Each year, the English Department at San Jose State University honors the memory of Victorian novelist Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton, author of the novel Paul Clifford in 1830, which began with the immortal words, “It was a dark and stormy night…”
When the contest began 22 years ago, it was a small campus affair, and attracted just three entrants who accepted the challenge to submit bad opening sentences to imaginary novels. Today, it attracts entries from all over the world. Here are this years best (or should I say, “worst”)!!
Grand Prize Winner
They had but one last remaining night together, so they embraced each other as tightly as that two-flavor entwined string cheese that is orange and yellowish-white, the orange probably being a bland Cheddar and the white…Mozzarella, although it could possibly be Provolone or just plain American, as it really doesn’t taste distinctly dissimilar from the orange, yet they would have you believe it does by coloring it differently.
-Ms. Mariann Simms, Wetumpka, AL
Colin grabbed the switchgear and slammed the spritely Vauxhall Vixen into a
lower gear as he screamed through the roundabout heading toward the familiar pink rowhouse in Puking-On-The-World, his mind filled with the image of his comely Olive, dressed in some lacy underthing, waiting on the couch with only a smile and a cucumber sandwich, hoping that his lunch hour would provide sufficient time for both a naughty little romp and a digestive biscuit.
-Randy Groom, Visalia, CA
The flock of geese flew overhead in a “V” formation – not in an old-fashioned-looking Times New Roman kind of a “V”, branched out slightly at the two opposite arms at the top of the “V”, nor in a more modern-looking, straight and crisp, linear Arial sort of “V” (although since they were flying, Arial might have been appropriate), but in a slightly asymmetric, tilting off-to-one-side sort of italicized Courier New-like “V” — and LaFonte knew that he was just the type of man to know the difference.
-John Dotson (U.S. Naval Officer), Arlington, VA
His knowing brown eyes held her gaze for a seeming eternity, his powerful arms clasped her slim body in an irresistible embrace, and from his broad, hairy chest a primal smell of “male” tantalized her nostrils. “Looks like another long night in the ape house,” thought veterinarian Abigail Brown as she gingerly reached for the constipated gorilla’s suppository.
-Paul Jeffery, Oxford, England
It wasn’t the desolate remoteness of the campsite that bothered him, or even the terrifying roar of the rapids beating themselves against solid granite below, so much as the eerie sound of pigs squealing in the distance and the fact that, in this light, cousin Billy looked disturbingly like Ned
-Cindy Erickson Gilman, Mission Viejo, CA
The Prince looked down at the motionless form of Sleeping Beauty, wondering how her supple lips would feel against his own and contemplating whether or not an Altoid was strong enough to stand up against the kind of morning breath only a hundred year’s nap could create.
-Lynne Sella, Susanville, CA
Detective Inspector Mike Norman slipped six fingers into his overcoat pocket, five of them clad in a latex glove and attached to his palm, while the sixth was wrapped in a plastic evidence bag and apparently belonged to the kidnapped pianist Ricardo Moore, or, as it now seemed likely, the kidnapped ex-pianist Ricardo Moore.
-Alan Campbell, Edinburgh, Scotland
She lay next to him that night, regretting sleeping with another while they were broken up, knowing she had done nothing wrong but feeling vaguely unclean, like freshly washed, once-folded laundry that has been shoved off the bed onto the floor and slept on by the dog.
-J. J. McClanahan, Tyrone, GA
Colonel Cleatus Yorbville had been one seriously bored astronaut for the first few months of his diplomatic mission on the third planet of the Frangelicus XIV system, but all that had changed on the day he’d discovered that his tiny, multipedal and infinitely hospitable alien hosts were not only edible but tasted remarkably like that stuff that’s left on the pan after you’ve made cinnamon buns and burned them a little.
-Mark Silcox, Auburn AL
Standing in the concessions car of the Orient Express as it hissed and lurched away from the station, Special Agent Chu could feel enemy eyes watching him from the inky shadows and knew that he was being tested, for although he had never tasted a plug of tobacco in his life, he was impersonating an arms dealer known to be a connoisseur, so he knew that he, the Chosen One, Chow Chu, had no choice but to choose the choicest chew on the choo-choo.
-Loren Haarsma, Grand Rapids, MI
The Insect Keeper General, sitting astride his giant hovering aphid, surveyed the battlefield which reeked with the stench of decay and resonated with the low drone of the tattered and dying mutant swarms as their legs kicked forlornly at the sky before turning to his master and saying, ‘My Lord, your flies are undone.’
-Andrew Vincent, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England