The Worst Sentence of the Year

  • Steven 

This was forwarded to me in an email this morning:

For the past 25 years, San Jose State University’s English department has been asking writers to do their worst. That is, to submit the worst opening sentence of the worst imaginary novel they can, well, imagine. The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest has been updated for the Internet world, with the motto, “Where WWW means ‘Wretched Writers Welcome.'”

Just announced, the 2007 grand-prize winner: “Gerald began–but was interrupted by a piercing whistle which cost him ten percent of his hearing permanently, as it did everyone else in a ten-mile radius of the eruption, not that it mattered much because for them “permanently” meant the next ten minutes or so until buried by searing lava or suffocated by choking ash–to pee.” This eruption of prose comes from the volcanic mind of Jim Gleeson, a 47-year-old media technician from Madison, Wis.

Also worth noting, in this season of Harry Potter, is the winner in the children’s-literature division, Dave McKenzie of Federal Way, Wash. He wrote: “Danny, the little Grizzly cub, frolicked in the tall grass on this sunny Spring morning, his mother keeping a watchful eye as she chewed on a piece of a hiker they had encountered the day before.” The competition is named after (“in honor of” is not quite the right sentiment) the Victorian novelist Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton, who penned a novel with the immortal opening line, “It was a dark and stormy night.” And you thought Snoopy came up with that one on his own. — Josh Fischman

I clicked through to the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest site and perused the list of writing contest winners. I found the winner of the fantasy fiction category quite amusing:

Lady Guinevere heard it distinctly, a sharp slap, as if a gauntlet had been thrown, and yet it was hardly plausible that she, perched delicately on the back of her cantering steed, should be challenged to ride faster, since protocol determined that Arthur should ride in front, then she, then Lancelot, for that was the order prescribed by Merlin, ever since he invented the carousel. — Celine Shinbutsu

And the runner-up and dishonorable mention in the fantasy category were not bad either:

Runner-Up Fantasy Fiction category:

Hiram had been a three-toed dragon, well on his way to a promotion to Imperial five-toed dragon, when he accidentally choked on the pink chiffon scarf of Princess Chloe’s hat, and his coughing set the new oaken parapet, on the old stone bulwark, ablaze, thereby earning a demotion to Troll 3 — now his only responsibility was to keep billy goats off the bridge. — Michael L. VanBlaricum

Dishonorable Mention Fantasy Fiction category:

At Elvenheim there was great joy, in that the legendary Ring of the Nordlings had been retrieved from the evil Sudlings by the hero Bill Baggydrawers, who it must be said looked nothing like a hero, at least none I’ve ever seen, and the Ring had once again been placed on the middle finger of the left hand of the Elvenking, who did rather resemble a king, even if his buck teeth made him look for all the world like a great rabbit. — Wayne McCoy

I didn’t find the historical fiction winner all that impressive, however.

Samson looked in the mirror and, when he saw what a fantastic haircut Delilah had given him, he went weak at the knees. — Neil Prowd

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