Today I visited Santa Cruz, California. It feels like I walked thru a movie set.
It was a small town by the sea, filled with shops and people out of central casting. But I’ll get to that part another time perhaps. There was one store that wasn’t. Or rather, it was stereotypical while defying the stereotype.
Atlantis Fantasyworld is without a doubt, one of the brightest, cleanest comic book stores I’ve been in. The ladies there were as knowledgable about the random things I asked about as any store. The organization was superb, the selection deep.
When I asked for something the didn’t carry, not only did they immediately know what I was talking about, they also knew that one of the other stores in town had it, had a used copy for cheaper, and where that store was.
All of that alone would be impressive, but not of itself so memorable that I’d be blogging about it.
No, it was that the entire shop was suffused with a feeling of welcoming. Of belonging.
There was a very different energy or feel to the shop, and I would say largely due to the women that were running the shop.
I’ve been to a lot of comic and gaming shops. I’ve felt welcome in most of them. I’m a guy, I look nerdy, and I can pass all the shibboleths. (Or at least most of them. Despite what at least one friend at work thinks, I don’t know anime, no matter how many times he assumes I’m the one that will understand his reference.)
In some ways, nerd culture is easy to get accepted into. There’s a few different denominations of the faiths (Star Trek, Star Wars, Marvel, DC) But as long as you know at least 3 of the major ones, you can fit in. And for outcasts, or people who weren’t the normal popular kid, it’s a great feeling.
The shared reference system, immediately bonding over obscure lines, or getting into passionate arguments over trivial details.
All that’s usually fairly easy… if you’re a guy.
I will say in their defense, that all of the comic book or gaming stores that I’ve been a regular yet were welcoming to everyone, or at least tried to be, but I’ve still seen a lot of casual comments over the years.
But this one felt very different, in intangible ways to me.
This comic book store had been featured in The Lost Boys and had some props on the wall from in and Galaxy Quest. We started chatting about how amazing Galaxy Quest was. My friend admitted she had never seen it, and I inadvertently outed her as not being a fan of Star Trek as well.
There was none of the usual chiding. None of the nerd-shaming that we can do when someone doesn’t know the sacred texts. (I myself can be guilty of this.) There was just acceptance and comments that there’s a lot of different scifi and fantasy to love.
There was welcoming acceptance. IDIC – infinite diversity in infinite combinations, one of the lasting ideals of Star Trek.
I’ve always thought that I’d love to have a small comic book and gaming shop, but today helped remind me of how I want it to feel.