Sunday, August 01, 2004
Dark and stormy nights - Bulwer-Lytton 2004 winnerWhat better way to occupy my unemployed hours than keep everyone abreast of the latest and literate.
The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is with us once more, that international literary parody contest honoring the memory of Victorian novelist Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873).
Although best known for "The Last Days of Pompeii", 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 the "Peanuts" beagle Snoopy plagiarized for years, "It was a dark and stormy night."
The goal of the contest is childishly simple: submit bad opening sentences to imaginary novels.
And here is winner Dave Zobel and a few choice runners-up that caught my eye:
She resolved to end the love affair with Ramon tonight . . . summarily, like Martha Stewart ripping the sand vein out of a shrimp's tail . . . though the term "love affair" now struck her as a ridiculous euphemism . . . not unlike "sand vein," which is after all an intestine, not a vein . . . and that tarry substance inside certainly isn't sand . . . and that brought her back to Ramon.
The notion that they would no longer be a couple dashed Helen's hopes and scrambled her thoughts not unlike the time her sleeve caught the edge of the open egg carton and the contents hit the floor like fragile things hitting cold tiles, more pitiable because they were the expensive organic brown eggs from free-range chickens, and one of them clearly had double yolks entwined in one sac just the way Helen and Richard used to be.
Pamela Patchet Hamilton, Beaconsfield, Quebec
Grand Panjandrum's Special Award
She sipped her latte gracefully, unaware of the milk foam droplets building on her mustache, which was not the peachy-fine baby fuzz that Nordic girls might have, but a really dense, dark, hirsute lip-lining row of fur common to southern Mediterranean ladies nearing menopause, and winked at the obviously charmed Spaniard at the next table.
Jeanne Villa, Novato, CA
Winner: Adventure Category (from Hong Kong - yayy)
The legend about Padre Castillo's gold being buried deep in the Blackwolf Hills had lain untold for centuries and will continue to do so for this story is not about hidden treasure, nor is it set in any mountainous terrain whatsoever.
Siew-Fong Yiap, Hong Kong
Winner: Children's Literature
Jack planted the magic beans and in one night a giant beanstalk grew all the way from the earth up to the clouds--which sounds like a lie, but it can be done with genetic engineering, and although a few people are against eating gene-engineered foods like those beans it's a high-paying career to think about for when you grow up.
Frances Grimble, San Francisco
When Cinderella saw that the Prince had sent the Duke to find the woman of his dreams, like some rich schoolboy who pays the smartest kid in the class to do his homework, or worse, like someone who has been on welfare so long that he has trouble doing any kind of work, she suddenly realized the spoiled nature of the King's son and stealthily slid the slipper back into her pocket.
As he entered the room within which so many a wild night of their sweltering love affair had been spent, the White Rabbit regarded her with benevolent eyes, her posture such that he suspected something was wrong, but before he could speak Alice unburied her face from her trembling hands and between her intense sobs he made out the words, "I'm late . . . I'm late."
Cory Gano Camas, WA
Winner: Dark and Stormy Night
It was a stark and dormy night--the kind of Friday night in the dorm where wistful women/girls without dates ovulated pointlessly and dreamed of steamy sex with bad boy/men in the backseat of a Corvette--like the one on Route 66, only a different color, though the color was hard to determine because the TV show was in black and white--if only Corvettes had back seats.
It was a dark and stormy night--actually not all that dark, but more dusky or maybe cloudy, and to say "stormy" may be overstating things a bit, although the sidewalks were still wettish and smelled of ozone, and, truth be told, characterizing the time as night is a stretch as it was more in the late, late afternoon because I think Oprah was still on.
Gregory Snider, MD - Lexington, KY
It was another dork and Stormy Knight--after snapping the last of his palm dampened dollar bills into the frazzled elastic of her G string--sent him packing precisely three-eighths of a mile down Highway 20 to the spot where she'd promised him a glorious glimpse of self-awareness, and where he would discover a slight depression in the asphalt and find himself quizzically contemplating the adjacent Department of Transportation sign that read simply: "Dip in Road."
Rick Sutherland, Depoe Bay, OR
Detective Micky Blarke arrived on the scene at 2:14 am, and gave his cigarette such a severe pull that rookie Paul Simmons swore the insides of the detective's cheeks touched, but the judge indicated that that amount of detail was not necessary in his testimony, and instructed the jury to disregard that statement.
Joe Polvino, Webster, NY
"After several minutes, Detective Wilson, standing over the lifeless, tuxedo-clad corpse, the spandex tights it had been strangled with still around its neck, realized that the poor ringmaster had simply been a victim of circus dancers."
Mount Waverley, Australia
Winner: Fantasy Fiction
Gringran Roojner had only gone to see the Great Warlock of Loowith to get his horoscope and he couldn't believe he'd been sent on a quest for the legendary Scromer of Nothleen to ask him for the answer to the Riddle of Shimmererer so that he could give it to the Guardians of Vooroniank, thereby gaining access to the Cave of Zothlianath where he would find the seldom seen Cowering of Groojanc, whose spittle was an absolute necessity in the making of the Warlock's famous pound cake, the kind with raisins.
Sandra Millar, Scotland
Winner: Historical Fiction
Galileo Galilei gazed expectantly through his newly invented telescope and then recoiled in sudden horror -- his prized thoroughbred's severed neck, threateningly discarded in a murky mass of interstellar dust (known to future generations as the Horsehead Nebula), left little doubt about where the Godfather and his Vatican musclemen stood on the recent geocentric/heliocentric debate.
