Saturday, December 28, 2019

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest 2019 Winners & Dishonorable Mentions

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 opening sentences to the worst of all possible novels.

The contest was the misbegotten brainchild of Professor Scott Rice, whose graduate school excavations unearthed what he took to be the source of the line “It was a dark and stormy night.” Sentenced to write a seminar paper on a minor Victorian novelist, he chose the man with the funny hyphenated name, Edward George Bulwer-Lytton. Best known for The Last Days of Pompeii, his novel Paul Clifford began with the famous opener that has been plagiarized repeatedly by the cartoon beagle, Snoopy.

The Bulwer Lytton Fiction Contest 2019

2019 Grand Prize

Space Fleet Commander Brad Brad sat in silence, surrounded by a slowly dissipating cloud of smoke, maintaining the same forlorn frown that had been fixed upon his face since he’d accidentally destroyed the phenomenon known as time, thirteen inches ago.
-- Maxwell Archer, Mt Pleasant, Ontario, Canada

Grand Panjandrum's Special Award

Emile Zola wandered the dank and soggy streets of a gloomy Parisian night, the injustice of the Dreyfus affair weighing on him like a thousand baguettes, dreaming of some massage or therapy to relieve the tension and pain in his aching shoulders and back, and then suddenly he thought of his Italian friends and their newly invented warm water bath with air jets and he rapturously exclaimed that oft misquoted declaration — "Jacuzzi!" ​
-- Robert R Moore, North Falmouth, MA



Realising that his symptoms indicated a virtually undetectable, fast acting neurotoxin, CIA coroner Quinn Abner frantically wrote up the details, lay on the floor and, as a professional courtesy, did his best to draw a chalk outline of himself.
-- Jeremy Das, Loughborough, England

Dishonorable Mentions

Olivia followed her breasts into my office where I was studying the dead flies on the window sill and dropped a large brown envelope on my desk, which rearranged the dust as it came to rest next to my right elbow, causing me to lose interest in the flies as I watched her walk away, watched carefully while wondering if the motion of her hips could bring a dead man back to life, which led to wondering what she could do to a man who was still alive.
--Will Dennehy, Cambridge, MD

As he pounded on the door, Billy ‘Four-Toes’ Capalone, wondered, not for the first time, if he wouldn’t have been better off in the joint, or even taking a concrete nap, but instead, he straightened his tie and gripped his bible, determined not to blow his cover in the Jehovah’s Witness Protection Program.
--Arlen Feldman, Colorado Springs, CO

Eyes bleary from yet another night of fruitlessly staking out the Ritz Motel in West Hollywood’s seedier quarter, hoping to get some usable dirt on Mrs. Hennigan’s wayward hubby Bill, Niles Cranworth, P.I., pushed the start button, cranked the wheel over, and pointed his well-traveled Chrysler 300 southward on La Cienega Boulevard (“La Cienega,” he noted with irony, being Spanish for “the cienega”).
--Andrew Lundberg, Los Angeles, CA

Detective Wilhelm Schmidt’s raspy voice poured through the telephone receiver like a dump truck of gravel unburdening its load—much like the trucks that worked around the clock at Rohrer’s Quarry off of 1-81, transporting payloads of lime, sandstone, crushed rock, and gypsum—though with Detective Schmidt’s heavy German accent, excavation on its own would not suffice, and a second, albeit entirely different industry would need to be invoked to really paint a crystal clear picture of his voice.
--Cody Hanna, Lancaster, PA

Prisoner #4420991 selected two large snow cones for his pre-execution last meal, much to everyone’s surprise, but #4420991 knew that death by lethal injection would come as sweet relief when balanced against the snow cone headache he expected to have.
--Greg Homer, Diamond Springs, CA

“I remember the moon had a face like Hannibal Lecter and that the wind blowing through the trees reminded me of the music from Psycho,” stated Effie Laudermilk as she sat in the courtroom stand on trial for the murder (which she vehemently denied) of her boyfriend whose partially eaten body was found in his car at the bottom of a pond.
--Randy Blanton, Murfreesboro, TN

Dark & Stormy 


It was a dark and stormy night, and since this was Miami in July and everyone had left their convertible tops down, the rain fell in Cadillacs.
--Andrew Lundberg, Los Angeles, CA

Dishonorable Mentions 

It was a Dark & Stormy Night; the rain fell in torrents outside the Breast Western—the country-themed strip club where the exotic dance duo of Stormy and Dark rattled the house (for it was a Tuesday), and fiercely agitated the lustful flames of the patrons who struggled in the darkness to rearrange their Wranglers.
-- Coby J. Scott, Hollywood, CA

It was a dark and stormy night; the suburb was devoid of most life and color, and all you could see was the dull gaslights, dark clouds, and deep indigo sky; but to Jade, it was almost the same, because, you know, according to modern studies, dogs can see only blue, yellow, and grey. Saraswathy Ashok, Trivandrum, India

He was a dark and stormy knight; his blows fell in torrents -- except at occasional intervals, when they were checked by a violent gust of wind to which he fiercely agitated a scanty flame in his struggle to light it, for there was jesting in his jousting.
--John Change, Crafers, Australia

It was a bright and shiny day, the sun scorched the pavement—except under a spreading chestnut tree, where it flattened the shadows and starkly enhanced the contrasts (for it is in Hollywood that the script begins), illuminating the story line, and manifestly motivating the florid actors who fussed and fumed about their lines.
S--Kevin Anderson, Kiel, Germany

Read the winners and dishonorable mentions in other categories here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Brilliant, all of them! Thank you for posting.