Thursday, February 02, 2006
Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest
Winner: Historical Fiction
Sphincter, the gladiator, girded his loins in preparation for today's games, glad to be part of the season opener since he hadn't been sure until yesterday that his contract would be renewed, given his slump during the Germans-versus-lions series but he knew that swatting Germans into the lion's pit was trickier than it looked and he told the officials that they should look at his other stats, not just Huns batted in.
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 the "Peanuts" Beagle Snoopy plagiarized for years, "It was a dark and stormy night."
The contest began in 1982 as a quiet campus affair, attracting only three submissions. This response being a thunderous success by academic standards, the contest went public the following year and ever since has attracted thousands of annual entries from all over the world.
A couple of my faves from this year:
Grand Panjandrum's Special Award
India, which hangs like a wet washcloth from the towel rack of Asia, presented itself to Tex as he landed in Delhi (or was it Bombay?), as if it mattered because Tex finally had an idea to make his mark and fortune and that idea was a chain of steak houses to serve the millions and he wondered, as he deplaned down the steep, shiny, steel steps, why no one had thought of it before.
Max thought the night-time burglary at the California surfing museum would be a safe caper, but that was before he spotted the security cop riding a bull mastiff, blond hair blowing in the wind, and noticed the blue-and-white sign wired to the cyclone fence, "Guard dude on doggy."
Because of her mysterious ways I was fascinated with Dorothy and I wondered if she would ever consider having a relationship with a lion, but I have to admit that most of my attention was directed at her little dog Toto because, after all, he was a source of meat protein and I had had enough of those damn flying monkeys.
The dragon cast his wet, rheumy eyes, heavy-lidded with misery, over his kingdom-a malodorous, rot-ridden swamp, with moss cloaking brooding, gloomy cypresses, tree trunks like decayed teeth rising from stagnant ponds, creatures with mildewed fur and scales whom the meanest roadside zoo would have rejected--and hoped the antidepressants would kick in soon.