Dystopian graphic novel IDP 2043 events set for 2014 Edinburgh Book Festival
Collaborative work featuring contributions from Irvine Welsh, Denise Mina and Pat Mills
This article is from 2014.
After embracing comics in last year’s Stripped strand, the Edinburgh International Book Festival has continued to wave the four-colour flag in 2014 with the release of IDP: 2043. The graphic novel, published by Freight Books, is a speculative piece of illustrated fiction about climate change and the future of the Scottish nation.
‘It’s about what the UN calls Internal Displaced Persons – refugees who are still in their country of origin – after the currently predicted rise in sea level,’ says Denise Mina, crime and comics writer, and one of the project’s originators. ‘Everyone in Scotland moves to Wanlockhead, the highest village in Scotland, and establishes a new city. It’s looking at how cities operate and how social distinctions come to be formed and policed.’ It’s a collaborative work featuring comics and non-comics professionals, including Irvine Welsh, Costa Award-winning graphic novelist Mary Talbot and artist Hannah Berry. But the story was kicked off by UK comics godfather Pat Mills, the first editor of seminal anthology 2000AD and creator of such series as Nemesis the Warlock and ABC Warriors.
‘It’s based on what my wife told me about when she worked in green PR and conservation,’ he says. ‘I knew there was a great story in a cynical look at green issues, based on info green insiders had told me about questionable Swiss bank accounts being used for philanthropic purposes. It fitted like a glove, so I wrote the first chapter with an outline of how the story could evolve and conclude, and subsequent writers could take as much from that as they wanted.’
‘The story focuses on a young Scottish woman, Cait McNeil,’ says Freight Books’ Adrian Searle, ‘who lives in a shanty town but is a co-presenter on a reality TV show called Sky Farm, set in a huge futuristic eco-tower inhabited by the rich. I think there’s still a large degree of denial over just how close eco-disaster is. However, many of the themes in the book – about how the poor are excluded from technology, how the powerful often abuse their positions, and how progress without ethics is incredibly dangerous – are highly relevant to us today. Human nature doesn’t change, and whether it’s 2014 or 2043 many of the real threats will remain the same.’
He describes the book as ‘small-p political’, and Mina agrees. ‘I don’t think you can stay away from politics,’ she says. ‘Stories only seem politically neutral if you agree with them or if they chime with the status quo.’ For Mills, never shy about excoriating society in his work, it’s a blessed relief. ‘Comics aren’t remotely politically and socially conscious,’ he says. ‘We’re living in a deliberately dumbed-down Britain where escapist fantasy rules.’
Mills says it’s good that Edinburgh is championing comics, but that the idea of the medium as worthy literature can be reductive. ‘Comics came from the mainstream, and I believe adult fandom and comic lit largely hijacked them,’ he says. ‘The mainstream needs to reassert itself. The potential market is still there but it will only be revived by professionals who like writing and drawing for 9- to 13-year-olds. The harsh truth is that most don’t.’
IDP2043: Part 1 with Denise Mina, Pat Mills & friends, 23 Aug, 6.45pm, £10 (£8)
IDP2043: Part 2 with Denise Mina, Irvine Welsh & Friends, 23 Aug, 8.30pm, £10 (£8).
All events at Charlotte Square Gardens, 0845 373 5888.