Growing up a geek in Fort McMurray was hard. There was a single, two-screen movie theatre, which didn’t always bring in the cool stuff I wanted to see (“On Golden Pond? What the hell? Are there zombies at least?”). There was a single book store, with a whopping six shelves of sci-fi and fantasy books. Most important to me there was no gaming or comic store. If I wanted either I had to: a) get Dragon Magazine from the library before some $%#&er stole it, b) borrow games and comics from my pals (many games made the rounds that way), or c) beg my parents to take me to a game/comic store on the rare occasions we would drive south to Edmonton.
And before you ask, Children of the Digital Age, this was the ’80’s. No, we didn’t have internet yet. Hell, I didn’t own a computer until 1983, and it was a VIC 20. A VIC 20!! *breaks down sobbing* It was discontinued in 1985, thrown on the trash like some piece of garbage! Sometimes I can still feel the 16K RAM cartridge in my hand…
*Musical Interlude – Two Shots of Happy, One Shot of Sad*
Okay, I’ve recovered. And my point? The other day I overheard a teen geek talking to a friend on the bus (how did I know he was a teen geek? The copy of Game of Thrones helped, as did the funk coming off him like a “Days Shower Free: 03” sign). He lamented (the poetic term for whined) about how there was nothing cool going on in Edmonton, and he couldn’t wait to get to a real city.
On the one hand I can completely sympathize. I spent my early geek years in the certain knowledge that geekier stuff was happening everywhere else. That any other city in the world had non-stop gaming and sci-fi conventions, and Leonard Nimoy was lurking around every corner. If the few convention ads I read in Dragon Magazine were any indication, the rest of the world was a non-stop gaming party that would never come to the Great White North. Now, while I may have had slightly unrealistic visions of how dorky the rest of the world was, there was really no denying that Fort Mac was as barren as Hoth when it came to nerdery.
But see, here I have this other hand. And in that hand that kid is out of his $%@&ing mind. Nothing cool going on in Edmonton?! Okay, you know what, rook? Sit down, I got this.
Comics – If you are a comic geek here in YEG and you don’t know about Happy Harbor Comics, I weep with joy at how much better your life is about to get. HHC is what all comic shops should aspire to, and Jay is what baby comic store proprietors dream of being when they grow up. Great selection, helpful staff what know their shit and awesome special events on a regular basis all make for a store that builds community among its customers. Plus they take comic arts to the schools by doing in-class comic creation sessions. Double plus, they have a comic-artist-in-Residence, Dan Schneider, in the store daily to offer tips and suggestions on drawing comics. Double plus good, you can walk through the door and meet Andrew Foley of Done to Death and Cowboys & Aliens fame. Why? ‘Cuz he works there! You are not going to find a better comic book store in Edmonton, period. And hey, Other Edmonton Comic Shops? Feel free to prove me wrong.
Gaming – Technically not in Edmonton, Mission: Fun and Games in St. Albert is the destination for the die-hard gamerati. Walking in, you immediately notice the forty-foot floor-to-ceiling wall of board games to your right. As your eye scans away from that awe-inspiring sight you notice that the store is just as well stocked with other games; CCGs, role-playing games, miniatures, historical combat, traditional card and dice games. You name it, Mission has it or can get it. And if having an enormous selection of games wasn’t enough, you can tell that John (owner and co-proprietor, along with his wife Tracy and family) really loves games, and is excited to talk about them and get you into a game you like. How excited? John is willing to demo just about any game in the shop; if there isn’t already a demo copy open, he’ll pull it off the shelf so you can look it over and try it out. How could you not love a game store like that? If you can’t make it there at any other time, you at least owe it to your gamey self to be there for Gamealot, the weekend game convention John runs out of the store. It is a fantastic good time, like game night in your buddy’s basement times 100!
Movies – I’m not going to single out any movie theater in particular, because all of them can hook geeks up with their med’cine. Suffice to say, screen selection in Edmonton is good, and if you can’t find it then you ain’t looking.
Nerdery – I define nerdery as educated geekery, and there are quite a few places for that here in Edmonton. Want science? Check out the Muttart Conservatory to get your nature geek on or the Telus World of Science to indulge in a little space dorkiness (I highly recommend the Margaret Zeidler Star Theatre). If history is your bag, you can slide on over to the Royal Alberta Museum (their Creatures of the Abyss exhibit starts in about a week) or grab a sonic screw driver and some friends and go play Doctor at Fort Edmonton Park.
Geek Socializing – “All that is great, RG, but what if I’m a social geek?” Never you fear, there is plenty going on for geeks that want to hang with geeks. The Edmonton Tabletop Role-playing Community runs weekly, bi-weekly and monthly events, and is the site for finding other gamers in the City of Champions. The Edmonton Science Fiction Appreciation Society is a fantastic social group that organizes outings to various movies, events and conventions. If anime makes your tentacles quiver you can hook up with the Alberta Society for Asian Popular Arts on their forum; they run many anime and manga oriented events throughout the year. Want a bit more food and fun with your geekery? Check out Edmonton Girl Geek Dinners to catch their next night of dorkish festivities (But fellas, unless you are a +1 of a female member, this one is just for the ladies).
Now, the above is by no means an exhaustive list. But I can’t do everything for you, and the point is there is a lot going on for geeks in this city. I haven’t even touched on conventions and other special events, which I will in a later post. In the meantime, get out there and explore this wonderfully geeky city of ours.
And if you hear a kid on a bus lament a lack of “anything cool”, give him a wedgie, and tell him “That’s from the Renaissance Geek!” And then run, because that is common assault.
Until next time!