One of the highlights of each year for me is the results of the Bulwer-Lytton contest. What in the name of Mickey Spillane is that, you ask? Well, it’s a bad writing competition, in which people around the world try to out-do one another in the task of coming up with the worst first line of a (hopefully) unwritten novel. The inspiration for this annual event is Edward Bulwer-Lytton, whose 1830 novel Paul Clifford launched hundreds of Snoopy’s literary efforts:

“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.”

Bulwer-Lytton was not a complete washout as a writer (among other achievements, he’s credited with coining such expressions as “the great unwashed,” “the pen is mightier than the sword,” and “the almighty dollar,” as well as writing one of the earliest science fiction novels, Vril: The Power of the Coming Race), but the opening line of Paul Clifford has gained him immortality. So if you’d like some laughs, please check out the 2010 results of the San Jose State University-sponsored contest.

Incidentally, I entered the contest for the first time this year, and invite you to compare my entries to those that won, and see which is least deserving:

A great man once wrote, “the pen is mightier than the sword” (of course, he was talking about quills, not those crappy pens you get at Big Lots for a buck 99 a dozen that make a big blob on your paper the first time you use them), but then he never saw a light saber open up a man like a Minnesota bachelor farmer preparing that foot long walleye he’d caught while ice fishing that afternoon for dinner.

Neuronic whip in hand, Rigelian bounty hunter Rocco Beefheart strode into the End of the Universe Cafe and Bookstore, determined that professional wrestler-turned galactic dope dealer Steve “Head of Stone” Krenshaw–who was even then ordering a pineapple-mango latte with a double shot of Denebian whiskey and a Cobb salad, his first real meal in a week–would not evade the strong arm of justice this time.

Even though he hated the moniker “gunslinger,” the dark-eyed, medium-height, slightly-stocky, straw-haired, tawny-skinned, pigeon-toed, palamino-riding Man with Four Fingers (his pinky had been shot off by the sheriff of Tombstone during a game of hearts gone horribly wrong) had to admit that the term fit him to a tee.

Zombie hunter Lex (“they call me ‘The Law’”) Rowsdower moved as stealthily as a puma through the shattered ruins of the Zippy Mart, hoping to find even as much as an uncontaminated can of Beanie Weanies to keep him going on his relentless pursuit of the undead creatures whose motto was, “no guts, no dinner.”

The dame came flouncing into my office like she just walked off the jiggle line at Pervy Pete’s Porn Palace, dolled to the nines in the worst make-up job I’d seen since the last time Tammy Faye turned on the waterworks.

Chief Detective Sychowski had no use for Mrs. Cavendish, the local amateur sleuth who fancied herself the reincarnation of Jane Marple, but had to admit that when she stuck her big schnozz and blue hair into a case, the police department usually got results, followed by an ACLU lawsuit.

(Hat tip: Dave Pepper on Facebook.)