Words and Pictures: The Edinburgh International Book Festival 2013

Hello and welcome to the 2013 Edinburgh International Book Festival, pull up a seat. Or a pallet of signed Ian Rankin hardbacks. There are probably lots of those knocking around, just waiting to be snapped up.

For the next two and a half weeks I’ll be at the EIBF every day (hopefully) to provide a flavour of the diverse and vibrant mix of writers, artists, musicians and celebrities who are visiting the city. There will be event reviews, maybe some interviews, possibly some book reviews (should I get any time to read).

I’m particularly excited by the ambition and range of the Stripped strand of the EIBF this year, having loved comics all my life, and I’m hoping to see and maybe meet a few of the heroes of modern comics for both adults and kids.

For example, everyone knows Neil Gaiman, a lovely man with an astonishing track record, who is back to promote a new book and discuss The Sandman. And Scotland’s own comics factory, GrantMorrison, is back; always good value. I almost forgot Bryan Talbot. No-one should ever forget Bryan who, with Pat Mills, effectively created steampunk with the Gothic Empire storyline in 2000AD‘s Nemesis, a fertile furrow that has yielded just reward with his Grandville books in recent years.
Melinda Gebbie should also be entertaining and enlightening. The co-author and artist on Lost Girls with Alan Moore, she’s a comics veteran who is sure to have plenty to say about comix, feminism and a certain mage from Northampton.

Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie are not to be missed, either, a duo who have reinvigorated Young Avengers for Marvel, making it a must-read title even for jaded old fans who don’t normally do superheroes any more. Very pop, very funny, very pretty.

However, Joe Sacco is by far this year’s highlight (and I suspect Gaiman will be in the crowd): a reporter in a field of (almost) one, his comics journalism is shocking, poignant, funny and, most importantly, true. It’s also worth seeking out his lesser-known work with Harvey Pekar on American Splendor. On a personal note, he’s the reason I have a journalism degree (long story, will probably explain later).

And after many years of desolation – where almost all kids’ comics were an afterthought, pamphlets promoting licensed TV characters hidden behind plastic-bagged toys – there has been a renaissance in children’s comics with the short-lived DFC and its reincarnation The Phoenix leading the charge. The writers and artists from those publications are here in force, including Gary Northfield, Sarah McIntyre, The Etherington Brothers and Garen Ewing.

There’s also a strong musical strand this year, with Tim Burgess, Peter Hook, Cerys Matthews and others bringing a bit of glamour, harmony and gossip to the New Town. I’m particularly looking forward to BBC Scotland’s VicGalloway talking about the rise of the Fence Collective in Fife, as one of my earliest pieces was, apparently, the first ever print review of Skuobhie Dubh’s first album, and therefore Kenny Anderson (now King Creosote), ever got. It was probably awful. It was a long time ago. Please don’t go looking.

And there are plenty reminders of the greatest loss we suffered this year: Iain M Banks, probably the greatest British SF writer of his generation, who died in June. His name is bound to be on everyone’s minds and lips. There is a reading workshop on his debut novel, The Wasp Factory, hosted by local author Keith Gray, Banks will be a fondly remembered ghost at every discussion of independence, and there’s the final weekend celebration of his life and work to look forward to.

And who am I? I was a manager with Ottakar’s bookshops in the city for several years (both branches swallowed by Waterstone’s, one becoming a clothes shop), and have been to many events since moving to Edinburgh 14 years ago, even hosting a few, so I am no stranger to Charlotte Square in August, but this will be the first time I’ve had the time and opportunity to throw myself into its maelstrom for the duration.

I’ve dabbled in reviewing Fringe shows, wrote TV previews for The Scotsman for a long time, along with the odd travel piece, but having been an office-bound sub editor there for almost nine years – working on the Festival supplement for eight – never had much chance to get out there and actually do any reporting or interviewing. Looking forward to doing so with gusto. And I don’t even like gusto, it sticks to my teeth.

My name is Craig, pleased to meet you, I’ll try not to let you down. Now, bring on the rain.

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