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.

Visit Otherworlds

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!

Everything Shiny from Whedon Con

You might have seen Nick’s super informative post about Whedon Con, but for those of you who haven’t and don’t feel like opening another tab and adding to your already full browser window…. Whedon Con is a convention that focuses on the Wonderful Works of Whedon. If you sing along to a blog by Dr. Horrible or dream of a trip aboard Serenity, this is your con.

What makes it even more special though is that this is all in the name of charity. The efforts here went to support the Al Wooten Jr. Heritage Center, which provides after school support for children in grades 3-12, and My Friend’s Place, which supports homeless youth in an inclusive environment.  Basically, Whedon Con bills itself as a convention for fans, by fans, “with the aim of harnessing the power of fandom for charity.”

So how is it?

Well, this was only the con’s second year. It definitely wasn’t the size or scope of any con I’ve been to before, but keep in mind that I’ve really only stuck to broad “comic cons”- nothing as specific as Whedon Con.  However, what it lacks in size it makes up for with the sheer accessibility of it all.  In one way it was the most inclusive con I’ve been to. You could see it in the “all genders” signs on the bathrooms or their support for My Friend’s Place, which specifically aims to help the high risk and marginalized community of homeless LGBT youth.  In another sense, the organizers took great pains to allow attendees an unparalleled access to the special guests.

They offered special Cards Against Humanity games and cocktail nights with the celeb guests that allowed anyone the legitimate chance to hang out with some of the cast from their favorite Whedonverse movies or shows.  This went far deeper than the long line of fans waiting to walk along a table of 6 actors from their favorite show and meet them all greeting line style.

Whedon Con Podcasts

There was also a cool variety of panels.   Some were directly related to the Whedon-verse,  like screenings of Buffy, Firefly, Serenity, or Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog or panels like “Speculation of Season 2 of Firefly” and “Ladies of Whedon.” Other panels incorporated special guests like a live taping of the “Big Bad Buffy” podcast or “Behind the Stunts with Jeff Pruit and Sophia Crawford.”  Still others ranged from industry related (“Finding and Pitching to a Producer”) to fan-based (“Character Acting in Cosplay”) to everything in between (“TRAPPIST-1 System” or “English is Easy: A Historical Exploration of They/Them”).

Truthfully, the variety of panels they managed to fit into a smaller convention really impressed me.  Not everything was necessarily intriguing to me, but I think that fits right into what seemed like the best part of the convention – everything was possible for everyone.  I didn’t worry that I wouldn’t make it into a panel or have to prioritize and choose just one to wait in line for while missing all the other things I wanted to see.  And when I did go to a panel, there was plenty of space where I could comfortably listen and take part in the panel.

For example, on Saturday we got to see The Movie Guys recording their podcast live.  If you don’t know who they are, The Movie Guys podcast basically is their group talking and joking about the new releases everyone else is talking about. Here, despite rushing in at the last moment, I still found a spot in the second row. I could comfortably laugh along as they talked about Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and the fact that Baby Groot was the best part of the movie. Duh!  Sunday I got to see panels like “Hackers, Don’t be a victim” or “Crowd Funding and Fan Acquisition with Legion M.”

Whedon Con Panels

In Hackers, they had a member of the LAPD discussing ways to be aware and defend yourself against hacking attempts and the audience was able to discuss and question certain hacking attempts.  Side note: if someone calls you saying its a friend or family member and they sound funny because they “have a cold” but know all this personal information and even an approximate location that person might be and now they immediately need you to send money for their bail and the best way to do this is with a Visa giftcard and just read them the numbers once you’ve bought it….. this is a scam.  You can thank me later for passing that on.

In Legion M’s panel, they discussed how their company is embracing the crowdfunding scene but offering something a bit more than a trinket, a shirt, or early access to exclusive footage (read: Kickstarter or Indiegogo). Instead, they offer donors shares in their company. To really get into what they’re all about deserves a blog post of its own. Point is, it was such an intimate setting that we were able to ask plenty of questions. Like having a conversation with a group of friends – no microphone line necessary.

The Exhibit Hall

Now of course, no convention is complete without an exhibit hall.  This one was named “Sunnydale Mall” and had a nice selection of vendors.  Again, nothing too overwhelming in size, but the tables that were there all displayed a connection to fandom.  The artists there clearly cared about what they were making and selling and it made the “mall” more worth it.  One in particular had 3D paintings and carvings- all handmade and intricate.  He in particular also contributed a peice to the charity auction at the end of the convention- a cool Mutant Enemy carving with a moveable zombie that the convention staff got signed by most of the special guests. Grrr, argh! It ended up taking in some of the highest bids at the auction.

