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Monday, November 9, 2015

It was a dark and stormy night - 2015 winners plus a selection of greats from the Bulwer-Lytton bad fiction writing contest

Wikipedia: The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (BLFC) is a tongue-in-cheek contest that takes place annually and is sponsored by the English Department of San Jose State University in San Jose, California. Entrants are invited "to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels" – that is, deliberately bad. 

The contest was started in 1982 by Professor Scott E. Rice of that university and is named for English novelist and playwright Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, author of the much-quoted first line "It was a dark and stormy night". This opening, from the 1830 novel Paul Clifford (wiki), continues floridly:
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.

A couple of noteworthy winners from the 2015 contest - personal past favorites are below:

This year's Children's Literature winner:
The doctors all agreed the inside of Charlie’s intestinal tract looked like some dark, dank subway system in a decaying inner city, blackened polyps hanging from every corner like tiny ticking terrorist time bombs, waiting to burst forth in cancerous activity; however, to Timmy the Tapeworm this was home.
~ E. David Moulton, Summerville, SC
And the Historical Fiction winner:
With his lamp giving off a dull yellow glow General Washington sat up late into the night contemplating his problems: Not enough food, not enough clothing, not enough men, and that idiot Private Doodle who kept putting feathers in his cap and calling it macaroni.
~ Dan Leyde, Shoreline, WA

The selection below are winners, runners-up or honorable mentions in one of the several categories of entries.

It was a dark and stormy night, dark like the inside of a spare tire in the trunk of a 1957 Chevy sitting up on blocks in a tumbledown barn somewhere in rural Ohio, and stormy like the romance of Pete Kimball and his girlfriend Betty Lou, who used to make out in the back seat of that Chevy when it was new and shiny and the Dell-Vikings were singing “Come Go With Me”; but this is not their story, it just starts out dark and stormy like that.

~David G. La France, Burbank, CA

Before they met, his heart was a frozen block of ice, scarred by the skate blades of broken relationships, then she came along and like a beautiful Zamboni flooded his heart with warmth, scraped away the ugly slushy bits, and dumped them in the empty parking lot of his soul.

~Howie McLennon, Ottawa, ON

A single sparkling tear fell from Little Mary’s cheek onto the sidewalk, then slid into the storm drain, there to join in its course the mighty waters of the Los Angeles River and, eventually, Long Beach Harbor, with its state-of-the-art container-freight processing facilities.

~Bill Mac Iver, Berkeley, CA

Despite the vast differences it their ages, ethnicity, and religious upbringing, the sexual chemistry between Roberto and Heather was the most amazing he had ever experienced; and for the entirety of the Labor Day weekend they had sex like monkeys on espresso, not those monkeys in the zoo that fling their feces at you, but more like the monkeys in the wild that have those giant red butts, and access to an espresso machine.

~Dennis Barry, Dothan, AL

Her tepid tongue explored my mouth like a confused gopher, the tip giving way to the dorsum, its length and breadth tempting my pharyngeal reflex as no tongue had ever tempted my pharyngeal reflex, our passion alone holding back a filet of sole, pommes frites, and a superb Sauvignon Blanc.

~John J. White, Merritt Island, FL

As he told her that he loved her she gazed into his eyes, wondering, as she noted the infestation of eyelash mites, the tiny deodicids burrowing into his follicles to eat the greasy sebum therein, each female laying up to 25 eggs in a single follicle, causing inflammation, whether the eyes are truly the windows of the soul; and, if so, his soul needed regrouting.

~Cathy Bryant, Manchester, England

As an ornithologist, George was fascinated by the fact that urine and feces mix in birds’ rectums to form a unified, homogeneous slurry that is expelled through defecation, although eying Greta's face, and sensing the reaction of the congregation, he immediately realized he should have used a different analogy to describe their relationship in his wedding vows.

~David Pepper, Hermosa Beach, CA

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, Orleans, Ontario

As his small boat scudded before a brisk breeze under a sapphire sky dappled with cerulean clouds with indigo bases, through cobalt seas that deepened to navy nearer the boat and faded to azure at the horizon, Ian was at a loss as to why he felt blue. 

~Mike Pedersen, North Berwick, ME

As the dark and mysterious stranger approached, Angela bit her lip anxiously, hoping with every nerve, cell, and fiber of her being that this would be the one man who would understand – who would take her away from all this – and who would not just squeeze her boob and make a loud honking noise, as all the others had.

~Ali Kawashima, Greensboro, NC

The gutters of Manhattan teemed with the brackish slurry indicative of a significant though not incapacitating snowstorm three days prior, making it seem that God had tripped over Hoboken and spilled his smog-flavored slurpie all over the damn place.

~Eric Stoveken, Allentown, PA

As Oedipus watched his mother gracefully glide across the great hall, he felt a stirring in his loins which he immediately regretted but then quickly dismissed, for he knew if these wanton desires for his mother were wrong then someone would have named the condition by now, thus proving once again that where his emotions were concerned there was only one description for Oedipus … complex.

~Ted Begley, Lexington, KY

She had whispered wantonly, “Come to bed, Yul,” but was now staring in utter disgust because the green lava lamp was too revealingly bright as he fumbled to adjust his new Merken, a $300 pubic toupee that had looked like a steal on eBay, but now looked just like a wet Tribble that had inexplicably crawled up his crack from an old “Star Trek” episode.

~Barry Bozzone, Allentown, PA

Related post: Bad Sex in Fiction awards (some NSFW)

These contests always remind me of Vogon poetry as described in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
Vogon poetry is, of course, the third worst in the universe. The second worst is that of the Azgoths of Kria. During a recitation by their poet master Grunthos the Flatulent of his poem "Ode to a Small Lump of Green Putty I Found in My Armpit One Midsummer Morning", four of his audience died of internal hemorrhaging and the president of the Mid-Galactic Arts Nobbling Council survived only by gnawing one of his own legs off.
Grunthos was reported to have been "disappointed" by the poem's reception, and was about to embark on a reading of his 12-book epic entitled "My Favourite Bathtime Gurgles" when his own large intestine - in a desperate attempt to save life itself - leapt straight up through his neck and throttled his brain. The very worst poetry of all perished along with its creator, Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings of Sussex, in the destruction of the planet Earth. Vogon poetry is mild by comparison.
Charles Schultz, creator of the Peanuts cartoon, frequently had Snoopy sitting on top of his doghouse working on his barely-started novel which began with "It was a dark and stormy night" and, if fact, published a book entitles It was a Dark and Stormy Night, Snoopy.

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