Thursday, July 2, 2009

It was a dark and stormy night:

Thus began Paul Clifford, a novel almost no-one remembers - but that opening is one that everyone recognizes. Edward Bulwer-Lytton is spinning fast enough to power a small city after what's been made of a novel that is not really that bad when you consider that it was published in 1830, and preferences have changed a lot since then.

Of course, that's not what I'm posting about. No, I'm posting about the "winners" of the 2009 Bulwer-Lytton Awards, this year's celebration of the overblown, bad, and truly bizarre opening sentence. Slush readers take heart - no, not from the authors in the slush pile, and not while they're still breathing - Bulwer-Lytton Award winners and dishonorable mentions are intentionally bad.

The bad can be as instructive as the good, and here we have the gloriously appalling, with plunges into bathos that rival the cleavage of an EE cup, puns that would make even Dave Freer blush, and run on sentences that meander around for a while before finally getting lost, or in at least one case, disappearing up its own virtual fundamental orifice.

So, go take a look at the winners, then come back here, and add your own Bulwer-Lytton-esque offerings.

To start the fun:

The circumstances of my birth are shrouded in mystery even to me, for though I may assume I have, or had, a mother and a father, I have never known either, nor wished to, for I was abandoned outside a Copenhagen perfumery, left in a discarded crate still heavily scented with the oil it had once held, thus forever sealing my fate as the little myrrh maid of Copenhagen.

17 comments:

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

It was a tall city except where it was short, where some shops were so short that you had to bend over almost in two to enter them, and it had many people in it, or at least we all called them people, though some had four limbs and some five and one species had fifteen, and when he came to this city he came to clean it up, only not with a mop and bucket, but with a ray gun because that's what he did, his name was Ray and he was gunning to go.

warpcordova said...

They were old yet youthful, a vigorous spring to the shuffle one could only dream of achieving. Their flawlessly wrinkled skin shone like onyx under the moonless night. I was left as breathless as a hurricane as I watched them approach rapidly, their torturous tottering barely keeping them moving.

*sorry, short notice...*

Francis Turner said...

It was a dark and stormy night, and the captain said to mate, "spin us a yarn"; so the mate began: "It was a dark and stormy night..."

PS in defence of Bulwer Lytton read this:
http://ratmmjess.livejournal.com/217057.html

Teddy said...

The students were were banished to their dormitory tower – bare rooms with hardly any mementos of a life outside the school. All through the evening the students sat huddled in the common room plotting their next literary outrage, but no-one could come up with a rhyme for 'orange.'

Yes. It was a Stark and Dormy Night!

Robert said...

Here beneath the skull and crossbones sat she, the queen of all the raiding and theft for forty, perhaps fifty thousand planets, resplendent upon a throne made from the skulls of her most prominent enemies – the flesh still decaying upon some of their faces, but all united in the twisted throes of one of the many brutal deaths that had brought all their conflicts with her to a head, one of the terrible deaths that she alone could order or even dream of – calling out orders to her vassals and slaves as though she were a goddess, if a heathen one possessed by an unquenchable bloodlust, for indeed the power of the pirate queen was so great that none would question her, and all would willingly die for her, if only to escape the way that she would kill them if they were to fail to, and thus she was in all respects the very image of a divine figure, so that when her doting eye alit upon poor Clyde Rogers, a humble vassal with unkempt long blonde hair, who caught her eye with his grim and rugged figure borne of years working faithfully for the empire, she moved him under her at once, only to have him lose his sober nature and become as happy and insane as one truly touched by a goddess, until finally what little patience she had was exhausted and they hoisted the jolly Rogers by his neck to the roof of the court, where he had strangled to death before everyone as a living, or more appropriately dying, testimony to her power to create and destroy the lives of those beneath her, and there he still hung, gently swaying in the breeze as flies gathered round him, drawing her attention away from the council of lesser pirates as she absentmindedly called for a drink of wine, for a fish-paste biscuit, for an embroidered fan, for these things were of far more interest to her then the powerless lords surround her, each clinging to so little of the empire that they were like ants under her towering might, laboring endlessly and mindlessly for her, and each one so inconsequential that she could easily have had them killed without noticing, and so might that very meeting have ended, had it not been for the stunning young woman with midnight black hair, whom she recognized as the personal servant of Lord Damier, a courtier who worked on a planet on the very edge of her empire and controlled one of the largest pirate coves in the universe, who burst through the door and pointed a graviton piston directly at her; only to be beaten down immediately by a member of the queen’s royal guard, for her highness had heard from Lord Javy about Damier borrowing a dockable ship privately, and Javy loans his docker directly from the queens fleet by feudal arrangement, so the queen was more than prepared for the girl, who’s name was Maria, when reports came back to the queen from her spies that she had departed Damier’s harem and was not being pursued.

