Sunday, July 5, 2009

"It was a dark and stormy night."

Where did that sentence first appear? You may be sorry you asked!

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is 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 Snoopy used for years, "It was a dark and stormy night."

The winner of 2009 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is David McKenzie, a 55-year-old Quality Systems consultant and writer from Federal Way, Washington. A contest recidivist, he has formerly won the Western and Children's Literature categories.

David McKenzie is the 27th grand prize winner of the contest that began at San Jose State University in 1982.

"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."

David McKenzie
Federal Way, WA


The wind dry-shaved the cracked earth like a dull razor--the double edge kind from the plastic bag that you shouldn't use more than twice, but you do; but Trevor Earp had to face it as he started the second morning of his hopeless search for Drover, the Irish Wolfhound he had found as a pup near death from a fight with a prairie dog and nursed back to health, stolen by a traveling circus so that the monkey would have something to ride.

Warren Blair
Ashburn, VA

Grand Panjandrum's Special Award

Fleur looked down her nose at Guilliame, something she was accomplished at, being six foot three in her stocking feet, and having one of those long French noses, not pert like Bridget Bardot's, but more like the one that Charles De Gaulle had when he was still alive and President of France and he wore that cap that was shaped like a little hatbox with a bill in the front to offset his nose, but it didn't work.

Marguerite Ahl
Prescott valley, AZ

Winner: Adventure

How best to pluck the exquisite Toothpick of Ramses from between a pair of acrimonious vipers before the demonic Guards of Nicobar returned should have held Indy's full attention, but in the back of his mind he still wondered why all the others who had agreed to take part in his wife's holiday scavenger hunt had been assigned to find stuff like a Phillips screwdriver or blue masking tape.

Joe Wyatt
Amarillo, Texas

Winner: Detective

She walked into my office on legs as long as one of those long-legged birds that you see in Florida - the pink ones, not the white ones - except that she was standing on both of them, not just one of them, like those birds, the pink ones, and she wasn't wearing pink, but I knew right away that she was trouble, which those birds usually aren't.

Eric Rice
Sun Prairie, WI


The dame sauntered silently into Rocco's office, but she didn't need to speak; the blood-soaked gown hugging her ample curves said it all: "I am a shipping heiress whose second husband was just murdered by Albanian assassins trying to blackmail me for my rare opal collection," or maybe, "Do you know a good dry cleaner?"

Tony Alfieri
Los Angeles, CA

Dishonorable Mentions

The appearance of a thin red beam of light under my office door and the sound of one, then two pair of feet meant my demise was near, that my journey from gum-shoe detective to international agent had gone horribly wrong, until I realized it was my secretary teasing her cat with a laser pointer.

Steve Lynch
San Marcos, CA

I entered the bedroom again, looking for anything the killer might have missed in his obvious attempt to clean the crime scene, when it hit me, the victim hadn't been eating just any potato salad, it was German potato salad, the kind usually served warm, with bacon and although most people prefer the traditional American potato salad, it was clear that this victim didn't, oh no, he didn't prefer it at all.

Lisa Lindquist-Perez
Daytona Beach, FL

Winner: Fantasy Fiction

A quest is not to be undertaken lightly--or at all!--pondered Hlothgar, Thrag of the Western Boglands, son of Glothar, nephew of Garthol, known far and wide as Skull Dunker, as he wielded his chesty stallion Hralgoth through the ever-darkening Thlargwood, beyond which, if he survived its horrors and if Hroglath the royal spittle reader spoke true, his destiny awaited--all this though his years numbered but fourteen.

Stuart Greenman
Seattle, WA

Winner: Science Fiction

The golden, starry wonders of the dark universe unfurled before the brave interstellar vessel "Argus" like a black flag of victory with a whole bunch of holes in it as the mysterious mission buoyantly commenced that would one day resolve critical questions about space, time, and the appropriate ratio of nuts to chips in a perfect chocolate chip cookie.

Robert Friedman
Skillman, NJ


George scratched his head in abject puzzlement as he tried to figure out where he'd parked the rocket this time in the 100-acre parking lot of Nallmart 75B, but then he remembered that a ship-boy had taken his DNA key-but which one, the kelly toned humanoid or the atmosphere-of-Rylak-hued android; scanning the horizon, he at last turned to Babs and asked "how green was my valet"?

Leigh A. Smith
New Douglas, IL

Winner: Vile Puns

Using her flint knife to gut the two amphibians, Kreega the Neanderthal woman created the first pair of open-toad sandals.

Greg Homer
Placerville, CA


Medusa stared at the two creatures approaching her across the Piazza and, instantly recognizing them as Spanish Gorgons, attempted to stall them by greeting them in their native tongue, "Gorgons, Hola!"

Eric Davies
Dunedin, New Zealand

Dishonorable Mention

Eyeing the towering stacks of food colouring that formed the secret to his billion-dollar batik textile empire, grumpy Old Man Griffington was forced to admit that dye mounds are a churl's best friend.

Janine Beacham
Busselton, Western Australia

Miscellaneous Dishonorable Mentions

"I want you to follow my husband," said my newest client, the enigmatic Mrs Yogi, estranged wife of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Steve Heckman
Taylors, SC

She expected a beautiful morning after the previous night's hard rain but instead stepped out her door to a horrible vision of drowned earthworms covering the walkway -- their bodies curled and swirled like limp confetti after a party crashed by firefighters.

Rita Hammett
Boca Raton, Florida

As Lieutenant Baker shrank his lips back to their normal size, he tried desperately to think of a situation in which his new-found power might be useful, as have I, your narrator.

Dan Blaufuss
Glenview, IL

Peter shaded his eyes from the brilliant April morning sunlight as it suddenly illuminated the Bunny Trail, contemplated his handiwork, (separating all of those pearly white chicks-to-be from their mothers) and prepared for the final task to complete his mission-yes, this was a good day to dye.

Trent Bristol
Mandan, ND

Grimly aware of the rapidly approaching disaster, Spiderman leaped from rooftop to flagpole, from flagpole to fire escape, hurling himself recklessly from building to building, darting glances through every window in his desperate search for one vital room, while silently cursing the fact that the last thing he had done before donning a one-piece skintight costume, was to eat a large bowl of hot chili.

David J Button
South Australia, Australia

1 comment:

  1. Simple Reader that I am, I prefer "How green was my valet?" and "It's a good day to dye".