Continuing with today’s humor theme, I ran across the results of the 2009 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. If you’ve never heard of the BLFC, it’s a year-round event (in the sense that you can send them entries any time) run out of the English Department at San Jose State University. It’s named for Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, a 19th century politician, poet, and novelist whose work Paul Clifford opens with the immortal line, “It was a dark and stormy night,” and went downhill from there–the actual first line in toto reads thus:

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.”

So anyway, the contest consists of people submitting the worst opening lines they can conceive of for imaginary novels. Among my favorites this year:

Folks say that if you listen real close at the height of the full moon, when the wind is blowin’ off Nantucket Sound from the nor’ east and the dogs are howlin’ for no earthly reason, you can hear the awful screams of the crew of the “Ellie May,” a sturdy whaler Captained by John McTavish; for it was on just such a night when the rum was flowin’ and, Davey Jones be damned, big John brought his men on deck for the first of several screaming contests. (David McKenzie, overall winner)

In a flurry of flame and fur, fangs and wicker, thus ended the world’s first and only hot air baboon ride. (Tony Alfieri, runner-up in the “Adventure” category)

She walked into my office on legs as long as one of those long-legged birds that you see in Florida – the pink ones, not the white ones – except that she was standing on both of them, not just one of them, like those birds, the pink ones, and she wasn’t wearing pink, but I knew right away that she was trouble, which those birds usually aren’t. (Eric Rice, winner in the “Detective” category)

Darnell knew he was getting hung out to dry when the D.A. made him come clean by airing other people’s dirty laundry; the plea deal was a new wrinkle and there were still issues to iron out, but he hoped it would all come out in the wash – otherwise he had folded like a cheap suit for nothing. (Lynn Lamousin, dishonorable mention in the “Detective” category)

Towards the dragon’s lair the fellowship marched — a noble human prince, a fair elf, a surly dwarf, and a disheveled copyright attorney who was frantically trying to find a way to differentiate this story from “Lord of the Rings.” (Andrew Manoske, runner-up in the “Fantasy” category”)

Using her flint knife to gut the two amphibians, Kreega the Neanderthal woman created the first pair of open-toad sandals. (Greg Homer, winner in the “Vile Puns” category)

Medusa stared at the two creatures approaching her across the Piazza and, instantly recognizing them as Spanish Gorgons, attempted to stall them by greeting them in their native tongue, “Gorgons, Hola!” (Eric Davies, runner-up in the “Vile Puns” category)

Eyeing the towering stacks of food colouring that formed the secret to his billion-dollar batik textile empire, grumpy Old Man Griffington was forced to admit that dye mounds are a churl’s best friend. (Janine Beacham, dishonorable mention in the “Vile Puns” category–can you tell this is a favorite of mine?)

Check all of them out, and give it a try yourself in 2010. You have nothing to lose but the respect of your high school English teacher, and you never really care about that, did you?

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