Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night" Contest

Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest 2006 Results

Detective Bart Lasiter was in his office studying the light from his one small window falling on his super burrito when the door swung open to reveal a woman whose body said you've had your last burrito for a while, whose face said angels did exist, and whose eyes said she could make you dig your own grave and lick the shovel clean.

Jim Guigli
Carmichael, CA

A retired mechanical designer for the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory is the winner of the 24th running of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. A resident of the Sacramento suburb of Carmichael, Guigli displayed appalling powers of invention by submitting sixty entries to the 2006 Contest, including one that has been "honored" in the Historical Fiction Category. "My motivation for entering the contest," he confesses, "was to find a constructive outlet for my dementia."

An international literary parody contest, the competition honors the memory (if not the reputation) of Victorian novelist Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873). The goal of the contest is the essence of simplicity: entrants are challenged to submit bad opening sentences to imaginary novels. Although best known for "The Last Days of Pompeii" (1834), which has been made into a movie three times, originating the expression "the pen is mightier than the sword," and phrases like "the great unwashed" and "pursuit of the almighty dollar," Bulwer-Lytton opened his novel Paul Clifford (1830) with the immortal words that the "Peanuts" beagle Snoopy plagiarized for years, "It was a dark and stormy night."

The contest began in 1982 as a quiet campus affair, attracting only three submissions. This response being a thunderous success by academic standards, the contest went public the following year and ever since has annually attracted thousands of entries from all over the world.

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