Seattle: The Birth of the Geek Capital of the World

My claim that Seattle is the Geek Capital of the World grows stronger all the time.

We currently have the King Tut Exhibit at the Science Center.
Our Science Fiction Museum is about to open an Icons of Science Fiction Exhibit.
And we have a growing battle between a Real Life Superhero and a Real Life Supervillian.
And I will be writing about all of those in the future.
But today rather than the future, I would like to talk about the past. Because if you want to know why Seattle is so prone to generate geek culture you have only to look to its History.
It is a history of conflict, con-artistry, sex, booze, political intrigue, violence, legal maneuvering, and a suspicious fire. I am at a lost as to why so far I can only find two cases where Hollywood has used that history in screenplays.
There is no way I am going to cover all of Seattle’s great history in this post. But I will highly recommend three books if you are so inclined. The first is Sons of the Profits by Bill Speidel. If you want to really understand Seattle’s history for just how entertaining it is, this is the book for you. Its tone is light, and points out how the fate of the region turned on a dime….or a nickel, or however much they could make.
Speidel also wrote Doc Maynard: the man who invented Seattle which covers the history of one of the key city founders. Finally Skid Row by Murray Morgan, and yes, that term was coined in Seattle.
So what are the points of interest that make Seattle history great?
You have the feud between Arthur Denny and his party, and David “Doc” Maynard. Denny and party were Republican Methodist and teetotaler. Maynard was a Democrat and he was definitely not a teetotaler. Each settled in different parts of the area, but close enough that it was clear that Seattle would be made up of both their land.
And how did this play out. Well look at a map of downtown Seattle today.
See how parts of it seem to come together haphazardly. This is the legacy of two men building up their territory with no regard to the other, and some more than healthy stubbornness.
Maynard was not well liked by the other members of the Seattle establishment for things like being a Democrat, His friendship with Chief Sealth (also known as Chief Seattle whom the city was named for) and the fact that he made several business deals designed to boost the city rather than line his pocket. Seriously there is a movie in there.
Denny and friends also objected to a theory of Maynard’s about what was needed to help a frontier town grow. Maynard had a hand in the development of Cleveland OH. One of the lessons he learned there was one way to help an area grow was to promote prostitution. To this end he encouraged one John Pinnell to set up shop. He also worked with Mary Ann Conklin AKA Mother Damnable in setting up her brothel. Just to be clear neither Pinnell nor Conklin set up the infamous Seattle Seamstresses union. That was Madam Lou Graham who was after Maynard’s time. Graham however did use her profits from the “Seamstresses” to help finance much of Seattle’s turn of the Century development.
A counter point to all this fun and games was Asa Mercer. Mercer understood the basics of Maynard’s theory, that in a frontier town the men get lonely and female companionship helps them and in turn helps the area. Mercer had a different idea how to go about it. Between 1864 and 1866 Mercer made two trips to the east coast to recruit women to come back to Seattle to find husbands. He managed to bring 46 women to the area. If your family has roots in the Pacific Northwest going back several generations, you have over 70% odds of being descended from the Mercer girls. A 60’s TV Show Here comes the Brides was based on this story.
Oh and there was that fire.
On June 6th 1889 a fire broke out that would claim 32 city blocks. Despite the damage only one death was reported, a boy James Goin, and there is some dispute if he actually died in the fire.
No one is sure what caused the fire, the story of it starting in a paint shop were just rumors at the time. But what is sure is that it was the best thing that happened to downtown Seattle.
You see downtown Seattle was basically built at sea level. This was great for the lumber mill, but not so great for the businesses, as every high tide the toilets would flood, amongst other problems. When the city was rebuilt after the fire it was built up higher avoiding the flooding. There was also a economic boost from the jobs the reconstruction created. While there is no evidence that the fire was set deliberately, that fact that it was more blessing than curse does lead to some speculation
This also led to a Seattle having an interesting tourist attraction. The series of Underground passages and basements have come to be known as the Seattle Underground. Just think about an area like this, and then consider what must have gone on during prohibition. And do not ask my sister and I what we may or may not have done during our misspent youth. If you visit the area you can take a tour of the safer parts of this. The Seattle Underground was used as a major plot point in the TV movie The Night Strangler staring Darrin McGavin, which was a sequel to the Night Stalker.
And all this is just the tip of the iceberg. Look at this and tell me that there is not a movie or HBO series just begging to be made.
For me this weird clash of uptight moralism, hedonism, profiteer and roguish behavior set the stage for the geek friendly city that I call home. 

