Felicia Day is known on a certain geeky corner of the internet as the “queen of the geeks.” In her introduction to her memoir, Day writes that “it’s a title I reject personally, but when someone else uses it, I go ahead and enjoy it as a compliment.” She follows up with a silly joke: “Because who doesn’t want to inherit a dynasty just because of their gene-stuffs? No work, just <SPLAT!> Born special!” Fans of Felicia Day likely want to know why she rejects the moniker “queen of the geeks”—here’s an example of the fraught place Day holds in her spot of geek culture, a space of broad accessibility that contains the work of Joss Whedon and Day’s own The Guild series, but a culture that also frequently shames women, especially women who consider themselves geeks. What should be an opening for Day to ruminate on a topic that touches lots of geeks’ lives—especially the geeks likely to be reading her memoir—is instead skated over with a quick joke before she’s on the the next thing. Unfortunately, nearly all of the memoir follows suit.
The majority of You’re Never Weird On The Internet (Almost) reads like a rambling diary entry, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Day writes like she’s an old friend emailing you to catch you up on her life. She writes personably about her odd childhood, including her hippie parents and a slipshod homeschooling, ending when she attended college at age 16. Along the way is a checklist of “nerd” hallmarks representative of her generation’s upbringing: early video games and internet experiences, lots of fantasy reading, creative pursuits, feelings of loneliness and isolation, and difficulty connecting to her peer group. Oddly, Day spends much of the introduction attempting to describe her geekiness, going out of her way to explain to the reader what they’re getting themselves into. It’s wholly unnecessary—either the reader understands what an avatar is and plays RPGs or doesn’t, and it’s unlikely those who aren’t invested in at least the basics of her kind of nerdery would be reading her memoir in the first place.
Annoying as it is to have the word “avatar” defined for you, it’s all in keeping with Day’s style. She’s humble, smart, geeky, and, to use a word she describes herself as a lot, quirky. The early chapters are a whirlwind tour of her childhood, and it’s the descriptions of her youthful nerdy activities that hold the most interest, as they portend her future. She loved the early role playing computer game Ultima, and when her family got access to the early internet she immediately found a chatroom with people like her. “It may sound dorky, but the Ultima Dragons gave me my first environment where I could express my enthusiasms freely to my peers. Hell, for once I HAD peers.”
Connecting with people on the internet is a big part of what younger generations of nerds experienced, so it’s frustrating that Day spends so little time examining what it meant to her personally and what it might mean to the larger population she’s the “queen” of. Similarly, Day talks about being depressed, anxious, and high achieving in the shallowest possible way. “I never stopped to wonder, Why am I so depressed all the time after all this success?” she asks in a later Hollywood chapter, without ever bothering to answer the question for her readers.
In those Hollywood chapters, Day doesn’t write at all about working on Buffy The Vampire Slayer or Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog with Joss Whedon. She doesn’t write about acting as a child, so her decision to drop everything and move to L.A. after college practically retcons the entire first part of the book; now that she’s gotten to the part of her life in Hollywood, she hurriedly explains that, oh yeah, she always knew she wanted to be an actor, despite giving zero indications of that in the chapters of her childhood and college time.
Day does, at least, detail her addiction to World Of Warcraft and how she turned all that seemingly useless knowledge into her successful web series The Guild. Finally, the reader gets a glimpse into her life that they probably started the book in hopes of seeing: Her challenge writing the series, how hard it was to get off the ground, and the success she enjoyed when it took off; then she gets into her personal battles with depression, anxiety, and Gamergate. It’s not until the final chapters that she digs deep into her own psyche to address these things. She says that those were the hardest parts to write, and it shows: They’re the most interesting by far, and the only parts of the memoir that seem like she tried to dig deep, describing parts of her life she’s more uncomfortable sharing but nevertheless understands how important it is for her to share. It’s especially gratifying for readers who have ever attempted similar creative work to what Day does, and for women who found themselves similarly disheartened by Gamergate and its ilk. The last sliver of her memoir contains powerful stuff. If only she had dug as deep for the rest of the book, it might have been a real winner.