Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest winners
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 the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels. The contest was inspired by the minor Victorian novelist Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, whose novel Paul Clifford included the famous opener "It was a dark and stormy night," which was plagiarized repeatedly by the cartoon beagle Snoopy.
Here are a few of the winners:
The lovely woman-child Kaa was mercilessly chained to the cruel post
of the warrior-chief Beast, with his barbarous tribe now stacking wood at
her nubile feet, when the strong, clear voice of the poetic and heroic
Handsomas roared, "Flick your Bic, crisp that chick, and you'll feel my
steel through your last meal." — Steven Garman, Pensacola, FL (1984 Winner)
The countdown had stalled at T minus 69 seconds when Desiree, the first
female ape to go up in space, winked at me slyly and pouted her thick,
rubbery lips unmistakably—the first of many such advances during what
would prove to be the longest, and most memorable, space voyage of my
career. — Martha Simpson, Glastonbury, CT (1985 Winner)
Like an expensive sports car, fine-tuned and well-built, Portia was
sleek, shapely, and gorgeous, her red jumpsuit molding her body, which
was as warm as the seat covers in July, her hair as dark as new tires,
her eyes flashing like bright hubcaps, and her lips as dewy as the
beads of fresh rain on the hood; she was a woman driven—fueled by a
single accelerant—and she needed a man, a man who wouldn't shift from
his views, a man to steer her along the right road, a man like Alf
Romeo. — Rachel E. Sheeley, Williamsburg, IN (1988 Winner)
As the newest Lady Turnpot descended into the kitchen wrapped only
in her celery-green dressing gown, her creamy bosom rising and falling
like a temperamental soufflé, her tart mouth pursed in distaste, the
sous-chef whispered to the scullery boy, "I don't know what to make of
her." — Laurel Fortuner, Montendre, France (1992 Winner)
She wasn't really my type, a hard-looking but untalented reporter from
the local cat box liner, but the first second that the third-rate representative of the
fourth estate cracked open a new fifth of old Scotch, my sixth sense said seventh
heaven was as close as an eighth note from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, so,
nervous as a tenth grader drowning in eleventh-hour cramming for a physics exam,
I swept her into my longing arms, and, humming "The Twelfth of Never," I got lucky on
Friday the thirteenth. — "Buddy" Ocheltree, Port Townsend, WA (1993 Winner)
As the fading light of a dying day filtered through the window blinds,
Roger stood over his victim with a smoking .45, surprised at the
serenity that filled him after pumping six slugs into the bloodless
tyrant that mocked him day after day, and then he shuffled out of the
office with one last look back at the shattered computer terminal lying
there like a silicon armadillo left to rot on the information
superhighway. — Larry Brill, Austin, TX (1994 Winner)
"Ace, watch your head!" hissed Wanda urgently, yet somehow
provocatively, through red, full, sensuous lips, but he couldn't, you
know, since nobody can actually watch more than part of his nose or a
little cheek or lips if he really tries, but he appreciated her
warning. — Janice Estey, Aspen, CO (1996 Winner)
The heather-encrusted Headlands, veiled in fog as thick as smoke
in a crowded pub, hunched precariously over the moors, their rocky elbows
slipping off land's end, their bulbous, craggy noses thrust into the thick foam
of the North Sea like bearded old men falling asleep in their pints. — Gary
Dahl, Los Gatos, CA.