Emerald City Comicon the final 2012 update

After a few days rest and the prep for another convention I am ready to look back on Emerald City Comicon.
For any convention after it is over there are two central questions to you need to ask to gauge it’s success: Did I enjoy myself and will I be back next year. For me the answer to both is a clear yes. I had a good time and I look forward to attending again.
With that covered there are a few things I would like to go over.
First is the size of the crowd. As I covered in the day two update attendance was so high on Saturday that the fire marshal shut down registration.  One rumor I heard was that Saturday’s numbers were greater than all of last year’s. I can’t say for sure as I have not seen any officially numbers yet.  ECCC has been a steadily growing convention, and has slowly been using more and more of the Washington State Convention center. Based on this year’s event they will probably need to use even more of the facility next year.
Due to some of the behavior’s I witnessed at the show, after I finish with Norwescon this upcoming weekend I will need to write more on con attending etiquette. Someone suggested I need to write a book on the subject, but let’s start with a couple more articles and see where we go.
The panels still tend to be centered on the comic book industry. Yes you have the media guests and they do get the biggest room, but the majority of the other rooms are used for panels based on the comic book industry. This has certainly given the show a good reputation in the industry and I hope they stay the course on this.
Cosplay was in fine form during the show. The one down side was that the area set aside for cosplay photo ops was right outside the main dealer floor. When the crowding happened on Saturday you could barely move.
And for those who were following my cosplay tally, here are the final numbers for the show.
·         Doctor who: 29
·         Captain America: 18
·         Joker: 14
·         Batman: 14
·         Superman: 14
·         Harley Quinn: 13
·         Poison Ivy: 11
·         Batgirl: 11
·         Robin: 11
·         Wonder Woman: 9
·         The TARDIS:9
·         Supergirl: 7
·         Spider-man: 7
·         Green Lantern: 7
·         Catwoman: 7
·         Riddler: 7
·         Zatanna: 6
·         Black Canary: 4
·         Phoenix: 4
·         Iron Man: 3
·         Nightwing: 3
·         Rogue: 3
·         Death (from Sandman): 3
·         Doctor Octopus: 2
·         Powergirl: 2
·         Hulk: 2
·         Batwoman: 2
·         Green Hornet: 2
·         Dalek: 2
·         Red Ranger: 2
·         Doctor Horrible: 2
·         Captain Hammer: 2
An Honorable mention goes to Hawkman. Only one person went as him, but his wings moved.
That wraps up this show. I will have a new post mid next week after I recover from Norwescon detailing how that show goes.

Emerald City Comicon Day Three

The final day of a convention can be a bitter sweet affair. You have had a great team, you will miss all the experiences, and you are exhausted and just want to get home and soak your poor abused feet.

I only attended two panels, the Summer Glau and Adam Baldwin panels. The Browncoat in me required it. They were fun panels. Summer is obviously a sweet girl and was adorable on stage. Adam is an old veteran who knows how to connect to the crowd.
I spent the rest of the day checking out booths I had not gotten to previously and catching up with old WotC colleagues I had not seen in a while. Towards the end of the day I ended up helping out at the booth my wife was vending at. This led to my awesome moment of the day.
One of the items my wife makes is a bracelet with a heat sensitive stone like an old mood ring at the center. A little girl about 4 or 5 years old was with her parents at the table and I encouraged her to touch the stone. As the stone turned color I could see the gears in her head start working. She was trying to figure out how I was making the color change. She keep looking at her had expecting ink. And she was not going to take this nonsense I was telling her about science and body heat. Somehow I was making the green stone turn blue and she was going to work it out.
And before I give you the tally of today’s cosplay I want to share a revelation I had. My identifying and recording the various costumes I saw was basically the fannish equivalent of trainspotting.
And with that thought firmly in place here are the results for Sunday.
·         Superman: 7 finally knocking Doctor Who out of the top spot.
·         Doctor Who: 6
·         Captain America: 4
·         The TARDIS: 3
·         Supergirl: 3
·         Spider-man: 3
·         Riddler: 3
·         Power Girl: 2
·         Green Lantern: 2
·         Robin: 2
·         Harley Quinn: 2
·         Joker: 2
·         Poison Ivy: 2
·         Wonder Woman: 2
Tomorrow I will do the final review of the convention, after I get a good night’s sleep.

