Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest -=- 1999 Results
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Tue, 7 Sep 99 16:54:02 -0700
Subject: Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest -=- 1999 Results
X-Lib-of-Cong-ISSN: 1098-7649 -=[Fun_People]=-
Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest
Contact: Prof. Scott Rice
Department of English
San Jose State University
One Washington Square San Jose, CA 95192
Through the gathering gloom of a late-October afternoon, along the greasy,
cracked paving-stones slick from the sputum of the sky, Stanley Ruddlethorp
wearily trudged up the hill from the cemetery where his wife, sister,
brother, and three children were all buried, and forced open the door of
his decaying house, blissfully unaware of the catastrophe that was soon to
devastate his life.
--Dr. David Chuter, Kingston, Surrey, ENGLAND
Dr. David Chuter, a 47-year-old government official from London, England,
is the winner of the 18th annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. Chuter
(pronounced chew-ter), who describes himself as "a harmless and rather
obscure bureaucrat trying to serve the public interest," becomes the first
non-American to win the perverse competition. Chuter says that he read about
the contest in a computer magazine, composed his entry, then hit the "Send"
button before he had a chance to repent. He admits that this was the first
(and presumably the last) time he ever entered a literary competition.
Conceived to honor the memory of Victorian novelist Edward George Earl
Bulwer-Lytton and to encourage unpublished authors who do not have the time
to actually write books, the contest challenges entrants to compose bad
opening sentences to imaginary novels. Bulwer was selected as patron of the
competition because he opened his novel "Paul Clifford" (1830) with the
immortal words, "It was a dark and stormy night."
This year's competition attracted thousands of entrants from all across
the United States and Canada as well as from countries like France,
Denmark, Germany, Russia, Singapore, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela,
Australia, and South Africa. The outpouring owed in part to the
Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest Web page (http://www.bulwer-lytton.com), where
all of this year's winners are posted.
In keeping with the stature and dignity of the competition, Dr. Chuter
will receive the traditional first prize award, a pittance.
He had the regal bearing of a TV weatherman, his hair twinkling like the
crystals in Ivana Trump's chandelier, his teeth white and snappy like
high-starch boxers, his jaw strong and sharp as a Canadian high-pressure
system, and an El Nino just itching to wreak havoc in her trailer park.
--Elayne Roman, W. Caldwell NJ
The oil made their skin glisten as their bodies moved in slow synchronous
rhythm on the beach, the water gently flowing up around their legs, birds
floating in the surf accompanying their moans with songs of pain and
despair, otter and seal carcasses washing ashore around them, and it
frightened her and exhilarated her at the same time that their love under
the open sky might be discovered by a Sierra Club cleanup volunteer.
--Robert Chappell, Blanchardville WI
The stranger clanked on Mrs. Dimmelwitz's commode, and she avidly watched
him -- drinking in his pungent effluvial smell and gazing with flushed
fascination at his tender, dewy buttocks peeping over his sagging tool belt
-- until, as he cleared the clog she felt her heart (its valves narrowed by
the hard-water deposits of lovelessness) break free of its bonds and float
like fecund flotsam, drifting free of her dreary marriage, her crying baby,
and even the bloated Huggie, which had caused the clog in the first place.
--John Ochwat, Oklahoma City, OK
Maggie had become so very attached to Butch these last few years, not so
much like a remora on the side of a shark, nor even handcuffs in the night,
but almost, but not quite, like an inoperable, yet benign, tumor,
crenulating and bifurcating in the love-struck center of his brain.
--Vance Atkins, Seattle, WA
Drunk with rage and cheap tequila, his hazel eyes like a green pepper
floating in picante sauce, Guy Caliente entered the hotel lobby, staggering
noticeably as a three-legged Chihuahua in a noontime catfight, while
Portabella Porcina, like an overfilled burrito in her beige satin dress,
stared with unremitting astonishment and peculiar passion at his disheveled
and sudden appearance and pondered the flotsam of their cruise ship romance,
a lust lingering like a salsa stain on a white shirt.
--Randall Heeres, Cadillac, MI
As slowly as an over-encumbered messenger swallow carries news too ill and
woeful to present to a king, especially in a barrage of precipitation, I
commanded the muscles in my brow to wrinkle, much like poorly installed
carpet when you run really fast and stop quickly, showing my general
displeasure at the fact that my now life-long spouse had dyed her eyebrows
to match her prostitute red, three-and-a-half inch pumps.
--Christopher Robin Wible Jr, Providence, RI
Winner: Science Fiction
The remaining astronauts strung out on the long tether could only wonder at
a universe full of eerie contrasts - brilliant stars against the velvety
blackness of space, the hot flare of their comrade's meteoric plunge into
the atmosphere against the cool-blue ocean below, the man's frenzied screams
on the radio as he was roasted by the heat of re-entry against the icy calm
voice of mission control as they grilled the astronaut on the far end of
the tether, and how hilarious it had all seemed when he first yelled "Crack
--Roger Strong, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
His spaceship hurtling out of control toward the seventh moon of Phanzigar,
Commander MacPherson shouted, "Activate the dextral and sinistral Vekron
rehydrolators and stabilize the auxiliary manifold particulate deterrent!"
and he prayed that this time Science Officer Info would operate the system
properly and come up with a decent cup of coffee.
