Nerdfighters : Some much needed criticism

Its been almost 6 years since I became a Nerdfighter . Its been a journey of acceptance and hope and discovery . I joined Nerdfighteria at a time when my life was at a low point. I was depressed , suicidal and felt the kind of bone deep loneliness that makes you wonder at the hopelessness of this existence of ours and leaves you almost catatonic with disillusionment . It was then that I came across The Fault in our stars written by a guy with sticking up hair sitting in front of a fountain who seemed much too young to be capable of writing what was essentially a book about two teenagers dying from cancer. I was prepared to either hate the book or find it passable but cloying. Instead ; I found friends in the most unlikely of places. These were teenagers who talked like me and cared about the same things I cared about and wondered about the same things I wondered . They had the same penchant for long convoluted sentences and judging people by their bookshelves . They plumbed video games for the philosophical connotations of sacrifice and martyrdom and talked about how some promises can never be fully meant . For the first time i felt at home with the length and breadth of my sentences ; because they didn’t seem quite so unwieldy in Hazels and Augustus’s mouths. It was the first book I ever read where I immediately started reading it again (by immediately I mean after crying about Augustus for like an hour ). From there I went back and read all the others : Looking for Alaska (which i somehow loved more than TFIOS), An Abundance of Katherines (which struck a chord with me for all the weirdest reasons ) and Paper Towns (Quentin , you poor  misguided thing ). They formed my introduction to Young Adult literature as a whole and for that I will be forever grateful . Then I went online and found the Vlogbrothers and the rest as they say is history . Except that now I find myself in a position I never thought i would be in . I find myself deciding to say goodbye .

Its hard. So unbearably hard to walk away from a community that has been my rock for the last 6 or so years . Even though i haven’t ever been all that active in it , it gave me a sense of belonging that i hadn’t had much of in my life . It made me feel heard at a time when my voice seemed to count for nothing. It showed me that there were people like me out there . That i wasn’t alone in the world , which is what i had always been afraid of since i was a kid . Every video that John and Hank did was something i would watch as soon as it was uploaded and some of them i binge watched multiple times (I once studied to the tune of The Batman Song for 3 hours ).

However , since AART (An absolutely remarkable thing by Hank Green)came out its been like awakening from limbo for me. It took reading this book to make me realize just how much Nerdfighteria has changed . If you look through literally all the Discord discussions or the Reddit discussions ; there is not a single piece of criticism about the book . I’m not even talking about people bashing on the book . There isn’t even one line of criticism about the book. Not one disagreement on whether it was well written or plot points or Hanks handling of the characters ….it was a homogenous wall of deafening applause . I hate to tell you guys : absolutely nothing can be that remarkable (pun intended). There are entire critical texts on Shakespeares plays ; Dantes Inferno , the Bronte Sisters entire body of work , Melvilles Moby Dick and  Austens Pride and Prejudice . These are some of the greatest books in the English language and even they have people pointing out plot holes ,inconsistencies ,character flaws etc. Yet there is only one negative review that i could find on AART and even that wasn’t a negative review per se . And there were almost no negative comments on the fan sites

This isn’t good . Not for us as a community . Not for literature . Definitely  not for the Internet in general . Every community should hold its members accountable ; especially when said members are at the founders of the community . We should applaud all the things AART got right : a truly interesting premise , some good quotes and a suitably complex and well charted plot . There are however things that AART fails at : a skewed representation of bisexual people , an unsympathetic and problematic protagonist who we are supposed to  root for even though she gives us no good reason to actually support her , corny (and in some cases ; plain bad) dialogue and an ending that honestly feels similar to how Sherlock Holmes “dies” in the “Adventure of the final problem”.  Even the Entertainment Weekly review ( I can’t believe the only review to call the book out was by the EW of all sites ) ended by saying that:

“Sure, Remarkable Thing has robots and aliens to spare — but the actual people need an upgrade.”

