The 2008 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest

The winners of the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest for bad opening lines for novels were announced a few days ago, but word is slow to get out because "many newspapers have allowed themselves to be distracted by a large athletic contest being staged somewhere in Asia." The winning entry:
Theirs was a New York love, a checkered taxi ride burning rubber, and like the city their passion was open 24/7, steam rising from their bodies like slick streets exhaling warm, moist, white breath through manhole covers stamped "Forged by DeLaney Bros., Piscataway, N.J."

This gem was written by 41-yar-old Garrison Spik of Washington, DC.
Garrison Spik is the 26th grand prize winner of the contest that began at San Jose State University in 1982.

An international literary parody contest, the competition honors the memory (if not the reputation) of Victorian novelist Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873). The goal of the contest is childishly simple: entrants are challenged to submit bad opening sentences to imaginary novels. Although best known for "The Last Days of Pompeii" (1834), which has been made into a movie three times, originating the expression "the pen is mightier than the sword," and phrases like "the great unwashed" and "the almighty dollar," Bulwer-Lytton opened his novel Paul Clifford (1830) with the immortal words that the "Peanuts" beagle Snoopy plagiarized for years, "It was a dark and stormy night."

Winners were also named in the categories of adventure, children's literature, detective, fantasy fiction, historical fiction, purple prose, romance, spy fiction, vile puns, and western. See all the winners, runners-up, and dishonorable mentions at the San Jose State University Dept. of English & Comparative Literature site. -via a comment at mental_floss

Newest 5
Newest 5 Comments

Otto: You would be correct if the entire quote was "It was a dark and stormy night". Perhaps you will more fully understand when you read the full first sentence:

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)
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I never really understood why that poor guys gets bashed for "It was a dark and stormy night." I fully understood what he meant. Some nights are darker than others; take a night with a full moon compared to a night with a new moon for example. So combine a storm and a moonless night, and you get a "dark and stormy night". I admit he didn't convey his allusion perfectly but I got it.

English majors take themselves far too seriously I guess.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Login to comment.

Email This Post to a Friend
"The 2008 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest"

Separate multiple emails with a comma. Limit 5.


Success! Your email has been sent!

close window

This website uses cookies.

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using this website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

I agree
Learn More