--John L. Ashman, Houston, TX
Zero-G has its disadvantages as a venue for lovemaking, shuttle commander
Colonel Karen Sturgis realized testily as her twelfth attempt to achieve a
docking with her handsome co-pilot, Major Matt Savage, failed utterly,
sending her sailing into the airlock and him into the control panel, both
acutely aware that they were disappointing the millions of Americans who
had paid $29.99 to watch them on pay-per-view.
--Paul S. Gibbs, Sacramento CA
Winner: Purple Prose
Rain -- violent torrents of it, rain like fetid water from a God-sized pot
of pasta strained through a sky-wide colander, rain as Noah knew it, flaying
the shuddering trees, whipping the whitecapped waters, violating the sodden
firmament, purging purity and filth alike from the land, rain without mercy,
without surcease, incontinent rain, turning to intermittent showers
overnight with partial clearing Tuesday.
--David Hirsch, Seattle WA
As the borough's ace gambler (known as the King of Queens), Jack had been
very popular with women (in spades, as a matter of fact) - winning their
hearts with charm, taking them to expensive clubs, and buying them diamonds
- but once his money was gone, his house of cards collapsed, leaving plenty
of time for solitaire.
--Bob Trapnell, Huntsville, AL
Her breasts were like ripe strawberries, but much bigger, a completely
different color, not as bumpy, and without the little green things on top.
--Steve Gray, Santa Monica CA
"Omigod!" Wendy Wunce exclaimed (to no one in particular), "This is like
looking through a rip in the tattered and heavily soiled fabric of Time's
underwear!: nonetheless, there she was, at her 30th high school reunion.
--Terrence Carroll, San Jose, CA
The greedy schoolbus crept through the streets devouring clumps of children
until its belly groaned with surfeit, then lumbered back to the schoolhouse
where it obligingly regurgitated its meal onto the grounds.
--Wendy Lawton, Hilmar, CA
"You know, I could come to like this place much better than Kansas, after
all," perked Dorothy to the Wicked Witch as they oversaw the Munchkin slave
laborers refining poppies for the opium dens of the Emerald City.
--Vance Atkins, Seattle, WA
The woods held danger at every dark, haunting corner, and Indiana Jones
decided it was too risky to continue; he had already been attacked by a
mound of fire ants, had a brush with poison ivy, and faced a terrifying
encounter with the Forest Ranger's vicious beagle, Muffin.
--Christine Sullivan, Melbourne, FL
The dragon soared through the water, his great emerald-colored wings
outstretched and flowing rhythmically like a bird in flight, only slower
because he was in water, like a fish trying to swim through thick syrup in
the summer (because if it was winter, the syrup would crystallize and the
fish wouldn't be able to swim, in fact it would probably die anyway, since
it couldn't breathe,) but the dragon could fly through water like a bird
because he could hold his breath under water and because dragons were
probably related to birds.
--Victoria Benson, Medford, Oregon
Winner: Vile Puns
Forced by rising costs and lagging demand to make their leading product out
of a cheaper metal, Hoosier Love, Inc. found that a special treatment
process was needed to clean and coat their Indy 500 memento, a tiny
fake-jewel-studded replica of an Offenhauser engine on a jeweler's chain,
to protect it from the corrosive effect of chlorine, a process that appeared
in the ISO 9000 Manufacturer's Manual under the title, "The Dechloration of
--Tom Rohde, Minneapolis, MN
The Rashers of Bacon Street, hams every one, lived and breathed burlesque;
or rather they did until that fateful night that their show was panned and
they, consequently, canned and squealing for revenge, knew they had ceased
to be vaudevillians and were about to become, instead, avowed villains.
--Dan Braverman, Houston, TX
Winner: "Dark & Stormy Night" Category
When the Independent Counsel emerged each night from the adjourned
closed-door proceedings, reporters assessed how zealously he was currently
prosecuting from his facial expression, which on one night might be that
familiar affably light smile, while on another night it could be a
menacingly dark scowl; and so, as our story begins, they surmised he was
playing hardball, for it was a dark-Ken Starr-mien night.
--Ronald Snow, Huntsville, AL
"Just look, ya bloomin' idiot," Eleanor Rugglesby-Bobsyeruncle, the
world-famous cockney art collector, screamed at her assistant, Ivan
Ivanovich, illegitimate son of the Secret Czar, Ivanovichi, "ya packed me
priceless Don Quixote paintin' in with a sack of bloody Spam, it was the
darn cans tore me knight!"
