grandfather!” She curtsied before skipping toward him with a stomach full of molten disdain. Despite requiring a pink and purple step stool to reach most anything, Fiona’s Grandfather needn’t kneel nor crouch to greet her. Rather, he bent slightly at the waist and patted her head.

With his eyes squinted and a contented grin he said, “A happy hello to you, my sweet Potato.”

The blurred frantics of her mother’s hand signed, “hug hug hug!” Fiona begrudgingly leaned forward in the hopes this singular hug might suffice for any future expectations of expressed affection, but she groped only air. He had walked away.

“Come now, we have a few things to see, some things to do, and much, MUCH fun to be had. Now,” the double-steel doors howled on their hinges as he continued. “Now, I know it may not appear as ample in amusement on the outside,” his voice trailed a bit as he swung into a shadowed recess on the left wall. Fiona heard crunching gears and clacking buttons. Her mother stood beside her, clapping with anticipation. “… but, aren’t we taught never to,” he trailed off once more. Blue and red lights spun against the furthest wall while whistles and horns screeched and bonked. Her mother squeaked as she bounced in place barely able to keep herself contained. “… a book by her cover,” Grandfather bellowed. He cartwheeled out from behind his magic curtain cheering and dancing as the ceiling almost thirty feet above shattered into thousands of balloons that cascaded onto them in a kaleidoscopic hail storm. The stone wall they faced groaned as it began tottering and teetering. Fiona vaulted back as the immense slab slammed into the ground enveloping her in a cloud of soot and sand. Her mother wailed in delight. Tears sprinted from her eyes as she collapsed in ecstasy.

“It’s… it’s more wonderful, more exquisite than I recall,” her mother choked through tears. Her Grandfather rested his hand on her trembling shoulder. She whirled about, still on her knees, clasping his hand in both of hers.

“May — may I please,” she begged.

“Of course, my dear. There has never been a time you weren’t welcome to come back,” he beamed. She rose, still clutching his hand, “Thank you, oh thank you, Grandfather,” she stammered. “Fiona, Fiona, oh my sweet Fiona. You must come see. You must,” her mother’s eyes were shiny with hysteria.

“Go on, my dear. Fiona and I will only be a moment.” Grandfather removed a handkerchief from within his jacket and handed it to Fiona, “Here little Potato, wipe the dust from your eyes.” She gratefully took it and rubbed with ferocity. Through the cloudy sting and wobble of teardrops, her eyes refocused just as her mother vanished into the mass of dancing, flashing, laughing, singing, and spinning that had revealed itself. It was a golden-glazed paradise. It was in that moment Fiona understood that any prospect of happiness fate had attentively and thoughtfully laid out for the remainder of her life had been stomped out, extinguished, utterly ruined by comparison to the raw bliss that now ensnared her.

Her Grandfather rested his chin on her shoulder and whispered, “Breathtaking, isn’t it?”

 

Guest Post by Shane Nickerson: Old and Stinky

Shane Nickerson is a father of three and a TV producer. He occasionally writes at Nickerblog.

At night, my dog slinks into the living room and jumps up on the couch with me. He’s a whippet mix that we adopted from a rescue fair in 2005. Max. He came with the name.

He’s a gentle dog, eternally happy that we saved him from a lonely life lived, abandoned and sleeping underneath parked cars in South Central Los Angeles. He showed no signs of abuse, but he was found with no tags and covered in dirt and oil stains. When we met him, we immediately liked him. My two year old ran up to him before we could stop her, and he licked her face gently. In the hectic hot sun of a park filled with excited dogs waiting for new humans to please take them home, he was panting and scattered; flitting back and forth on his leash, desperately trying to make sense of the unusual crowded mixture of people and animals around him. We struggled for a moment, still grieving the loss of our previous whippet mix, but his gentle spirit and perpetual smile won us over. After some discussion, we took home our new friend.

It’s become more difficult for him lately. He has arthritis in his right hind leg, and the boundless energy we used to curse has become a casualty of his age. He still gets after the squirrels every morning, but in the same way an old man tries to keep up with the grandkids. The desire is still there, but the pep is waning.

He liked me best, almost right away. We lived in a two bedroom rented beach cottage in the South Bay, and he’d lay with his head on my lap every night as I fell asleep watching TV in our tiny living room. The back yard was an exceptionally large one for Manhattan Beach, and there was nothing he loved more than chasing the tennis ball on a rope that I’d throw endlessly across the yard. When I ran out of energy, he’d stay outside and race around in the overgrown thicketed lot until panting exhaustion. A single abrasive bark was my cue to come let him back inside. It’s one of those barks that’s impossible to ignore. Grating. Unpleasant. It’s incredibly effective at getting me off of the couch.

These days, he goes outside to sniff the air and do a quick patrol around our much smaller yard in the Valley, but within a few minutes, he’s at the back door firing off that same annoying bark. Old man Max.

My kids want a puppy.

(All kids want a puppy.)

They put together a presentation for us on why we should get a brand new puppy. It was cute, but I had to pass on their proposal.

“Max is our dog,” I told them, “and if he could talk, he’d tell you he’s not interested in a new puppy roommate.”

“But puppies are so cute,” they persisted, “and Max is old and stinky!”

A fair point.

“We can talk about a puppy after Max dies,” I mistakenly told them.

“So we can get a puppy after he’s dead?” they asked eagerly.

Oh no.

“We can TALK about it,” I said.

“Yay! As soon as Max dies, we can get a puppy! As soon as Max dies, we can get a puppy!” they sang.

I’ve inadvertently made my children excited for the death of our family dog. Great work, me. Pretty glad Max can’t speak English.

He’s old and stinky, it’s true. But he’s the most loyal, gentle, patient dog I’ve ever lived with. He’s endured three children in all stages of their mayhem. He’s been colored on, had his hair pulled and eyes poked, had his tail yanked and ears gouged, and he’s never so much as nipped at them. He still sleeps with me on the couch for as long as he can endure the discomfort of his arthritic leg. When I come home from work, he’s still as excited as the first day we brought him home.

So yes, maybe someday we’ll get another dog.

But for now, this old stinky one is the only one we need.

50,000 Monkeys at 50,000 Typewriters Can't Be Wrong