All posts by Wil

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

“The library is a safe place.”

This morning, I gave a keynote at the Southern Kentucky Book Festival. Here are my prepared remarks.

Good morning. My name is Wil Wheaton. I am the New York Times bestselling author of Still Just A Geek. My narration of Ready Player One debuted at number one on the same list. I created, produced, and hosted the series Tabletop on Geek & Sundry, and I currently host The Ready Room, your online hub for all things Star Trek Universe.

I am so proud and grateful for all of that. I have an amazing life doing what I love. I’ve been married for 24 years to my best friend, Anne. We have two amazing kids, a pretty great dog, and a cat who allows us to believe we are in charge. I get to travel all over, talking to audiences like this, about things that are important to me.

I’m going to say it again: I have a fantastic life. 

To get here, I had to survive what most of you probably know me from: my childhood acting career. In 1985, when I was 12, I starred in Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me, which has gone on to become a generational classic. At 14, I was cast as Wesley Crusher, in Star Trek: The Next Generation. 35 years later, I am introduced at science fiction conventions as an elder in the community, representing Legacy Star Trek.

I was really good at it, but I never wanted to be an actor. My mom forced me to do it, and gaslighted me about that truth until I finally had no choice but to end contact with both of my parents, so I could work on healing the CPTSD I have carried for as long as I can remember.

Today, I am a full-time writer and part-time host. I’m as happy and fulfilled as I have ever been, and for the first time in my life, I am doing what I want to do, what is important to me. Today, I want to talk to you about how I got here from there, and the librarian who made it all possible.

Continue reading… →

children are not property. they are people.

About ten years ago, I did a YouTube thing for a friend of mine. I showed up at a space in Hollywood, and did some silly gaming stuff with them to help get their channel off the ground. They’d done the same for me with Tabletop, and I was happy to return the favor. As I’ve said many times, nobody gets their foot in the door without some help, no matter how hard they try to rewrite their origin story.

There were a TON of YouTubers there, most of whom I didn’t recognize because I’m not in the demo. Most were twentysomethings, but there were a couple of teens, and maybe half a dozen younger kids who seemed to be having a pretty good time playing with toys and games. About halfway through the day, a mom who appeared to be around 27 or so brought her son over for a picture with me. He looked to be about 7. You know, the age I was when my dogshit parents ended my childhood and put me to work.

So this mom tells me that she’s super excited to “get his channel going” and before I even knew what was happening, I heard this come out of my mouth: “He wants a channel? Or you want a channel? He only gets one chance to be a kid, and no kid should have to work at all, or perform if they don’t want to.” Then I looked at the kid, and I saw a VERY familiar face from about … 1979. It’s in the eyes and the way the shoulders slump. I looked back at the mom. “Don’t take his childhood away from him.” Then: “He only gets one childhood.”

She looked shocked. This was clearly not something she had ever thought about, and certainly didn’t expect to think about at this thing. I felt like she was seeing her child as a child for maybe the first time? I don’t know. She was clearly uncomfortable, like nobody had ever spoken up on behalf of her child before.

“He loves it! He’s always having fun!” She said, with the same fake enthusiasm and terrible lying I knew from my mother. I glanced at the kid and knew that was not true.

What I wanted to say to her was, “I hope this is a total failure for you. I hope you get zero views, get your own job, and support your kid being a kid so he grows up with a mom.” But instead, I looked at this sweet little boy and said, “You deserve to be a kid.” Then I walked away before I caused a scene. I did not participate in his exploitation by posing for a photo that he didn’t care about, that would be used by his mother for some kind of promotion.

I think about that kid from time to time. He’s probably right around 18 or so, now, and I hope that his childhood wasn’t anything like mine. I hope he’s happy and living his best life. I hope his mom grew up and chose to be his mom, not his pimp, and that they have a loving and supportive family relationship.

So that all came back to me this morning when I saw this story from Teen Vogue, about Influencer Parents:

“Claire, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy, has never known a life that doesn’t include a camera being pointed in her direction. The first time she went viral, she was a toddler. When the family’s channel started to rake in the views, Claire says both her parents left their jobs because the revenue from the YouTube channel was enough to support the family and to land them a nicer house and new car. “That’s not fair that I have to support everyone,” she said. “I try not to be resentful but I kind of [am].” Once, she told her dad she didn’t want to do YouTube videos anymore and he told her they would have to move out of their house and her parents would have to go back to work, leaving no money for “nice things.”

“When the family is together, the YouTube channel is what they talk about. Claire says her father has told her he may be her father, but he’s also her boss. “It’s a lot of pressure,” she said. When Claire turns 18 and can move out on her own, she’s considering going no-contact with her parents. Once she doesn’t live with them anymore, she plans to speak out publicly about being the star of a YouTube channel. She’ll even use her real name. Claire wants people to know how her childhood was overshadowed by social media stardom that she didn’t choose. And she wants her parents to know: “nothing they do now is going to take back the years of work I had to put in.”

Bolding is mine. “Also her boss”? Fuck you, Claire’s dad. Fuck you eleven different ways, you piece of shit.

