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rtpoe

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The Bulwer-Lytton Contest
« on: August 31, 2009, 11:57:19 PM »
In honor of the author Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, whose 1830 novel "Paul Clifford" opened with the excruciatingly bad 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.", the Department of English at San Jose State University, has annually since 1982 challenged people to come up with the absolute worst opening sentence for a hypothetical novel.

I present for your entertainment a Puzzle. Can you pick this year's winner from the passages below? The others actually appeared in honest-to-goodness published novels.

I'll clue you in to their various sources later…

A.
Quote
"Folks say that if you listen real close at the height of the full moon, when the wind is blowin' off Nantucket Sound from the nor' east and the dogs are howlin' for no earthly reason, you can hear the awful screams of the crew of the "Ellie May," a sturdy whaler Captained by John McTavish; for it was on just such a night when the rum was flowin' and, Davey Jones be damned, big John brought his men on deck for the first of several screaming contests."

B.
Quote
"He saw the achingly familiar Hogsmeade High Street: dark shop fronts, and the outline of black mountains beyond the village and the curve in the road ahead that led off towards Hogwarts, and light spilling from the windows of the Three Broomsticks, and with a lurch of the heart, he remembered with piercing accuracy, how he had landed here nearly a year before, supporting a desperately weak Dumbledore, all this in a second, upon landing -- and then, even as he relaxed his grip upon Ron's and Hermione's arms, it happened."

C.
Quote
"Head down into the storm they went, pressing barehanded to their chests an unshielded sense of peril."

D.
Quote
"It is not a belly button. (The umbilicus serves, then withdraws, leaving but a single footprint where it stood: the navel, wrinkled and cupped, whorled and domed, blind and winking, bald and tufted, sweaty and powdered, kissed and bitten, waxed and fuzzy, bejeweled and ignored; reflecting as graphically as breasts, seeds or fetishes the omnipotent fertility in which Nature dangles her muddy feet, the navel looks in like a plugged keyhole on the center of our being, it is true, but O navel, though we salute your motionless maternity and the treams that have got tangled in your lint, you are only a scar, after all; you are not it.)"

E.
Quote
"Stavia saw herself as in a picture, from the outside, a darkly cloaked figure moving along a cobbled street, the stones sheened with a soft early spring rain. On either side the gutters ran with an infant chuckle and gurgle, baby streams being amused with themselves. The corniced buildings smiled candlelit windows across at one another, their shoulders huddled protectively inward - though not enough to keep the rain from streaking the windows and making the candlelight seem the least bit weepy, a luxurious weepiness, as after a two-hanky drama of love lost or unrequited."

F.
Quote
"Strapped into the quivering soup can laughingly called a plane, bouncing his way on the pummeling air through the stingy window of light that was winter, through the gaps and breaks in snow-sheathed mountains toward a town called Lunacy, Ignatious Burke had an epiphany."

G.
Quote
"With a cockeyed sense of elation and **93** mission, I stumbled down the apartment steps and lurched out of the front door of the building. Perspiration clouded my vision along with alcohol, and the slanting parking space lines in the parking lot were making me dizzy. I located my '79 Omni (so undesirable it could be safely left anywhere - nobody even seemed to want its parts) in the late-night darkness that was like thick, malefic, homemade jelly."

rtpoe

My August days behind me with my May,
Nor strive to drag them into Autumn's place,
Nor swear I hope when I do but remember.
Now violet and rose have had their day,
I'll pluck the soberer asters with good grace
And call September nothing but September.
 - Ella Wheeler Wilcox, September

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DruulEmpire

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Re: The 2009 Bulwer-Lytton Contest
« Reply #1 on: September 01, 2009, 01:24:44 PM »
A is flat out funny (the folksy accent, listening close to a full moon, wolves howling without reason even with a full moon -- and most of all the screaming contests!!!), so I'll say A is the winner.  B sounds like Harry Potter to me -- no, I don't know which one -- and the others sound obscure, though perhaps successful in their own right.

