So, the family and I popped across to Leeds at the weekend for Thought Bubble. Actually, that’s not entirely true. We went across for a small section of Thought Bubble, which happened to be the first day of the convention (Saturday) but the second-to-last day of the festival entire.
I really, really like it. I’m not a huge comics fan – I very rarely read them, either in digital or print form – but I love fantasy art. Even if I was indifferent to that, though, Thought Bubble would be worth a visit. I see some of my friends there, for a start, and it’s always nice to see people in meatspace every so often. This year was a bumper crop for conversations, and I spent a lot of time with the ever-excellent Alasdair Stuart and the talented-and-outright-bonkers Jenny Gyllblad. I also met new people! I met an awesome English graduate called Lorna who was collaborating with her brother on a Star Wars inspired comic (with a great pitch) and chanced across someone working on their NaNo novel – a book where every chapter correlates to each of the major arcana in a Tarot deck.
I also got to see so much stuff. The convention is very different to every SFF convention I’ve been to as the major attraction of the event is the dealer’s room. Rooms. In fact, the vast majority of the convention is three massive rooms, all crammed full of dealer tables. The closest comparison I have for it is Woolfest, really. Table after table after table of people ready to talk in a genuine and interesting way about their work (and hopefully sell it at the same time). Even the big names are sat down at tables, which overcomes the issue of access – how do you go up and talk to one of your heroes at a convention? Easy! Just get in the line. Alternatively, come back at the end of the day and say howdy – the 30-min queue for Olly Moss had evaporated by four in the afternoon, and even Kelly Sue DeConnick only had four or five people waiting.
It’s a really young convention, too. Cosplayers? Tons of ‘em. Kids that I have taught? A couple (that was weird). Roller Derby! Colouring In! Space to sit down!
I don’t know what the take-home message from all this is, because I don’t organise conventions or sell books/art/knitting. I can’t say for sure if much of it – if any – would translate to the SFF book world, much in the same way that knitting shows do not. A designer like Ysolda Teague can rock up at a relatively small knitting show and sell every single one of her 75 page, self-published books for £20 a pop (with almost every buyer paying a little extra on top for a photo with her)*, but that kind of success just doesn’t seem to have an analogue in the print world. I think it would be really interesting to see some kind of breakdown from the artists themselves regarding what sells and what doesn’t at this kind of event,** but I’m guessing that anyone lugging boxes to a convention is going to stay tight-lipped about that sort of thing. Inasmuch as art isn’t a competition, sales definitely are.
But yeah. Thought Bubble. Great con, as it has been for the past few years. Yet again, I was unable to go to the party which is (apparently) one of the great highlights. Maybe next year.
*not their own photos, btw – they had a printer set up to print out the picture taken so it could be stuck in the book next to her signature.
**I know there’s a whole world of theorycraft around how to set up dealer tables – from optimum position in the room to creating a display that draws in and sells to the passerby.