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Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest|
(announced July 15, 2003)
An international literary parody contest sponsored by the Department of English at San Jose State University, CA, the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest honours the memory if not the reputation of Victorian novelist Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton (1803–73). Entrants are challenged to submit bad opening sentences to imaginary novels. Although best known for The Last Days of Pompeii (1834) and the phrase "the pen is mightier than the sword," Bulwer-Lytton opened his novel Paul Clifford (1830) with the immortal words, "It was a dark and stormy night."
I have been enjoying the results of this contest for a long time. This year, as Editor of The Voyageur website, I venture to reproduce a selection of what I found the funniest from the 2003 contest winners, and encourage visitors to read the complete list on the contest site. I also encourage visitors to enter the contest, which is an annual event!—Karen Bennett.
They had but one last remaining night together, so they embraced each other as tightly as that two-flavor entwined string cheese that is orange and yellowish-white, the orange probably being a bland Cheddar and the white ... Mozzarella, although it could possibly be Provolone or just plain American, as it really doesn't taste distinctly dissimilar from the orange, yet they would have you believe it does by coloring it differently.
——Mariann Simms, Wetumpka, AL
The flock of geese flew overhead in a "V" formation—not in an old-fashioned-looking Times New Roman kind of a "V," branched out slightly at the two opposite arms at the top of the "V," nor in a more modern-looking, straight and crisp, linear Arial sort of "V" (although since they were flying, Arial might have been appropriate), but in a slightly asymmetric, tilting off-to-one-side sort of italicized Courier New-like "V"—and LaFonte knew that he was just the type of man to know the difference.
——John Dotson (U.S. Naval Officer), Arlington, VA
Detective Inspector Mike Norman slipped six fingers into his overcoat pocket, five of them clad in a latex glove and attached to his palm, while the sixth was wrapped in a plastic evidence bag and apparently belonged to the kidnapped pianist Ricardo Moore, or, as it now seemed likely, the kidnapped ex-pianist Ricardo Moore.
——Alan Campbell, Edinburgh, Scotland
He knew that, at most, he had five seconds left to live, one one-thousand, two one-thousand, the gun barrel pointing at his face like a scolding finger, three Mississippi, four Mississippi, the hired assassin Ricardošs grip tightening on the trigger, five white elephantsS SIX white elephants, and then a bright blast of light as he wondered which was really the most accurate way to count five seconds.
——Vincent M. Zito, Monroe, CT
Dishonorable Mention, Romance
There was something unnerving about the way Jim looked at Doris that day, something which made her tremble, which brought back painful childhood memories of a boat trip off the coast of Western Finland flooding back like a flood, flowing back, onto a boat, oh, you see why it was so difficult for her to get the memories out of her head once they had flowed in there.
——Michael Minihan, Johns Hill, Waterford, Ireland
Winner: Science Fiction
Colonel Cleatus Yorbville had been one seriously bored astronaut for the first few months of his diplomatic mission on the third planet of the Frangelicus XIV system, but all that had changed on the day he'd discovered that his tiny, multipedal and infinitely hospitable alien hosts were not only edible but tasted remarkably like that stuff that's left on the pan after you've made cinnamon buns and burned them a little.
——Mark Silcox, Auburn, AL
Brock de-holstered his Maxi-Hurt 3000 phaser and blasted off the Narguwullian trooper's head, the way a teenager pops the head off a zit, except of course on a much larger scale because those Narguwullians are big suckers, and although Brock had personally had some door stoppers in his teenage years, most zits aren't twelve feet high, blue, and liable to rip your arms off if you look at them the wrong way, and are also much less inclined to leave a mess on the flight deck.
——Geoff Blackwell, Bundaberg QLD Australia
Standing in the concessions car of the Orient Express as it hissed and lurched away from the station, Special Agent Chu could feel enemy eyes watching him from the inky shadows and knew that he was being tested, for although he had never tasted a plug of tobacco in his life, he was impersonating an arms dealer known to be a connoisseur, so he knew that he, the Chosen One, Chow Chu, had no choice but to choose the choicest chew on the choo-choo.
——Loren Haarsma, Grand Rapids, MI
It was a bright, beautiful day in Baltimore—not one of those dark and stormy nights in a land far away where no normal person could ever have lived because it was inhabited by evil sorcerers and fire-breathing dragons—so Forbes MacVain decided to eat his tuna sandwich on a bench overlooking the Inner Harbor while he waited for Yuri to make the dead drop.
——Patrick Bomgardner, Baltimore, MD
Winner: Vile Pun
"The Insect Keeper General, sitting astride his giant hovering aphid, surveyed the battlefield which reeked with the stench of decay and resonated with the low drone of the tattered and dying mutant swarms as their legs kicked forlornly at the sky before turning to his master and saying, 'My Lord, your flies are undone.'"
——Andrew Vincent, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England
The Hoss eyed the deserted town square like a hungry mother vulture hoping to catch a decaying carcass to feed her squawking young, for he knew that as sure as a norther would blow in from the Rockies, though actually the northers in these parts were usually coming from Canada, sort of up around Lethbridge but not all the way to Banff, he knew that Jimmy One-Tooth and his band of toughs would be back for their gold.
——Tracy Edmondson, Austin, TX
Dishonorable Mentions, Dark & Stormy Night Category
As Rachel glared at Clarissa dancing in her smart gilt cage, her jutting decolletage going bubbuda bubbuda to the throbbing disco beat, Rachel clutched the lamb shishkebab skewer she had hidden in her purse, a weapon she now intended to use on Clarissa with deadly force once she dislodged the last piece of Vedalia onion which stubbornly clung to it.
——Melina Costello, Portland, OR
Our story begins in the farthest reaches of the frozen tundra where, due to the axillary convergence of the solar angle of incidence and the latitudinal reflective attitude of the quiescent magnetospheric photoreceptors, it stays light for a really long time.
——Marsha Engelbrecht, Lafayette, LA
Penny was always there for me even when she was somewhere else because we—Penny and me—were literally, though not really, two peas in a pod: round, green—the naīve kind—and overall, well, pea-like; and whilst our un-leguminous domicile was not pod-like, it was padlocked.
——Brian Nash, Derry, NH
"Failure" was simply not a word that would ever cross the lips of Miss Evelyn Duberry, mainly because Evelyn, a haughty socialite with fire-red hair and a coltish gait, could pronounce neither the letters "f" nor "r" as a result of an unfortunate kissing gesture made many years earlier toward her beloved childhood parrot, Snippy.
——David Kenyon, Toronto, ON
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