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It was a dark and stormy night.

By eLuddite in MLP
Tue Mar 27, 2001 at 05:45:15 PM EST
Tags: Humour (all tags)

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is a literary competition that challenges entrants to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels.

I've culled the following four examples at random from the site in order to whet your appetite.

With a curvaceous figure that Venus would have envied, a tanned unblemished oval face framed with lustrous thick brown hair, deep azure-blue eyes fringed with long black lashes, perfect teeth that vied for competition, and a small straight nose, Marilee had a beauty that defied description.
    --Cynthia Conyers

"Why, you silly little pussycat," he chuckled warmly, "of course I'll make love to you!"
    --Alice A. Hall

"This is almost worth the high blood pressure!" he thought as yet another mosquito exploded.
    --Richard Patching

The rain splattered down on the tables of the cafe like raisins dropped by uncaring gods.
    --Patricia A. Folkerth

The site is littered with examples; be sure to click on all the links including the guestbook. It is unfortunate that several anthologies of Bulwer-Lytton entries published by Penguin have fallen out of print but if you dont mind your copy used you should be able to dredge something up at Amazon.

Ah yes, Amazon dot com, the golden boys of e-commerce who couldn't be less successful than if they were gang of ambulance chasing red-cross volunteers trailing a herd of Jehova's witnesses through a minefield.

"Hiss, boo, wanker," I hear you protest. Well, critic is an improvement over geek, I guess.

Okay so there's little hope that I'll be able to come up with a successful entry before the April 15th deadline, but can you do better? Probably, if you've been reading the same Kuro5hin I have. Which reminds me of the one, lone caveat: it's cheating if you come up with something without actually trying.

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Will the writers in the audience please step forward and may the purplest prose win!


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It was a dark and stormy night. | 12 comments (7 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
Suddenly, A shot rang out! (none / 0) (#2)
by wiredog on Tue Mar 27, 2001 at 01:32:12 PM EST

Anyone else think of Snoopy when they see those lines?

The idea of a global village is wrong, it's more like a gazillion pub bars.

Yes! (none / 0) (#5)
by YesNoCancel on Tue Mar 27, 2001 at 02:11:55 PM EST

This reminds me of me childhood, when I used to watch The Peanuts on TV every day.

Snoopy's best version was "It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly, a shot rang out! And another one! And another one! And many, many... shots, of course". It also was the longest one he was ever able to write. :)

By the way, is the "a dark and stormy night" sentence actually used in a real book? Or is this just something Charles M. Schulz made up? Sorry if I sound ignorant, but I'm from Europe, so I know little about "great american novels". :)

[ Parent ]

"a dark and stormy night" (none / 0) (#6)
by mbrubeck on Tue Mar 27, 2001 at 02:30:21 PM EST

Yes, follow the link to the contest homepage and you'll see the full sentence that begins "It was a dark and stormy night..." It was the opening line of Edward George Bulwer-Lytton's Paul Clifford. By the way, he's from your side of the pond.

[ Parent ]
Sci-Fi's Seeing Ear Theatre has one... (none / 0) (#7)
by TrentC on Tue Mar 27, 2001 at 03:18:36 PM EST

... it's a radio play called "Knock", which is apparently an expansion of the original "story", which consisted of the following sentence:

The last man on earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock at the door...
In many ways, I think the Bulwer-Lytton contest inspires similar creativity: many of these "opening lines" are complete works of art in their own right.

I've read some of the collections when I was in school; the 1986 winner (on this page) is the one I always think of when I hear about the contest again.

Jay (=

Eye of Argon! (none / 0) (#9)
by MostlyHarmless on Tue Mar 27, 2001 at 03:50:45 PM EST

No story on bad fiction would be complete without a mention of the Eye of Argon, reportedly the worst science fiction story ever written. It's lengthy, but well worth the read for laughs alone.
"Nevertheless, that is the theorem." - Tom Stoppard
Even better (none / 0) (#11)
by kallisti on Tue Mar 27, 2001 at 08:21:06 PM EST

How about a Mystery Science Theater treatment of Eye of Argon. In fact, if you are a fan of the show and are also looking for really bad writing, Web Site Number 9 may be just the way to waste hours of time.

[ Parent ]
It was a dark and stormy night. | 12 comments (7 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
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