Nerdfighters Fighting to Decrease “World Suck” at USU

The Nerdfighter logo: DFTBA, or Don’t Forget to Be Awesome.

By Noelle Johansen

Media and Technology Editor

A Nerdfighter does not fight nerds. Quite the contrary. According to award winning and New York Times bestselling author, John Green, a Nerdfighter instead fights to decrease “world suck.”

Green’s latest effort in decreasing this world suck was to sign 150,000 copies of his latest book, The Fault in Our Stars, released January 10. He did so to ensure every first-print copy would bear his autograph. “If you pre-order The Fault in our Stars, there is a one hundred percent chance that it will be autographed by me,” Green explained in a YouTube video last June, “and when I say one hundred percent chance I mean that I am signing every single copy of the first printing. And I don’t mean that some machine is going to sign it, I mean I’m going to sign it with my hand, also probably a Sharpie.” He later explained that his promised goal was a big thank-you to his readers for their support, as his book tour—or Tour de Nerdfighting—wouldn’t be able to reach them all.

Nerdfighter is a proud title coined in 2007 by Green and his brother, Hank, a musician and scholar. It was one of the many fruits of their video-blogging project, Brotherhood 2.0. The brothers, John in Indiana and Hank in Montana, promised to limit themselves to one year of text-less communication. The Vlogbrothers took turns filming and uploading 4-minute-or-less videos to their YouTube channel every weekday. The effort quickly gained a considerable worldwide following, and the two brothers continue to upload videos every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The Vlogbrothers channel currently has over 600,000 YouTube subscribers.

These followers make up the online community of Nerdfighteria, which is much more than a passive forum for discussion. The Nerdfighters take their charge to decrease world suck seriously while following their initialism mantra of DFTBA: Don’t Forget to be Awesome. One example is the Project for Awesome. The Project for Awesome is an annual gathering of YouTube filmmakers in efforts to raise funds and awareness for dozens of worldwide charities. It was started as a Nerdfighter effort by both Green and Hank in 2007, and has since grown into a two-day YouTube hijack every December. Project for Awesome 2010 featured more than 3,000 videos and in turn raised more than $135,000 in support of various charities. Other awesome efforts to decrease world suck include VidCon, a giant annual YouTube convention, and the Bank of Nerdfighteria, a team organized through Kiva.org that lends money to small businesses in countries around the world.

Whitney Howard, 21-year-old Smithfield resident, was introduced to Nerdfighteria in 2010 by two of her friends. “I didn’t feel like I could get into it without reading John Green’s books,” she said. Howard quickly sought to remedy that. “I read Paper Towns first,” she said, and was hooked. She has since turned her 29-year-old sister into a Nerdfighter as well.

Nerdfighters unfailingly support Green and Hank in their various efforts of remembering to be awesome and decreasing world suck. When Green’s third book, Paper Towns, was released in September 2009, Hank challenged Nerdfighters to get the book to bestselling status. The Nerdfighters did not disappoint, and the book debuted at number 5 on the New York Times bestseller’s list.

The Fault in Our Stars has created even more buzz. Penguin publishing moved the release date of the book up by five months from May 1 to January 10, 2012. Likely prompting this change in schedule was the mass attention given to the book via preorders. On June 28, 2011, more than six months before the title’s release, The Fault in Our Stars was the number one bestselling book on Amazon.com. It stayed there for at least three days, and it didn’t even have a cover yet.

Howard ordered two copies of The Fault in Our Stars “as soon as I found out he was signing all the copies. I ordered one for my sister too,” she said. Her initial response to Green’s giant goal was “shock, mostly. Concern for his hand, and excitement. Appreciation for what he was doing for the community.” She said she didn’t think he understood the extent of what he was getting himself into.

Reannon King, 20, also responded positively. “It kind of fits him, for some reason,” she said. “I don’t know why, but it does. It just makes sense that he’d be doing that.” King is an avid reader and a senior in social studies composite teaching at Utah State University.

The Fault in Our Stars is Green’s first book to feature a female protagonist. The Amazon.com book description reads: “Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten. Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.”

King’s favorite part about Green’s writing is his adept humor. “You really feel like you get to know the characters,” she said. “They feel like people you actually meet on the street, too. The nerds are really honest nerds. Sometimes when people try to write about nerds they get it completely wrong and they go with the stereotypical image of nerds, but these nerds are the real thing. My favorite thing is that they’re funny, and not funny in a stupid way.” Amidst the laughs, Green’s books tend to conclude with a realistic, transcendent moral—“always a deep one,” King said.

Author Lev Grossman mused that The Fault in Our Stars could become an “instant classic.” The title certainly borrows from classic roots. “The title was inspired by a line from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar,” Green said in a video in June when he released the novel’s title. “‘The fault, Dear Brutus, is not in our stars/ But in ourselves, that we are underlings,’ which is an easy thing to say if you’re like, you know, Shakespeare or a Roman nobleman. But in the broad sense, I don’t know that I agree with Shakespeare a hundred percent.”

Green finally reached his goal of 150,000 signatures on November 3, averaging about 1,515 books per day. As a result, every first print edition is guaranteed a “J-scribble,” as he refers to his simple autograph. Here’s to hoping he doesn’t suffer any lasting hand trauma.

Green also authored Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines and co-authored Let it Snow and Will Grayson, Will Grayson.

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