On Tuesday, November 30, at the Hollywood Theatre, there's gonna be a screening of "Objects in Space," an episode of the defunct-but-beloved sci-fi TV series Firefly. After the screening, there'll be a Q&A with comic creators Zack Whedon and Chris Samnee—the guys behind Serenity: The Shepherd's Tale, a graphic novel set in the Firefly/Serenity universe that was put out by Portland-based publisher Dark Horse Comics. And after that, Whedon and Samnee will saunter across the street to the Hollywood location of Things from Another World, where they'll sign copies of their book and drink free beer with anyone who cares to attend.
Geeky? Incredibly. But here's the really interesting part: That book signing won't only be sponsored by Things from Another World, Dark Horse Comics' retail arm—it'll also be sponsored by two other local comics shops, Bridge City Comics and Excalibur Books & Comics.
This sort of collaboration between Portland's geekier business isn't anything new (our comics shops, for example, are already pretty damn supportive of each other). Still, as one of the first events related to the Portland Geek Council of Commerce and Culture (PGC3 for short), it'll mark the public debut of an organization that aims to unite Portland's nerdier businesses. After growing out of Vendetta's Geek Trivia nights (which are sponsored by Things from Another World), PGC3 already boasts a membership of over 20 diverse, geeky businesses and organizations.
In using Geek Trivia to reach out to the geek community and like-minded businesses, "it occurred to a lot of us that what we were building was a commerce council centered around geek culture," says Things from Another World Senior Director of Retail Operations Andrew McIntire. A few formalized arrangements later, the PGC3 was born. ("The initial idea was mine, but the credit goes to everyone," McIntire insists.)
In addition to that elaborate Shepherd's Tale signing, the PGC3 has other plans. Big plans. In fact, these allied business have ideas that're ambitious enough that McIntire isn't willing to talk about 'em on the record—yet. But if what he told me was any indication, the PGC3 is laying the groundwork for events that could change Portland for both the better and the geekier.
While still in its early stages, the PGC3 aims to make Portland into a place even more geek-friendly—and, it should be said, a place that's even more friendly to businesses that cater to geeks. Rather than continuing to work separately, McIntire says, the PGC3 allows businesses to "work together to promote each others' work." Hence events like the one for The Shepherd's Tale that involve more than one comics shop, or larger-scale events that could involve multiple variations of geekery, from comics to videogames to theater to visual art.
"There's a lot that these people—let's call them geeks—bring to the area in terms of creative and cultural capital," McIntire says. So what started as an organization based around comics and comics-related industries quickly grew to encompass other interests. "Is it all directly comics-related? No, but it's nerdy and it's fun," says McIntire. The PGC3's current lineup includes everyone from local comics shops, to Free Geek, to Trek in the Park creators Atomic Arts, to (wait for it...) Sock Dreams, a Sellwood store offering "unique comfy sexy socks for unique sexy people."
"The goal was to be inclusive. We're not trying to make a new clique," explains McIntire, noting that businesses and organizations in the PGC3 are recommended by existing members, then voted in by the whole group. "'Geek' isn't something that's defined by an individual, but rather by the consensus of the group." McIntire adds that so far, no one has been turned away from PGC3. The organization is currently putting together a board based on that of a chamber of commerce and deciding whether they should pursue nonprofit status; perhaps not coincidentally, McIntire also sits on the Clackamas County Economic Development Commission. (At this time, it is unknown whether he purchases his socks at Sock Dreams.)
About those ambitious plans I oh-so-cryptically alluded to earlier: McIntire promises big things for the first half of 2011, including "more frequent, broader appeal events." "We're setting our sights high," he says with a bit of understatement, noting that the group's plans also include a public events calendar that will serve as a "centralized place where people can go to find something dorky to do that night." He adds, "We're trying to create social events for the socially awkward."
As the PGC3 evolves, they're also looking for new members. "We really are open to growing it, and people shouldn't think that the definition of 'geek' should preclude them," McIntire says. "I firmly believe a rising tide lifts all boats," he adds, asserting that the PGC3 has the potential to "continue to make Portland the best comics city out there—and, expanding from that, to making Portland the best geek city, period."
If you're interested in joining PGC3, email McIntire. Here's the organization's current roster:
Alter Egos Society
Bridge City Comics
Cort and Fatboy
Dark Horse Comics
Excalibur Books & Comics
Geek in the City
Old Town Computers
Portland Commodore Users Group
Portland Retro Gaming Expo
Sequential Art Gallery and Studio
Stumptown Comics Fest
Things From Another World