Over the weekend, I experienced what I can only call the greatest experience of my life. I attended NerdCon: Nerdfighteria 2017 in Boston MA, where along with 3499 other nerdfighters I celebrated 10 years of Vlogbrother’s videos and the community that has been created because of what they did in 2007.
I guess I will begin this where it all began, which was in my dorm room in 2008 after my friend Jen AIM instant messaged me a video of a nerdy man singing a very enthusiastic video about the book release of Deathly Hallows. This was, of course, the classic Hank Green song, Accio Deathly Hallows. As I mentioned in the post a couple weeks ago celebrating Jen’s birthday, I then spent the next 2 weeks watching all of the vlogbrothers video, which I thought was a lot at the time. There were about 300 four minute videos covering 2007 where each weekday there was a video posted, and up until September of 2008 when I started watching. I then joined the Nerdfighter Ning wrote DFTBA on my arm in sharpie and fell head first into being a nerdfighter.
I loved everything about this community. I loved the people I met in the forums, the books and authors that were being shared: not only John Green but Maureen Johnson, Scott Westerfeld, Lauren Myracle, David Levithan and more. I loved the music. The Harry Potter Wizard Rock, the parodies, the original stuff. I loved the different vlogs like the 5 Awesome channels especially the five awesome girls. I loved being part of this creative, fun, quirky, interesting, smart, group of people.
When Paper Town was released, I attended the second stop on the Paper Towns Book Tour de Nerdfighting. There were probably 75 people there, maybe, and that was a pretty large crowd. I remember watching the most of the rest of the tour on Blog TV as groups topping off at probably 150 gathered in libraries and bookstores and similar venues to see John and have him sign their copy of his book and listen to Hank’s So Jokes album.Which held such groundbreaking material as It’s too Hot, Helen Hunt, and I’m Gonna Kill You. Lauren Fairweather performed, Kristina Horner performed. I got a twitter account to follow the Tour de Nerdfighting 2008. This was a big part of my life my senior year of college. Becoming a part of this community and having a safe space to be weird, was groundbreaking to me. A whole new world opened to me.
It was great. I spent years growing up and becoming a better person because of this internet group.
Then The Fault in Our Stars happened.
I become a little less active in the nerdfighter community after the book release and the blow up of John Green’s popularity as an author, and therefore the vlogbrothers exploded. It was about this time that the Green Brothers started doing other things, SciShow, CrashCourse, everything else they do. My own collab channel had died out, we weren’t making videos anymore, and I moved on to other things. Also one of my best friends passed away around the time that I stopped being active in nerdfighting.
I was still on the peripheral of the community. I followed Maureen Johnson’s Twitter, and I would watch the occasional video that seemed particularly popular. Maureen Johnson became my only real connection inside the nerdfighter community after a while, and it was because of her that I found out about the con last weekend.
I decided why not. I might not get all the inside jokes anymore, but I knew enough, and I was there in the early days. It wasn’t overly expensive so I figured if nothing else it would be fun nostalgia. I’ve been trying to do more things, and that’s very hard when you’re closest friends either have kids so you have to plan things out way in advance or live halfway across the country. I decided to suck it up and go alone. I knew that I would meet people and nerdfighteria is an inclusive community. So I entered the raffle to win a Maureen Johnson book signing (and won) and planned out my weekend of unapologetically liking things.
I met up with a group of people for dinner Friday night, and different people Saturday morning before opening ceremonies for breakfast. These people, though perfect strangers felt like friends. That’s my favorite part of being a nerdfighter. If nothing else you have a fall back topic. There is not searching for what to talk about. When in doubt talk about your road through nerdfighting. Then jumped into the activities.
Then jumped into the activities.
My first stop was a book signing by my all time favorite author Maureen Johnson. Maureen means so much to me. She’s a great human besides being a wonderful writer. Her books have this tone and voice quality that I love so much. I adore her and nearly everything she does. I got to meet my idol Saturday morning at the Hynes Convention Center.
Don’t let that look on my face fool you. I was freaking out and started crying about 31 seconds after this picture was taken.
I then spent an hour writing in a room with a bunch of other people with Kristina Horner, in a mini NaNoWriMo style writing session. The room next to us was supposed to be the Nerdy singalong, but the room was locked, so they just sang in the hallway, so while we were writing, we got to listen to a group singing songs from Hamilton, The Lion King, Wicked, and also Hamilton. It was great. If you look at Kristina Horner’s Instagram, there is a photo from this panel where you can find me. I’m against the wall in the left middle of the room holding a notebook.
