Otherworlds – A Steampunk Paradise in Seattle
Shout out to the Nerd Out friends and family in the Seattle area. Are you familiar with a very special pocket dimension disguised as a retail store? That Steampunk paradise is the one and only Otherworlds. Located in Edmonds, WA, Otherworlds is a book store/tea party/gaming and music haven. Craving some Victorian Steampunk, futuristic science, or magical fantasy? Then you need to visit Otherworlds.
Recently, the Otherworlds team expanded, opening their store online. For those of you who may not get to visit in person, don’t worry. You can still access the wide variety of costumes, DIY kits, jewelry, art and more. For some details on Otherworlds, we spoke with the crew.
Otherworlds: How it all Began
Nerd Out: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us. I know that you opened for business in 2012. What was the decision-making process on making the leap? What made you decide on this very special kind of shop?
Otherworlds: Well, we wanted to sell things we were enthused about. We were both booksellers, but when you have a guy yell at you for not guaranteeing your Health section will cure his foot fungus, you start to really long for the days you get to introduce a middle-schooler to the science-fiction/fantasy section and watch their eyes get huge and blissful. We wanted more of that.
A Day in the Life
NO: You have something for everyone, from Whovians to tabletop gamers to costumers. What is a typical day or week in the life for you and your patrons at the shop? Is there even a “typical” day?
OW: The best days are when people come in and get excited. We weird some people out, Christians that think our store is a bunch of dark stuff it isn’t, people that come in and tell us they can get cheaper costumes at Wal-Mart, or say our LARP weapons are too expensive for a child’s allowance, but when a twelve-year-olds jump up and down at sight of the Dalek, or somebody tells you all about how she felt taller after watching Wonder Woman, it’s so fun. It’s worth it.
Events at Otherworlds
NO: I noticed that you have a book club and often feature local authors like Bernadette Pajer and the Foglios. Do you feel a special place for supporting local talent? Is this something unique to Otherworlds?
OW: One of the fun things about being in Edmonds is the amount of local talent. You meet one neat artist, and they introduce you to seven friends that are authors, painters, inventors, and then there’ll be a few that are hard to quantify (a bit like our store). We definitely try to support local art and artists–it’s the biggest different between us and big box stores, knowing you can come here and see things you won’t see anywhere else.
NO: Local authors and artists aren’t the only folks you support. Can you touch on some of your activism efforts? I saw a few things in the online store that I thought were really excellent.
OW: Well, I had this heartbreaking incident where we were doing a Victorian Christmas party with dancing, and these two young girls came in and asked really nervously whether they would be allowed to buy ‘couples’ tickets. They were probably younger than fifteen. So if you’re talking about the “Fight Fascism With Queer Romance” t-shirt, or the “Steampunk Lesbian Love Stories”, yeah, I make an effort to find things that will fit in our store and let people know they’re supported and in a safe place. We’d like to do more with that–for a while we were doing bingo nights for charity, but we need people to run it!
Otherworlds Goes Online
NO: Speaking of the online shopping, when did you decide to open the virtual store?
OW: We’ve been trying to figure out how for the five years since we opened, but there were oh, loads of reasons it didn’t work, least of which learning how to pack and ship hundreds of different artist pieces without breaking them! And it’s been ridiculous trying to get it to be mobile-friendly–we’re still working on that. But anyway now we can send most of the money to the artist, who completes the order, so we can even offer custom stuff! And the artist doesn’t make it until money changes hands, so neither us nor they are putting a bunch of work out and not making sales. We’re super excited, you can tell from my rambling.
NO: You have support from a strong geek community, including Outdoor Trek, AFK Tavern, Around the Table, and others. Do you think there’s something that drives geeks to support one another? Is there something about the culture?
OW: I really think there is. When you’re geeky about football, or knitting, it’s usually not too hard to find someone to talk to about it, but for a long time people felt really alone in their love of old British TV shows, or adults were embarrassed to discuss the storylines in comics. People have said we feel like a home to them, and they do get really excited feeling like they can talk to each other about all their delights. People really value that.
NO: What are some of your upcoming events and where can we find news on the latest Otherworlds happenings?
OW: Well, the biggest one is Friday Night Game Night, 6-9pm, any board or card games people want to play–mostly adventure. But we also have a book club the fourth Thursday of every month at 7pm, and we’re working with a couple new startup maker spaces to get crafting nights rolling again. Our website has an events page to check in with and buy tickets (crafting nights tend to have some materials cost), or you can follow us on FB or join our Meetup group for notifications.
NO: Anyone you’d like to give a virtual “shout out?”
OW: Oh, definitely the people you named, Outdoor Trek, Another Castle who regularly sends people our way, Steamposium could use some love. Thanks so much!
NO: Thanks for taking the time. Our readers can find more about this wonderfully unique shop and experience if for themselves by visiting Otherworlds online. Ok, Nerds, go visit this crew for some artwork, clothing, jewelry, or whatever fits your fancy!