Skip to comments.Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest 2005 Results
Posted on 07/28/2005 7:44:44 AM PDT by ZGuy
As he stared at her ample bosom, he daydreamed of the dual Stromberg carburetors in his vintage Triumph Spitfire, highly functional yet pleasingly formed, perched prominently on top of the intake manifold, aching for experienced hands, the small knurled caps of the oil dampeners begging to be inspected and adjusted as described in chapter seven of the shop manual. Dan McKay Fargo, ND
A 43-year-old quantitative analyst for Microsoft Great Plains is the winner of the 23rd running of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. A resident of Fargo, North Dakota, McKay is currently visiting China, perhaps to escape notoriety for his dubious literary achievement. His entry, extolling a subject that has engaged poets for millennia, may have been inspired by Roxy Hart of the musical "Chicago." Complaining of her husband's ineptitude in the boudoir, Roxy laments, "Amos was . . . zero. I mean, he made love to me like he was fixing a carburetor or something."
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."
The contest began in 1982 as a quiet campus affair, attracting only three submissions. This response being a thunderous success by academic standards, the contest went public the following year and ever since has attracted thousands of annual entries from all over the world.
Runner-Up: When Detective Riggs was called to investigate the theft of a trainload of Native American fish broth concentrate bound for market, he solved the case almost immediately, being that the trail of clues led straight to the trainmaster, who had both the locomotive and the Hopi tuna tea. Mitsy Rae Danbury, NE
Grand Panjandrum's Special Award India, that hangs like a wet washcloth from the towel rack of Asia, presented itself to Tex as he landed in Delhi (or was it Bombay?), as if it mattered because Tex finally had an idea to make his mark and fortune and that idea was a chain of steak houses to serve the millions and he wondered, as he deplaned down the steep, shiny, steel steps, why no one had thought of it before. Ken Aclin Shreveport, LA
Winner: Adventure Category Captain Burton stood at the bow of his massive sailing ship, his weathered face resembling improperly cured leather that wouldn't even be used to make a coat or something. Bryan Semrow Oshkosh, WI
Runner-Up It was high noon in the jungles of South India when I began to recognize that if we didn't find water for our emus soon, it wouldn't be long before we would be traveling by foot; and with the guerilla warriors fast on our heals, I was starting to regret my decision to use poultry for transportation. Eric Winter Minneapolis, MN
Dishonorable Mention When the great Italian archeologist, Giovanni Battista de Rossi, broke through the centuries of choking rubble and rock in the abandoned catacombs under Rome and the dust cleared, he held his blazing torch high, pickup a flat, dirt-encrusted object with a row of teeth, examined it with his educated eye, and exclaimed, "By the saints, I do believe I've discovered another ancient kitty comb." Mitsy Rae Danbury, NE
Winner: Children's Literature The woods were all a-twitter with rumors that the Seven Dwarves were planning a live reunion after their attempted solo careers had dismally sputtered into Z-list oblivion and it was all just a matter of meeting a ten-page list of outlandish demands (including 700-threadcount Egyptian cotton bedsheets, lots of white lilies and a separate trailer for the magic talking mirror) to get the Princess Formerly Known As Snow White on board. Shelby Leung Dulwich Hill NSW, Australia
Runner-Up When Mr Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday, his children packed his bags and drove him to Golden Pastures retirement complex just off Interstate 95. Stephen Farnsworth Manchester, U.K.
