The 2011 Bulwer-Lytton prizes have been announced! This is something to which I look forward every year because 1) they are hilarious, and 2) they allow me to fill this space other people’s wretched writing instead of my own.
The awards, launched in 1982, are sponsored by San Jose (Calif.) State University and are named for 19th century British author Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, who was the first to pen the immortal words, “It was a dark and stormy night.”
Contest entrants compose an atrocious opening line for an imaginary novel. The grand prize winner for 2011 is . . . Sue Fondrie of Oshkosh, Wisc., who wrote:
“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.”
Runner-up, from Rodney Reed of Ooltewah, Tenn., is:
“As I stood among the ransacked ruin that had been my home, surveying the aftermath of the senseless horrors and atrocities that had been perpetrated on my family and everything I hold dear, I swore to myself that no matter where I had to go, no matter what I had to do or endure, I would find the man who did this . . . and when I did, when I did, oh, there would be words.”
And my personal favorites, in no particular order:
“As his small boat scudded before a brisk breeze under a sapphire sky dappled with cerulean clouds with indigo bases, through cobalt seas that deepened to navy nearer the boat and faded to azure at the horizon, Ian was at a loss as to why he felt blue.” – Mike Pedersen, North Berwick, Maine
“Wearily approaching the murder scene of Jeannie and Quentin Rose and needing to determine if this was the handiwork of the Scented Strangler – who had a twisted affinity for spraying his victims with his signature raspberry cologne – or that of a copycat, burnt-out insomniac detective Sonny Kirkland was sure of one thing: he’d have to stop and smell the Roses.” – Mark Wisnewski, Flanders, N.J.
“The Los Angeles morning was heavy with smog, the word being a portmanteau of ‘smoke’ and ‘fog,’ though in L.A. the pollutants are typically vehicular emissions as opposed to actual smoke and fog, unlike 19th-century London where the smoke from countless small coal fires often combined with fog off the Thames to produce true smog, though back then they were not clever enough to call it that.” – Jack Barry, Shelby, N.C.
“Monroe Mills’ innovative new fabric-dyeing technique was a huge improvement over stone-washing: denim apparel was soaked in color and cured in an 800-degree oven, and the company’s valued young dye department supervisor was as skilled as they came; yes, no one could say Marilyn was a normal jean baker.” – Marvin Veto, Greensboro, N.C.
And my very favorite:
“Detective Kodiak plucked a single hair from the bearskin rug and at once understood the grisly nature of the crime: it had been a ferocious act, a real honey, the sort of thing that could polarize a community, so he padded quietly out the back to avoid a cub reporter waiting in the den.” – Joe Wyatt, Amarillo, Texas
The rest can be found at www.bulwer-lytton.com
— Karen Zautyk