Saturday, July 04, 2009

The Pen Is Mightier Than The Storm

Trying to get back on my feet, although there have been a few setbacks over the past couple of days, I came across this article in The Guardian announcing that summer is “kidney stone season”. For anyone who thinks it’s all a lot of fuss and nonsense have a read, and take the necessary steps to avoid the little lovelies intruding upon your ureter.

In the meantime, attempting to catch up on the important things I’ve missed, I discovered that the winners of this year’s Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest had recently been announced. Forget the Booker or the Orange Prize for Fiction, this is the big one, named in honour of the Victorian novelist, poet, and politician Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton.

Having coined the phrase “The pen is mightier than the sword” in his play Richelieu and written The Last Days of Pompeii, Bulwer-Lytton is now best remembered for his early novel Paul Clifford, which opened with the immortal words, “It was a dark and stormy night”. Referenced in Ray Bradbury’s detective novel Let’s All Kill Constance and Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens, the phrase was popularised by the great Charles Schulz when he used it as a running gag for Snoopy’s World-Famous Author incarnation.

Set up in 1982 and sponsored by the English Department at San Jose State University, the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest challenges entrants to submit bad openings to imaginary novels. This year the overall winner was David McKenzie, a 55-year-old Quality Systems consultant and writer from Federal Way, Washington, who wowed the judges with the utterly astonishing:

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.

In the Romance section, Ada Marie Finkel of Boston, MA, won with:

Melinda woke up suddenly to the sound of her trailer being pounded with wind and hail, and she couldn't help thinking that if she had only put her prized hog up for adoption last May, none of this would be happening, no one would have gotten hurt, and she wouldn't be left with only nine toes, or be living in a mobile home park in Nebraska with a second-rate trapeze artist named Fred.

Meanwhile Greg Homer of Placerville, CA, was the champion of the Vile Puns category by coming up with:

Using her flint knife to gut the two amphibians, Kreega the Neanderthal woman created the first pair of open-toad sandals.

While the last one is obviously more of a throwaway line, the other two are probably no worse than the books I’ve hurriedly (and mistakenly) grabbed in airport bookstores and then been stuck with at 35,000 feet. The list of all winners, runners-up and dishonorable mentions in the numerous categories can be found on the contest website, which also includes a link to previous year’s grand prize winners. Enjoy.


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