Whew! Over 1,400 miles in three days. A college move-in odyssey filled with laughter, tears, and a whistling toilet in Corning, New York. What more can one ask of a road-trip? But it's good to be home -- and just in time to celebrate the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest!
EGB-L: Patron saint of bad literature
Edward George Bulwer-Lytton!
You know, the guy who originally composed that opening sentence that Charlie Brown's beagle, Snoopy, is always plagiarizing for his own novel: "It was a dark and stormy night..."
Okay, okay, a little background might be in order... Way back in 1982, the English Department at San Jose State University initiated the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, a tongue-in-cheek literary "competition" that challenges entrants to come up with the opening sentence to "the worst of all possible novels." The contest sprang from the twisted mind of Professor Scott Rice, whose stumbled upon the source of the line “It was a dark and stormy night” while a graduate student. For a class assignment on minor Victorian novelists, he selected Bulwer-Lytton, who was best known for foisting these works upon an unsuspecting society: The Last Days of Pompeii, Eugene Aram, Rienzi, The Caxtons, The Coming Race, and – not least – Paul Clifford, where you will find that "dark and stormy" phrase.
With a promotional quote by Poe!
For your reading pleasure, here is the complete opening line: "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.” Lytton coined a few other cliches that you might have used once or twice yourself: “the pen is mightier than the sword,” “the great unwashed,” and “the almighty dollar."
Pop culture sidenote: Lytton’s ancestral estate at Knebworth was chosen by
director Tim Burton as the setting for Wayne Manor in the 1989 movie Batman.
Courtesy: Bulwer-Lytton contest
Since 1982, over 10,000 writers have taken up their pens or tapped their keyboards in hopes of one-upping Bulwer-Lytton's immortal opening line. And now, without further ado, here's the winner for 2012:
"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
You can read the other dubious achievements in a variety of genres (fantasy, children's, historical fiction, a special "purple prose" category and others) at the Bulwer-Lytton contest website. Enjoy!
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