Children deserve to be children. Children are not the property of their parents who can use and exploit them for their own gain. They are CHILDREN and they will spend the rest of their lives hurting because you stole that from them. Ask me how I know.

I see you, Claire, and I am so sorry for what they took from you. You did not deserve that, and you are enough. When you are of age, if you choose to hold them accountable, I have your back.

with love and respect to Senator John Fetterman and his family

Speaking as someone who lives with mental illness, who struggled and suffered for decades with undiagnosed and unacknowledged CPTSD, with a side of Depression and Generalized Anxiety, I know how difficult and scary a mental health crisis can be. I also know how vicious and ruthless and cruel the political world is.

So I am incredibly grateful to Senator John Fetterman for getting mental health care without shame or apology.

His courage saved lives. There are people today and in the coming days and weeks who are finally willing to seek mental health care for themselves, because he spoke openly and without shame about his own mental health. Depression and mental illness affects EVERYONE, and when people who have enormous public profiles speak about their experiences, it chips away at the stigma that has claimed too many lives.

I am not a United States Senator, but I know this is absolutely true, because people have told me that my public journey to care for my mental health and heal my trauma gave them what they needed to make the appointment and begin their own journey.

My heart is with Senator Fetterman and his family. I wish them all the best. I know how tough this is. How scary it can be. How Depression will see the struggle and just pour lie after lie after lie over you, trying its best to make you believe you deserve or are responsible for it.

All of that is bullshit. Depression lies.

I want to remind anyone who is struggling with their mental health, who is just *so tired* of feeling all the things Depression and its buddies try to drown us with that IT IS OKAY TO NOT BE OKAY. It’s not shameful or weak to ask for help. It’s courageous, and you deserve to be helped by people who have dedicated their lives to helping us get better.

If you or someone you know is struggling, please know that help is available when you’re ready. If you are in the United States, you can dial 988 from any phone to speak with a counselor who is ready for you.

see how we are

For most of last year, I worked on and promoted my New York Times bestselling (I’m gonna keep leaning into that until it gets super obnoxious, and then keep going to a little bit) memoir, Still Just A Geek. A huge part of my story is my survival of child abuse and exploitation, living with CPTSD and the depression and anxiety that accompany it.

So it follows that for most of last year, I was picking at a barely-healed wound. When the promotion cycle wrapped up, I gave myself permission to just withdraw from public life as much as I wanted and needed to, so I could rest and regain my hit points. While I was resting, that wound I’d been picking at got infected and made me … not extremely sick, but sicker than I’ve felt in a long long time. So I did what you do when you’re sick: I went to the doctor, and I’ve been doing the work every day to get better.

We got the infection cleaned up, but the wound is still there. It’ll probably be there for the rest of my life, so I’m doing the work to heal it, let the scab do its thing, and eventually become a scar that I can’t feel. I can look at it and know that it represents all the work I’ve done to heal myself.

I haven’t wanted to talk about this at all because all those months of being vulnerable in public, revisiting the most painful and traumatic moments of my life, was a lot. I needed and deserve quiet, private time for myself to recover.

All of that is to give some context to what I’m about to share with you.

Last night, Anne and I went to the fancy premiere of Star Trek Picard’s final season at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Before the screening began, after we were all settled into our seats, Terry Matalas and Alex Kurtzman introduced the show, thanked the cast and crew, and turned the spotlight over to Patrick. He spoke lovingly and beautifully about the entire experience, in that Patrick Stewart way we all love.

As he was wrapping up his remarks, he said, “I would like to ask the cast who are here to please stand up,” so they could also be celebrated.

I remembered how humiliating it was, how much it hurt, those times Rick Berman deliberately left me seated while everyone else was standing up, those times Rick Berman made me feel exactly the way my father made me feel: unwelcome, unworthy, invisible. Not a great feeling.

But last night wasn’t about me. Yes, I have a wonderful cameo in season two, but I’m not in season three. And last night was about season three. It was about celebrating my family, who all came together for what is likely their final mission together. So I was happy to stay in my seat while they started to stand up. I clapped so hard my hands are still vibrating this morning. I applauded not just their work on this season, but everything they’ve given to Star Trek for over thirty years. I celebrated the absolute hell out of my family. And while I was doing this, I looked across the aisle at Frakes and clapped at/for him.

We made eye contact, and he gave me this incredulous look. “Why are you sitting down? Stand up, W!” He said.

So I did, and he applauded me, and I may have wept just a little bit. Or maybe a lot. I can’t remember. I was so grateful to be included in the moment by the man who I wish was my father, who loves me and sees me like my own parents never did.

My dad never made an effort to get to know me. It’s a choice he made, not some personality quirk, because he put a lot of effort into knowing and loving my brother and sister. My mom has gaslighted me about his abuse and bullying my whole life, forcing me to apologize to him when he hurt me. For a long time, I believed her lies and even tried hating myself as much as he hates me, hoping maybe then he would see and love and care about me. (Spoiler alert: it didn’t.)

