This festival actually started in 1999 under the name “Fanzine Heaven“, by the youth department of the Stockholm Culture House, which earlier had workshops for people doing their own amateur magazines. Though it was mostly “fanzines” about music and comics, some sf-fanzines – The Original Fanzines – (incl from Yours Truly) took part in the early festivals. When the Culture House Comics Library took over, the name of the event changed to Small Press Expo.
Illustration: Kim W. Andersson
From 2012 the festival is known as Stockholm’s International Comics Festival (Stockholms Internationella Seriefestival) and Small Press Expo is the name of the hucksters’ rooms of the festival. For some reason I’ve happened to attend all these festivals, from the very start. (I’m not a super-duper comics fan. My attendance is thanks to the energetic former comics library boss Kriistina Kolehmainen, the driving force behind everythin before unfortunate succumbing to cancer in 201; she also helped us with doing a couple of our Swecons in the Culture House.)
Illustration: Kim W. Andersson
This year’s festival, May 7th to 8th, had “science fiction and reality” as the theme. Beside the sales room, there were panel debates, interviews and similar things going on at four to five stages around the Culture House. I must confess I didn’t sith through any of these, but tended to walk around and listen 5-10 minutes, and then go to something else.
But I tried to stay longer with the program event aboutwith science fiction (or “sci-fi” as many annoyingly call it). We had for instance Kim W. Andersson (who drew the festival posters illustration) and Maria Frölich about sf comics and the US market.
There was a long, two part panel (moderators Lisa Medin and Stef Gaines) about sf, sf comics and then realism, with more than half a dozen interviewees, talking about how difficult it was for the genre in Sweden.
For instance, the magazine Utopi (mostly comics,but also some text contents) was forced to discontinue publication a couple of years ago due to bad sales. (I must correct the young SF Bookstore representative: what club SFSF founded in 1978 wasn’t a “club bookstore” but open to the public under commercial conditions, as I remember six days a week.)
Another panel discusses “sf concepts” like space travel, time travel, AI and robots. There was also a special program for the part called the Young Comics Festival.
There were several international guests – the festival has “International” in its name, remember?
GoHs were Rutu Modan (Israel) and Jeff Lemire (Canada) and there were guests like Jaqueline Berndt (Japan), Tanja Skale and Andrej Stular (Slovenia), Hanneriina Moisseine Finland), Maria Paz Cabardo, Jessica Abel and Matt Madden (USA).
Beside this I noticed the presence of, for me, known faces- I go with first names – like Horst, Lisa, Patrik, Janne, Nanna, Martin, Rasmus, Roger.
Nicolas Krizan should be mentioned in full, because after doing illustrations (sf magazines, book covers, comic and cartoons) for three decades, he could now proudly present the first book of his own (Mallan är med – en otäck historia, “Mallan Is with Us – A Wicked Story“) and was interviewed on stage. We could also hear horror author Anders Fager and artist Daniel Thollin talk about their new graphic novel “Smutsig svart sommar” (Dirty Black Summer).
Main awards were the nominations for the Urhunden Prize, the Comics Fanzine Prizes and the Prizes from the Swedish Comics Association. (I didn’t take notes and Google is too slow with updating pages with awards info so I can’t find the info, except a note that the comics association “special award” went to the comics creator Per Myrhill. /Maybe I’ll get back to the awards./)
I spent some time in the hucksters’ rooms, where publisher legend Horst Schröder told me he and publisher Epix nowadays do 50% comics but also 50% childrens’ books, which seems more profitable. And at the table from Club Super 8 I learned that – against all odds! – their thick comedy porno book about James Fjong had received a cultural grant. James Fjong is an oversexed figure appearing as comic in the porn magazines from publisher Hson,mainly in the 1970’s and 80’s, and it has since achieved cult status.
Last autumn I went to the release of the book, collecting virtually all of the James Fjong pages, drawn by Leif Rundqvist under the name “Leffe” and NSFW (Not Safe For Work). He is a very talented artist and a fun guy, despite having problems after a stroke many years ago. The James Fjong book will now be sent in 290 copies to most Swedish public libraries, one in every municipality area.
There were a lot of visitors (the festival was free of charge), 10 000’s I’d guess. Swedish education radio was there and the left wing paper ETC made a 32 pages comics special that they handed out to everyone.
I suppose many walked in for an hour or so just to have a rest from the Total Eurovision Craze that ‘s smothering Stockholm right now, with a giant Eurovision Perfume Ball on a main square and a temporary 80 metres high tower in the Royal Gardens.
The festival’s program (in Swedish, but there was a program leaflet in English):
THE STOCKHOLM INTERNATIONAL COMICS FESTIVAL 2016 May 7th–8th
The Stockholm International Comics Festival [SIS] will took place for the seventeenth time on May 7th–8th (plus pre-events earlier in the week) by Serieteket and friends. There were Swedish and international guests, a huge comics market, stage talks, seminars, exhibitions, film screenings, workshops and meetings in Kulturhuset Stadsteatern (City’s Theater Culture House) and beyond. This year’s festival showcased a lot of comics for children and young adults. A closer look was taken at the comics from the French language areas of the world, as well as from some of the Asian countries and focusing on questions regarding artistic freedom and freedom of speech. As usual, most of the Swedish comics scene was present.
The festival is organized with support from Statens Kulturråd (Swedish National Arts Council).
Ahrvid Engholm is a swedish author, editor, journalist and SF fan.