Irvine Welsh is not in the building.

Unfortunately. Leith's favourite son has gone AWOL this Saturday afternoon. Maybe he's visiting relatives. Maybe he's off paying melancholy witness to Hibernian's latest miserable afternoon in the Championship (a 1-0 defeat at home to Falkirk; 'mon the Bairns). Who knows? But he's not here in this rather handsome Georgian room high above Edinburgh's Charlotte Square. Pity. Because - with the exception of Dan McDaid, who sent his apologies in advance - everybody else is.

Everybody in this case is (nearly) all the contributors to a new graphic novel, IDP: 2043. It's a comics anthology that tells one over-arching story, set almost 30 years in the future. Water levels have risen, food is proving hard to find, Frankie Boyle has a day care centre named after him. Things are not looking good. This is not the future any of us were promised. But it might be one that, increasingly, we all might fear.

The book was born out of the Edinburgh International Book Festival's commitment to the graphic novel form after last year's hugely successful festival within a festival, Stripped. "Welcoming so many of the world's top graphic novelists and artists to Charlotte Square Gardens last summer in our Stripped programme was just the start," festival director Nick Barley says. You could say, then, that the EIBF is the book's father. In that case mother is Glasgow publisher Freight Books. And if we run this analogy on then maybe Denise Mina is the midwife.

Mina, one of Scotland's leading crime writers, came up with the story, edited everyone else's chapters and basically told everyone to push at the right time. "It sounded like such an infeasible project," admits Mina. She is fleeced up this afternoon and as a result looks a little like a character from Game Of Thrones on their day off. "It sounded mad. And they wanted me to create a world and then get people to write the narrative stories within it and I just really fancied it."

"Denise Mina has done an extraordinary job in pulling together the six chapters," Barley says. "This imagining of Scotland's future is so well suited to the graphic novel form; the story is told in a quirky and entertaining style but doesn't shy away from the stark message of environmental catastrophe."

"There's always a certain alchemy on projects like this," Adrian Searle, director of Freight Books, suggests. "You don't know how it's all going to come together. It's all about risk taking. But the alchemy has worked incredibly well. Denise Mina has given so much to the project. It's been her vision and her structure holding a group of disparate talent together."

That disparate talent is all in the room today. Elder statesmen and women alongside young bucks and does. Over there holding court is Pat Mills, simply one of the giants of British comics, creator of 2000 AD, the man behind Marshal Law, Nemesis The Warlock and Celtic warrior Slaine as well as the much-lauded First World War strip Charley's War. He's talking to Will Morris, the young Edinburgh-based cartoonist who was named best emerging talent at the British Comic Awards last year for his Scottish graphic novel, The Silver Darlings. Collaborators Mary Talbot and Kate Charlesworth are here too, fresh from an appearance at the Festival enlivened by an intervention by Charlesworth's LGBT choir singing a suffragette song. They've all come together to talk about the end of the world and the beginning of their love affair with comics. Shall we listen in?


"What we tried to do in this was pick the one irrefutable scientific fact that sea levels were up a metre. We just wanted to set it in the future and not get involved in any 'is there climate change?' discussions. What am I hopeful about? I hope in the future we'd learn to make decisions in a communitarian way. I think that's a philosophical revolution that's just about to happen and if it doesn't it's going to be pretty disastrous. It's required. As a planet we're going to have to start. The Middle East is fracturing wildly and you can't help Syria without interfering in Iraq and Iran. So that's my hope, that we'll develop new ways of accommodating one other."

What was the first comic strip you loved?

"I didn't really read comics as a kid. But I really liked Korky The Cat and Charlie Brown. My favourite character? Linus. Well, I was the youngest kid … And my sister was a bit of a smartarse. But my nickname was Pigpen because I was always dirty."

What is the graphic novel everyone should read?

"Maus [Art Spiegelman's anthropomorphic memoir of his father's experiences during the Holocaust]. You can read it if you don't read comics and it still works. It's a really good entry point."

