Friday, 9 October 2009

Fourteen Seminars, Eight Mini Seminars, Four Signed Books and Four Days: The Göteborg Book Fair, Pt 2

So, here comes the second part of my highlights from this year's Book Fair in Göteborg.

Saturday, in terms of interesting and good seminars, seemed to focus on fantasy and imagination in literature, of the need to go beyond the real or the naturalistic and fully make use of human imagination as a writer.

The first seminar of three worth mentioning was "Drakmytologi i modern litteratur" (trans. Dragon Mythology in Modern Literature), a discussion between SF-Bokhandeln's Maths Claesson and children's writer Jo Salmsson which discussed how contemporary fantasy has developed dragon mythology from its more strictly mythological roots (actually raising quite a few questions in the mean time, which I might one day opt to look into much deeper) as well as discussing Salmsson's children's series Drakriddare (trans. Dragon Knights), the first book of which I bought and got signed after the seminar.

The next seminar, which dealt less with the genre of fantasy per se, and more with literary imagination, featured a discussion between moderator Stephen Farran-Lee and writers Carl-Johan Vallgren and Bengt Ohlsson. I have as of yet read neither of these two writers, but they have both caught my eye on more than one occasion and the conversation on stage did not lessen my interest. If anything, I regret only buying Vallgren's latest book and having that signed, and not taking the opportunity to also get Ohlsson's latest book and have that signed too. Ah well, sometimes quick unplanned purchases leads to one saving money in the wrong places... perhaps.

The last of the three seminars mentioned had the somewhat annoying title "Fantasy för fullvuxna" (trans. Fantasy for Grown-ups) and was moderated by critic Lotta Olsson, both of which had me wary from the get go. The title mostly because it presumes that most fantasy isn't for adults, or perhaps even excludes them, and the moderation by Olsson because she proved an appallingly ignorant moderator a few years back in a seminar with Jonathan Stroud. However, the author in question being Russian writer Nick Perumov, whom I've heard a lot of good things about, I decided to give it a go anyway. And in her defense, Lotta Olsson did a much, much better job this time around. Perumov discussed his fantasy series currently published in Sweden as Svärdens väktare (literal trans. from Sw. The Watchers of the Swords) as well as his Ring of Darkness, "sequel" to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings (due to be published in Sweden next year, I believe). The discussion was very interesting, although Perumov's Russian perspective sometimes became a bit forced in that he seemed blind to the fact that if we (i.e. Westerners) can't see or understand everything that's gone down in the old Soviet Union and Russia, then maybe that would also mean that his own perspective makes him miss things on our side as well. The fact that he more or less accuses of Tolkien of an anti-Russian allegory (something which Tolkien no doubt would have argued heavily against, as my understanding is that he vehemently opposed any and all allegorical interpretations of his work, for better or worse) and of therefore not being realistic, while simultaneously claiming that he himself is writing about things as they really are, is more than ironic. I mean, he is after all not writing directly about present day Russia but a fantasy realm, which then means that he himself is using the technique of allegory more blatantly than Tolkien whom he accuses of this. Ah well... I'm still interested in reading his series, which is supposedly really good. I just wish people wouldn't praise anything outside of mainstream post-Tolkienite fantasy as ever so original and unique without first making sure that it is. The description of the fantasy genre as always and ever about black and white good and evil without any nuances of moral grey areas is getting ever so tired by now.

On Sunday the main theme on my schedule was clearly comics (perhaps not a coincidence given that the Book Fair itself had a focus on comics this day... as per usual), although I had an interesting tie-in with Saturday's theme of fantasy that is also worth mentioning.

Starting with the fantasy tie-in, I'd like to briefly mention Anders Björkelid's new Swedish fantasy series, Berättelsen om blodet (trans. The Story of the Blood), and the first book in it, Ondvinter (trans. Evil Winter). I haven't read Björkelid myself yet, but once again it is material I've heard really good things about. And after hearing Björkelid talk about it and read some of it to the audience, I am even more interested and curious.

The main gist of the day, however, was comics. In fact, three seminars dealing with them. The first being entitled "Vart är den tecknade serien på väg?" (trans. Where Are Comics Heading?), with the subtitle "Vad är en grafisk roman?" (trans. What Is a Graphic Novel? – though it should be noted that the term in Swedish is not 100% the equivalent of its English origin). In this seminar, comics publisher Rolf Classon (Kartago) presented a brief overview of comics history and development, both in America and in Sweden. This was followed by a discussion between Swedish comics writers/artists Henrik Bromander, Charlie Christensen and Kim W. Andersson on comics in general and their own comics. I was only familiar with Christensen's work (I'm a huge fan of his Arne Anka), but the real find here for me was Kim W. Andersson. For better or worse, Swedish comics far too often tend to lean purely toward the American Underground and sometimes almost seem stuck in autobiographical narratives in black and white, not rarely with an aesthetic sensibility widely differing from my own (in that it comes off as crude and rather unappealling). Andersson, however, seems to have been raised on mainstream American comics fare (much like myself to a great degree) and with that source of inspiration his artistic style is much more appealing. So, I took the opportunity of buying a copy of his collected short horror stories entitled Love Hurts and got that signed. Once I've read the collection, I'm sure I will be talking more about this comics writer/artist... one way or the other.

The second comics seminar was a discussion between artist and cultural personality Carl Johan deGeer and his friend Jan Lööf, who is famous in Sweden both for his comics work and and his illustrated children's books. He's also rather famous for being somewhat of a recluse, so it was a treat indeed to see the man on stage and in fine form. The fact that I more or less by happenstance managed to pass by a table where he was signing a while later, with a very short line at that time, was also a bonus that lead me to buy volume two of his collected comics work.

The last comics seminar of the day, which I visited, was about humour in comics, about the strip format, and other formats for that matter, and how the format affects what the comics writers/artists are doing. Moderated by Tomas Torn from Serieakademin, this was a discussion between Tony Cronstam (creator of Elvis), Jonas Darnell (creator of Herman Hedning) and Lars Mortimer (creator of Hälge), and was very illuminating on many levels. From practical matters like where the strips (or comics) are published (newspapers, comicbooks, etc) to what audiences they attract and how they are allowed to develop, this was a really interesting seminar to be sure.

And that, as the saying goes, was that... Fourteen seminars, eight mini seminars, four signed books (a few others bought) and four days of running around and having a whole heckuva lot of fun.

1 comment:

  1. Hi :)
    As for Nick Perumov and his "sequel" of Tolkien' LOTR...
    I like the Perumov's novel (and I like very much his interpretations of the events after the War For The Ring), but, maybe, I would say argue with such rectiliner point ("The fact that he more or less accuses of Tolkien of an anti-Russian allegory...")...

    I agree that Tolkien' LOTR is more complex thing than an obvious allegory (btw, Tolkien disliked allegories).
    As well for Nick Perumov's The Ring of Darkness, I think. But, true, a Russian view on the Middle-Earth's events has a bit differnt point...

    But it's a long discussion, so you are welcome to my Live Journal - I wrote a few essays on Tolkien (Russian reading of Professor's books).
    Unfortunately, I have translated only a few texts from my works yet:

    Alexander Sedov