--Allan D. Burrows, Mississauga, Ontario, CANADA
Always confrontation, Bobby, the hotheaded Indiana basketball coach, logged
on to an Internet chat room where "The Wizard of Oz" devotees were
discussing the multi-layered symbolism of the Scarecrow, and infuriated
everyone by tersely posting, "It was a dork in straw--B. Knight."
--Ernie Santilli, Drexel Hill, PA
Miscellaneous Dishonorable Mentions:
So far this year, Cary Yamanaka's skill in karate had netted him three
trophies--two bowling, one golf.
--Briant Westley, St. Paul, MN
It's 6:15, she thought, and the newspaper should be here by now, then she
opened her door and realized with disgust that the paper boy was still in
He will tell you the story of his miserable and tormented life, but first
he has to do the dishes.
--Krystle Dominguez, Evergreen, CO
No one knew the troubles Alicia had experienced, but that was because they'd
learned to tune out her whining.
At first Lisa felt terribly confused but now she just wasn't sure.
--Debra Allen, Wichita Falls, TX
Despite the toughness amply proved during his years in Sing Sing, Vito
Vermicelli lacked the gravitas to be a Mafia don -- behind his back he was
called "the Godfeather."
--Michael J. Saxton, Davis, CA
Long after the well-known TV show was off the air, Mr. Ed spent many a
sunset year hauling Farmer Thomas, Miz Thomas, the eight healthily
apple-cheeked little Thomases and countless bushels of the finest Thomas
tomatoes to market each week; for the famous horse, this was a bit of a
comedown, but as for Thomas, he had hitched his wagon to a star.
--Laura Kolb, Riner, VA
He was a biologist in the extreme, having conducted extensive and varied
studies on pond life, pachyderm nasal passages, and footgear for swamp
research, which resulted in the acclaimed publication of his exciting
memoirs, "Notes on Newts, Sorts of Snoots, and Boats as Boots."
--Elise Campbell, Monroe, CT
Not ever, not once, did Sister Mary Constance, upon leaving the convent for
her fortnightly trip to the grocery, expect to find nestled firmly in the
bottom of her purl-knit tote, a small plastic package containing a
money-clip bent wide with hundreds, a ticket to Aconcagua, and a little note
with the words, "Wish you were here," written hastily in crayon.
--David Sarno, New Haven, CT
Eschewing the normal pre-performance butterflies in stomach, Hector instead
was experiencing the dreaded, but nearly unknown malady known as "moths in
the mouth," as he spit out what appeared to be chewed-up wings and that
fuzzy, obnoxious stuff that is left when you rub a moth's wing too hard
between your fingers.
--Larry Sherman, Fremont, CA
Night was a mere threat on the quivering lip of the sky and the golden
tongue of the sun still licked the recesses of the bridle path, when
suddenly, an unnatural shriek emanated from the dark throat of the forest,
causing stiff fingers of fear to march firmly down the spine of the
--Annette O'Neill, Pacifica CA
George stared intently across the table which supported the golden-brown
fresh-baked cornbread with butter and sizzling cholesterol-laden bacon which
could finish blocking his previously-hardened arteries at any time, into
Margerie's clear-blue eyes and realized that she knew what he knew, and she
knew that he knew what she knew, and he must practice carpe diem before
angina seized the day.
--Judy Hill, Modesto, CA
The incessant pulse of the "12:00, 12:00, 12:00, 12:00" on Nick
Popadopoulus's (of the Athens, Tennessee, Popadopoulus's) VCR reminded him
of his very existence and the inscrutability of plurals such as hippopotami,
thesauri, and croci, causing him to exclaim, "We are Popadopouli!"
--Cynde Fetherston, Victoria, B.C.Canada
It wasn't the best of times; it wasn't the worst of times; it was the times
you'd get if you arranged all possible times (including even fictional times
in which the nights were usually dark and stormy) in order from worst to
best on the real number line from 0.0 inclusive to 1.0 exclusive and then
used a really good uniform random number generator to pick a value in that
range thus choosing the corresponding times -- that's the times it was.
(first line from A Tale of Two Statisticians by Dale "What the Dickens?!"
--Dale Dellutri, Libertyville, IL
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
She wallowed in splendor, her wondrous white-wide wholeness frolicking with
the foam; as she smiled, a salt-bleached booted bone punctuated like a
toothpick the purity of her pearlescent dentis; and as her buxom flukes
saluted the sea, she winked her wave-washed eye and blubbered, "Call me,
--Virginia H. Vick, Abilene, Texas
Miss Texas, Mary Sue Carol Langley, fluffed her bouffant blond hair and
crammed her ample bosoms into the two-sizes-too-small bikini top, confident
that her dramatic portrayal of Lady Macbeth in the talent competition and
her passionate stand on nuclear disarmament would place her in the top five
pageant finalists; but she couldn't shake the feeling that she had missed
something when the judge from Arkansas asked her surreptitiously whether
she could play on the harmonica, only to learn later to her chagrin that
what he had actually asked was whether she would play around . . . like
--Patricia A. Teckelt, New Castle, PA
© 1999 Peter Langston