What other celebrity franchises are just waiting to happen?

"The Tony Blair Centre for International Relations (Ker-ching)."


"What I'm fearful of is one of the themes that come up in the book - how fear is used as a mechanism to control, how it can start to pervade every element of your life. The fear of terrorism where the chances of being involved in any such event are absolutely miniscule but somehow it rules how we perceive the world around us. That escalating would be a worry. I'm generally a pretty optimistic person. It would be wonderful to get to a point where it was a bit more of a balanced society, but who is going to lead the charge? I don't know."

What is the graphic novel everyone should read?

"Notes For A War Story by Gipi, an Italian artist."


Former academic Mary Talbot's first graphic novel, Dotter Of Her Father's Eyes - illustrated by her husband and veteran comics creator Bryan Talbot - was a memoir of her relationship with her father doubled with James Joyce's relationship with his daughter. It won the Costa Prize for Biography. Her latest book is Sally Heathcote, Suffragette, created in tandem with her husband and artist Kate Charlesworth.

"My fears for the future are very much the ones that the books detail. Global warming, climate change - whatever we call it - is proceeding at a terrible rate. The ice caps are melting very fast and the process accelerates because there's less of the reflective snow at the poles. Water levels are going to rise. It's just a matter of how severe and how much of the population gets displaced. And then how to feed all these people when there's less land mass to cultivate."

What is the graphic novel everyone should read?

"Alison Bechdel's Fun Home [a memoir about the author's closeted homosexuality] is very encouraging in terms of the subject matter."

What other celebrity franchises are just waiting to happen?

"Jamie Oliver's Canteen. He's already done that? I don't know enough about celebrities."


Kate Charlesworth is a Yorkshire-born, Edinburgh-based creator who has contributed to the Guardian, the Independent, New Scientist and the Pink Paper. She worked with Mary Talbot on IDP: 2043 and on Sally Heathcote, Suffragette.

"What I worry about - more than global warming and the waters rising - is human intolerance and minds closing in and medieval religious wars and that mentality coming back. I'm hopeful for people to connect with each other. Whatever the result next month, the independence debate has been fantastic. People are talking to each other. People are saying if they vote Yes it will be for a fairer and more equal society. And that's really hopeful, I think."

What was the first comic strip you loved?

"I was very fond of a Radio Fun annual from 1957 or thereabouts. I used to pore over the drawings. Arthur Askey was on the cover bursting through a circus hoop. On the back cover was a jungle scene with Petula Clarke as the hero. It was a different world."

What is the graphic novel everyone should read?

"Woodrow Phoenix's Rumblestrip."

What other celebrity franchises are just waiting to happen?

"Susan Boyle's ballroom gowns. Or a Susan Boyle boutique. SuBoutique!"


The French cartoonist is best known for his First World War graphic novel Line Of Fire, which grew out of a real diary he found in rubbish left in the street.

"In my life I travel a lot. I was born in France and raised in Morocco. I lived with my kid in Montreal. I moved to New York for three years, then back to Paris. I'm trying to move all around the world because life is short and I want to meet a lot of people. And when you meet people you are not scared any more. When I talk to young illustrators I say you should travel a lot because you learn a lot and when you meet people you are not scared of them and you don't want to fight against them. I think fear is often of the unknown. When you know people you are less afraid of them."

What was the first comic strip you loved?

"Tintin for sure because it's international, but I liked Jules Verne's adventure books. I was fascinated by 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea with Captain Nemo and Journey To The Centre Of The Earth."


The Glaswegian cartoonist is a regular contributor to the children's comic Phoenix and has recently published Corpse Talk, a collection of his strips that brings the "dead famous" back to life.

