I’VE DONE A FEW BOOK EVENTS, and I always felt the spirit of the event should better capture the raucous enthusiasm some books engender. When I read a good book, I want to run outside and scream about it to the world. I’m not alone in this regard, so why then, do so many book events feel stifled? Peru offered me the answer I was looking for: Lucha Libro, a twist on Lucha Libre, Mexico’s pro wrestling. Known as “literary wrestling”, writers don masks and are challenged to write a short story in five minutes. The winner takes off his or her mask and proceeds through the tournament, with the final victor having his or her first novel published.
Lucha Libro changes the idea that literature is boring and tries to make it as exciting as possible. I wanted to have a book event like that, where people got together and were excited about books. I wanted to engage the audience, and most of all, I wanted it to be fun. That’s when I came up with the notion of the Edmonton Character Deathmatch.
This is how it will work: two authors will duel by reading a sample of their work, one after the other, with selections focusing on a particular character. The audience, given creative action placards (such as “assimilates”, “judo chops” and “baffles with brilliance”), will then vote on their favorite character. It’s silly and fairly arbitrary, but it adds a level of engagement, progression, and (hopefully) tension to the tournament. I’ve gotten Lucha Libre masks for all the authors, but I can’t promise that everyone will want to wear them.
The winners of the duels will be determined by audience vote, and will take each other on as characters are eliminated from the contest. The final victor will walk home with a trophy that is as incredible and ridiculous as the event itself. To make sure the contestants remain fresh in the audience’s mind, each character has a stat card, similar to a sports trading card, that lists all of his or her qualities and weaknesses.
Here’s a snapshot of this year’s contestants:
Appears in: The Puzzle Box, Creator: Eileen Bell
Mission: To meet her father, while making life as miserable as possible for her mother. Oh, and not destroying the world in the process!
Special powers: She’s half demon, and can wreck most electronics with a half-assed internal EMP. However, a Djinn has just given her three wishes, so she can do just about anything she wants (but only three times. And being half-demon seems to really mess with the wishes, so she has to be very careful. Normally, she’s not careful. Not at all.)
Appears in: Edgar’s Worst Sunday, Creator: Brad OH Inc.
About: In life, Edgar Vincent has been something of a cad. Callous comments, thoughtless promiscuity, binge drinking and excess sufficient to shame Caligula, are standard Saturday night fare.
Mission: When Edgar finds himself in the cloudy planes of the afterlife on one particularly dreadful Sunday, he must put aside his ever-present hangover and try to figure out how he ever got to this point, and where he’s meant to be going now.
Appears in: Weightless, Creator: Jay Bardyla
Mission: Before, it was learning to control her abilities. Now, it’s to save the world, repeatedly.
About: What do you do when something beyond your control forces you to lose control? And what happens later when people want to control you? A battle to maintain a sense of self is easier fought when the whole world isn’t fighting over you but for Eve Lopez, the world’s sole super-human, both battles are never-ending.
Appears in: The Tattooed Seer, Creator: Susan MacGregor
Mission: To locate witches in Esbana, and to convince (or kidnap) them to come to Inglais to aid Ilysabeth’s rise to the throne.
Special power(s): Deceit, drugs, espionage, masquerade, acting, tumbling, kidnapping, assassination (but only the bad guys)
About: (This is a rare depiction of him, painted when he was much, much older. He also bears an uncanny resemblance to Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth 1st’s Spymaster.)
Appears in: The Tenth Circle Project, Creator: Billie Milholland
Mission: To save children from slavery in the post-apocalyptic City of Glory.
About: On the run from the law, wanted for an assassination she didn’t commit, Haywire McQuire teams up with other fugitives to rescue children from a life of servitude.
Interesting stat: She hangs out with ChloroMorphs (people who can trade the iron atom in their hemoglobin for magnesium to temporarily gain the power of photosynthesis).
Appears in: Die on Your Feet, Creator: S.G. Wong
Mission: To find the truth, no matter what the cost.
Weakness: Lola is haunted by a ghost named Aubrey O’Connell, invisible to her (as all ghosts are to the living) but plenty audible.
About: Happy to partake in all that the City’s swank supper clubs and gambling joints have to offer, Lola is unafraid to mix it up with the seedier elements of Crescent City’s dark underbelly when the job requires it.
Appears in: Shepherds of Sparrows, Creator: Hal J. Friesen
Special power(s): Genetically modified Vrellish Highborn, with exceptional strength and agility in gravity and in a rel-fighter. Deadly with a sword.
Mission: To find somewhere he belongs, and where he can raise his family.
Weakness: His physiology doesn’t allow him to eat fruit or vegetables.
Appears in: Cornerstone, Creator: Maura Armstrong
Mission: To stay clean, and to reconcile with his family on his terms.
About: At age eighteen, Tad was fed up with his parents’ hypocritical faith and constant bickering, and he walked away without a backward glance. A year later, fighting addiction, Tad returns from his self-imposed exile to find his place in a family that’s slowly disintegrating.
THE JEERING HAS ALREADY STARTED ON FACEBOOK AND TWITTER, and I’m sure there’ll be more playful jabbing throughout the event (June 28 at 1:00 PM at Audrey’s Books). This is all tongue-in-cheek, however, since everyone involved is really supporting each other and coming together to make the event a success. Regardless of who wins this Saturday, everyone should come out wearing a smile. Check it out! It’s something Edmonton has never seen before.