Speaking of Bulwer-Lytton, this contest always reminds me of the beginning of Madeleine L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time." ;)

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rtpoe

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Re: The 2009 Bulwer-Lytton Contest
« Reply #2 on: September 06, 2009, 03:25:10 AM »
Yeah, it's kind of obvious that A is the contest winner.... Here are the sources:

A. David McKenzie, 2009 Bulwer-Lytton Contest Winner
B. J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
C. Diane Carey and Dr. James I. Kirkland, Star Trek - First Frontier
D. Tom Robbins, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues
E. Sherri S. Tepper, The Gate to Women's Country
F. Nora Roberts, Northern Lights
G. J. N. Williamson, The Night Seasons
rtpoe

My August days behind me with my May,
Nor strive to drag them into Autumn's place,
Nor swear I hope when I do but remember.
Now violet and rose have had their day,
I'll pluck the soberer asters with good grace
And call September nothing but September.
 - Ella Wheeler Wilcox, September

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rtpoe

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The 2010 Bulwer-Lytton Contest
« Reply #3 on: July 08, 2010, 02:20:14 AM »
The 2010 Contest is done!

The winner, by Seattle's Molly Ringle:

"For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity's affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss--a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity's mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world's thirstiest gerbil."

More winners here: http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/2010.htm

rtpoe

My August days behind me with my May,
Nor strive to drag them into Autumn's place,
Nor swear I hope when I do but remember.
Now violet and rose have had their day,
I'll pluck the soberer asters with good grace
And call September nothing but September.
 - Ella Wheeler Wilcox, September

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notty

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  • Deflating egos since 2004
Re: The 2009 Bulwer-Lytton Contest
« Reply #4 on: July 08, 2010, 02:42:46 AM »
Has anyone noticed that novels get longer and longer, but say less and less?
To paraphrase Poul Anderson, "Intelligence is a wonderful thing. It provides us with reasons for doing what we were going to do anyway."

notty's breast augmentation thread

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Palomine

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Re: The 2009 Bulwer-Lytton Contest
« Reply #5 on: July 08, 2010, 05:48:33 PM »
Has anyone noticed that novels get longer and longer, but say less and less?

Along those lines, they seem to cost more and more and yet be less satisfying too.


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Shara

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Re: The 2009 Bulwer-Lytton Contest
« Reply #6 on: July 09, 2010, 09:45:24 PM »
as said in the other topic (in reply to notty)... I only read the classics ;)
"I don't always approve of coup d'état, but when I do, it's by Shara." -LuvDemWhoppers

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Real

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Re: The 2010 Bulwer-Lytton Contest
« Reply #7 on: July 10, 2010, 02:50:38 AM »
The 2010 Contest is done!

The winner, by Seattle's Molly Ringle:

"For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity's affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss--a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity's mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world's thirstiest gerbil."

More winners here: http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/2010.htm



that is so awesome...
My current avatar is: Molly Brownstein (Mrb4567 on instagram)

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rtpoe

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Re: The 2009 Bulwer-Lytton Contest
« Reply #8 on: September 16, 2011, 03:36:45 AM »
I missed the results of the 2011 contest when they were announced in July.

So anyway, here's the winner:

Cheryl’s mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories.

Sue Fondrie, Oshkosh, WI

Details and other winners here: http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/

And can you tell Bulwer-Lytton and Dickens apart?
rtpoe

My August days behind me with my May,
Nor strive to drag them into Autumn's place,
Nor swear I hope when I do but remember.
Now violet and rose have had their day,
I'll pluck the soberer asters with good grace
And call September nothing but September.
 - Ella Wheeler Wilcox, September

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rtpoe

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  • 9971
The Bulwer-Lytton Contest
« Reply #9 on: July 25, 2013, 01:24:10 AM »
For the past few decades, 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 the brainchild of Professor Scott Rice, whose graduate school excavations unearthed the source of the line "It was a dark and stormy night."

We've discussed this before in this Forum, but I thought I'd start a new thread *without* a year in the title - so we can keep using it...



