‘Nerdfighter Army’ queue to meet John and Hank Green
Hundreds of members of the ‘Nerdfighter Army’ – young people who are fans of American author John Green and his brother Hank – queued for hours for a rare appearance by their hero on Saturday.
It was the first time the author and video blogger had been in Swindon, despite the fact he regularly gets tens of thousands of people viewing You Tube videos of him playing a computerised football game in Swindon Town colours. In the weird and wonderful world of 21st century social media, Swindon Town have become a cult football team to support among a generation of American teenagers, and the author said he didn’t want to start a book tour of Britain anywhere else other than Swindon.
Fans queued from early in the morning outside the Steam Museum in Swindon, with the event’s 600 tickets sold out even before the museum itself announced it was happening. At the front of the queue was Megan Cliffe, 16, and 18-year-old Nia Cooper, both students at Hardenhuish School in Chippenham, who had taken advantage of living less than 20 miles away to make it to the line first.
“When I first heard John Green was coming to Swindon I was in the car and I was squealing so much my mum had to pull over to check I wasn’t dying. He is amazing,” said Megan.
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“I like the community feel of all his fans, it’s like we’re part of something bigger together, bigger than just him, really. His books are so good and the fact we can turn up and never have met someone and be their friends straight away is just lovely,” added Nia.
Behind them in the line were a group of 18-year-olds from west Wales who had left home at 5am. “He is an inspiration to young people, his books are awesome and he is awesome,” said Cathryn Checkett.
Two Plymouth University students, Jason Drake and John Carter, had made a Union flag poster emblazoned with the crest of John Green’s fictional version of Swindon Town, and toured the line encouraging people to sign it as a welcome.
Inside the venue, John Green looked nervous as the time for the event drew nearer. He and his brother Hank joked around on stage, Hank played some of the quirky guitar songs that brought him hundreds of thousands of followers on You Tube – songs about everything from neutron particles to wanting an eighth Harry Potter book – while John talked about his new novel, The Fault In Our Stars .
“It’s great to be in Swindon, I have fallen in love with the place from afar and this is the first time I’ve been here,” he told the Western Daily Press. “I think the people who watch the videos are either teenage girls or fans of the real Swindon,” he added.
Green arrived in one of the most turbulent weeks in Swindon’s recent history, a day after manager Paolo di Canio said he was considering his position after his team was put up for sale and Matt Ritchie was sold behind his back.
“I hope di Canio doesn’t really leave, that would be a disaster for the club and also for him. I hope he stays, but part of being a football fan is being disappointed,” he said.
Later, on stage, John formally announced that he would be prepared to drop his entire career as best-selling novelist and king of the You Tubers to manage the real Swindon Town if di Canio did leave. “I hear you guys have a great roundabout. I’ve heard so much about this roundabout that there’s no way this roundabout can possibly deliver if I go and see it. I’m not going to attempt to drive around it.”