Posted by: Mark Nielsen | November 29, 2015

Six Degrees of Geek Nation – starring Wil Wheaton

The Big Geek Photo

Center of the Geekiverse Wil Wheaton, whose most recent high-profile sightings have been on The Big Bang Theory


Okay, that does it.

The Six Degrees of Geek Nation have now come full circle, and I hereby announce that actor/Trekkie/internet maven/uber-geek Wil Wheaton is at the center of it… or at least on the fringe of the center, or at the center of the fringe, to be more precisely imprecise.

It’s like that image from Wil’s memoir Just A Geek –of  himself and filmmaker Kevin Smith, ten years ago in their little comic con booths… way off in a separate smaller building, far from the madding crowd, greeting fans and being the nice guys that they both are (and no, nice guys do NOT finish last, despite what baseball manager Leo Durocher once said). When one experiences a sense of community –that “I’m not alone in the universe!” sort of existential hopefulness –that’s the best kind of geekiness of all.

Here’s a strange tale about where (when? how?) the geekitude ultimately coalesced for me this week:

I was first pulled into the Wheatonverse a few weeks back when his deceptively spiritual and profound “Life Reboot” blog post was picked up by and went sort of viral on the internet. From there, I subscribed to Wil’s blog []. Then I started listening to some back episodes of his Radio Free Burrito podcast, and I listened to his free audiobook version of the Just a Geek memoir at bandcamp. All that Wil –ingness then went on for a couple of weeks for me, on and off. I really resonate with his unique blend of funny and thoughtful fanboy/actor musings, his mental, musical and digital health suggestions, and his recommendations of other Geek Discount Warehouse inventory (and no, that warehouse does not actually exist, but if you put up the $1M in capital to do a start-up, I will gladly sign on to be your Chief Creative Officer and vice-president of purchasing).

Simply put, Wil at minimum helps me get through some boring graveyard shifts at work, and he will continue to do so– which is all one can ask of a decent podcast or blog. But at his best, he also inspires me to be better at my life, which is the art of deep spirituality, whether one is a religionist or not.

So now, taking my cue from Wil (and the aforementioned Kevin Smith, another “go and do likewise” guy who inspires me) — and in a minor personal reboot attempt of my own– I am here and now engaging in this present creative activity of the GENERATIVE variety. I do this humbly but with much enthusiasm, instead of just reading/listening/watching others’ stuff, … all done in the interests of improving my state of mind and happiness of heart (and maybe yours as well, as a natural byproduct of creativity and kindness being paid forward).

Creativity and community (two of the main ingredients in Life’s Love Potion) only beget more of the same when done well, which leads us back to more on my Geekiverse journey toward greater community:

After a few days of drilling down at, I then looked at his Table Top series a bit (Wil’s web series about board games), and with much glee I noted that one of my thirteen-year-old son’s recent favorite board games, the cooperative game Pandemic, was featured on an early episode. So I wrote up a long email to my son, wherein I detailed who Wil is and reminded him of my longstanding love affair with Star Trek TNG. By now, my son has also become a Wilboy (or maybe a Willower? a geeky own version of a Bleiber? No, wait! Never mind… I wouldn’t do that to you, Wil, or to anyone I care about, comparing you to The Big Bieby.) So anyway, my son is binge-watching Table Top, and he also joined my fiancé and I in viewing Wil’s recent appearance on The Big Bang Theory, …and thus the geek evangelism is spreading.

(Side note: I’ve also recently turned my fiancé on to Leverage, the first indicator to me back about six years ago that Wil had apparently landed on his feet and was not out of the acting game entirely. Wil hilariously played a hipster hacker, the main competitor and criminal arch-nemesis of Hardison, on several Leverage episodes over five seasons.)

Fast-forward to last Tuesday:  On a complete whim, I watched a quiet little 2013 documentary on Netflix called Tim’s Vermeer, about apparent gazillionaire video industry genius Tim Jenison. The film follows his attempts to duplicate how Vermeer most likely painted using a sort of “smoke and mirrors” lo-tech machine, to achieve photorealistic and luminous paintings in the era before photography. Early in the film, narrator/producer Penn Gillette of Penn and Teller explains that Tim is a co-founder of New Tek, creators of the Amiga Video Toaster. Then my brain simultaneously flashed on both my own early career behind the camera at a documentary film company (my first exposure to a pro edit suite and to Video Toaster), and to my recent reading of Wil Wheaton’s Just a Geek, wherein he fled Hollywood temporarily to Kansas (yes, Dorothy… Kansas) to work for New Tek and thus for Jenison.

Let’s review, then…

Whoa #1: Wil to Jenison to Penn Gillette in two Geek Moves. All connections/coincidences spotted in the span of a week for me personally. I was feeling stalked by this Six Degrees of Geek Nation idea. So Whoa #1 scores a 4.2 on the Random Coincidence Richter Scale: Wil and Penn and Jenison all in a linkety networky sort of thing with each other. (Begging the question: does Wil know Penn?, and if so, do tell a story at the blog sometime, Wil…).

