It Was A Dark and Stormy Night

Bulwer-Lytton was a British author who penned exceptionally bad prose, made famous in the modern era from the Peanuts cartoon character, Snoopy, and his eternal quest to write a book beginning with Bulwer-Lytton's classic opening, "It was a dark and stormy night." Over the past decade, a contest has been held to create equally bad prose. Here are some entries:

The lovely woman-child Kaa was mercilessly chained to the cruel post of the warrior-chief Beast, with his barbarian 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." (Winner 1984)

It was autumn, and the fog clung to the old house at it did nearly every autumn (with the exception of the previous year, which had been incredibly sunny) like damp gauze on a soldier's wound, except that there was no blood, as he stopped the car at the curb and gazed thoughtfully towards the house.

Writhing in the elemental and furious rush of that scalding shower spray, Lucy thrilled to the memory of Jean-Luc's eager response handling and contour seats.

With one final, fearsome paroxysm, the gargantuan tectonic plates converging below the former ocean bed under Sir Niles's recently -- and quite tastefully -- redecorated flat, exploded, forcing the ragged, wind-lashed mountain visible from the study window to totter and collapse, distracting Sir Niles as he drafted a hasty note to his man Fulton regarding the mysterious disappearance of his jogging shoes, so that he failed to hear Euphemia enter the room, gun in hand.

Driven by Margaret's steady hand, the Kirby vacuum worked a familiar path through the richly appointed Wilson home, its beater-bar action pounding out a rhythmic drone, preventing her from hearing, not more than 200 feet away, the slow descent of a cigar-shaped spacecraft onto her freshly mowed back lawn, the eerie craft's searing exhaust frying the blue enamel of the family's station wagon into ominous pools of glowing vapor and popping metallic trash-can lids in cacophonous tribute.

I accessed the vehicle by upending the barrier that prevailed across the front of the facility, thus providing a way, approach-wise, to the automobile from two sides, one available to me, as I usually prevailed driver-wise, whereas my companion, in the case in point my spouse, preferred to occupy the seat adjacent to the driver's, where she was in an appropriate position to provide instructions as to route, destination, speed of passage, and to make such comments on my proficiency performance-wise as she deemed necessary and to prioritize most emphatically the most obvious deficiencies in my operation of our newly acquired automatic-shift four-wheel-drive vehicular facility, recently procured by use from a dealer in such automotive vehicles who gained access to such means of transportation from an importer with direct connections, procurement-wise, to a manufacturing facility located on the far shore of the Pacific Ocean, in the Empire of Japan.

It came to him in a cocaine rush as he took the Langley exit that if Aldrich had told Filipov about Hancock only Tulfengian could have known that the photograph which Wagner had shown to Maximov on the jolting S-bahn was not the photograph of Kessler that Bradford had found at the dark, sinister house in the Schillerstrasse the day that Straub told Percival that the man on the bridge had not been Aksakov but Paustovsky, which meant that is was not Kleist but Kruger that Cherensky had met in the bleak, wintry Grunewald and that, therefore, only Frau Epp could have known that Muller had followed Droysen to the steamy, aromatic cafe in the Beethovenstrasse where he told Buerger that Todorov had known since the Liebermann affair that McIntyre had not met Stoltz at the Goerlitzer Bahnhof but instead had met Sommer at the cavernous Anhalter Bahnhof. (Winner, Spy Fiction category)

As the great ball of fire, illuminating the sleepy, serene countryside, hurtled from the nocturnal sky and plummeted into the middle of the tiny hamlet of Broken Water, Maine, virtually destroying all forms of plant and animal life within a 25-mile radius and leaving nothing but a smoldering, searing inanimate path of destruction reminiscent of man's all-too-recent heinous sorties on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Steve Jenne, from an overlooking mountaintop 30 miles away, excitedly turned to his fiancee and asked, "Wow! Did you see that?"


The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is an annual event that asks entrants to compose the worst possible opening sentence to a novel. Anyone anywhere may enter. The rules are simple:

1. Sentences may be of any length, and entrants may submit more than one, but all entries must be original and previously unpublished.
2. Entries will be judged by categories, from `general' to detective, western, science fiction, romance, and so on. There will be overall winners as well as category winners.
3. Entries should be submitted on index cards, the sentence on one side and the entrant's name, address, and phone number on the other.
4. The deadline is April 15 (chosen because Americans associate it with another painful submission).

Send your entries to:
Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest
Department of English
San Jose University
San Jose, CA 95192-0090


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lic Sunday, February 8, 1998