Monday, August 19, 2013


Bulwer-Lytton Howlers 2012


Since 1982, the English Department at San Jose State University has sponsored the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, a whimsical literary competition that challenges entrants to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels. The contest's tagline says: where "WWW" means "Wretched Writers Welcome."

The contest was the brainchild of Professor Scott Rice. Sentenced to write a seminar paper on a minor Victorian novelist, he chose the man with the funny hyphenated name, Edward George Earle Bulwer-Lytton, Baron of Lytton (1803-73), who was best known for perpetrating The Last Days of Pompeii, Eugene Aram, The Coming Race, and Paul Clifford, whose famous opener has been plagiarized repeatedly by the cartoon beagle Snoopy. No less impressively, Lytton coined phrases that have become common parlance in our language: "the pen is mightier than the sword," "the great unwashed," and "the almighty dollar."

Baron of LyttonIn his researches, Dr. Rice unearthed this pearl of an opener...

"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)

And so was born the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. Here are some of the winners for 2012...

Historical Fiction
The "clunk" of the guillotine blade’s release reminded Marie Antoinette, quite briefly, of the sound of the wooden leg of her favorite manservant as he not-quite-silently crossed the polished floors of Versailles to bring her another tray of petit fours. —Leslie Craven

Purple Prose
William, his senses roused by a warm fetid breeze, hoped it was an early spring's equinoxal thaw causing rivers to swell like the blood-engorged gumlines of gingivitis, loosening winter's plaque, exposing decay, and allowing the seasonal pot-pouris of Mother Nature’s morning breath to permeate the surrounding ether, but then he awoke to the unrelenting waves of his wife's halitosis. —Guy Foisy

Romance
"I'll never get over him," she said to herself and the truth of that statement settled into her brain the way glitter settles on to a plastic landscape in a Christmas snow globe when she accepted the fact that she was trapped in bed between her half-ton boyfriend and the wall when he rolled over on to her nightgown and passed out, leaving her no way to climb out. —Karen Hamilton


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