Whoa #2: Just this week (?!!!!?), Wil mentioned him working for Tim Jenison again on his TV Crimes podcast , wherein he re-views and mocks a 1993 episode of Murder She Wrote featuring bad Virtual Reality and gaming portrayals as part of the storyline. This one scores a 2.9 on the RCR Scale– again for timing, plus the fact that my fiancé was a big fan of Murder She Wrote, while I –like Wil– had never watched a single episode until about a month ago.

Whoa #3, #4, and #5 are minor, but still sort of fun for me personally.

Whoa #3, aka The Gaiman Effect: As is my habit with indie movies and documentaries, I paid close attention to the end credits, particularly the longer-than-usual “Special Thanks”, wherein many odd private friendships and connections can be seen between people in seemingly unrelated fields or backgrounds. In the Tim’s Vermeer Special Thanks, I’m pretty sure I saw another familiar name: novelist/graphic novelist/screenwriter and five-tool geek Neil Gaiman. For the record, I want to BE Neil Gaiman. Now I don’t know if there’s a direct link of any consequence between Gaiman and Wil Wheaton, but I suspect there might be (maybe via author John Scalzi?). Plus a commenter on one of Wil’s blog entries this week mentioned Gaiman’s wonderful novel Anansi Boys , …so I’m clearly not alone in looking to Wil and/or Neil to help steal the secret Geek Launch Codes for a career in new media. Or maybe Wil can use his prodigious game-theory-hard-wired brain to mastermind the staging of a secret coup, to further cement the establishment of a Brave New Geek World. Also for the record, if ever that Geek Revolution goes down, I’ll settle for a post as  Assistant Secretary of the Inferior, a brave new Cabinet post.

Whoa #4, Ted Dekker: This one is a stretch, but for better or worse it’s the only way to establish my own Geek Number (with Wil and/or Neil) as being in the 2 or 3 range. Maybe I shouldn’t be so desperate to have a low Geek Number with these more famous (and probably more talented) fellow geeks. But God help me, I do wish I could sit down for a beer with them. So in that spirit, here’s my Whoa #4:

I once signed on to be a liaison/local host for a Christian creatives conference called Story here in Chicago. In that volunteer role, I ended up meeting fantasy/thriller/horror novelist, Ted Dekker. When I picked up Ted at the airport, he saw on my back seat an audiobook copy of Gaiman’s Fragile Things short story collection. Ted mentioned that he had met Gaiman at some other literary gathering a few years earlier, and we discussed Neil’s work some. (Thus giving me a Geek Number of 2, … i.e. I shook the hand that shook the hand. –By the way, I also have a Pope Number of 2, but we can save that story for another day.) So Ted and I had a moment there, wherein we both sensed we were part of some secret society, one so uncool that it came back around to being uber-cool again.

To make things still more Whoa:

Whoa #5, Sean Astin: The keynote speaker at that year’s Story conference was none other than Wil Wheaton’s good pal Sean Astin (with whom he worked on the film Toy Soldiers while they were teens). Sean impressed me immensely that day, and I’m not the least bit surprised he’s a nearby planet in the Wheatonverse– because as we all know, God has a really weird sense of humor.

Meanwhile back in the present, I am considering starting a podcast of my own sometime soon, or at least re-directing and focusing the purpose of this, my mostly dormant blog, Marking Time [ yes, this is the self-promotion segment of our show, but clearly I’ve “buried the lead”, since it’s about ten paragraphs in… oh well]. I would aim it possibly in the same direction as this present random-but-fun inventory of All Things Geek. I might even call such a podcast or partner blog Six Degrees of Geek Nation, if the name ain’t been claimed yet. However, I wouldn’t want to half-commit to a podcast, go through the learning curve with Garage Band or whatever I would record it with, and then execute it poorly (neglect my research and writing, for example, or only throw something out there once every six months and squander the momentum). Either way, I assume it still would likely be just one tiny light among hundreds of similar media entities– including the always fun “Geek News” segment of Kevin Smith and Ralph Garman’s funny and informative (but very NSFW) Hollywood Babble-On podcast. Even so, maybe it’s worth doing for the sheer hobbyist fun of it, despite the micro-casting potential audience of about 30 people who would follow a nobody like me. We’ll see. Stay tuned here…

… and in the meantime, maybe also give Wil Wheaton a shout-out as he carries the load for the ever-growing Geek Army (or in his case, Geekfleet). I think he’s due for a promotion, in fact, just on the basis of sheer stamina and gumption… a child actor who’s had his ups and downs, yet survived to be issued his internet and Hollywood jet-pack despite some challenges. One can’t just be an ensign for an entire career, especially if one happens to be a Traveller as well.

Geek Force One, cleared for take-off. 5,4,3,2…


  1. Six Degrees of Fag Nation.

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