Hank Green brings books and laughs to Western
By Hannah Blank
In stacks of six, copies of “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing” covered the table as author Hank Green signed his name with a light blue sharpie. Like a machine, Green breezed through the stacks only for Village Books’ employees to replace them with more.
Hundreds of signed novels accumulated on either side of the entrance of Western’s Performing Arts Center where they would be handed to out to attendees.
As the event began on Saturday, October 6, the Performing Arts Center filled with fans from all over Washington, parts of Canada, and even as far as Portland, OR.
Green is a 38-year-old YouTube personality known his channel, Vlogbrothers, where he regularly uploads videos with his brother, author John Green.
Green has been a part of many projects including YouTube channels Crash Course and SciShow, two online platforms for creators to sell and connect with fans, and is a member of a nerd punk band, Perfect Strangers.
“An Absolutely Remarkable Thing” is Green’s debut novel, a project he said took multiple years to complete.
“The first document I have of something like this story goes back to 2013,” Green said.
According to the book’s summary, Green’s novel takes on the perspective of aspiring artist, April May, as she navigates the sudden fame after a video goes viral. Through April’s perspective, Green explores the effects of international popularity and the culture of the internet. According to Green said, there was something about this story that stood out and made him want to finish the book.
Typically, Green utilizes video production for his YouTube channels or his Twitter account to send information out to the world. So Green said writing a novel was unlike anything he had done before.
“There were definitely things I wanted to talk about but couldn’t figure out how to fit into a tweet or a format on video, like bigger ideas that I felt needed more exploration,” Green said.
Green said he decided to explore these ideas through a novel rather than a screenplay or movies because he was more familiar with the form- not to mention that his brother is a New York Times bestselling author.
Green said the story originally started as a graphic novel, but then he realized he wasn’t making the progress he wanted on it.
“I was maybe waiting for the perfect artist and that was preventing me from just working on it,” Green said.
So instead, Green said he decided to write a novel, which surprisingly, he found himself enjoying.
“It’s very different to work on something that is a multi-year-long process, like 100,000 words, versus my normal content which is either 280 characters or around 800 words depending on whether it’s a tweet or a video,” Green said.
According to Green’s website, he is visiting cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston on his book tour. He said many people have asked him why he included Bellingham, tour rather than another large city like Seattle.
“Everything has been leading up to this,” Green joked about the Bellingham stop.
In all seriousness, he said Bellingham was the most well-attended event with the most energetic and enthusiastic audience when he was here in 2017 for his brother’s book tour for “Turtles All the Way Down.”
Both Hank and John Green’s events were hosted by Western Libraries and Village Books, a locally owned bookstore in Fairhaven. Green said he has really enjoyed working with Village Books and looked forward to this stop on the tour since his previous visit.
People of all ages filed into the auditorium, books in hand, ready to listen to Green give the last show of his tour.
Many attendees considered themselves “Nerdfighters,” or members of an online subculture that has existed since the beginning of Hank and John Green’s internet presence. Some arrived at the show sporting Nerdfighter merchandise, homemade t-shirts, key chains, or brought cookies to celebrate Green’s novel.
Of those who attended, Kendra Padersen and Lauren Martens were particularly dressed up. In matching striped shirts and with a baguette in hand, they explained that they were French llamas.
“It’s an old Vlogbrothers joke when the internet tricked John into thinking the letters ‘ftl’ stood for ‘French the llama’ instead of ‘for the lose,’” Padersen said. “It’s used as an exclamation of enthusiasm, so you’d say ‘French the llama, that’s a great book!’”
On the way to the event, Padersen and Martens said they finished listening to the audiobook.
“We’re dressed up as French llamas to see Hank today because we’re so enthusiastic about the book,” Martens said.
Joanna Vahey and Daniella Tsang, both 14-years-old, said they have been fans of the Green brothers since they were about seven-years-old. The girls met in second grade, but only just discovered they were both fans about a year ago.
“When Hank wrote a book, of course we had to come,” said Tsang. “Hank and John have both been a been a huge impact on our lives and they’ve really inspired us to do cool stuff and never stop thinking of other people complexly.”
Co-owner of Village Books Sarah Hutton joined Green for part of the event to ask him questions from the audience. These ranged from science and internet fame to “how do I unstick two bowls from each other?”
Green used the evening of conversation and jokes to create a space where the audience was encouraged to interact with each other, strangers, in real life. In closing, Green left the audience with a resounding message of community and responsibility.
“We are at the very beginning of this [the internet] and who decides what it’s going to be is the people,” Green said. “Having the perspective that at least it can be affected and that we are a part the decisions that are made is how work gets done.”
Green then urged everyone present to vote in the upcoming election, something he said is particularly passionate about. Just three days prior to the release of his novel, Green published How to Vote in Every State, a YouTube channel with 50 videos dedicated to educating the public how to vote in relation to their home state.
True to his ending sentiments, Green is an example of a creator, using the internet to impact the society in which he lives.
“The internet is good. It is also bad. As far as I can tell, you are all very, very good.”