You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): A Memoir
Audiobook read by the author
Touchstone Books (August 2015), hardcover (ISBN 1476785651 / 9781476785653)
Nonfiction: memoir, 272 pages
Source: Purchased audiobook (Simon & Schuster Audio, August 2015, ISBN 9781442386822)
In the introduction to her memoir You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), Felicia Day describes herself as “Comic-Con famous.” In the nerdy, Comic-Con-adjacent circles I hover on the edges of, she is acclaimed as a pioneer, a trailblazer, and a heroine…and not just because she’s played one on TV.
My first notice of Day was as Penny, the love interest of both Dr. Horrible and Captain Hammer in Joss Whedon’s 2008 musical-comedy Web-video classic Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, but that wasn’t Day’s first experience with the TV of the near future. By then, she had already written, co-produced, and starred in the first season of The Guild, a sitcom about a group of online gamers that was one of the earliest shows originally made for YouTube—five more seasons would follow. And before that, she’d been playing games and chatting online since the dawn of the modem, nearly. While growing up all over the South—her family’s frequent moves were a contributing factor to her and her brother’s loosely-structured homeschooling—Day was part of the first generation to grow up with, and on, the Internet. You’re Never Weird… offers a vibrant portrait of how her online experiences have shaped Day, and digs into how she’s affected and influenced the online world.
Day’s unusual education—her homeschooling led to a violin scholarship to the University of Texas at Austin; she entered at sixteen and graduated four years later with a 4.0 and bachelor’s degrees in math and music—was an unlikely preparation for an acting career, but she moved to Los Angeles immediately after college anyway. She landed commercials and small TV roles, but her dreams of starring in a sitcom led her to write a pilot about what she knew—the world of online gaming. Unfortunately for her, the TV networks knew nothing about the subject, and the project went nowhere until she and her partners decided to self-produce it for the Internet—after all, it seemed the most likely outlet for a show essentially about the Internet. Funded through Paypal and broken down into six mini-episodes, the first season of The Guild debuted on YouTube in 2007.
You’re Never Weird… is a memoir of hard work and the creative process, but it’s also a memoir of addiction and recovery. Day acknowledges the addictive nature of her work on her show, shows its through-line from the original addiction to online gaming–chiefly World of Warcraft–that preceded it and defined it, and reveals her struggles with moving on from it. Day also offers her perspective on her status as a woman best known for creating and gaming on the Internet, and how that’s made her both a role model and a target.
Day’s story is unique and she tells it engagingly, but I’m glad I read it in audio rather than print. The writing style is very conversational and casual—it works perfectly with Day’s skills as a performer, but I think I would have found it a bit irritating on the page.
Rating: Book and audio, 3.75 of 5
When Felicia Day was a girl, all she wanted was to connect with other kids (desperately). Growing up in the Deep South, where she was “home-schooled for hippie reasons,” she looked online to find her tribe. The internet was in its infancy and she became an early adopter at every stage of its growth—finding joy and unlikely friendships in the emerging digital world. Her relative isolation meant that she could pursue passions like gaming, calculus, and 1930’s detective novels without shame. Because she had no idea how “uncool” she really was.
But if it hadn’t been for her strange background— the awkwardness continued when she started college at sixteen, with Mom driving her to campus every day—she might never have had the naive confidence to forge her own path. Like when she graduated as valedictorian with a math degree and then headed to Hollywood to pursue a career in acting despite having zero contacts. Or when she tired of being typecast as the crazy cat-lady secretary and decided to create her own web series before people in show business understood that online video could be more than just cats chasing laser pointers.
Felicia’s rags-to-riches rise to internet fame launched her career as one of the most influential creators in new media. Ever candid, she opens up about the rough patches along the way, recounting battles with writer’s block, a full-blown gaming addiction, severe anxiety and depression—and how she reinvented herself when overachieving became overwhelming.
You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) is proof that everyone should celebrate what makes them different and be brave enough to share it with the world, because anything is possible now—even for a digital misfit.
From Chapter One:
“I recently experienced the perfect summary of my career at a Build-a-Bear store inside a suburban mall in Lancaster, California.
“OK, sure, a single adult woman in her thirties with no children might not necessarily pick that as the first place to kill and hour of her life. But I’d never been inside one before, and I’d already spent twenty minutes outside like a creepster. watching actual legitimate customers (mostly toddlers) go inside and, like modern-day demigods, craft the companion of their dreams. At a certain point, after eating two Auntie Anne’s pretzels, I decided to throw off the societal yoke of judgment.
“Get in there, Felicia! Build yourself a stuffed friend. No one’s around to witness your weakness!
“So I entered, told the saleswoman I was browsing for ‘a nephew,’ and proceeded to spend forty-five minutes trying to decide what design to get. My mom wasn’t there, so I could take as long as I wanted. Unfortunately.”