A significant part of the pain I feel and the healing I continue to work on, is that awful black hole in my life where my father’s love should be. I’ve spent so much time there, I know more about it than anyone, certainly more than my manipulative, selfish, drunk of a mother who insists it doesn’t exist. I absolutely know my memories and my feelings and everything my dad chose to withhold from me are real, because I never once in my 50 years on this planet felt loved and accepted by my dad the way I felt and feel loved and accepted by Frakes. He’s always been there for me. He’s always made sure that I know I am part of a family, something my birth parents never bothered to do.

Later, at the after party, as I was saying goodnight, he said, “What were you doing, sitting down?”

“This whole thing tonight isn’t about me. It’s about you guys,” I said.

“No,” he said, putting his hand on my shoulder, “this is about us.”

I felt so seen, so loved … and had to take a deep breath to force the tears back, and I said, “Thank you for including me, Johnny. You are the best dad I never got to have.”

And we hugged each other, and he told me that he loves me, and I told him that I love him back.

ask me how i know

This is a thing that comes up frequently. Someone wonders why Picard put Wesley, who was a teenager, at the helm of the Enterprise.

Surely, the argument goes, there are more qualified, experienced, adults on board who deserve the spot.

This most recently came across my Event Horizon, thusly:

“… The better question is how did this completely unqualified child get to actively pilot the flagship of the federation while others had to attend the academy for years and get multiple placements before even being considered.”

I NEVER respond, but today I felt like Wesley deserved someone to speak up for him, so why not me?

I replied:

“Okay, so. Disclosure: I am the actor who played Wesley. I have spent a great deal of time thinking about exactly this, because angry nerds have been yelling at me about it for 30 years.

“Remember that a being of extraordinary power and ability pulled Picard aside and said, “this kid is special. I can’t tell you exactly why, but it’s really important that you nurture and encourage him to the best of your ability.” And Picard listened. He heard that this being, who had literally just taken them where no one has gone before, and he followed his advice.

“And that eventually leads Wesley to become one of the Travelers.

“I’m sure that there are plenty of officers on the Enterprise who share your opinion. They’re pissed that this kid was promoted. They’re pissed that he’s a nepo baby.

“But they don’t know everything that Picard knows. And Picard is the captain of the ship, so he gets to make that call. And he doesn’t have to explain himself to anyone.”

And what I didn’t add there but will add here is: The Traveler from Tau Ceti made it very clear to Picard that Wesley and Beverly must never know that Wesley is special, the crew and everyone else on the Enterprise must never know. So all of the sudden, Wesley is given this thing he dreams of, and he absolutely knows he hasn’t yet earned it. How do you think this makes Wesley feel? I mean, we never saw it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist within the character and actor who played him. He wants to make Picard and his mom proud of him more than anything, and Picard promoted him? HOLY CRAP DREAM COME TRUE! But … wait. What’s going on? His peers are jealous of him and what he gets to do. The adults he is around when he isn’t on the Bridge quietly resent him for what they believe is unearned privilege. There are a a thousand people on the Enterprise, and Wesley probably knows maybe two dozen of them. Everyone else who sees him? All they see is the nepo baby, and Wesley knows it. He has MASSIVE imposter syndrome, and spends a lot of his time trying to understand why Captain Picard believed in him and gave him a chance. He can’t understand why that isn’t enough for anyone else. It’s Captain Picard, man! He made the call! Doesn’t that count for something?

Wesley’s dream has come true, and he can’t even celebrate it. Yeah, he’s a full ensign, a Starfleet officer … but he’s a kid who has never been to the academy and learned what being a Starfleet officer means, how to behave and exist around other Starfleet officers who have also gone through everything it takes to get a posting on the federation’s flagship. He is wearing the uniform without having gained the experience that he needs to fill it. He doesn’t know that Picard and the Traveler did this. He just knows that, now, he has to show up and prove that he actually does deserve it.

And this kid has never been in a place where it’s safe and okay to make mistakes and learn from them. And he knows that. At fifteen. It’s a lot. Now this kid has to carry around with him not just the responsibility that comes with the chair and the rank, but he also has to exist on the Enterprise where he passes people in the corridors, sees people in the canteen, waits in line to use the transporter with all these other officers who have never met him, and DEEPLY resent him for something he didn’t do. Wesley feels that resentment every single time, and it hurts like fucking hell. He will spend the rest of his time in Starfleet trying to prove to everyone that he was and is worthy of the promotion. And every single time he sits at the CONN, he knows that if he fucks up even a little bit, everyone he loves could die. He carries that with him, every second of every day. He feels it in every judgmental look, every whispered conversation, every challenge from a bully who has had one too many drinks. And when he doesn’t hear it from someone else, he hears it from a voice in his head. He can’t escape it, until he finally does and it all makes sense.

And, thirty years of Terran time later, after he’s spent more time being a Traveler, seeing and doing things you wouldn’t believe than he ever spent as a human, he’ll hear someone complaining about how he got that promotion someone else really deserved way back when, and it will hurt all over again, because the body remembers.

Ask me how I know.