Monday, 28 September 2015

You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day Review

Felicia Day is an internet personality who made her name a few years ago writing/producing/starring in a Youtube show called The Guild, a comedy about nerds obsessed with a World of Warcraft-type game. She’s appeared in several mainstream shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Eureka and Supernatural in supporting roles but it’s her online video channel, Geek and Sundry, for which she’s best known. 

Her first book, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), is a memoir of her short life centred around her lifelong love of computer gaming which has led her to find enormous success online, carving out a place on the internet that’s distinctly hers. 

The memoir covers the usual bases: childhood, where she was homeschooled and which led to her spending time reading tons of books, writing and living in her head - all to the good of where she was heading. She talks about her awkward first kiss and going to college early, studying maths and violin, and graduating with a double award in both (though weirdly she doesn't have a high school diploma!). From there she went to Hollywood to pursue an acting career and spent most of her 20s starring in commercials and picking up the occasional small role. 

But the book is mostly framed around gaming and the internet which ended up becoming her career (like most people she did nothing with her degree!). She discovered role-playing text adventure games at a young age and in her teens played Ultima Online on ye olde dial-up (remember the sounds your PC made when connecting to the internet, older people? And you couldn’t use your phone while you were online, you were charged by the hour, and if you picked up the phone while online you’d lose the connection - thank god we’re past all that!). 

From there she was introduced to World of Warcraft by her brother Ryon (with whom she has an online show, Co-Optitude, where they play games, often retro, often badly, for yuks) and became heavily addicted to it. But her addiction led to The Guild, and there are worse addictions anyway, so it was worth it! 

She talks about her Youtube channel, Geek and Sundry, which celebrates her love of gaming and other nerdy pastimes, as well as the pressures of producing content for it. She closes with last year’s Gamergate, where she was one of the targets, being labelled a fake gamer - apparently you can’t be a beautiful woman and a real gamer at the same time! 

Some readers may be disappointed with the lack of detail in some areas of her career, notably her TV work. If you didn’t know better, you’d think she went from commercials to The Guild and that was it. She doesn’t tell stories about her TV appearances or working with Joss Whedon (who does however write the intro to this book). She also keeps a lot of her personal life with other people out of the book (I think she dated Nathan Fillion at one point but I’m not sure - it’s not mentioned anyway), though her reticence is understandable given her experience with Gamergate. 

I don’t mind that she left out that stuff but I would’ve liked to know more about how she set up Geek and Sundry, the details of which are glossed over. The impression you get from the book is that the timeline basically goes from Felicia and co. producing The Guild to suddenly having this channel and infrastructure set up which is a bit abrupt. Her experiences with writing The Guild and her breakdown over the pressure of constant content production for Youtube though were very real and fascinating to read about. 

The book is very accessible and easy to read - Day is a natural writer and her style is very informal, chatty and breezy, filled with photoshopped pics and screenshots of tweets. Reading it, you can easily hear her voice in the words and that’s the mark of a good writer. The pages fly by. 

I don’t think it’s a book that has much crossover appeal though. I don't see total strangers picking this one up - it’s very much for her fans who already like her and what she does. Then again you could say that about most memoirs/celebrity autobiographies. Anyone unfamiliar with her might not find her story as interesting as it’s not that remarkable generally, but I think Felicia’s awesome so I enjoyed the hell out of it! 

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) is a fun and inspiring story about how the internet has made possible a career for Felicia Day out of her interests, as well as making the point that the internet has given everyone the opportunity to do the same with enough hard work and talent. It’s also part of the broader narrative about how (and I hate the “g” word but I’ll use it anyway) geekdom has gone from the mocked fringes of culture to becoming the mainstream. Felicia’s corner of the internet is a part of that growing mainstream and it’s a delight, much like she is. If you like Felicia Day and her work, you’ll love this book.

You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)

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