Tuesday, June 30, 2009

2009 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Results Are In! Won't Somebody Think of the Children?

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is a writing contest designed to see who can come up with the worst opening sentence for a novel.

"It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."

—Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford (1830)



The website explains it best:
An international literary parody contest, the competition honors the memory (if not the reputation) of Victorian novelist Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873). The goal of the contest is childishly simple: entrants are challenged to submit bad opening sentences to imaginary novels. Although best known for "The Last Days of Pompeii" (1834), which has been made into a movie three times, originating the expression "the pen is mightier than the sword," and phrases like "the great unwashed" and "the almighty dollar," Bulwer-Lytton opened his novel Paul Clifford (1830) with the immortal words that the "Peanuts" beagle Snoopy plagiarized for years, "It was a dark and stormy night."

All I can say is, thank God this is parody. Some of these are real stinkers. Great job, writers! Here are some of my favorites from this year's winners.

"Folks say that if you listen real close at the height of the full moon, when the wind is blowin' off Nantucket Sound from the nor' east and the dogs are howlin' for no earthly reason, you can hear the awful screams of the crew of the "Ellie May," a sturdy whaler Captained by John McTavish; for it was on just such a night when the rum was flowin' and, Davey Jones be damned, big John brought his men on deck for the first of several screaming contests."

David McKenzie
Federal Way, WA


David McKenzie, the winner of this year's contest, is a 55-year-old Quality Systems consultant and writer from Federal Way, Washington. Excellent job, David. Truly awful.

Runner-Up

The wind dry-shaved the cracked earth like a dull razor--the double edge kind from the plastic bag that you shouldn't use more than twice, but you do; but Trevor Earp had to face it as he started the second morning of his hopeless search for Drover, the Irish Wolfhound he had found as a pup near death from a fight with a prairie dog and nursed back to health, stolen by a traveling circus so that the monkey would have something to ride.

Warren Blair
Ashburn, VA

Winner: Adventure

How best to pluck the exquisite Toothpick of Ramses from between a pair of acrimonious vipers before the demonic Guards of Nicobar returned should have held Indy's full attention, but in the back of his mind he still wondered why all the others who had agreed to take part in his wife's holiday scavenger hunt had been assigned to find stuff like a Phillips screwdriver or blue masking tape.

Joe Wyatt
Amarillo, Texas

Runner-Up: Adventure

(This one's my favorite.)
In a flurry of flame and fur, fangs and wicker, thus ended the world's first and only hot air baboon ride.

Tony Alfieri
Los Angeles, CA

Runner-Up: Detective

The dame sauntered silently into Rocco's office, but she didn't need to speak; the blood-soaked gown hugging her ample curves said it all: "I am a shipping heiress whose second husband was just murdered by Albanian assassins trying to blackmail me for my rare opal collection," or maybe, "Do you know a good dry cleaner?"

Tony Alfieri
Los Angeles, CA

Dishonorable Mention: Adventure

(Also my favorite)
The appearance of a thin red beam of light under my office door and the sound of one, then two pair of feet meant my demise was near, that my journey from gum-shoe detective to international agent had gone horribly wrong, until I realized it was my secretary teasing her cat with a laser pointer.

Steve Lynch
San Marcos, CA

Winner: Fantasy Fiction

(You know, I think I've read this one! Looks like every fantasy fan fiction I've ever read, and the biggest reason I gave up on the genre years ago.)
A quest is not to be undertaken lightly--or at all!--pondered Hlothgar, Thrag of the Western Boglands, son of Glothar, nephew of Garthol, known far and wide as Skull Dunker, as he wielded his chesty stallion Hralgoth through the ever-darkening Thlargwood, beyond which, if he survived its horrors and if Hroglath the royal spittle reader spoke true, his destiny awaited--all this though his years numbered but fourteen.

Stuart Greenman
Seattle, WA

Runner-Up: Fantasy

(Why is it all the runners-up are my favorites?)
Towards the dragon's lair the fellowship marched -- a noble human prince, a fair elf, a surly dwarf, and a disheveled copyright attorney who was frantically trying to find a way to differentiate this story from "Lord of the Rings."

Andrew Manoske
Foster City, CA


This makes me want to enter next year. If you're interested, you can enter too. Just go to the Bulwer-Lytton website.

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2 comments:

  1. Twice in one day I was honored! Thank you, Eric. FYI, I am a proud IU grad.

    Steve Lynch

    ReplyDelete
  2. Actually, Steve, your entry made me laugh out loud. I loved the dramatic buildup followed by the surprise of the cat. Hysterical.

    ReplyDelete

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