There there was a panel about writing which Maureen was on along with Josh Sundquist, Emma Mills, George Watsky (who is on the Hamilton Mixtape) moderated by Kristina Horner. This was a fun discussion about the writing process and how different writers prepare and write their books. I also learned a lot about RL Stien.
My next event was a live taping of the Dear Hank and John podcast, which I had never heard before, but was really fun to be a part of. I have no idea what the Ryan thing was about or why we were all wearing Ryan nametags, but someday I will understand.
Then there was the concert. There is something so galvanizing about being part of a Harry and the Potter’s show. Standing with hundreds of people screaming the Weapon we have is Love and knowing that there is nothing we can’t do if we do it together.
Then there was Hank. Hank Green is a lyrical genius. I mean, his songs are simple and weird, but they are lyrically just good songs. Where else will you find a thousand people singing about the reproduction of the anglerfish or about quarks? Nowhere.
There is something about standing in a group of people yelling “We’re all gonna die!” and jumping around that is so heartwarming.
Nerdfighteria is a weird, weird place.
Sunday I got to meet the 5 awesome girls!
The 5 awesome girls were a movement, kind of. They spawned all the other 5 days of the week collab channels. Every single one of them was based on these girls. They created a culture of acceptance and understanding female friendships. These girls changed so much for me personally. I found myself tearing up many times during this panel and knowing that everyone else in the room felt the same was surreal.
Up next was a panel about growing up on youtube which included Charlieissocoollike.
I liked this panel because it gave us, the viewers, who consumed their content while they were still in high school and while many of us were still in high school or college to hear the impact of what having that kind of pressure to create can have. It was interesting to hear each of these panelists talk about how they got their start, what it’s like to be a “big deal” on the internet. Especially when no one else had done that kind of thing before and what it’s like when that pressure is eased when they took it off themselves as they grew up.
Next was a presentation by the podcast Reading Harry Potter as Sacred Text. Look this up if you have never heard of it. It was brilliant and a new way to treat the books that shaped so much of what I am.
Then there was a seminar about translating fandom into a resume. Learning how to word something like NaNoWriMo or GiShWHes or fanfic writing or blogging or having an Instagram that is dedicated to books or cosplay or whatever was a learning experience. Basically, everything we do can be put on a resume. It just has to be worded right. GisHwhEs sounds a whole lot less weird when it’s written as “Completed a weeklong multinational creative art project in conjunction with the charity Random Acts with a team of 15 members for four different countries.”
And then it was over. Time for the closing ceremony.
Here we sang a song about eating butts to the tune of the Indiana Jones theme with my personal hero Maureen Johnson, and we got to make John and Hank cry as they discussed not only what this community is, but Ester Earl, a nerdfighter who died of cancer in 2010 at age 16. Needless to say, it was an extremely emotional hour and 45 minutes.
Then I was on a train.
Forty-Eight hours of nonstop craziness and meeting people and seeing what drew me to being a nerdfighter in the first place. Being a nerdfighter and identifying as a nerdfighter has nothing to do with watching John and Hank’s vlogbrother’s videos. It’s conceivable that there are nerdfighters who have never seen the 2007 videos. It’s the community that was built because of what these two brothers created. They understood pretty quickly when they started to gain popularity on youtube that they had a responsibility to create a safe space where everyone can be themselves. Because they did that 3500 people sang a song about butts in the Auditorium of the Hynes. Nerdfighting is a culture. Nerdfighting is understanding that one person can make a difference if they want to. Nerdfighting is a collection of music and art and videos that have an audience of supportive people who will lift you up. Nerdfighting is accepting difference and growing as a person with everyone you meet.
And I somehow forgot that. But I never will again.
This weekend changed my life much the way that watching that first vlogbrothers did 9 years ago. I will never be the same.
The only bad thing about it is when you have experiences like these, these indescribable passion filled, intense experience that describing them doesn’t do justice to how you felt during it is that on Monday you have to go back to your office job and sit and pretend that your life didn’t change because no one else in that office is going to understand. No one else can except for those 3499 other strangers. Those 3499 other friends.
Until next time Internet,