Actress Day, best known for her “geek goddess” roles in such nerd-culture touchstones as the Web series The Guild and various Joss Whedon projects, recounts her unusual upbringing and the neuroses-strewn path that led to her obsessions with fantasy, science fiction, gaming, and online communities.
Diffidently home schooled by an eccentric, indulgent mother, the author and her brother were largely left to pursue their particular passions in an environment of social isolation. Day responded by immersing herself in the imaginative worlds of escapist genre fiction and video games, forging communities of like-minded introverts over the nascent World Wide Web—when she was not busy excelling at advanced mathematics and the violin, achievements that would land her in college at an age years younger than her peers, further exacerbating her social awkwardness. Day writes charmingly of her cluelessness and determination throughout her career, but there is a dark undercurrent to her drive to succeed, no matter how arbitrary the reward. From “leveling up” in an online game to maintaining a perfect (and perfectly useless, post-graduation) GPA, Day has always pursued her goals with a manic focus seemingly driven entirely by fear and panicky self-doubt. This compulsive nature led to addiction problems, interpersonal chaos, and extended periods of depression. The author’s feelings about her prominent role in the misogyny-drenched “Gamergate” scandal, which she reveals here with raw anger and hurt simmering beneath her breezy, kooky gal patter, suggest a painful ambivalence about the costs and rewards of the indoor, fantastical, virtual life—a fascinating thread that is too glancingly addressed throughout the book.
Day is delightfully good company and has an interesting story to tell, but a richer work would have made more room for a consideration of the darker aspects of geek culture.