Emerald City Comicon Day Two

Second day of the convention.
The big news was the show hitting capacity. Someone told me it was 10,000 people. It seemed like more. It was bad enough that the fire marshal had registration shut down and was not letting people who stepped outside to come back in until the crowd thinned. This crowding was most evident in the area outside of the dealer floor. It has been where cosplayers have gone for photo ops. It was so crowded that you could barely move. I think some expansion of space may need to happen next year. An upside of this is that everyone I know that is running a booth had very good sales.
Panels I attended.
Will Wheaton’s 90 minute awesome hour. It’s pretty much what it says on the tin. I have never seen anyone able to work a crowd as well as Will Wheaton. He knows his audience and knows how to play to them to perfection.
Marvel: pint of O’ C.B., which is basically Marvels big news panel. It was a good show case for what Marvel is up to. There were two highlights for me. One was a very honest answer to the question of the lack of female creators. They are aware of it and looking for ways to address it, but right now it is a continuing issue that plagues the whole industry and will probably take years to turn around. The other highlight was when Matt Fraction was asked about his writing of Dr. Strange as very creepy. Fraction countered that Strange is creepy and used that fact that he entered into a romantic relationship with his student Clea. Fraction felt that crossing that line informed a lot about the character.
DC Comics: The New 52. This was a lot better than the DC panel from the previous day. Tough questions were not ignored. A big one was how DC addresses old readers leaving in wake of the New 52 does. Gail Simone led the way in answering that stating that change can be hard but the writers are dedicated to doing their best by the characters. This led the rest of the panel to give their opinions as well. Overall a much more satisfying experience than the day before.
Next were back to back panels featuring Christopher Judge of Stargate SG-1 and George Takei. I will save fuller write-ups on these for the post con report. But let’s just say both were great speakers.
Most awesome moment of the day came early on when I met up with an old friend of mine, Ryan K. Johnson. Ryan is a film maker and it the late eighties and early nineties I worked with him on several fannish films, including Star Trek the Pepsi generation. While talking he told me that he really likes the blog. As a creative person I really respect his praise meant a lot to me.
As for my little cosplay contest, here are the scores for Saturday. Please note that these are new people in the costumes. If it was someone from the day before wearing the same costume I did not count them.
·         Doctor Who: 15 our winner the second day in a row.
·         Joker: 10
·         Batman:9
·         Captain America: 8
·         Batgirl: 7
·         Wonder Woman: 6
·         Robin: 6
·         Harley Quinn: 6
·         Poison Ivy: 5
·         Superman: 4
·         Thor: 4
·         Catwoman: 4
·         Zatanna: 4
·         Green Lantern: 3
·         Deadpool: 3
·         Phoenix: 3
·         Rogue: 3
·         Batwoman: 2
·         Hulk 2
·         Doctor Octopus: 2
·         Nightwing: 2
·         Iron Man: 2
·         Supergirl: 2
·         Spider-man:2
·         TARDIS: 2
·         Riddler: 2
See everyone tomorrow for the last day of the Con.

