For thousands of years men and women have competed in trials of strength, speed, skill, and stamina, of which trials The Olympic Games is our most celebrated collection. Literature has never featured in these inspirational contests, and it is natural that a person of towering intellectual curiosity would ask why that should be so. The cause, I have concluded, is precisely the same at that which has prevented the development of writing as a performance art, namely the traditional use of pen and paper, which prevents the writing of the author from being viewed simultaneously by members of a large audience, a limitation affecting performance arts and spectator sports alike. However, today's ubiquity of digital broadcasting technology allows writing to be viewed live by huge audiences, opening up a gigantic opportunity for the literary-minded entrepreneur.
After minutes of effort I have the thing all sketched out.
The Literary Games will be an international event, held every two years, neatly filling the gaps between The Olympics and The World Cup.
The Games will be masterminded by an International Organising Committee, terms of reference for which I am already drafting. Naturally, I will be prepared to sit as the founding chair of the Committee, to oversee the first few delicate years in which The Games develop from being the brainchild of a genius to a fixture in the world's entertainment schedule.
Owing to its mountainous early workload, the Committee will meet fortnightly. To ensure fairness to travelling participants, meetings will rotate between a number of convenient locations- Bermuda, Nice, Geneva, Milan, The Maldives, Las Vegas, Acapulco, Phuket, Vail, St Moritz, and Monaco- with a modest scheme of stipends to defray the expenses of the members.
Countries will bid to host the prestigious event. The selection of the bids will be made in secret, and the results announced live during a quiet period in the entertainments calendar, thus simultaneously offering huge opportunities for publicity and back-handers.
The Games will span the literary spectrum, including fiction and non-fiction, and all established genres. Individual events will be scored by the 'weighted speed' method, in which the score is the quality of the written work (as rated by a panel of judges on a scale from 0 to 10) divided by the time taken for its completion. Thus competitors will face a tactical choice between gaining extra points through higher quality or speedier completion.
The 14-day programme is expected to include:
Short verse forms, including haiku and limerick. These to be in knock-out rounds each of 8 contestants, culminating in a final with four contestants.
Short-stories. To be between 1,995 and 2,005 words. Initial rounds to be in specific genres, with a cross-genre 'Grand Final'.
Long verse-forms. Length of the work to be at the choice of the competitor; however, the scores will be weighted by the number of words produced.
Non-fiction. Works to be full-length in genres specified by the judges ten days before the event.
Pentathlon. Authors compete in short verse-form, short story (two genres, selectable by the competitor from a list published by the judges on the day), non-fiction (freestyle), and long verse-form. Winner decided by normalised cumulative scores from individual events.
The Blue Ribband event will be the full length novel. To avoid cheating through the re-use of prepared material, the genre and synopsis of the novel will be stipulated by the judges, and revealed to the competitors two minutes before the starting gun. The most stringent security measures will be enforced to ensure no premature leaks of the specification. Authors will have nine days to complete their works, leaving five days for judging and speculation about the likely winner.
In all events competitors will be required to type their work on a standard digital device, so that it may be relayed in real-time to the judges and to a massive world-wide TV audience. Suitable adjustments may be made at the discretion of the judges for authors with handicaps.
Authors may write in any language. Real-time translations will allow the events to be enjoyed by the non-polyglot, although the judging will be based upon the original transcript.
Publishing rights for works produced during The Games will vest with The Committee, and will be auctioned to sponsoring publishers to generate funds to re-invest in 'grass roots' literary participation schemes.
A late development in the formulation of the programme of events is the inclusion of the freestyle humorous sprint. Competitors to produce exactly 862 words on any topic. The work must be a genuinely new and spontaneous product of the author’s intellect, with no prior deliberation or planning, and produced in under 37 minutes.
Connoisseurs of literary humour the world-over: Sure, that’s a stitch-up. There’s only one person who could win an event like that. We’re going to lobby the committee to introduce a rule to prevent the Chair from being a competitor.Self: Well if that’s your attitude I will resign, and let’s see what an utter shambles it all descends into without my leadership.