Tuesday, July 31, 2007

They Ought to Be So Proud. I Think ...

One of my first posts for Limbo had to do with the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. And here I am, writing about it again. Because I can.

Inspired by English novelist and playwright Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, who is infamous for coming up with the much-quoted first line “It was a dark and stormy night,” this light-hearted competition asks writers to create the worst opening sentences they can for books that (oh, thank goodness) are not destined to be completed. The contest is sponsored by the English Department at California’s San Jose State University and has been taking place ever since 1982. As newspaperman-blogger Dave Knadler characterizes it at Dave’s Fiction Warehouse, the Bulwer-Lytton competition is “a sobering reminder on the perils of handling dashes and subordinate clauses without parental supervision.” Well phrased, indeed.

This year’s Grand Prize winner is Jim Gleeson, a 47-year-old media technician from Madison, Wisconsin, who came up with this hilarious example of overwriting:
Gerald began--but was interrupted by a piercing whistle which cost him ten percent of his hearing permanently, as it did everyone else in a ten-mile radius of the eruption, not that it mattered much because for them “permanently” meant the next ten minutes or so until buried by searing lava or suffocated by choking ash--to pee.
But then there are awards given in genre categories, including my favorite, Detective Fiction. This year’s winner in that category comes from Bob Millar of Hässelby, Sweden:
I’d been tailing this guy for over an hour while he tried every trick in the book to lose me: going down side streets, doubling back, suddenly veering into shop doorways, jumping out again, crossing the street, looking for somewhere to make the drop, and I was going to be there when he did it because his disguise as a postman didn’t have me fooled for a minute.
I think I like the runner-up just as much, though. It comes from Mark Schweizer of Hopkinsville, Kentucky:
She’d been strangled with a rosary--not a run-of-the-mill rosary like you might get at a Catholic bookstore where Hail Marys are two for a quarter and indulgences are included on the back flap of the May issue of “Nuns and Roses” magazine, but a fancy heirloom rosary with pearls, rubies, and a solid gold cross, a rosary with attitude, the kind of rosary that said, “Get your Jehovah’s Witness butt off my front porch.”
Also worth mentioning is this runner-up in the Western category, submitted by Syler Womack of Eustace, Texas:
Slim pulled the branding iron away from the yearling’s seared flank and looked up to see Tuffy Edwards, the boss’s daughter, trotting towards him on her sorrel mare, Brandi, wearing absolutely nothing but tight blue jeans and a green tank top--her gi-normous, heaving, unrestrained hooters resembling nothing so much as a pair of fat Charolais heifers trying to beat each other through a loading chute.
Don’t let me steal away your enjoyment of reading these wonderfully awful story starts for yourself, however. This year’s compilation of winners, runners-up, and dishonorable mentions can be found here.

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