The Frankfurt Book Fair. It’s, it’s, it’s…batshit insane overload book explosion cartwheels fireworks exhaustion wow. Holy fucking books.
After having been to two science-fiction conventions in London this summer (Nine Worlds and LonCon), it feels strange to be at a book fair that doesn’t specifically celebrate the things that I love—in fact, that are barely represented. Sure, the big names are around. This morning I saw Neil Gaiman’s face on a two-meter high poster on the wall and an ad for Samantha Shannon’s second book The Mime Order. Mannheim SFF publisher Feder und Schwert have a stand, as do Perry Rhodan. Every once in a while I will see a publisher with a few SFF books on their shelves, but the sound of the SFF gets drowned out by the sheer mass of everything else.
All the book publishers are here, and so is everybody else who publishes anything. There are map publishers. There are publishers of tarot cards. There is an entire hall for academic publishing. Cooking. Art books. E-books. Postcards. Travel guides. The Gutenberg Museum has a stand. As does the Porsche Museum. (What?) In the Young Adult Hall (which also houses cooking, tourism, and comics) you will find the most SFF-inal titles, but the focus is obviously on a much more general, much more mainstream, much more financially viable side of publishing. The big-name authors wandering around are Ken Follet and Paul Coelho. Not Patrick Rothfuss and Scott Lynch and Joanne Harris and Terry Prachett.
Still: the Frankfurt Book Fair is fucking awesome. To have so many book people in one place, you can feel the love. So maybe not everybody is into the same thing. So maybe you can’t strike up a conversation about your favorites with every single person or become insta-best friends the way you can at a SF convention. But it doesn’t matter. We are all here because we work with words and probably, because we love them. The entire city is awash in bookish events from the radical left events of Gegen Buch Masse to the Buchmesse SF Convent happening in Dreieich on Saturday to Open Books. I love living in Frankfurt, but sitting here in the press area (which is fucking awesome by the way, internet and water and electric plugs for everyone!), just steps away from thousands of book people and millions of books, I love it even more.
Technically, nobody is allowed to sell any books until Sunday. Of course, that’s silly—half of what is going on here is book selling, but of the large-scale kind. Publishers selling foreign rights to other publishers, people signing deals, cha-ching cha-ching, that sort of thing. A few areas do have stores selling bits and bobbles and art books, but the books on display at the publishers’ stands are there to help their salespeople move authors and foreign rights and book orders, not to operate on a small book store scale. Sunday is worth the wait because not only are things for sale, they are going cheap as foreign publishers unload their bulky example wares so that they don’t have to take them back on the plane.
The Frankfurt Book Fair Program (which costs 32 fucking euros! geezus!) is as thick as a phone book. I haven’t tried to read it. Last week I did a few keyword searches of the Book Fair’s online program and wrote a list of things I wouldn’t mind seeing, but I haven’t made it to a damn thing. Whereas at SFF conventions I run from one program item to the next and have a blast doing it, here I’ve needed two days just to orient myself with the layout of the halls, the way things work, even things as simple as where the fucking bathrooms and food are. This is a whole new level of book fair madness.
This book fair has been going on, give or take a few stops for this or that war, since 1370. Five hundred solid fucking years of book fair madness in the city of Frankfurt. I wonder what that first fair was like, and I doubt I would even recognize it as such today. A time traveler from 1370 coming to this circus would probably have a heart attack. Or an orgasm.
Because Finland is this year’s guest of honor, there are Moomins everywhere. I’ve only just begun to dabble in the Moomins, thanks to having a young child at home, and they’re great—on top of it being exciting to find some element of spec fic being represented here en mass. Up next on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog: speculative fiction at the Frankfurt Book Fair, book porn, furniture made out of books (and books made out of wood), and an interview with literary translator Katy Derbyshire. It’s going to be another good day at the fair.