Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Length: 272 pages
Date Released: August 11, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository
From online entertainment mogul, actress, and “queen of the geeks” Felicia Day, a funny, quirky, and inspiring memoir about her unusual upbringing, her rise to Internet-stardom, and embracing her individuality to find success in Hollywood.
The Internet isn’t all cat videos. There’s also Felicia Day—violinist, filmmaker, Internet entrepreneur, compulsive gamer, hoagie specialist, and former lonely homeschooled girl who overcame her isolated childhood to become the ruler of a new world…or at least semi-influential in the world of Internet Geeks and Goodreads book clubs.
After growing up in the south where she was “homeschooled for hippie reasons”, Felicia moved to Hollywood to pursue her dream of becoming an actress and was immediately typecast as a crazy cat-lady secretary. But Felicia’s misadventures in Hollywood led her to produce her own web series, own her own production company, and become an Internet star.
Felicia’s short-ish life and her rags-to-riches rise to Internet fame launched her career as one of the most influential creators in new media. Now, Felicia’s strange world is filled with thoughts on creativity, video games, and a dash of mild feminist activism—just like her memoir.
Hilarious and inspirational, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) is proof that everyone should embrace what makes them different and be brave enough to share it with the world, because anything is possible now—even for a digital misfit.
This is a difficult book to review. I enjoyed it. A lot. I was compulsively reading it while at a baseball game with a bunch of friends and colleagues, which was rude but I couldn’t stop. But after reading it I have the feeling that I’m part of the intended audience, after all, I’m a female geek. Just not one with half the courage that Felicia Day demonstrates in her story.
You’re Almost Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) is definitely a book for the same audience as The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy (reviewed here), even though it covers the same ground in a very different way – and is also less optimistic and more upfront about the trolls that have invaded geek spaces and have their axes out and ground and waiting for any woman to dare to invade their defended turf.
There was an old cartoon in The New Yorker, back in 1993 before the internet became completely ubiquitous. Thanks to Wikipedia, I’m reproducing it here:
But this cartoon sums up the early parts of Felicia Day’s involvement with computers and the internet – she was a somewhat isolated homeschooled kid who liked very geeky stuff and didn’t have a community she could be herself in – until she discovered computer gaming and online chat rooms and all the slightly awkward and totally amazing online communication tools that predated the WWW explosion.
And in those online spaces she found people who shared her passions, and who had no way of knowing that she was a 14 or 15 or 16 year old girl. But then, she knew little about their real lives or in-person selves either.
There was a lot of freedom in that ability to hide behind an avatar and a screen name that allowed her, and lots of others like her, to flourish.
It’s unfortunately the same kind of anonymity that permits the garbage spewed by gamergaters and their ilk, but that was then and this is now.
The story here is how Felicia managed to take all of that geekish wonder, along with a certain number of possibly OCD compulsions and a need for an audience, and turned it into a very quirky twisty-turny career that may have begun by being in the right place at the right time, but also included a lot of sheer cussed determination and a tough ability to fight her own personal demons while living a life out loud and online.
This is a story for anyone who believes in the adage, “Do what you love and the money will follow,” who is willing to put in a lot of unpaid sweat equity and put up with a lot of sweaty fears to finally reach that point where the money knocks on the battered door.
Reality Rating B+: If you have some personal history of geekishness, Felicia’s description of her journey into the early online spaces and the effect they had on her life can’t help but remind you of your own.
Or at least, it did me. I built my first PC in 1979 from a Heathkit, and the difference having a word processor and letter-quality printer made between my undergraduate and graduate degrees was amazing, even if the letter-quality printer did sound a lot like a small-scale artillery barrage.
I wasn’t as involved with online communities anywhere near as much as Felicia, but I remember the way the world opened up as it became possible to be involved with people all over the world who had the same geekish interests that I did – those same interests that generally get one laughed at or teased among people with more down-to-earth hobbies.
This experience was one that a lot of people who were online in the 1980s and 1990s will appreciate and remember fondly, like the sound of an old modem making a connection. I thought it sounded like a dragon breathing.
But Felicia did something that most of us don’t do – she made a career out of all of her geekish loves, in spite of being classically introverted and more than a bit shy. She pushed herself, and all of her friends, into pursuing a goal that either seemed crazy or unattainable at the beginning, and she made it happen.
She also talks about the cost to herself as she relentlessly pursued goals sometimes to the point of obsession, and certainly to the point of burnout. As in most fairy tales, the ring comes with a curse, and it bit her.
So she’s pretty upfront about her gaming addiction while she was still struggling, and her depression and burnout when she started making it but couldn’t let herself off the merry-go-round pursuit of perfection in all things. There’s a cautionary tale in here along with the quirkiness and the joy.
And last but not least, some serious talk about the entrenched misogyny in some online geek spaces and her own battles with the trolls. It’s sad and scary and sooner or later affects all women who think about standing out in online culture. This is true whether they stand up and stand out like Felicia and Anita Sarkeesian, or whether they self-censor or opt-out like so many of us do out of fear of online reprisal.
All in all, though, this is a positive story about figuring out what you love and pursuing that dream – and fighting your demons along the way.