Author Hank Green at Town Hall: an absolutely remarkable thing


A hush fell over the auditorium as the last bars of “All-Star” faded out. A short video clip introduced the show and the book, followed by a smattering of applause and a few hoots. Then, an average-looking, middle-aged man appeared on the stage. The crowd roared. 

The man was Hank Green, superstar co-creator of the YouTube channels Vlogbrothers, Crash Course and SciShow—and now, novelist. His book, “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing,” tells the story of 23-year-old April May. There’s a lot to see on the streets of New York, and no one who’s used to this pays any of it more than a moment’s glance. But April May does; she sees a giant robot-looking-thing at 3 a.m. on 23rd street, and instead of passing by, she calls her friend. Instead of ignoring this remarkable thing, she changes her life. The novel deals with the rapid rise to fame, and the descent into media madness—obsessing over every like, comment and share.

“Fame isn’t dehumanizing as a consequence,” Green said. “It’s not like a side effect of fame. It is what fame is. People who invite fame, and who search for fame, are inviting dehumanization, and that’s the whole goal.”

The modern internet is a new and relatively unexplored thing, and Green’s book reminds of exactly how much power and potential this interconnections of networks has.

“We have a big problem in our culture, and that is the internet, but it is also not the internet,” Green said. “We have a tool that is new, and we don’t know how to use it. And we should remember that the invention of the printing press and the subsequent revolution that it created contributed to multiple wars. Martin Luther didn’t nail his complaints to one church door, and it all came crashing down…and those words, and that printing press, fundamentally shifted human history. And not many people at the time probably understood that this was happening, that technology was playing this role in a communication revolution.”

But the roaring crowd wasn’t just there for the book, or to discuss the internet. They were there for Hank. Maybe they’d been at every event since 2007, or maybe it was their first time to ever see his face outside of their phone screen. Regardless, almost everyone in the crowd was a Nerdfighter—the term used by the community that sprung up around the videos put out by Hank and his brother, bestselling author John Green. They were there to listen to one middle-aged guy from the internet. The enthusiasm and sense of community were unlike anything that can be put into words. It seemed like every person there genuinely cared about what was happening, in the world, to the strangers around them, and to the two Green brothers who held the audience captive for an hour and a half.

Hank Green reminded us how the world is changing. “We now live in a world that contains a technology that we don’t have the norms for. And I think that’s a dangerous moment, and I think that it’s in sensing moments like these where all of a sudden people are understanding that the internet isn’t something that is happening to us, it is something that we’re doing….I think we trick ourselves into thinking that this is all old and done with, established. But I believe that we are still at the very very beginning of this, and who decides what it’s going to be is us. A lot of the time, we won’t even know that we are doing it, but we have to start thinking about it.”

Hank and John Green finished with the They Might Be Giants song “New York City.” I’m giving you the link, what you do with it… That’s up to you.