Which is honestly the nicest way they could put the fact that this book is populated by some of the most two dimensional cliched characters in all of YA. They talk as though their brain was a random generator filled with the most inane pop culture references you could ever find. Also; the first sentence of this book is one of the most needlessly tortuous opening lines of any book ever. How any editor thought it was a good idea to have such an annoyingly run on sentence as the opening line baffles me . This book so obviously falls into all the classic first author pitfalls that its not even funny after a point. And did seriously no one notice that this book reads like Hank talks ? The entire book is written in this rushed cacophony that is almost stream of consciousness but just ends up imbuing the narrative with a shot of ADD. Which just serves to further confuse an already confused plot.  There were times in the book when i hoped the world would oblige by imploding because i would rather die than live in a reality where humanity’s survival depends on the undying narcissism of April May ( Sidenote : This is an atrocious meaningless pun of a name that …just why . Hank , you came with a name as originally pun-ny as  Hanklerfish and somehow you thought it was a good idea to name a protagonist April May ? ) . How many times does April May decide to go it alone and try to fix everything herself and then catastrophically screw everything up because she thinks shes too cool for something as degrading as a collaboration ? I repeat ; this is our protagonist ? And to all the people who are saying that ” just because she is a protagonist ; doesnt mean that she has to be flawless ” I say that i agree . A protagonist doesnt have to be flawless ….but there have to be some good character traits . April May is a person who seems to have no redeeming personality traits , treats the people around her like garbage , has a sense of entitlement and narcissism that is utterly and completely baseless and is the most commitment phobic protagonist i have seen in Young Adult fiction in the recent past .

But we praised this problematic book to the skies .

We as a community, advance ordered for no other reason than because Hank wrote it . It debuted at no.1 on NYT Hardcover fiction list and now stands 2nd in the Combined E book and print fiction section . Question: Are you seriously trying to tell me that Hank outwrote Kate Atkinson and Vince Flynn and Kevin Kwan ? Are you telling me that AART is a better book than Crazy Rich Asians?

So this is why i have to take my leave . I will still watch Vlogbrothers videos from time to time and read Johns books whenever they do come out . I will still cheer randomly whenever i hear that AFC Wimbledon won a match . I will still hum The Batman Song from time to time.

But i don’t think i will call myself a Nerdfighter again .

I won’t celebrate Pizzamas or wait for The Project for Awesome.

I won’t fill in the Nerdfighter Census again.

I won’t go to the Nerdfighter Reddit or discords to find my people .

In Paper Towns John observes that:

“What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person.”

Somehow even with that warning , we messed up just as bad as Quentin did .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Unrequited in Love,

Yes, you…i know that you have your eyes trained as far away from the screen as possible. So scared that somehow sitting so far away from you I’ve guessed the secret that shouts from your eyes and battle weary smile. You go around acting as if there’s absolutely nothing wrong…as if your life is filled only with rainbows and puppies. But i can see it…you can’t fool me.

It hurts doesn’t it?

The most exquisite torture in the whole world isn’t to be found in the dungeons of dictators past and present…its to be found in the hearts of those who have fallen hard, and fallen wrong. There are a lot of people who say that there is nothing like falling for the “wrong person”. Yes, yes there is. Knowing that even if you love someone with every breath in your body, with every drop of your soul they will never love you back…that is a pain beyond all description. There are times when you catch yourself staring at them, right? You can’t help yourself…because your soul isn’t yours anymore, its theirs. And no force in the world can stop you from looking at them and feeling as if you’ve found your definition of perfection. A perfection that’s as unattainable as the moon and the stars. Losing your soul to someone who never even asked for it, is the worst thing that could ever happen to someone. Because in one fell swoop you lose your heart and your love. There may be times when they hold or hug you….purely platonic for them. But suddenly its like every nerve ending in your body is on fire, exploding like a million fireworks in an inky black sky. But you shrug it off, because you will never be more than a friend to them. And every time you remind yourself of this…a little part of you seems to die.

I’m sorry…i really am.

There are nights when the thought of your Misguided Love keeps you up, right? Nights that leave you with an ache in your chest that never seems to go away, but instead grows till it consumes you. The world becomes steeped in pallid greys, drained of all the colors that others seem to see. All music seems tuneless, all art graceless….its a terrible Life, one reduced to mere existence. Isn’t it ironic that love can make a Life as fast as it can break it? Isn’t it tragic that something so beautiful can bring so much pain?

I know all of these questions have flitted through your minds eye, like a ticker tape that just won’t leave you alone. Till it feels like there’s no hope left , no reason left…Nothing.

And again…I’m sorry for that pain. For that heartache. For that Lost Love.

I won’t offer any of you false comfort. Nor am i going to give you platitudes of finding  “Someone better” tomorrow. And i most definitely will not belittle your love and tell you that they are not worth it. Do not ever repent of love….because its hard to come by in this hard, cruel world. And even if it has hurt you more blindingly than anything else thrown at you , it was worth it. Because Love is always worth the fight. Its always worth the pain. Its worth all the suffering we go through in its name.

So trust me when i say to love is human. To be loved back is luck. 

But never apologize for falling in Love….

Yours respectfully

K.

But nightmares have ways of turning into dreams…if we only let them.

The world is a very ironic place. It delights in placing the bizarre on a stage for everyone to see….in dreaming up plot twists that no on in their right mind (or heart) would ever have come up with. Life is cruel. It has razor sharp teeth that cut and bite and gnaw at all of those secret glades of your soul that you’ve kept Safe.Nothing can remain untouched, unwounded. 