Dishonorable Mentions Because of her mysterious ways I was fascinated with Dorothy and I wondered if she would ever consider having a relationship with a lion, but I have to admit that most of my attention was directed at her little dog Toto because, after all, he was a source of meat protein and I had had enough of those damn flying monkeys. Randy Blanton Murfreesboro, TN
The children of Hamelin were led away by a pied piper (it's common knowledge) to parts unknown; whither they went is now herein revealed, however the precise location is cloaked in accordance with International Fantasy Regulation IFR.02.3a governing site specifics as, for example, in any Harry Potter story the locations are indeed identified, but just you try and find them. P.S.Hamilton Pearland, TX
"What are you doing in my bedroom at this time of night, Ernie, and why are you grinning at me with those sharp teeth and how come you've been spending so much time with the Count lately, and why has Big Bird disappeared, and you should really do something about that breath, or my name isn't Bert the muppet." Vicki Nunn Gladstone, Queensland, Australia
Winner: Dark and Stormy Night It was a dark and stormy night, although technically it wasn't black or anything -- more of a gravy color like the spine of the 1969 Scribner's Sons edition of "A Farewell to Arms," and, truth be told, the storm didn't sound any more fierce than the opening to Leon Russell's 1975 classic, "Back to the Island." Kevin Hogg Cranbrook, BC Canada
Winner: Detective Patricia wrote out the phrase 'It was a dark and stormy night' exactly seventy-two times, which was the same number of times she stabbed her now quickly-rotting husband, and the same number of pages she ripped out of 'He's Just Not That Into You' by Greg Behrendt to scatter around the room -- not because she was obsessive compulsive, or had any sentimental attachment to the number seventy-two, but because she'd always wanted to give those quacks at CSI a hard time. Kari A. Stiller College Station, TX
Winner: Fantasy Fiction "Why does every task in the Realm of Zithanor have to be a quest?" Baldak of Erthorn, handyman to the Great Wizard Zarthon, asked rhetorically as he began his journey began to find the Holy Hammer of Taloria and the Sacred Nail of Ikthillia so Baldak could hang one of Zarthon's mediocre watercolors, which was an art critique Baldak kept to himself unlike his predecessor, whom Zarthon turned into the Picture Frame of Torathank. SSG Kevin Craver Fort Polk, LA
Runner-Up The dragon cast his wet, rheumy eyes, heavy-lidded with misery, over his kingdom-a malodorous, rot-ridden swamp, with moss cloaking brooding, gloomy cypresses, tree trunks like decayed teeth rising from stagnant ponds, creatures with mildewed fur and scales whom the meanest roadside zoo would have rejected--and hoped the antidepressants would kick in soon. Constance Barrett Ruby, NY
Winner: Historical Fiction Sphincter, the gladiator, girded his loins in preparation for today's games, glad to be part of the season opener since he hadn't been sure until yesterday that his contract would be renewed, given his slump during the Germans-versus-lions series but he knew that swatting Germans into the lion's pit was trickier than it looked and he told the officials that they should look at his other stats, not just Huns batted in. Robert Peltzer Baltimore, MD
Runner-Up A column of five hundred Roman foot soldiers - a column held together by the plaster of courage -- advanced on a teeming sea of rebellious slaves -- slaves who had, ironically, built most of Rome's columns, although they actually used lime and not plaster to cement the structures, and though it is perhaps more historically precise to describe the soldiers' column as bound by the lime of courage, that doesn't really have the same adventurous ring to it. Mark Hawthorne Rohnert Park, CA
Dishonorable Mention "Wet leaves stuck to the spinning wagon wheels like feathers to a freshly tarred heretic, reminding those who watched them of the endless movement of the leafy earth-or so they would have, if only those fifteenth-century onlookers had believed that the earth actually rotated, which they didn't, which is why it was heretical to say that it did-and which is the reason why the wagon held a freshly tarred heretic in the first place." Alf Seegert Salt Lake City, UT
Winner: Purple Prose Horatio Keelhaul sailed buoyantly up Cutter Street ironclad in his resolve to torpedo the reviewer of his literary launches who threatened his Titanic reputation with accusations of relying solely on nautical parlance to propel his gondolaic characters through the sinuous canals of his plots. Rick Holinger Geneva, IL
Runner-Up She walked toward him, her dress billowing in the wind -- not a calm and predictable billows like the sea, but more like the billowing of a mildewed shower curtain in a cheap motel where one has to dance around to avoid touching it while trying to rinse off soap. Kristin Harbuck Bozeman, MT
Dishonorable Mentions "The night resembled nothing so much as the nose of a giant Labrador in excellent health: cold, black, and wet." Devery Doleman Brooklyn, NY
After months of pent-up emotions like a caffeine-addict trying to kick the habit, Cathy finally let the tears come, at first dripping sporadically like an old clogged percolator, then increasing slowly like a 10-cup coffeemaker with an automatic drip, and eventually pouring out and noisily wailing like a cappuccino maker complete with slurping froth.
Chris Bui Pensacola, FL
After she realized the man she had fallen in love with was her long lost twin brother and they must break up immediately, they shared one last kiss that left a bitter yet sweet taste in her mouth--kind of like throwing up after eating a junior mint.
Tami Farmer Rome, GA
The rising sun crawled over the ridge and slithered across the hot barren terrain into every nook and cranny like grease on a Denny's grill in the morning rush, but only until eleven o'clock when they switch to the lunch menu.
Lester Guyse Portland, OR
Mitzi's wet T-shirt clung to her torso like paint on the nose cone of a jumbo jet.
James Macdonald Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Coincidentally, just as Rose hung out the third sheet out to dry, it started to rain down in sheets and not the soft kind like a fine 400-count Egyptian cotton, but more harsh like a cheap poly blend but even so, Rose didn't notice as she was three sheets to the wind.
Barbara Bridges Sierra Madre, CA
The golden-haired dawn curled back the fading face of night in a perpetual coiffure like an Ace comb in God's hand parting the day, making pompadours of mountains, crew cuts of Kansas wheat fields, and trendy cuts of the oceans' rolling waves.