[ BTW, as someone who spent two class periods arguing with the teacher that syringe was a valid rhyme for orange, I feel for the students above. Long hours of searching in my embittered youth rendered the following: Blorenge, a mountain in Wales (link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blorenge ) and the closer of the two in my opinion, "sporange", which is an acceptable singular form of sporangia (link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sporange ).

Viva la Literary Outrage! :P ]

Kate said...

Sarah,

Vile punnage, check. Run on sentence, check. Most definitely Bulwer-Lytton competition material ;)

Inquiring minds want to know which gun Ray was gunning with?

Kate said...

Warpcodova,

That's a lovely use of contradictory descriptives. Why, it's almost worthy of (gasp) literature!

Kate said...

Francis,

Nice use of the circular sentence there.

I actually read the post at the link before I wrote this post - and let's face it, "It was a dark and stormy night" could never have become cliche if it hadn't once been a memorable opening.

Kate said...

Teddy,

Such an egregious use of spoonerized punnage should not be allowed to go unpunished. It would be a sad day indeed if such collegiate outrages could be commented with impunity.

Kate said...

Robert,

Your phenomenal abuse of the run-on sentence with its reeking pungent gems buried in the flailing mass of comma'd clauses deserves far more recognition than I can give.

This needs to be entered into the next Bulwer-Lytton competition as soon as they start taking entries.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

my dear Kate,

Ray's gun, I regret to admit it, was golden

S.

Kate said...

Sarah,

So Ray's golden gun cleaned up the glittery hoohas, presumably with the help of heat seeking sensors and the fine upstanding people, including the ones with fifteen limbs. I am truly impressed.

warpcordova said...

Kate;

comparing my writing to literature is fightin' words! LOL ;-)

Ori Pomerantz said...

It is always dark in space, but the storm in the solar wind that was about to kill them was a unique phenomena; "I wonder which God I pissed off this time" the captain wondered aloud.

Kate said...

Warpcordova,

Well, you were writing deliberately bad fiction. What else could I call it?

Kate said...

Ori,

An unusual take on dark and stormy there, with the injection of fantasy cliche (Gods) into an apparent science fiction background.

No vile puns, alas, but I live in hope.

onyxhawke said...

Everland was a place unlike any other; except Neverland which was it’s mirror twin, and perhaps Wonderland which was it’s second cousin twice removed on it’s mothers side and its stepbrother on its fathers side: it was said of Everland that you could find anythings that was lost in all time and space as long as it was truly lost and not just misplaced (Who said this, or why they said or when or in what language no one knows [Except that it is known that it was said because everyone had heard it, even the deaf.] but that doesn’t matter, for long ago ever land ceased to exist because it too was lost or merely misplaced and this story is really about an orphaned blacksmiths apprentice who lived long, long ago as man counts time but not so long for me as I am not a man in the human sense (this is because I am not human although alas and alack many have thought I was to their detriment.), I am merely the spinner of this tale as I have spun so many for that is what I do, not like the fates but more like a gleeman, expect I’m not a man as I mentioned before, were you paying attention I hope that you were.