Sometimes Life hurts us so much that there are people who forget what it means to live it. They live with their arms over their heart , their own form of impenetrable armor. They have learnt what it means to be weak, to open yourself up….they have paid the price of vulnerability in the blood of their Innocence. And they have decided that they would much rather be alone than hurt….

This is our tragedy.

It takes Faith (not usually found) to believe in fairy tales. To believe that somewhere out in this haystack of a world there is a person willing to be our Perfect Needle. It takes uncommon strength to believe in soulmates and Death defying Love and in Happy Ever Afters…which must be why they have now become taboo in a world full of people walking around with their arms over their hearts.

Each person has the right to have a Romeo to their Juliet. Every Elizabeth Bennet should hear the voice of their Darcy. Every Ron should stumble and collapse into the arms of his  Hermione. Every Barney Stinson should get to be legendary with his own Robin Scherbatsky……All of this should happen, but often doesn’t.

Shel silverstein once wrote about this saying: 

“She had blue skin and so did he

He kept it hid, and so did she

They searched for blue

Their whole life through-

Then passed right by 

And never knew”

I wonder how many of us lose a glimpse of the people we’re looking for because we lost sight of ourselves.

So….i know its hard. But its time to let the colors shine through…whether what comes is red , green or cerulean blue. 

P.S. There’s no color so different that there isn’t a match for it in this world. So look at loneliness (if it ever assaults you unawares) as a temporary inconvenience with a future permanent solution that’s just over the Horizon. Because frankly, that’s all it really is  

 

Silence….

I look at you and I feel
So much that it scares me
I feel as if my heart could burst from the fullness of you
From the fullness of Us
Now I know what happiness is
How it feels , like a million exploding fireworks
How it feels, these prickles of joy under my skin
Sharp and poignant, a metaphor for Life and Love

I think of you and our first kiss
The one that I stole from your lips
The one you weren’t expecting
I leaned in to you and I saw your eyes
Widen and then relax
And then I relaxed
Again
Into you ,Into Us

I write long letters to you by candlelight
And if I’m feeling especially romantic
By the shards of a moon that skim
Onto pages that hold my heart bled with blue
Letters soaked in the awkwardness of a First love
Soaked in the assurance of an Infinite Love
I write of the first time we met
And act as if I felt the Earth move beneath my feet
When in reality nothing happened
You were just another girl
And I was just another boy
But literature suggests otherwise
So I try to conform and connect
All the dots in our constellation
Of a million starry moments
Even when the connections fade
And cease to exist
We connect,keep on connecting
Till we get a factory made love story
That sounds nothing like us at all

So I give up
I have stopped trying
Because everything I could say to you
Has already been said a million times
Tried and repeated from Shakespeare to Satan
Love has lost its many formed face
And has been reduced to this tired poetry,
Fringed in stuffy lace

I feel stuffy saying “I love you ”
Because its the collective property of the other 1,89,782
And thats just those who said it today
All that i can say seems already to have been said
And i don’t want to share you with the authors
That i have recently taken to quoting
Cause they had someone else in mind
When they uttered those timeless words
Or even worse they had no one at all
To them it was just symbols on the wall

And I don’t want to share you with the millions
Who have come before me and fallen in love
Who have looked into eyes and learnt to fall
To the ground,against death defying gravity
I don’t want to share Us with people who have never
Seen your smile or felt your kiss
I don’t want them to intrude

So I will not use their words or their pictures
Their sighs or their speeches
Instead I will give you what no love has ever given
Silence…

I will give you the silence of me and you
On a park bench at 6:30 in the morning
Holding hands so very lightly
As if any more pressure might break this fragile thing
This love that is at home between us
I will give you the silence of me by the door
Watching you talk to your friends
At the end of another class
Waiting for that moment when you turn and notice
Love at the doorstep with flowers
I will give you the silence of my absence
The moments when I am not there to see
First hand the miracle of your beauty
Because then you’ll know the gift
Of being in my thoughts, many houses away
And its only in love that you get to be
In two places at once
Cause in love you are always in my heart
My soul, my thoughts…even in the dark

I shall send you these love letters of silence
These moments of glances that contain
The kind of love that would scorch paper
With its intensity
And melt binary with its need
I will love in a way that no one has and more
I will give you my silence, my soul.

My “Friend”-ly checklist

I want…

I want someone who doesn’t find it weird that I went to the theater only once in the whole of last year. Who understands me when I say that I get bored five minutes into the show…and it doesn’t even matter what the film is. There’s just something about the acoustics of the theater that seems creepy to me. The way that the sounds bounce off the walls ….makes me feel like the ghosts of a thousand undead actors are crowding around,watching us watch them. And then I don’t want to watch the movie anymore….because my imaginary ghosts seem a lot more interesting.