Theirs was a love that transcended time, ran roughshod over
moral dogmas, guffawed in the face of adversity, rent asunder the shackles
of social convention and took a sledgehammer to the crumbling walls of
religious doctrine: a passionate love, a tender love, a selfless love, an
undying love: not bad for two gerbils born on opposite sides of the glass
partition. — Kevin Ruston, England (Romance)
The night (like every night on Beta Forensis Epsilon, known to the members
of the Star Guard ground station as BFE, where the 30-degree axial tilt, 12-hour
rotation and ferocious radiation from Beta Forensis's F5 perpetual thermonuclear
blast churned the atmosphere like a rookie's stomach during zero-G training)
was dark and stormy. — William D. Draper, Manassas, VA. (Science Fiction)
Becky Flatbush was the quintessential Girl Cop: wisecracking, shrewd, prone
to PMS-inspired shooting “mistakes,” yet tender, compassionate and actually
very good with criminals when she was not feeling bloated and cranky and like
she wanted to kill someone just to relieve her monthly depression. — Laura
Sebastian, Miami, FL (Detective)
Jasper Tourmaline III was obsessed with thoughts of the lovely Coral
Olivine—the toss of her amber hair and the sparkle of her sapphire eyes whenever
she flashed her pearly whites through those pouting ruby lips that so starkly contrasted
her opalescent skin—but her peerless beauty belied her diamond-hard heart, for Coral had told Jasper that she could never love a jeweler. — Matthew Chambers, Parsons, W.V. (Purple Prose)
Chief Inspector Blancharde knew that this murder would be easy to solve—despite
the fact that the clever killer had apparently dismembered his victim, run the corpse through a chipper-shredder with some Colombian beans to throw off the police dogs, and had run the mix through the industrial-sized coffee maker in the diner owned by Joseph Tilby (the apparent murder victim)—if only he could figure out who would want a hot cup of Joe. — Matthew Chambers, Hambleton, WV (Detective)
Detective Driscoll had fallen off the wagon like a frozen turkey from a Goodwill helicopter and, like a talking elephant reunited with his old circus buddies after 50 years, he reminisced about the most memorable collars of his career—and he guffawed so hard that he fell off the barstool like another turkey from another helicopter as he recollected the time he arrested a mime for shoplifting and had to say "You have a right to remain silent. . . ."
— Vince Lucid, Pennellville, NY (Detective)
The blood dripped from his nose like hot grease from a roasting bratwurst pierced with a fork except that grease isn't red and the blood wasn't that hot and it wasn't a fork that poked him in the nose but there was a faint aroma of nutmeg in the air and it is of noses we speak not to mention that if you looked at it in the right profile, his nose did sort of look like a sausage. — Jim Sheppeck, Farmington, NM (Purple Prose)
It was a long and boring flight to Moscow's Sheremetevo Airport, and when Special Agent Jasper Smoot debarked and walked into the restroom marked "Dama" in Cyrillic he might have found the woman there attractive except she had more whiskers than a Civil War general and was pointing a crossbow at his head. — Michael McNierney, Greeley, CO (Spy Category)
As she lay in the embrace of her lover's arms following their ardent lovemaking, Sharon quietly hoped the moment could last forever, well, not really forever, since she had a pedicure in two hours, followed by lunch with her former college roommates, but at least for a long while or so. —Tom O'Leary, Covina, CA (Romance)
The sultan, having dutifully consulted with his palace sages, historians, and theologians, was finally convinced that nothing in the lore of his religion could guide him in the selection of a Network Operating System, and the conclusion was now clear to him, that though most computers in the Palace Administration should run under WINDOWS, yet the Harem Management must be served by UNIX. — Harry W. Hickey, Arlington, VA. (Vile Pun)
The sun beat like a molten hammer upon the sand that Jasper trudged upon, scorching his bare skin, baking his eyeballs dry, boiling his brains in his skull, and bleaching his hair to that lovely yellowy shade that perfectly matched his taupe shirt, the one that he could wear with either his suede jacket or the denim one. — Geoff Blackwell, Bundaberg QLD, Australia (Adventure)
I traveled long and hard to get here, blindfolded by suspicious gunmen, riding donkey-back for hours across inhospitable terrain, with no idea of whether the next valley would contain an ambush or a bomb, cut off from communication and denied the basic amenities of civilization, but finally I was able to meet with the terrorist leader and see the Polaroids of how silly I had looked riding blindfolded on a donkey. — Nina Schroeder, Damascus, MD (Adventure)
"Oh, dear, Mr. Hippity Hop the Bunny is late, and if he does not arrive soon, we shan't be able to hold a birthday party for Good Old Busy Beaver before it is time for me to leave the Fluffy Forrest, which shall be most disappointing indeed," said Susan, because she was completely smashed on the narcotics she had purchased in the alleyway behind the club from a foul-smelling yet reputable dealer called "Skullz." — Nicolas Juzda, Montreal, Quebec, Canada (Children's Literature)
