The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (BLFC), established in 1982 by English Professor Scott Rice at San Jose State University, recognizes the worst opening sentence (also known as an “incipit”) for a novel. The name of the quasi-literary contest honors Edward George Bulwer Lytton, author of a very obscure 1830 Victorian novel, Paul Clifford, with a very famous opening sentence: “It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents—except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”
Each year, contest receives more than 10,000 entries from all over the world — proving that there is no shortage of wretched writers vying for acclaim. The contest now has several subcategories, including adventure, crime, romance, and detective fiction. The winner gets bragging rights for writing the worst sentence of the year and a modest financial award of $150 — presumably for writing lessons.
The winner of the 2016 BLFC was William Brockett of Tallahassee, Florida:
Even from the hall, the overpowering stench told me the dingy caramel glow in his office would be from a ten-thousand-cigarette layer of nicotine baked on a naked bulb hanging from a frayed wire in the center of a likely cracked and water-stained ceiling, but I was broke, he was cheap, and I had to find her.
The runner up was submitted by David Nelson of Falls Creek, Virginia:
Her grandmother had mopped her brow with the same antique kerchief for twenty years whilst working in the barley fields, and now Anastasia was to wear it on her wedding night knotted into a baggy loose panty; while her lover Anatoly would wear his father’s ancient gray and tattered undershorts tied around his neck to honor the old village custom of marital odor-blending.
The winner in the category of Crime/Detective was Charles Caldwell of Leesville, Louisiana:
She walked toward me with her high heels clacking like an out-of-balance ceiling fan set on low, smiling as though about to spit pus from a dental abscess, and I knew right away that she was going to leave me feeling like I had used a wood rasp to cure my hemorrhoids.
The winner in the category of Vile Puns was Henry Biggs of Sydney, Australia:
“See, Horse,” said Detective Sam Ohn, “the sting Ray pulled off has you dab in the place with a barb in your hand and the piano tuner filleted on the floor so don’t you carp on all coy like thinking to leave us to flounder in the dark; mull it over or you’ll be frying on a 20,000 volt perch and may God have mercy on your soul.”
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For futher reading: bulwer-lytton.com/2016win.html
Dark and Stormy Rides Again by Scott Rice, Penguin Books (1996)