Gordon Grant Savannah, GA
As the sun sank low beyond the glistening horizon, even that far into the dusk, the violent rays shot up from below, lighting up the undersides of the clouds in magnificent oranges and golds, turning the owls and bats and starlings black against the sky and sending chills through Myrna, who paused from squeezing the last lactic acid from the dripping curds inside the cheesecloth.
Ed Buhrer Louisa, VA
Our fearless heroine (well, mostly fearless: she is deathly afraid of caterpillars, not the fuzzy little brown ones but the colossal green ones that terrorized her while she was playing in her grandmother's garden when she was just five or six years old, which, coincidentally, was also when she discovered that shaving cream really does not taste like whipped cream) awakened with a start.
Alison Heft Lititz, PA
Winner: Romance Sandra had waited and wished for Gary to come sweep her off her feet, feeling just like Lois Lane waiting for her handsome, masculine Superman to come fly her away from the humdrum of everyday life, but Gary had never come, and so she'd ended up with Herman, a man as bald as Lex Luthor with worse eyesight than Clark Kent and the maturity level of Jimmy Olsen. Mary P. Potts Bradenton, FL
Runner-Up "Oh my God!" Amber whispered as the compressor throbbed to life, shuddered rhythmically towards its inevitable conclusion, and shot ninety pounds of sultry air through custom-bored, cold-drawn, boss-lock-fitted crimp-couplings as Chuck Key glanced up with a smile that only tire shop guys can smile. Jere Hudson Ashland, OR
Dishonorable Mentions Sandra had waited and wished for Gary to come sweep her off her feet, feeling just like Lois Lane waiting for her handsome, masculine Superman to come fly her away from the humdrum of everyday life, but Gary had never come, and so she'd ended up with Herman, a man as bald as Lex Luthor with worse eyesight than Clark Kent and the maturity level of Jimmy Olsen. Mary P. Potts Bradenton, FL
Looking sideways at Thomas, Mireille slowly removed her scarf, waiting . . . hoping . . . praying that when he came close enough to smell the delectable fragrance of her long, luscious waves that he wasn't going to start sneezing or sniffling or rubbing his eyes, because those were tell-tale signs of his allergies acting up, and if they did, he would know that she had been out rolling around in the lavender fields with Luc again.
Keriann Noble Murray, UT
Garwood dearly loved his time spent in the goat-house, where he could court Thordia-- regaling her with his prowess at treating goat-udder growths, shoveling manure like a nuclear chemist trying to bottle the Christmas spirit, and making the precious fermented limburger of the lactate goat secretions.
Brendan Wright Portland, OR
Winner: Science Fiction Long, long ago in a galaxy far away, in General Hospital born I was, and quite happy were my parents, but when a youngling still I was, moved we did. Mary Potts Oneco, Fl
Spy: Winner The double agent looked up from his lunch of Mahi-Mahi and couscous and realized that he must escape from Walla Walla to Bora Bora to come face-to-face with his arch enemy by taking out his 30-30 and shooting off his nemesis' ear-to-ear grin so he could wave bye-bye to this duplicitous life, but the chances of him pulling this off were only so-so, much less than 50-50. Charles Jaworski North Pole, AK
Winner: Vile Puns Falcon was her name and she was quite the bird of prey, sashaying past her adolescent admirers from one anchor store to another, past the kiosks where earrings longed to lie upon her lobes and sunglasses hoped to nestle on her nose, seemingly the beginning of a beautiful friendship with whomsoever caught the eye of the mall tease, Falcon. Jay Dardenne Baton Rouge, LA
Runner-Up: Max thought the night-time burglary at the California surfing museum would be a safe caper, but that was before he spotted the security cop riding a bull mastiff, blond hair blowing in the wind, and noticed the blue-and-white sign wired to the cyclone fence, "Guard dude on doggy." Jim Dehn Clovis, CA
Winner: Western As soon as Sherriff Russell heard Bradshaw say, "This town ain't big enough for the both of us," he inadvertantly visualized a tiny chalk-line circle with a town sign that said 'population 1,' and the two of them both trying to stand inside of it rather ineffectively, leaning this way and that, trying to keep their balance without stepping outside of the line, and that was why he was smiling when Bradshaw shot him. Keriann Noble Murray, UT
Runner-Up: It was high noon as Dusty rode into town, slumped low in the saddle on a horse so blinded by thirst from their long days in the desert that you could follow their slow shuffle to the local tavern by the hollow sound of a horse head against the worn clapboard buildings that lined the town's only road. Chip Haynes Clearwater, FL
Miscellaneous Dishonorable Mentions For the fifteenth time that evening my narcoleptic lover opened his eyes, smiled at me, and said, "Good morning!" Becca Mallary Bradford, VT
The assassin drew his dagger - a simple line drawing in black ink on rose-tinted vellum.
