I descended into the nerdfighter world inhabited by fans of author and video blogger John Green on Saturday. I heard the screams, and giggles. I felt the terror men my age experience only when surrounded by thousands of tween and teen girls.
I saw the children running, frenzied, yet joyous. Uniformed men shrank in fear. Madness reigned. But most folks seemed to have a pretty good time.
Guided by our 12-year-old daughter, my wife and I entered into the world of “TFIOS,” DFTBA and the Foundation to Decrease Worldsuck, all created thanks to Green. I’m betting that unless you have a tween daughter AND a translator to explain her enthusiasms, this world is a mystery to you, too.
We need to catch up, before the in-jokes and acronyms get so far beyond us that we start acting like our grandparents did when you’d show them an “In Living Color” sketch by accident after Sunday dinner.
“TFIOS” is “The Fault in Our Stars,” a blockbuster young adult novel released in 2012 that recounts the love affair and day-to-day lives of two cancer-stricken teens. Green is the author and it is his fifth novel.
“TFIOS” is also, as of Friday when it opens, a movie that is poised to end up somewhere between huge and “We changed the calendar system, to reflect that certain things happened after Jesus but before the theatrical release of ‘The Fault in Our Stars.’ “
DFTBA means “Don’t forget to be awesome” and it’s a catchphrase of the “nerdfighter” world, which Green fans inhabit. Nerdfighters are people who embrace all the pursuits they care about with unabashed enthusiasm, avoiding any kind of hipster cool nonchalance, and . . . fight worldsuck. The Foundation to Decrease Worldsuck is a charity supported by Green, his brother and video blogging partner, Hank Green, and fans, that’s raised lots of money for good causes in creative, inclusive ways.
The event we attended was New York City’s first BookCon, at the Javits Center. BookCon, modeled after pop-culture phenomena like ComicCon, was held in conjunction with Book Expo America, an annual trade show.
BookCon sold out its 10,000 tickets. Lines to get into the 3,800-seat Special Events Hall began forming hours before each speaker was scheduled, and there were some huge stars: Veronica Roth, who wrote the “Divergent” series, as well as James Patterson, R.L. Stine, John Grisham, Carl Hiaasen, Amy Poehler, Martin Short and more. But it wasn’t until Green’s event that things got really hairy.
The attendees, at least the ones there for young adult authors, were almost unanimously female. We seem to have created a Harry Potter generation of girls who love reading, not least because the books for them are so much better than they have ever been.
And Green, among a generation of brilliant authors for young adults, stands at the top. His books, the ones I’ve read, are simply wonderful. Not young adult wonderful, just wonderful.
What was most heartening was how many of these thousands of girls were ready to be with and support each other. Strangers shouted out compliments on logoed shirts supporting the John Green movement. Shy smiles were accepted and returned, and brainy girls were, for a day, in a world where they were impossibly cool and everyone understood them.
There’s something fascinating and great here that’s about to explode into the general consciousness. And as a nerdfighter parent, I get to be unabashedly enthusiastic and excited about it, instead of having to be all aloof and nonchalant.
Lane Filler is a member of the Newsday editorial board.