Pillbox

John Green entertains enthusiastic audience

What do puppy-sized elephants, Photoshopped pictures of actor Gary Busey, and a YouTube video about the French Revolution all have in common? They were part of award-winning author John Green’s lecture at the Carnegie Library Lecture Hall this past Friday.

Green has written several award-winning young-adult novels, including Looking For Alaska, which received the Michael L. Printz Award, and Paper Towns, which won the Edgar Award in 2009 for best young-adult novel. His most recent novel is Will Grayson, Will Grayson, which he co-wrote with fellow young-adult novelist David Leviathan. In addition to his novels, Green also co-hosts the “vlogbrothers” YouTube channel with his younger brother, Hank Green. Their YouTube channel, which they have been running since 2007, has attained an enthusiastic following of over 400,000 subscribers.

This dedicated fan base was evident at Green’s lecture, which had over 500 attendees. His lecture was preceded by a local band, who played songs inspired by Green and his YouTube channel. After a brief introduction by author Siobhan Vivian — a Pittsburgh author whose most recent novel, Not That Kind Of Girl, came out this past September — Green came out and was promptly greeted by screaming fans. He seemed in awe of the size of the crowd, admitting several times throughout the lecture that he had never spoken in front of such a large crowd before.

Green began his lecture with a picture of his one-year-old son, Henry, and discussed how his son seems to think himself the only person on Earth, while all other people are merely “robots programmed to attend his every need.” Green then used this as a segue into a discussion about the importance of empathy.

He also celebrated the community that has grown from his YouTube channel, which has viewers referred to as “Nerdfighters,” a self-proclaimed community of nerds that works to decrease negativity in the world. “Nerdfighters raised over $100,000 in 48 hours during our annual charity project this year,” Green said. “Together we built pond-sand filters in Bangladesh and delivered planes full of medical supplies to Haiti. We read novels together and build wikis, Wookies, designed T-shirts together, and — as you saw earlier this evening — wrote songs together.”

“Conversations with Nerdfighters also shape the actual videos that I make,” Green said, before showing a video he made about the French Revolution; the video had been inspired by a conversation Green had with a YouTube viewer about the consequences of violent revolutions. He then discussed the connectivity that results from the immediacy of an Internet community. “At this point I find it almost strange to use the word ‘stranger’ in any context,” he admitted. As an example of the collaborative community on the Internet, he showed several Photoshopped pictures of actor Gary Busey, using them as evidence that, by building off of other people’s work, communities are able to create something beautiful.

After taking questions from the audience, Green closed the lecture by showing his appreciation for the audience, saying, “Thank you for being such a big part of my life, and, as always, don’t forget to be awesome.”