Emerald City Comicon Day One

Quick overview of Day one of Emerald City Comicon.
First up, the panels.
I attended the Women of Webseries panel. It was definitely what the title suggested, local women working on producing, writing, directing, and staring in webseries. I got some good ideas for the projects I want to work on and a lot of inspiration.
DC All Access panel was next. You would think that a panel at a comic convention that is the news panel for one of the big two it would be kick ass. No such luck. The pros on the panel did some quick shilling of their upcoming projects. When it got to question and answer time that was a lot of deflection. One question asked about the status of Wally West and Donna Troy in the new 52 DCU, the answer was to make a joke and then ask the audience if they would like to win a prize for answering a trivia question.
The next panel was about the history of Wonder Woman for an academic and psychological perspective. The speaker was a tenured professor at Oregon State University for teaches minors program on comic book studies. He was awesome. And as much as I have researched at lot of the same history he covered I still learned some new stuff.
I wanted to get into a panel featuring noted voice actors but it was too full a room.
Next is the dealer floor.
This year has a good mix of comic shops, convention dealers, comic companies, artists and everything else you would expect. Due to the show still growing, this year the gaming based dealers were moved to a new area. It’s a bit of a walk to get there, but it is nice to see the growth.
My wife is a vendor this year and that fact lead to my most awesome moment of the day. She makes gaming dice shaped soap. I took a set to Randy Milholland, the creator of Something Positive. When I gave them to him his face lit up, and he had to show his booth mate Danielle Corsetto, creator of Girls with Slingshots. Mission accomplished and he gave me a sketch and print in return.
So I have decided to keep score of the characters people cosplay as this year. Basically if I see at least two people as a character I start keeping track. I will declare a daily winner and an overall convention winner. Here are today’s scores.
·         Doctor Who: 8 Today’s winner
·         Captain America: 6
·         Harley Quinn: 5
·         Batman: 4
·         Poison Ivy: 4
·         The TARDIS: 4
·         Robin: 3
·         Black Canary: 3
·         Superman: 3
·         Batgirl: 3
·         Green Lantern: 2
·         Catwoman: 2
·         Supergirl: 2
·         Spider Man:2
·         Doctor Horrible:2
·         Captain Hammer: 2
·         Death from Sandman: 2
·         Dalek: 2
·         Red Power Ranger: 2
·         Riddler: 2
·         Green Hornet: 2
See you tomorrow for the next update.

Seattle: Geek Captial of the World

I am a proud resident of the Seattle area. I bring this up because I now live in the only state in the union that does not have any form of state sponsored tourism marketing. The State Government is encouraging private business to advertise our state’s virtues instead.
(I want to preface this with the statement that I do not make any income from anything related to tourism.)
I think that we here in the Seattle area have a potential for tourism that could be tapped. Appeal to geek culture.
One week a year the center of geek culture is San Diego California. I say we make a play for the other 51 weeks a year.
We have a head start. In Seattle we have the Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of fame. We have Seattle Pioneer Square with the Seattle Underground tour.  We have the original Game Works. We have PAX which is becoming, if not has become, the major convention for gaming, electronic or otherwise. We have Emerald City Comic Con, a fast growing comic book convention. We are the home of corporate headquarters for Amazon, Microsoft, Nintendo America, Wizards of the Coast and I Can Haz Cheezburger. The number of gaming companies of all sizes in this area is in triple digits.
So how do we do it?
Well first all those groups I mentioned above? They need to get together and start promoting Seattle as the place where geek culture comes from.
Next someone would need to build something that would be a year-round destination for the geek fans. Anyone remember the Star Trek Experience that used to be featured at the Las Vegas Hilton? Something along those lines that, but where it is the center piece of a whole center, maybe a resort.
Someone is thinking this is a good idea. In 2014 a Star Trek theme resort will be opening in Aqaba, Jordan. Now I don’t know about you, but even though I would love to go to a Star Trek resort, I do not see myself traveling to Jordan to do it.  I could see people coming to Seattle to see it however.
Or how about a hotel that had rooms that were rigged to simulate being haunted. As long as I have the ability to turn off the effects when I want to I think that would be awesome, and could be a big draw every October.
However none of this would be a sure bet. In 1997 The Wizards of the Coast Game Center opened in the heart of Seattle’s University district. It was a complex dedicated to gaming and included a game shop, video arcade, a network of computers for LAN gaming, a tournament gaming area, and a twelve pod Battletech combat simulator. A gamer’s dream come true. It closed its doors just four years later. There has been a lot of analysis of what went wrong. Although mismanagement is the likeliest culprit, It stands in people’s minds are a failure of a geek centric venue being able to draw people in.
But does that mean no one should try again? Paul Allen didn’t think so when he opened the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in 2004. Housed in the same building as the Experience Music Project, the Museum is a collection of Memorabilia such as the Original Star Trek captain’s chair, and exhibits like the current Battlestar Galactica and Avatar exhibts. It also hosts the Science Fiction Hall of Fame and Science Fiction Fantasy Short Film Festival in association with the Seattle International Film Festival. True it was folded into EMP last March, but it is still effectively a going concern.
Maybe we need to start a meme. “Seattle, Geek capital of the world.”