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>> Thursday, August 14, 2008

The 2008 Bulwer-Lytton results are in. As everyone surely knows, this the annual contest to come up with the worst possible opening line to a hypothetical novel, the contest being named after Lord Edward Bulwer-Lytton, who began a novel with the immortal phrase, "It was a dark and stormy night."

The winner, in case you don't want to click the above link, was Garrison Spik with this submission:

Theirs was a New York love, a checkered taxi ride burning rubber, and like the city their passion was open 24/7, steam rising from their bodies like slick streets exhaling warm, moist, white breath through manhole covers stamped "Forged by DeLaney Bros., Piscataway, N.J."

As always, the winners, runners-up and dishonorable mentions are a mix of awful prose, groaning puns, strained phrasing, and paragraphs that actually sound like something you actually wouldn't mind reading. Which is a little disturbing, since this is a contest for awful prose. For instance, if I picked up a book in the bookstore, opened it to page one, and read this opening line by Arndt Pawelczik:

As a cold winter sun was just rising above the lonely French village of Vicres-le-Buffeur, the forlorn figure of a man dressed in rich Arabian silks could be seen crouching in the center of the market square, crying softly and cradling in his arms the limp and lifeless body of what appeared to be a large hamster.

...I'd probably buy it. No, seriously. I'd at least keep reading it to see if it continued to live up to the rich promise of a man weeping over a deceased hamster in the town square. And Malcolm Booth's entry sounds a bit like something the late and sorely missed Douglas Adams might have penned:

Creeping slowly over the hill, the sun seemed to catch the small village nestled in the valley by surprise, which is a bit unusual really, as you'd think that something with a diameter of 865,000 miles and a surface temperature of 5780 degrees Kelvin, and which is more normally seen from 93,000,000 miles away, wouldn't be able to creep anywhere, let alone catch anything by surprise.

Then again, there's Joe Schulman's winning entry in the science fiction category, a commendable example of the kind of cringe-inducing, stale writing that plagues so many cheap paperbacks--kudos, Mr. Schulman, for:

Timothy Hanson, Commander of the 43rd Space Regiment in the 52nd Battalion on board the USAOPAC (United Space Alliance Of Planets Attack Carrier) and second in command to Admiral L. R. Morris of the USAOP Space Command, awoke early for breakfast.

Well played, sir, well played.


John the Scientist Thursday, August 14, 2008 at 3:28:00 PM EDT  

The sun one was a paraphrase of Douglas Adams's line about several billion tons of superhot hydrogen nucleii undergoing fusion managing to look small, cold, and rather damp.

Eric Thursday, August 14, 2008 at 3:49:00 PM EDT  

The similarity might be why it evoked Adams when I read it.

John the Scientist Friday, August 15, 2008 at 7:20:00 PM EDT  

Eric, I just re-read the last one after I skimmed it the first time. Did you notice he got the military units backwards, making it seem like the large one (the regiment) was a sub-unit of the smaller one (the battalion)?

Bloody brilliant. That's why it won.

Eric Friday, August 15, 2008 at 8:24:00 PM EDT  

I'd missed that! Thanks for drawing my attention to it.

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