Friday, 1 April 2016

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), by Felicia Day (Simon & Schuster/Audible) | review

This is the story of how a badly home-schooled violinist grew up to become a god among the virtual geeks. The face of Felicia Day will be familiar to many more people than actually know who she is; she had a spell as the background photo of some YouTube apps, she sang viral hit “Do You Want to Date My Avatar?”, and had eye-catching guest spots in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse (the episodes set in the future) and Supernatural, where her red-headed hacker is the fun kind of friend Sam and Dean badly need in their ever-tortured lives (the episode where they join her at a fantasy battle re-enactment is a classic). Understandably, this book focuses more on her own creative achievements, though it does give us a striking portrait of what it’s like to be a struggling (and then a doing-fairly-well) actor in Hollywood. Before that, and after an introduction by Joss Whedon in which he sounds remarkably like Ultron, listeners learn about Felicia Day’s childhood, where a miscalculated attempt to get out of some religious nonsense led to her mum withdrawing her from a good school, her education going badly astray from there until violin skills got her a college scholarship at the age of fifteen. Though fierce competitiveness made her the college valedictorian, she didn’t love the violin enough to make it her life, and so began her acting, and eventually a desire to write her own scripts. One of the most interesting parts of the book describes the support group of aspiring women she joined, and then constantly lied to about the progress on her script: the pilot episode of The Guild, which would eventually become a successful web series. It’s only after she comes clean about her fibs, and her addiction to World of Warcraft, that the dam breaks, the members of the support group become her producers, and the programme ends up a huge Xbox-endorsed success. It’s a good story, and it’s bracing to hear all the hard work that went into Day’s success, as well as all the failures that led up to it. Later in the book comes a dark period after she takes on too much, develops health problems, lets people down, and loses good friends, but there’s always the sense that she’s determined to do the things she wants to do, and any bumps in the road are eventually going to get flattened. The penultimate chapter is about her well-publicised run-ins with online boors, which events are all the more unfortunate given the positive light in which gaming (WOW aside) and the internet are seen throughout the book. Overall, it’s funny, rather inspirational, and sweet-natured, in a steely sort of way. The highlight, I think, is an excruciating scene where a fan recognises her in a build-a-bear workshop, leading shoppers who don’t know who she is to act as if she’s impudent for being recognised. Stephen Theaker ***

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