The Gothenburg Book Fair

The Gothenburg Book Fair is the main event for the publishing industry and its readership in Sweden. I don’t go every year, but this year I was invited to talk and perform.

Lenin comes every year, to promote a very special hotel in Varberg, which is full of books and Soviet memorabilia (including an exact replica of the interior of a bath house in Petersburg that Lenin liked to frequent).

I was invited to take part in a comics battle, where artists battle each other with drawings, a subject given by the audience and a five minute time limit. The noise level of the audience’s applause decides who won. I’d never done that before, and it was a lot of fun!

In the first round, two of the hottest Swedish comics artists met in battle — me vs. Frida Ulvegren. :op
Ruining people’s drawings and getting my drawings ruined has for me been mainly associated with childhood trauma, so I didn’t quite dare to go all out. Frida beat me with ease!

In my second round, against the eminent Lisa Medin, I mustered up some courage. Our applauses were pretty even, but Lisa actually drew something that had to do with the subject we were given (“steroids”) …

The next day, it was time to be more serious. One of my very few weaknesses is stage fright (when I talk, but not when I draw), but some people claim I did all right.

I took part in a panel discussion about the Swedish child pornography laws, which seem to be rather sloppily written and could essentially get almost anybody convicted of possessing child pornography. (More about that here.)

Magnus Knutsson, comics writer and respected veteran of the Swedish comics scene, represented Kampanjen Befria Teckningarna (the campaign Free the Drawings), and talked about the background of the case last year that brought attention to the laws, and about how the laws unfairly single out drawings from other forms of art. I represented comics artists in general, and talked about how the laws affect us in practise, and make us either paranoidly censor ourselves, or risk breaking the law, as it’s totally unclear and open to individual interpretation what kind of drawings might be judged to be “child pornography” in court. Maria Abrahamsson is a member of parliament from the Moderate party, with a background in law and journalism, and talked about the legal background of the laws and what practical possibilities there are to change them.

No one who would have defended the laws wanted to come discuss with us (and there wasn’t even anyone in the audience who disagreed with us), so instead of wildly debating, we explained what all the fuss is about.

Directly after that I took part in a panel with the theme “From zines to small press”, and talked about my self-publishing endeavors with some other stars of the Swedish comics self-publishing scene. (Apparently I am one? At least my zine Tunguska somehow sneakily has become one of the longest-running zines in Sweden …)

I’m always a bit embarrassed to talk about my own work, I failed to bring any of my zines to show, and my web host must have decided to have server downtime right at that moment, so I probably didn’t contribute terribly much. Oh well. V^(oo)^;V

But I think I did bring up the important and interesting point of why I still choose to print my zines with a xerox machine, even though — or because — in my dayjobs I work with prepress, graphic design and book production: it’s not only still dirt cheap compared to other printing methods, but not least it gives me 100% freedom and control. Which is indispensable if you’re a control freak like me. I do every step of the production all by myself, and I can produce a huge stack of printed, folded and stapled zines within a couple of hours. So I xerox all my zines, and reserve offset printing for the big fat collected editions. :3

Of course the fair is also about selling and buying books, and here is what I got this year:

* Enrique Fernández: Den glädjelösa ön (Ordbilder förlag) — breathtakingly beautiful art and a pretty decent story. The art makes up for the fact that the story is something I feel like I’ve read a few times before in mainland European comics, and in any case it makes me extremely happy that a comic like this is published in Sweden.

* Stef Gaines: Fullkomligt normal (self-published) — a collection of Stef’s legendary diary comics. Normally I don’t like to think too much about the technical side of creating comics, but in this case I have to note that not only is the content funny, sad and poetic, but also the storytelling is a big up yours to conventions! What is conveyed through at first glance seemingly random and sketchy fragments is a narrative that works much better than what some people who are consciously trying to achieve that very effect (*coughcough*) could even dream about.

* Malin Biller: Om någon vrålar i skogen (Optimal press) — the artist’s autobiographical story about growing up with alcoholism and sexual abuse, almost surprisingly uplifting. I had been looking forward to reading it for a long time now. (Okay, that sounds somehow wrong …)

* Frida Ulvegren: Tack & förlåt (Kolik förlag/Seriefrämjandet) — the kind of annoyingly pretentious packaging by the publishers was totally overshadowed by the comic itself. This is the only one of these four books I bought that actually made me cry. And not because I might have personally related to the bittersweet (or sweetbitter?) autobiographical love story. For a much more disturbing reason. Actually it reminded me a tiny little bit of the love story in my comic Driftwoodthe guy’s name sounds a bit like the name of the guy in my comic, she was very young when they met, he was considerably older and careful and kind with her, and they were apart for a long time — AND SO, IT MADE ME CRY. V°(oo)°V

Anyway, apart from Enrique Fernández, all the artists were present, so I got the books signed. Yay!

I asked Malin Biller if she would draw a piggy, so she drew a piggy in the forest. V^(oo)^V

Frida drew herself.

Stef knows exactly what I like, so she drew me and a piggy. Awww! ♥

My mum, who lives near Gothenburg, came along to the fair and was kind of my personal photographer and supporter. When we weren’t at the book fair, we hung out with her cats:

Mr. Yellow, who is extremely friendly and cuddly and craves snuggles from all humans.

And his total opposite — Herra Harmaa, an elderly, battle scarred cat who is extremely reserved and detests noise and unrest.

Both of them were feral, but have decided to live with mum. Mr. Yellow came to us during an extremely cold winter and has stayed since then. Herra Harmaa appeared later and clearly appreciates the quiet and calm as well as the warm indoors and regular meals.

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4 Responses to “The Gothenburg Book Fair”
  1. bubu says:

    Kiva olla kanssasi!

  2. miriam says:

    Great report, you can be proud.
    Looks like your mom is running an assisted living home for feral cats.

  3. Frida says:

    jag blev tårögd när jag läste att du blivit rörd av min serie. Känner att jag måste få tag på Driftwood nu.

  4. Tinet says:

    Naww … Jag ska försöka få ihop en samlingsutgåva nästa år … :3