Rambling Story Followed By Book Review: Dancing Barefoot

August 28, 2003

I just spent three months waiting for a book. And it wasn't one of those pre-order deals like they do for Harry Potter, either. The book was out when I ordered it.

I ordered Dancing Barefoot on May 30th. Now, Monoloith Press, from what I can tell, is basically a two-person operation. I'm not expecting something like Amazon where I get my book within a week. I figure two weeks, tops. A little while later (the mail was probably sent immediately but spent some time languishing in Hotmail Purgatory) I get an e-mail that says there are more copies being printed, and it may be a while.

(In all honesty, that's what I remember happening. Like a dumbass I deleted the e-mail and am going on a three-month-old memory at this point. But I'm mostly sure it happened.)

Anyway, it gets to be a month after I order and still nothing. The author, Wil Wheaton, is talking about taking copies of the book with him for book signings so I figure I must've gotten lost in the shuffle. I send an e-mail, which I'm doubting got read before he left. (Sure, the guy's a geek, but only the truly hardcore will read e-mail right up to the point of going out of town.)

So he probably came back to roughly a gazillion e-mails, and since mine was (a) from someone he doesn't know and (b) from @hotmail.com, he probably junked it without a second glance.

A little while later, he notices a problem: He goofed on some of the orders from about the time I sent in mine (he said the 27th and 28th of May, I ordered on the 30th). Worth a shot, at least. I forward my PayPal receipt and explain that even though I didn't order on one of those days I think my copy of the book may have been a casualty.

Nothing. The guy was very rapidly changing in my mind from "Wil Wheaton, author" to "WIL FUCKING WHEATON," the goat-felcher who took my money and wouldn't send me my book.

I send a third e-mail to him, CCing myself just in case. I still think there was probably a mixup somewhere, but the lack of any response was bugging me from a customer-service point of view. As a backup plan, I dug around and found a mailing address that looks like it really exists. I figure anything sent to Wil Wheaton c/o Wil Wheaton Dot Net will get to him there, so I file that nugget away in case I need to got to step four: A certified mail asking where the hell my book is.

Step four is not required. I get an e-mail back three hours later (a little after 8 AM on the West Coast) saying, basically, sorry you haven't gotten your book. It was apparently sent, and the USPS fouled up somewhere along the line.

A couple days later I get a hand-addressed envelope from California with a copy of the book in it.

Now here's where I show you just what an idiot I am: I ordered a book made up of five short, autobiographical stories. No big deal you say, this guy's probably had kind of an interesting life what with being an actor and all. Well, these same stories are all available in his Web site's archives. If I weren't lazy I could read them for free. In fact, I waited three months to get something I'd paid for that I could have gotten for free.

Well, I never said I was bright.

Anyway, on to the book itself. I think Wheaton has a decent writing style. It's basically not too different from what you'd imagine you'd hear if you were just talking to him. Frankly, I like that type of writing, and I try to do it here. Wheaton seems a bit better at it, and he had an editor to help him tighten things up.

The stories themselves are good, too. I remember reading "Houses in Motion" on his site, and it didn't seem like it had changed much. Which is good; I don't think editors should go around re-writing people's material for them. Four of the stories are short, no more than 20 pages or so, and the fifth story (Sponge Bob Vegas Pants) is by far the longest, taking up half the book at a rough estimate.

SBVP is essentially a diary of a convention in Las Vegas with a story about meeting William Shatner on the set of Star Trek V dropped in for context. On its face it's just a good narrative, but I also feel like this is where Wheaton let go of a lot of bad feelings relating to Star Trek (apparently he didn't leave "Next Generation" on the best of terms).

All in all, I think it's a good book. My only beef is that it's on the short side, about 150 pages. Since he's got two years of material to work with I would've liked to have seen another story, or maybe expand a little on some of the other stories if possible. (Really, though, I'm not sure how much he could expand on what's already there. Everything looks like it's been covered.) So pick it up, especially if you're a Trekkie. The other-side-of-the-table aspect of Sponge Bob Vegas Pants makes it a good read. Especially if you have Klingon battle armor in your closet.

As a recap, Dancing Barefoot is worth the money, in my opinion, even though you can get it for free. And Wil Wheaton is not a jerk, just a busy guy who doesn't pay too much attention to stuff from Hotmail.

August 26, 2003August 29, 2003