Regular readers will probably have heard me mention a little store that Webmonkey Rob and I like to hang out at in Edmonds, called Otherworlds. It’s a wonderful little steampunk store owned by Brynn Watson and Ahren Paulson who I got to sit down and chat with when they weren’t busy running board game groups and decking customers out in gorgeous corsets and bustles.
IGP: Otherworlds’ one year anniversary is at the end of this month isn’t it?
Brynn: Yes. The 29th. The 30th is the anniversary, but what we wanted to do it on the Saturday instead of Sunday.
IGP: What are you guys doing for it?
Brynn: Costume party. People will be able to vote on who was the most in character. It will be from one till when we close at nine. The first three hours until four will be painting tea cups. Then a tea party with cake. From around five until we close, we’ll be making some kind of, we think it’s going to be crystal radios.
IGP: How did Otherworlds come about?
Brynn: We both had worked in retail for a really long time and we were kind tired of selling things we weren’t enthused about. We both worked at Half Price Books and it’s great fun talking to people in the scifi section, but then you get the people that want to talk to you about their health problems in the health section. This is something that we’ve liked and were enthused about and is more our personal love.
Ahren: Yeah, I’ve wanted a game store since I was very little, my mother tells me. The games don’t bring a lot of business on its own, so we wanted to sell a bunch of other stuff we know. We know books.
Brynn: Yeah, we considered not doing the books, but this was something we knew how to do. The rest are just all things that we thought were cool.
IGP: So is that basically how you decide what to stock, what you think is cool?
Brynn: Yeah, it’s kinda like that. We were looking at the other geeky scenes but being in Edmonds, we couldn’t do a fantasy store in Edmonds. People would think it’s the Ren Faire. Scifi is even worse. You don’t want a big xenomorph sitting there when you walk in the door. But steampunk works. It’s got the Victorian stuff, it’s got the tea, and we like steampunk anyway. So that actually worked really well. Old ladies come in and they say, “Oh, it’s a cute little store, and they’ve got pocket watches and tea” and they leave and that’s the store they saw. It lures people in. It’s not too scary.
Ahren: There’s nothing really like it, anywhere near here.
IGP: How would you describe Otherworlds?
Ahren: It’s a lot of different things. We kind of focus on the books and games. We focus on the steampunk because that’s more encompassing.
Brynn: And that’s what people come in for. We try to branch out and some of the geeky stuff does well, but then a lot of stuff people go in and go “Do you have any steampunk?” I keep thinking, ‘oh we’ll get more stuff, appeal to more people’.
Ahren: Yeah, the idea was that it would be an equal balance. This is the fantasy area, this is the steampunk area, this is the scifi area. It would be fairly well balanced. But the steampunk is really what people come in for.
Brynn: It’s great to have other stuff, so the spouse or boyfriend who isn’t into steampunk and doesn’t want to dress up has something.We wanted a store that appeals to all different people.
IGP: Do you think steampunk is becoming more mainstream?
Ahren: Well, it’s been on the rise for a very long time now.
Brynn: When designers like Prada started doing steampunk collections, I’m afraid it’s going to crash. It was popular when we came up with the idea, but it wasn’t that popular. Now I’m like, what if it bottoms out?
Ahren: You ride the wave, but that’s the great thing though, because only part of what we do is steampunk, we’ve got everything else, and imagination is not going to die off.
IGP: What would you say to a newbie looking at diving into the world of steampunk?
Brynn: There’s a lot of things to get into. It’s not just dressing up. It’s music. It’s fiction.
Ahren: It’s a culture.
Brynn: One of the things that got me excited about it was going to Steamcon and seeing these guys in their seventies, and they build models of Jules Verne ships. That’s what they do. They don’t dress up. They’re not into any of that side of it. They read the fiction from the 1800s and you see them talking to a 17-year-old girl with blue hair and a bustle and having this wonderful conversation. You kind of have to test out what they’re into. Do you like to dress up? Do you like to make things? You kind of have to sound them out. It’s like helping someone pick an ice cream flavour.
Ahren: Especially with steampunk, it can appeal to all backgrounds and social standings basically. You can go the cheap route very easily. You can go raid Value Village and come up with an awesome costume. You don’t have to spend a lot of money. It’s very easy. You can build your own stuff, make your own things. It’s really easy to get into. It’s not expensive if you don’t want it to be.
IGP: How geeky are you?
Ahren: The geekiest thing about myself that I’m aware of is that I will play anything, any game. I learned from a very early age how to turn any board game into a solitary game. And I still do that. I’ll play just about anything by myself.
Brynn: He plays all the characters
Ahren: Yep, I’ll play multiple characters. A handful of games I haven’t figured out how to work it, but I will always try and I do enjoy playing stuff by myself.
Brynn: I make all the stuffed animals talk. That’s pretty geeky.
Ahren: We’re both pretty big on stuffed animals.
Brynn: I’m very capable of getting enthused about most things. I’m enthused about other people’s enthusiasm. Some people will come in and get really geeky about something and I am just as enthused as they are.
Ahren: You’re a huge reader. Brynn can get through a novel in less than a day. She devours books.
IGP: Favourite book?
Brynn: I don’t have one. Books are kinda like food. There’s the jelly bean book…
IGP: What’s your comfort food book? The one you keep going back to?
Brynn: Maybe Princess Bride?
IGP: Favourite board game?
Ahren: Arkham Horror
Brynn: I think mine is Gloom.
IGP: Tell us about the special events you guys hold.
Ahren: Every second Saturday we have the charity stuff that we do. We’re trying to start doing swapmeets out front to help bring people in.
Brynn: We’re going to try and do other stuff that’s engaging to the public. We’ve got somebody that’s willing to do a Lovecraft trivia night. It will probably start alternating so instead of just being photos with cosplayers, it’ll be all different stuff.
Ahren: We’re trying to do more of the interactive mystery, LARP-
Brynn: We don’t call it LARPing though because people come in off the street and they don’t know what LARPing is. We tell them it’s an interactive game. We’re getting back to our themed months. In August-
IGP: There’s going to be a Firefly thing, right?
Brynn: Yeah. The lady that does our storytelling is going to do an Old West tall tales, but redo them for the Firefly universe. We’ll do a steampunk month after that. A supernatural steampunk. and then we do our Wednesday night craft night. We get our artists in to do different stuff. Monday nights is knit night, and people come in and do knitting.
Ahren: We usually try and have something different and bigger once per month.
Brynn: It’s hard because there’s so little space in here. We might be able to do music in the summer. Have people outside. The masonic lodge used to be the opera house. They’ve got all these Victorian meeting rooms. It would be really fun to do a convention over there. We’re trying to work with different people to put that together in the future.
IGP: I get the impression that with Otherworlds you guys are trying to build a community.
Brynn: That’s what we’re trying to do yeah. So people can come here and find out what’s going on and what’s available and have us be a centre of nerd culture. That would be very fun.