I want someone who thinks that its perfectly normal to try to live on Lays and Pepsi. Who thinks that coffee is brown sludge that should be poured off the edge of the Earth, into outer space . Far,far away from our tastebuds.

I want someone who doesn’t care much for Harry Potter or even Twilight. Someone who really couldn’t care about the difference between Wingardium Leviosa and Alohomora….And not mind that she didn’t know.

I want someone who knows “Having a coke with you” by heart….

I want someone who knows that it’s a Frank o’Hara poem……

I want someone who knows who Frank O’Hara is…..

I want someone who wants to go running to the roof and applaud God for each beautiful sunset that he gives….tell him that the colours are just beautiful .That the way the cloud banks to the west give it that touch of perfection. And as the number of sunsets you’ve seen grow with every passing day they’ll ask him how he can find so many ways to bring the sun down….to end the day.And thank him on behalf of a world too busy with The Wall Street Exchange and the value of the dollar to notice.

I want someone who if I leave her at 4 in the evening ,I end up missing with an immortal,crushing pain by 4:30 pm on the same day

I want someone who calls me at 4:40pm to say “I miss you”

I want someone who makes time race by like a bullet train when she’s with me. But makes it crawl like a snail on a hot July afternoon when she’s not around…

I want someone who thinks that a dog or a cat or even an earth worm is more interesting to  talk to than most people….someone who thinks that a snake is beautiful. Even if it doesn’t have legs,or arms or if it has a weird flicking tongue…..

I want someone who ,if we ever got lost in a crowd would look for me like crazy. And when she found me would hug me,even if there were a 100 people watching…..Someone who’d look at me and say “ Oh there you are! I’ve been looking for you all my Life…”.

I want someone who makes me feel…..

Loved..

Needed…

Wanted…

Someone who makes me feel like I’ve finally,finally :……….reached  home

Freedom of choice: What are the boundaries that can be set for it?

The question of the hour is how far can we extend our freedom of speech? There are many who advocate that it should be one of our most carefully and judiciously used freedoms. In other words its an inoffensive way of saying that “You don’t have to say all that you think!”. Put this way it calls upon the structure on which the world is built: The Social Contract. The social contract is basically the smoothening of relations between people, a kind of “You don’t hurt me, I won’t hurt you” kind of thinking. It has evolved with civilized society in general. In the beginning ,the social contract was just another name for good manners , but as time went on it began to include more and more ideas.

In the USA around the time of the Civil War ,we can see a society that was all about saying the right things. Or to be more specific not saying the wrong things. There was a publicly agreed upon list of forbidden topics. Topics that were not “genteel” enough to be mentioned in society. And that list was quite long, and even the topics that were allowed for discussions, there were some positions that could not be taken,some views that could not be expressed . If someone ever hinted that franchisement for the blacks was a reasonable demand ,in the South that person would be publicly condemned and excommunicated from the society. To be sure such a social blackmail was effective in making sure that life went on smoothly and any kind of infighting was not to be seen. But it was at the price of making the South an intellectual backwater; they were a people frozen in time,advancing nowhere. To be very blunt about the social contract down South : it was one of the most effective mass indoctrinations of all time.

A reading of Margaret Mitchells” Gone with the wind” and you will realize the level of indoctrination. Each person was cast in the same mould,all of them being fed the same ideas the forefathers had been fed, and told that they were God sent Bible truths that were cast in stone. And they never changed or even tried to change their ideas,their forms and mannerisms. It is even written” They would not let go of these forms and manners,because they were all reminders of the golden age,they were all that was left of the golden age” . Not one of them could have an original thought, but the real tragedy was that not one of them even wanted to try having an original thought. It was not the death of freedom of expression. In fact , it had had its stranglehold on the people for so long that it had become the death of free thought.

It was that lack of original thought that had justified slavery,that had drawn an entire nation into a fight with itself that hurt no one but itself. They had followed a few misanthropes mouthing catchwords into a battle they could ill afford. And they had paid for it dearly. The South was starved and broken down in the most harrowing and ignoble fashion ever. And on all fronts they were set back a 100 years by the end of the war. And I still wonder if the South had learned the value of free thought for all, where would it have been by now? But that does’nt mean that I side with the Yankees in this. In fact I side with both and with neither. They both had valid reasons for starting the Civil War and they also made their fair share of mistakes each in doing so. But lets save the rest for another day……………cause if Rome wasn’t built in a day,it shouldn’t be demolished in one either.