Monday, April 21, 2014

An Open Letter to Wil Wheaton

     (To be perfectly honest, I wrote this tonight mostly for me. But I'm putting it here because I do, honestly, think it's a good idea. If you agree, share the hell out of this. There's only one way we can make this happen, and that's by having Wil actually see it. Please hit share, or like, or email it to your buddies, or post it to your favorite sites. Please.)

     Dear Mr. Wheaton,

     Please come and be a guest on the 100th Episode of the Ace of Geeks Podcast.

     I figured I'd write that first, because no matter where in this note I put it, it's exactly where a lot of people are going to roll their eyes, throw up their hands, and click away to another site. I can hear them slamming the AIM chat room doors right now, but I'm hoping one of them isn't you, Wil. (Can I call you Wil?)

     Right now, I'm sitting in a flat in London, England, on a vacation from my amazing job with my wonderful wife. She's sleeping peacefully in the next room, but I can't sleep just yet. Something keeps running around in my mind, wanting to get out, and when that happens I have to go into the next room to write it, no matter how jetlagged I am.

     You see, I used to live here. And today, I took a train ride out into the suburban countryside, through the towns I used to call home when I was a teenager. I had a messed up life back then - I was bullied so bad that I didn't know how to go on. I was a bottled up little ball of rage that waited to burst out whenever I felt threatened, because it was the only way I knew how to survive. It wasn't until I was old enough to discover there was such a thing as a geek community, such a thing as people like me, that I could finally put enough of that behind me to move on and become the man I am today.

     So while I was on that train, my wife scratching a way at a book of crossword puzzles, I found myself opening a book I'd just downloaded on my kindle. It's called "Just a Geek." I'm guessing you've heard of it, since you wrote it. I'm sad to say I didn't know much about you before I cracked open that book, Wil. I'd seen you at many conventions before, even had conversations with you on the PAX floor and on Reddit. And I've watched a ton of Tabletop. But I didn't know you.

     Reading about your life, and seeing what you went through in the years you went from being That Guy that Was on Star Trek to being Wil Wheaton, it struck a big cord with me. I felt like I got to know a guy who was a lot like me - your story about WILLIAM FUCKING SHATNER's snub and subsequent makeup has happened to me with friends and colleagues so many times I feel like I could've recited it by heart before I read it. But there was one essay in particular that I really struck home - to the point where my wife had to look up from her crosswords to ask me why I was crying.

     It was called Reflections - Artificial Sweetener, and while I'm guessing you remember it, I'll recap for anyone else that might be reading this letter. It's about the night you took a walk with your dog, and because of a combination of a job offer, a high school teacher, and a quote by Patrick Stewart, you realized your passion in life had changed. That you had become a Writer, not an Actor.

     It struck home with me because I had had that exact walk not two months ago. My wife wasn't home, and I was feeling sorry for myself because I felt like I was wasting my life. My job paid well, but was unfulfilling and draining. I had spent years and years chasing a dream of being a filmmaker, but I hadn't picked up a camera in two years. My life was a boring daze frequently punctuated by long trips to factories in China. And as I nearly reached my front door, the Voice in My Head started reminding me of all of the things I hadn't done. How I hadn't turned those crewing gigs on feature films into a career. How I'd blown opportunity after opportunity. How I was really just a waste of time and space. And I thought, "Wouldn't everything just be easier if I wanted to do something else?"

     It turns out, I did want to do something else. That night, just like you did, I let go of a dream. I realized that the world of film directing wasn't my passion. And as I did, a warmth flowed over me that I've never felt before. It felt like a chain I'd been carrying ever since I'd blown my chance to be a 2nd Assistant Camera finally slid off and fell to the floor. I knew then that I'd need to find a new dream.

     Nobody knows that, except my best friend and my wife. Other than my immediate support structure, you're the first person I've told, Wil.

     Well, you and now the Internet.

     It turns out, that dream was waiting for me in the wings, already something I had spent so much time and love on. It was a little website called The Ace of Geeks. I didn't know it at the time, but being the editor and podcast host on this here site allowed me to take this wonderful, embracing hug of geekdom that I found, that helped me get through those painful years, and start to share it. I hosted a panel at a convention a few months back. I'm still wearing the wrist band. I tell people that it's because I forget to cut it off, or I can't find a stapler to attach it to my con badge. But that's a lie. The truth is, since that convention, since I discovered that what I really want to do is use my writing and my words to connect with people, things have gotten so much better. I have a new position in the company now - it pays a lot less but it is SO much more fulfilling. I feel like I belong, finally, like I'm not going to make a stupid mistake every time I turn around.

     This thing that I've found, that I love, connecting with people - it's why I want you on our little podcast. I'll be honest here: We're not huge. You don't need us - but then, you're going to have your own TV show soon, so that was obvious. And I'll be a bit of an ass and say I don't know that we need to have you on. I'll love the boost it'll give to ratings, no lie. But why I want you on is because I want the chance to talk to you about all of this stuff.

     Your life, the things you've been through, the journey you went on in the public eye, it's fascinating. It's a damn fine story, and I want to hear it all from you. I want to talk to you about it, ask you the questions I'm burning to ask. And I want to do it in a live podcast where fans can tune in, hear it all, and ask their own questions. I want it to be a true dialogue. Because I think that's important, and because I think we all, as geeks, can learn a lot from each other.

     This podcast, this site, is my dream. And I want to share it's biggest milestone with someone I've just realized I really look up to. So please, Wil, please come on our little show. We can Skype, or if that doesn't work for you, I will pack a car and drive the six hours to L.A. You can reach me at Thank you, sir, for your time.

Mike Fatum
Co-host of the Ace of Geeks Podcast
Editor of the Ace of Geeks

     P.S. I should point out that I haven't asked my cohost before writing this, but I WILL ask them before posting it.

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