It was a stark and dormie night at the University of Texas as the on-campus residents poured into the central quad, where the shimmering, wafting, piercing, soaking beams from an authentic Longhorn cheese moon lit the walls of the encircling buildings the way a really large flashlight using AA batteries dimly brightens a cavernous mine shaft, for the results of the city leaders' baking contest, hoping that they'd be able to shag some pies from the Austin Powers. — Bill Crowley, Santa Rosa, CA (Winner: Dark & Stormy Night Category)
It was just as she had always imagined celebrity would be, Cindy thought, as she stepped dramatically into the limelight created by the flash of what seemed to be hundreds of reporters' cameras all going off at once as they screamed her name in hopes of getting just a moment of her attention—well, except for the handcuffs, the tacky orange overalls, and the decidedly unglamorous sheriff's deputies leading her into the courthouse. — Debra Allen, Wichita Falls, TX
"If I may beg your pardon, my dear lady, I happened to catch your eye from across the room and I was entranced by the beauty therein, the pure and unveiled light of honesty flashing bravely at me, the sweet coyness couched in the depths of your green iris like a dolphin in the sea, the smooth marble of your soul in my hand which drew me hither to you," said the dark stranger, returning the glass orb to his hostess, who gratefully popped it back in place with a soft sucking sound. — Nicole Dixon, New Haven, CT
Childrens' books you'll never see
— These are from a Washington Post contest
You Were an Accident (Jean Sorensen, Herndon; Barry Blyveis, Columbia)
Strangers Have the Best Candy (Stephen Dudzik, Silver Spring)
The Little Sissy Who Snitched (Tom Witte, Gaithersburg)
Some Kittens Can Fly! (David Genser, Arlington)
The Protocols of the Grandpas of Zion (David Genser, Arlington)
How to Dress Sexy for Grownups (Stephen Dudzik, Silver Spring)
Getting More Chocolate on Your Face (Thomas Drucker, Carlisle, Pa.)
Where Would You Like to Be Buried? (Barry Blyveis, Columbia)
Where's Godot? (Jonathan Paul, Garrett Park)
Katy Was So Bad Her Mom Stopped Loving Her (David Genser, Arlington)
The Attention Deficit Disorder Association's Book of Wild Animals of
North Amer—Hey! Let's Go Ride Our Bikes! (Meg Sullivan, Potomac)
All Dogs Go to Hell (Joseph Romm, Washington)
The Kids' Guide to Hitchhiking (Joseph Romm, Washington)
When Mommy and Daddy Don't Know the Answer They Say God Did It (Barry Blyveis, Columbia)
Garfield Gets Feline Leukemia (John Kammer, Herndon)
What Is That Dog Doing to That Other Dog? (Kenneth Krattenmaker, Landover Hills)
Why Can't Mr. Fork and Ms. Electrical Outlet Be Friends? (Martin Keutel, Alexandria)
Bi-Curious George (Art Grinath, Takoma Park)
Daddy Drinks Because You Cry (Stephen Dudzik, Silver Spring)
Mister Policeman Eats His Service Revolver (Russ Beland, Springfield)
You Are Different and That's Bad (Christopher Springfield)
Funny new words
The Washington Post's Style Invitational asks readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are some winners:
1. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.
2. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.
3. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
4. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.
5. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.
6. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
7. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.
8. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
9. Hipatitis: Terminal coolness.
10. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)
11. Karmageddon: It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like a serious bummer.
12. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.
13. Glibido: All talk and no action.
14. Dopeler effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
15. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.
16. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.
17. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you're eating.
And the pick of the lot:
18. Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and an asshole.
Funny rejection letters
I remember the rejection letters Snoopy of “Peanuts” fame got for his writing, such as the one that went something like this: “Thank you for your submission. It does not suit our present needs. By the way, we notice you sent it via first-class mail. Junk mail may be sent third-class.” And this one: “Thank you for your submission. It does not suit our present needs. You will notice we are sending you two rejection notices—one for this piece, and one in case you ever decide to send us something else.” And my favorite: “Thank you for not sending us anything lately. It suits our present needs. Of course, whatever you do, don't take that last one to heart. We hope you'll continue to send us your thoughts all the time.”
From Dr. Johnson:
My all-time favorite rejection letter is the one from Samuel Johnson: “Your manuscript is both good and original. But the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.”
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