Mike Bender Portland, OR
Inside his cardboard box, Greg heated a dented can of Spaghetti-O's over a small fire made from discarded newspapers, then cracked open his last can of shoplifted generic beer to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his embarkation on a career as a freelance writer.
Lawrence Person Austin, TX
Derwin Thoryndike vowed to place a 14-carat engagement ring on the finger of Glenda-Sue Ellington, so now all he had to do was save up enough money to buy the ring, get it inscribed, and then locate a person named Glenda-Sue Ellington and convince her to marry him.
Harvey McCluskey Vancouver WA
James found "Spider-Man 2" to be quite an average movie, like a superhero episode of "Dawson's Creek," but not from the excellent first season, nor from the horrible final seasons, but rather from somewhere in the mid-run of the show, when it wasn't as good as it used to be but it didn't totally suck yet.
Edo Steinberg Beer-Sheva, Israel
Rocko Gallante was as slick as a broken egg on a linoleum floor and as polished as a Washington apple that had been spit on and rubbed to a gleaming finish on the tail of a very clean shirt.
Claudia Fields Santa Barbara, CA
I gave some of the books of contest winners to law professor/writer Randy Barnett, who has a column about bad legal writing in California Lawyer, and encouraged him to create a bad legal court opinion contest.
As the last moonbeams surrendered to the first kiss of the morning sun, Kirsten giggled softly as she let him slowly and tenderly undress her, one item at a time, until she was down to her last piece of clothing which he would soon take off to reveal that secret which only she knew -- her diaper was poopie.
"He's Just Not That Into You" ping :-).
This one's pretty good too.
After months of pent-up emotions like a caffeine-addict trying to kick the habit, Cathy finally let the tears come, at first dripping sporadically like an old clogged percolator, then increasing slowly like a 10-cup coffeemaker with an automatic drip, and eventually pouring out and noisily wailing like a cappuccino maker complete with slurping froth. Chris Bui Pensacola, FL
The freelance writer entry got the biggest LOL from me, but I got less laughs out of it this year than in years past.
bump for later....
Actually, "It was a dark and stormy night." was a great opening sentence when Bulwer-Lytton wrote it. There's a reason why other people steal words and turn them into cliches.
I enjoy these entries, but the contestants are practicing in a vein of bad writing that Bulwer-Lytton would have scorned. Maybe the contest should be renamed in honor of the author of The DaVinci Code...
From a past contest....
10. As a scientist, Throckmorton knew that if he were ever to break wind in the echo chamber, he would never hear the end of it.
9. Just beyond the Narrows the river widens.
8. With a curvaceous figure that Venus would have envied, a tanned, unblemished oval face framed with lustrous thick brown hair, deep azure-blue eyes fringed with long black lashes, perfect teeth that vied for competition, and a small straight nose, Marilee had a beauty that defied description.
7. Andre, a simple peasant, had only one thing on his mind as he crept along the East wall: Andre creep... Andre creep... Andre creep.
6. Stanislaus Smedley, a man always on the cutting edge of narcissism, was about to give his body and soul to a back-alley sex-change surgeon to become the woman he loved.
5. Although Ellen had an abnormal fear of mice, it did not keep her from eeking out a living at a local pet store.
4. Stanley looked quite bored and somewhat detached, but then penguins often do.
3. Like an overripe beefsteak tomato rimmed with cottage cheese, the corpulent remains of Santa Claus lay dead on the hotel floor.
2. Mike Hardware was the kind of private eye who didn't know the meaning of the word fear, a man who could laugh in the face of danger and spit in the eye of death -- in short, a moron with suicidal tendencies.
AND THE WINNER IS...
1. The sun oozed over the horizon, shoved aside darkness, crept along the greensward, and, with sickly fingers, pushed through the castle window, revealing the pillaged princess, hand at throat, crown asunder, gaping in frenzied horror at the sated, sodden amphibian lying beside her, disbelieving the magnitude of the frog's deception, screaming madly, "You lied!"
> Actually, "It was a dark and stormy night." was a great opening sentence when Bulwer-Lytton wrote it.
It still is. Even greater: "Call me Ishmael."
> I enjoy these entries, but the contestants are practicing in a vein of bad writing that Bulwer-Lytton would have scorned.
I think I might have started reading Last Days of Pompeii many years ago...
Remember the Bad Hemingway Contest? Now that was a hoot :)
And inspired Richard Wagner's first opera.
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