Don Mowbray, San Antonio, TX
Winner: Fiction for the Erudite
Clementine sat in the shade of a beech tree, of the family Fagaceae, the leaves of which were more or less ovate, being perhaps not quite as pointed as those of the North American, grandifolia species of the Fagus genus that are the color of a swimming pool that had been left too long without chlorine, but neither were they like those of Fagus sylvatica var. purpurea that are the color of dried burgundy stains on cream linen.
Geoff Beech, Bolivia
The cat's whiskers twitched like the wings of a butterfly, not a large butterfly like a monarch, but a small one, like an Eastern Pine Elfin, which camouflages wonderfully with the bark of trees, not just pine trees, but also elm trees, whose slender twigs wave in the early spring breeze, looking like the twitching whiskers of the cat, which I have just mentioned.
Megan Z. Dinerman. King of Prussia, PA
He heard a bang, well not really a bang but more of a crash with metallic overtones of platinum-encrusted steel alloys, hammering against unyielding iron and iridium plates; or maybe it was the clash of huge nickel-zinc rods hitting molybdenum fused sheets of tantalum, then he felt a stab of pain and heard another bang, and wished, instead of using his extensive metallurgy skills to try and analyze the sound, he would have run like hell when he first saw the gun pointed at him.
Ken Loomes, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Winner: Purple Prose
The terrible news had whisked around the becolumned courthouse like a malevolent, stinking zephyr straight from the sewage works, and on the gum-besmirched footpath, the hunch of lawyers cackled and cawed like a group of very large, gowned, wigged, briefcase-clutching crows, or perhaps ravens since they are of course the larger bird and some of these lawyers were fairly sizeable.
Georgia Gowing, Australia
She was a tough one, all right, as tough as a marshmallow--not one of those soft sticky ones used in s'mores, cooked to a turn over a good campfire, or even like the stale chewy type covered in yellow sugar and found at the bottom of a three-week-old Easter basket--no, she was tough like a freeze-dried marshmallow in kid's cereal that despite being shaped like a little balloon and colored a friendly pink are so rock solid that they are responsible for the loss of more baby teeth than most older siblings.
Bridget Lyle, Walworth, NY
The day was packing heat and cracking wise as the scorching sun torched the hot dry Santa Anas like fry on rice, crispy with a snap, crackle and pop, and poured into the surreal bowl of the Los Angeles Basin as the red winds rattled every dwelling from Bay City bungalow to Bel Air chateau like a china shop in a bullring, the whole stinking, teeming tinderbox as combustible as a drill sergeant at clown college, as unsettling as corn on the cob rationing at an Iowa Society picnic.
Gordon Hauptfleisch, San Diego, CA
Students often said that Dr. Storm's lectures were duller than dishwater, not the dishwater after a holiday meal with brightly colored vegetable bits and shimmering glosses of vinaigrette, but the dishwater after a Wednesday night macaroni dinner, when the cheese has disintegrated into slime and the macaroni has become mush clogging the drain.
Phoebe watched through the library window as the sun sank slowly in the west, glowing like a ball of molten butter; not the phony margarine kind of butter that left nothing but the taste of grease in your mouth, but the real kind that pumped up your cholesterol and gave you a coronary, when such heart-related musings forced her to glance down at Neville, determine from the blue coloring of his skin that he really was dead, and then pick up the telephone and say, "Operator, I believe my husband is having a heart attack."
Fran Abram, Overland Park, KS
Looking up from his plate of escargots, Sean gazed across the table at Sharon and sadly realized that her bubbly personality now reminded him of the bubbles you get when you put salt on a slug and it squirms around and foams all over the place, and her moist lips were also like the slime on a slug but before you salted it, though after all these years Sharon still smelled better than slugs, but that could have been the garlic butter on her escargots.
David K. Lynch, Topanga, CA
I first saw her from across the crowded dance floor, cedar I think, (as if I can reference a specie of wood planks at a glance) I just know it wasn't that yellowish basketball court wood, the type with the glossy veneer (now THAT, I could recognize), anyway, she had the refined elegance and demure fragility of a really old Princess Leia.
Scott McIlhany, Bellingham, WA
Winner: Science Fiction
The scorched pasture, with its charred and smoking remains of dead cattle, was the least of Jessica's worries, and as she pondered her shredded gown, newly shaved head, and the quickly disappearing spaceship in the Nevada twilight, she realized if she were going to hitchhike back to Carson City, she'd have to show a damn sight far more leg than she had ever intended.
Michelle Hefner, Australia
Winner: Vile Puns
Sleepless in Seattle, sleepless in Schenectady, and now--damn her bad luck--sleepless in this god-forsaken pit Brad assured her was a perfectly lovely out-of-the way and darling older, but totally updated and refurbished, accommodation flushed with sunlight and surrounded by swirling blue waters in Seward named the Tide Ebola Inn.
Pat Merrill, San Anselmo, CA
Hans sipped from his bottle of German Bru-hoff beer and idly read the label: "Bru-hoff, a heady-nosed Rhine beer has a slightly briny pose, and if you've ever drawn it, you would like the way it flows, but all of the other Rhine beers, Dusen lagers, and thick ales, they never beat our Bru-hoff in the yearly Rhine beer games."
Roger J. McNichols, Pearland, TX
"This town's not big enough for the two of us," growled Slim Jenkins, "but I think that if we can get the townspeople to agree to issue a bond to annex the Carter Ranch, we can then incorporate and there should be plenty of room for everyone."
It was hardtack and beans for the crouching cowboys in the lee of the chuck wagon that stormy night when the wind flared the fire and the light caught the trail boss' leather-bound, barb-wire muscled face which might have said, were he not the quiet sort, "Cookie, we should have had more salads."
Barry McAtee, Austin, TX
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