"The sort of apocalyptic global warming thing we have in the book is unrealistic. Or it's unrealistic here. I did a comic with a professor of climate change last year and what she said is that it's not going to hit here to that extent; it's going to be places like Bangladesh which will just wash away, places like Chad which will just become desert. I thought that was interesting, the way global inequality works. That's something that bothers me a lot and I don't see how we can really improve our behaviour. The people who are generating the most pollution are not going to be the people who suffer for it.

"There's a lot of people who genuinely want to understand this better and do better it just gets co-opted so easily by corporate interests. They know 'sustainable' is a buzzword that sells. I'd like to see more people getting together to cut through that."

What was the first comic strip you loved?

"Asterix, probably. I loved the humour of it, the funny names. How they translated it I can't even imagine."

What is the graphic novel everyone should read?

"I can give you a long list. If I had to choose one there is a book by a Ukrainian cartoonist Igor Baranko called The Horde. I've seen it with a different cover called Jihad which is a much worse title. It's a very high-concept science-fiction adventure set in the countries of the former Soviet Union and it draws on all the different faith systems. You have a post-Communist science-fiction-obsessed dictator; the last Chechen, who is a spiritual Muslim following the voice of God; a Buddhist nun who is meditating to try to unlock the mysteries of what is going on, all mashed in there."


Thirtysomething Brighton-based graphic novelist who jumped at the chance of working on IDP because its dystopian vision "appealed to my slightly dejected world view of the future".

"The thing that worries me most about the future is I know we will all have to make lots of sacrifices. We can't stay the way we are. Either things are going to become disastrous and horrible and we'll all die, or we have to make more subtle changes - like changing energy supply. And the thing that worries me most of all is that the majority of people won't realise it until it's too late. Because there's so much invested already in continuing life the way it is. It's hard to alter your whole worldview abruptly.

"But what I'm hopeful for is … God, am I hopeful for anything?

"I actually went to a climate change conference the other day for artists and writers. But I read this fascinating article which was part of the required reading on green energy which suggested there are big investment companies - I think HSBC was one - who are starting to invest more in green energy and less in things that involve fossil fuels because they see there is no real future in it. Which was heartening."

What was the first comic strip you loved?

"As a child I was besotted with Calvin And Hobbes. It was so funny. You could read them as a child and they were brilliant but as an adult there's this whole extra layer to the dialogue that the kids wouldn't have got."

What is the graphic novel everyone should read?

"For people who haven't read graphic novels before, I would heartily recommend Palestine by Joe Sacco because I think it will take a lot of people by surprise - the weightiness of the subject that's being tackled in comic format will surprise a lot of people. Or maybe The Arrival by Shaun Tan. It's got no words in it at all. That's one of the things that throw people when they first comes to comics, reading the words and the pictures together. I've got family who have read my books because they're obliged to. And they say, 'Oh, it's really nice. I read the words and then I went back and looked at all the pictures.' That's not how you do it. I think The Arrival - because there is no dialogue and there's still a good story - is easily accessible."

What other celebrity franchises are just waiting to happen?

"The Miley Cyrus Twerk Out DVD, a way of keeping fit and losing all dignity."


"I worry that truth won't be revealed. Whether it's global warming or whatever, it won't be exposed. I think fiction is actually having to do this because the mainstream media isn't. It's following government briefs and it's following its proprietors so you can't talk about certain subjects. And fiction can. I suppose I fear that these subjects won't get aired, so something like IDP is quite important."

What was the first comic strip you loved?

"TV Express's Wulf The Briton and as I do Slaine these days I guess there's a connection there. Anyone who has ever seen Wulf The Briton will know it was beautifully painted by Ron Embleton and I was really impressed by it."

What is the graphic novel everyone should read?

"Persepolis [Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical graphic novel about growing up in revolutionary Iran]. I have a strong connection with Iran. My best friend is Iranian and Persepolis rings so true. It's a great story and it's a female-led story and we need a lot more of those in comics." n

IDP: 2043 is published by Freight Books, priced £14.99.