The Winner for 2013:

"She strutted into my office wearing a dress that clung to her like Saran Wrap to a sloppily butchered pork knuckle, bone and sinew jutting and lurching asymmetrically beneath its folds, the tightness exaggerating the granularity of the suet and causing what little palatable meat there was to sweat, its transparency the thief of imagination." — Chris Wieloch, Brookfield, WI



And since I missed last year, 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



And to help demonstrate that "Bulwer-Lyttonism" is not uncommon amongst professional writers, their "Sticks and Stones" section features actual passages from published works:

"Eighteen years ago, on the night of her eighth birthday, in a seaside cottage on Key West, Chyna had squirmed under her bed to hide from Jim Woltz, her mother’s friend. A storm had been raging from the Gulf of Mexico, and the sky-blistering lightning had made her fearful of escaping to the sanctuary of the beach where she’d retreated on other nights. After committing herself to the cramped space under that iron bed, which had been lower slung than this one, she had discovered that she was sharing it with a palmetto beetle. Palmettos were not as exotic or as pretty as their name. In fact, they were nothing more than enormous tropical cockroaches." - Dean Koontz, Intensity


The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest
Where "WWW” means "Wretched Writers Welcome"


rtpoe

My August days behind me with my May,
Nor strive to drag them into Autumn's place,
Nor swear I hope when I do but remember.
Now violet and rose have had their day,
I'll pluck the soberer asters with good grace
And call September nothing but September.
 - Ella Wheeler Wilcox, September

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gonZo

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Re: The Bulwer-Lytton Contest
« Reply #10 on: July 25, 2013, 02:05:13 AM »
I used to read Dean Koontz's books, but quit after realizing he'd used the word "soughing" in five consecutive novels. (Dean, it's onomatopoeia; don't wear it out.)

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pedonbio

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Re: The Bulwer-Lytton Contest
« Reply #11 on: July 25, 2013, 02:42:36 AM »
I love this contest and these efforts. I recall many years ago spending a lazy Sunday in bed with a charming entomologist who explained to me the detailed and complex sex life of eyelash mites.
Someday, chi1dren, this entire fuck-up will be yours.

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rtpoe

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Re: The Bulwer-Lytton Contest
« Reply #12 on: August 12, 2014, 12:21:02 AM »
The 2014 winner is Elizabeth (Betsy) Dorfman, of Bainbridge Island, WA

"When the dead moose floated into view the famished crew cheered – this had to mean land! – but Captain Walgrove, flinty-eyed and clear headed thanks to the starvation cleanse in progress, gave fateful orders to remain on the original course and await the appearance of a second and confirming moose."

A couple of Dishonorable Mentions, just because:

Quote
As Farmer Brown’s train pulled out of the station at 10:00am traveling east at 50 mph, he had no idea that at that very same moment Farmer Green was 100 miles away on a west-bound train heading straight for him at 60mph and that because of a tragic track-switching mistake he was going to die in a fiery head-on train crash at exactly … uhm … well … err … sometime later that day. — Shanon Conner, San Angelo, TX

Quote
There it stood regally atop the marble counter, the clear, sensuously curvaceous container, with its golden cargo, crowned with a spherical stopper, with its tapered base in intimate contact with the neck of the vessel, a vitreous phallus waiting to deprive the oleaginous content of its extra-virginity. — Anthony Newman, Collinsville, CT

Quote
The Swan Queen spread her wings with all the quick grace of a businessman hailing a taxi in NYC and leapt high into the air like said businessman swearing and jumping back from the curb as the taxi he was hailing speeds past and splatters him with sludgy city puddle water, but in a more graceful way than the second bit. — Thor F. Carden, Madison, TN
rtpoe

My August days behind me with my May,
Nor strive to drag them into Autumn's place,
Nor swear I hope when I do but remember.
Now violet and rose have had their day,
I'll pluck the soberer asters with good grace
And call September nothing but September.
 - Ella Wheeler Wilcox, September

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TheZookie007

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Re: The Bulwer-Lytton Contest
« Reply #13 on: August 16, 2014, 12:16:21 AM »
All very so-bad-they're-good :)
"When your city is French in origin, and your Mayor and Governor are Democrats, and those most affected by this natural disaster are Black, don't expect much help from Bush." -- Left of Y'all (and the link works now too! )

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rtpoe

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Re: The Bulwer-Lytton Contest
« Reply #14 on: August 16, 2014, 02:37:39 AM »
All very so-bad-they're-good :)

Well, that's the idea....
rtpoe

My August days behind me with my May,
Nor strive to drag them into Autumn's place,
Nor swear I hope when I do but remember.
Now violet and rose have had their day,
I'll pluck the soberer asters with good grace
And call September nothing but September.
 - Ella Wheeler Wilcox, September