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By Ian McKenzie
EDINBURGH (Reuters) - The Edinburgh International Book Festival casts an eye this year on a unique form of literature - comics and graphic novels that have endeared themselves to "children" from the age of three to 103.
The world's biggest annual book festival also celebrates its 30th anniversary from August 10 to 26 with more than 800 events with authors, literature and ideas from around the world in the heart of Edinburgh. Eighty authors attended the inaugural gathering in 1983.
The book festival runs parallel through August with the International Festival and Fringe, both dating back to 1947, the Royal Military Tattoo on the Edinburgh Castle esplanade, and a broad range of art shows during which the city's population more than doubles in size.
In a contemplative mood, book festival director Nick Barley told Reuters at the program launch on Thursday he believed the time had come for the book festival to assess where it had come from and where it was going.
He said the rise of writers in Scotland such as the late Iain Banks, Ian Rankin, A.L. Kennedy and Christopher Brookmyre among others in the last 30 years was the most extraordinary explosion of culture and literature in Scotland that it has perhaps ever seen.
"I think it's important that we take stock of what has happened and the conditions that made that explosion possible, and ask ourselves what conditions need to be put in place to allow that explosion to continue," he said.
Barley said this year's book festival was set up to explore what the next 30 years might look like, and speculate on what the future might be.
On a less serious note, a centerpiece of the festival will be four days when it brings together a special program on comics and graphic novels from Marvel to manga, brande desiree to the Beano.
"We will look at the rich heritage of comics, the contemporary renaissance of graphic novels, and discuss how it opens up reading and storytelling to new audiences, young and old," the program noted.
On a somber note, author and science fiction writer Banks had been due to read from his latest book, "The Quarry", at the festival before his sudden death from cancer on June 9.
Barley said Banks would instead be commemorated.
There will be "both a commemoration and re-evaluation of his work, but also a celebration of a guy who was central to the Scottish literary explosion."
(Editing by Paul Casciato)