What happens when you throw the typical author reading on its head? A couple of weeks ago in Vermont, Phoenix Books of Burlington and Geek Mountain State put together a reading event called an Author Duel, and hilarity ensued. No authors were harmed in the course of this event.

Full disclosure: this is part of an event series that I run, the Vermont SF Writer’s Series, which is a monthly reading event that is held up in my corner of the country. This time around, we wanted to shake some things up a bit and play around with how authors went about participating in a reading event. The results are hilarious!

This is how it worked: four of Tor’s authors, Elizabeth Bear, James L. Cambias, Max Gladstone and Brian Staveley spent a couple of weeks on tour around the northeast, before ending in Burlington, Vermont, where they took part in this author duel. In most author events (and most of ours), authors come to the front, read from their book and answer some questions from the audience. While this is generally a good time, we wanted to change the format up. How do you do that? You have them compete with one another.

We laid out three rounds: in the first, each would read a passage from their own book. In the second, they would switch books with their colleague on their right. For the final one, they would pick a book from around the store and hand it to the author on their left. The audience was involved as well, with five picked to ‘judge’ each author based on their reading, Olympics style. Each author was encouraged to read as dramatically as possible, and as the evening went on, everything got more and more ridiculous - and not just the authors. Oh, and there were stories of space pirates, human sacrifices, and fantasy special ops rescuers, among other things.

All in all, by the end of the event, I just about everyone in the room was laughing.

Advertisement