Speaking of, the auction was an awesome display and included things like signed Firefly loot crates or vintage Buffy memorabilia.  It was hosted by UK comedian Bill Paddon who helped the auction raise more than $1700 to go straight to charity while keeping the audience laughing and interested.


Conclusion

My overall takeaway then was mostly positive.  I’ve said it already, but I’ll say it again… it was a small convention.  Whedon Con is in it’s infancy and that does show.  Some parts were a bit unorganized and there wasn’t an overwhelming attendance.  But feel free to think of it as one of those toddlers that you know are already a little advanced.  It had a great variety of panels and used the coziness to make it a better experience for fans.  It did it all in the name of charity and relied on its volunteer staff entirely.  Definitely a convention that I would love to see grow. I can’t wait to see the name that it can make for itself and how much good it can do in the name of fandom.

The Convention Survival Pack

Convention season is in full swing. We here at the Nerd Out Blog are interested in making your convention experience a positive one. To that end, we polled members of the Nerd Out Squad with a simple idea. Everyone should have the essentials at a con or festival. If you were building your Convention Survival Pack, what would be in yours? Why? We were impressed with the answers and bet you will be, too.

Convention Survival Pack Basics

If all of the Nerd Out Squad thought about it, we would each own stock in Purell. Almost everyone polled with this question answered hand sanitizer and bottled water. Geekscape.net writer Matthew Kelly puts it simply. “Hand Sanitizer and Emergency Vitamin C packages are the only thing that keeps me alive.” Battery and phone chargers were also highly recommended. Many folks included cash as a must-have. Breath mints, tylenol and extra deodorant also made the list. Also, don’t lose your photo ID or your phone. Extra clothes and shoes are also important.

Food & Drink

Dumbbells & Dragons founder Kenny Rotter recommends carrots and bananas to stay fueled up at conventions. Jerky is also a popular selection. Themed desserts also make the list. Nintendo-themed cupcakes are all the rage at Super Smash Con. Cosplayers and costumers often find creative ways to work food themes into their overall design. Packing protein bars is another way to make sure you have options.

Podcasting

Many conventions have designated areas available to podcasters. Having the proper equipment is still up to you. Podcasting for Dummies author Tee Morris says, “I recommend having amps and speaker so people can gather round and passers-by know something is going on here…but that you have to coordinate with the con staff. Recording panels can be tricky, unless you can assure guests that they are all miced. otherwise you are doing open air recording of panels and those can be hell when playing back.”

Nobilis Reed of the Nobilis Erotica podcast offers this advice. “Don’t worry too much about audio quality. Live events sound like live events. You’re not The Grateful Dead.”

Cosplay

Costumer Robyn McIntosh raises some additional concerns for cosplayers and costumers. “Nail glue. It’s like super glue but way less toxic and does not reach to heat. Also, a lighter is key to taking care of loose threads, etc.” How bout somewhere that serves for pockets? Sara Logan Hofstein offers some cosplay workarounds. “If I’m wearing something where my feet are relatively hidden (like a dress) I’ll usually wear really tall boots, like thigh highs, because I can stick my phone, makeup, small wallet, etc, in my shoes.”

Miscellaneous

SFX artist Zombianca suggested poster tubes. “I hate finding awesome art then having to lug it around to get damaged…it’s the worst!” Make sure you have a schedule ahead of time. Many conventions now have apps dedicated to the schedule of events. Plan around the popularity of the guests so you can set your priorities.

Downtime

The key to convention survival (and sanity) may also be downtime. Author Pip Ballantine says downtime is important and sometimes overlooked. “I love people, but after a few hours I need a place to decompress and prepare myself for more.” Holistic Health Dr. Stacia Kelly agrees. “Being an introvert, large crowds and massive amounts of time with people drains me. During a day long or weekend long event, I have to manage to sneak in some downtime so that I can continue to chat, be nice, and not suffer from exhaustion for several days after an event.”

So, there you have it. From tables to panels to cosplay, your many tips to packing for convention survival. Anything we missed? Please let us know!

Featured image cosplayer is Andrew Elkins