Book Title: Dancing Barefoot
Author: Wil Wheaton
Category: Non-Fiction: biography/autobiography, non-fiction: short story
Short stories are a genre often overlooked, both in fiction, and in non-fiction. However, short stories, as a genre, and individually, can be fascinating.
With such a short amount of time in which the author can draw readers into the plot, short stories must be engaging, captivating, and to the point. But aside from describing the plot, short stories must, within this small time frame, establish characters as interesting and important, setting as clear and concise, and the story generally readable and important. Short stories must accomplish all of this in a few pages; they must do all that a novel does for characterization and setting within a much shorter, and more intense span of time.
I really enjoyed all of the stories in Dancing Barefoot. I can’t decide if Wheaton has an easier job of establishing everything he needs to in these stories, or a more difficult time. On one side, many of his readers will have already been fans of his & therefore interested in the characters he presents – as the main character in each of these stories is Wil Wheaton himself. On the other side, he faces a lot of preconceived notions that his fans have about him, his personality, and his life. In one of his other books, Just A Geek, Wheaton talks about the struggle he went through first differentiating himself from his persona & character on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and later accepting & moving past that element into a person with fans in his own, current, right. (My entry about Just A Geek can be found here.)
Whatever his process though, this collection turned out well. His stories are interesting, moving, and emotional. He connects with his readers and allows us some of our own reflection, jumping off from the experiences he writes of, to those of our own memories. Having read Just A Geek, I could tell that the two were written around the same time but in tone, the two are similar, and the stories are relevant to same period in his life that Wheaton writes about in Just A Geek. While not necessarily having to be companion pieces, they compliment each other.
This type of personal writing is a genre that I find particularly interesting. While I love fiction, I have a certain curiosity about other people’s lives, what they struggle with, what they find comfort in, how they live their lives. Clearly, other people, other readers share my curiosity to some degree – this is why biographies sell. This is also (in part) why the medium of blogging has become as popular as it is. While more popular blogs are often run by ‘well-known’ personalities, not all of them started off that way. It takes a certain type of person, and a certain type of writing to attract an audience, a loyal following, people that will return to your blog day after day to read about your life. It’s a difficult prospect, but the bloggers that do it best (and I’m referring mostly to personal bloggers – not industry or more discussion/topic based blogs) have a way of connecting to people in short, episodic formats, essentially short stories on the web, that draw readers in. Think of Julie Powell – who’s cooking blog turned into a book & movie deal. Or less well known than the inspiration for Julie & Julia, visit the blogs of Wil Wheaton, or Felicia Day – see how the short story medium is done on the web.
Another aspect of this book I enjoyed was seeing another perspective on fan conventions. As a self-professed nerd myself, I have gone to a few conventions – multi-fandom & multi-medium conventions such as Emerald City ComicCon, as well as fandom-specific conventions for things such as Harry Potter & the TV series Supernatural. I know the fan side of these things, but reading about Wil Wheaton’s experiences at them is quite different, and yet similar. Media Guests at these events, just like attendees, are enjoying a brief event with friends seldom seen in person, and are intense & action filled adventures. Wheaton describes this perfectly when he says:
So we sadly share a tearful farewell.
We all go our Separate Ways, seeking out our own Frontiers, watching the Wheel in the Sky, knowing that we’ll never Stop Believin’.
It’s quite a Journey.
These few sentences are a perfect description of the feelings that take over when you’re leaving such an event, knowing that next time you see these fellow nerds, these close friends, far too much time will have elapsed. Plus there’s the awesome Journey reference, but that’s just icing on the cake for me.
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