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Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest 65

Soko writes: "Just browsing through the winners of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest on Canada.com, and got a real chuckle. Look for the Sci-Fi winner -- it's a really lame BSOD joke. Any one want to fess up? ;-) Background: Mr. Bulwer-Lytton is famous for starting one of his novels, "Paul Clifford", with the immortal line 'It was a dark and stormy night ...' The contest homepage is here, and the official contest results are here -- but Canada.com can weather a Slashdot generated 'dark and stormy night' better than these two links, I would guess."
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Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Pandora pondered: a parched, deserted, lifeless scene before her, fragmentary images of war and ruin, death and bloodshed, fear and loathing, hookers, gambling and drugs (a stylised and glossy approximation of the extremes of humanity; a cruel, relentless mixture of stupidity and genius, often unfathomable, usually predictable, rarely watchable (for it is in front of the television that our tale takes place)) - could there be more than this, somewhere, out there, over the unreachable rainbow, or was this, as she hoped, merely a dream, a subconscious flight of fantasy destined to end in a flurry of bleary-eyed bewilderment, followed by relief that the events that just took place were not real, given that she could not be sure, being, as she assumed she was, asleep?
  • by Russ Steffen ( 263 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @07:04PM (#92875) Homepage

    I declare this contest pointless. I further declare that, by definition, Jim Theis' The Eye of Argon [logica.com] wins all bad writing contests from here on out. Period. Even ones that are only supposed to judge an opening sentence. End of Discussion.

    Secret message to MST3K fans: Do not under any circumstances read the link above. Read this one [washington.edu] instead. Friends don't let friends read this thing without Mike and the bots.

  • by Sean ( 422 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @05:59PM (#92876)

    My favorite winner was from a few years ago..."Stanley looked quite bored and somewhat detached, but then penguins often do.



  • by jbuhler ( 489 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @06:08PM (#92877) Homepage
    In his essay "Supernatural Horror in Literature", H.P. Lovecraft wrote of Bulwer-Lytton: "[D]espite the large doses of turgid rhetoric and empty romanticism in his products, his success in the weaving of a certain kind of bizarre charm cannot be denied."

    If even Lovecraft thought the guy was too verbose and soppy, well, that's a lot of verbiage and sop.
    As for "bizarre charm," read the winning contest entries.
  • Bulwer-Lytton has a lot of great quotes. My personal favorite is his remarkably conditional statement, "Beneath the rule of men entirely great, the pen is mightier than the sword."
  • "This is for when the radio is broken and crackles like uranium orchids."

    It's actually a line from a poem, but think of the story that could follow.
  • Well, while I'm partial to HPL myself, his genius lay mostly in his ideas of cosmic horror -- his actual writing was rather turgid itself and full of pointlessly obscure words like "squamous", "rugose", and "eldritch".

    Although in the cancer field "squamous" is not uncommonly used, and whatever I hear it in a seminar the whole thing takes on a sinister Mythos significance (1D4/1D10 SAN loss)
  • I hope the contest winners gave their permission to have their email addresses and phone numbers posted on the web...
  • where is that from, anyway?
  • My favorite: A friend of mine bought one of those glass drinking birds -- you know, the kind with liquid on the inside that when it gets warm makes the head bob up and down?

    Well, the name of the product is written )in big letters) as "Non Toxic Drinking Bird". Then in little letters on the side it says "Warning: contents toxic".
  • The point of the contest is to highlight the social consequence of the profoundly inept and of those that beg to be of that ilk.
  • As transcribed [nmsu.edu] from the Encyclodpaedia Frobozzica [nmsu.edu], a compilation of all things from the Great Underground Empire, also known as "Zork".

    The grue is a sinister, lurking presence in the dark places of the earth. Its favorite diet is either adventurers or enchanters, but its insatiable appetite is tempered by its horrible fear of light. No grues have ever been seen by the light of day, and only a few have been observed in their underground lairs. Of those who have seen grues, few ever survived their fearsome jaws to tell the tale.

    Grues have sharp claws and fangs, and an uncontrollable tendency to slaver and gurgle. They are certainly the most evil-tempered of all creatures; to say they are touchy is a dangerous understatement. "Sour as a grue" is a common expression, even among themselves.

    In other words, a grue is a creature invented for the text-based adventure game Zork to keep you from pointlessly wandering around in pitch black. Make too many moves without a light source and you'll soon find yourself eaten by a grue.
  • Wow. I was always taught that run-on sentences were an ERROR, not something to award a prize for.
    Charles E. Hill
  • Nothing like publishing the names, email addresses and phone numbers of the winners.

    Now every whacko who thought *they* should have won will be able to easily track their victim down and do unspeakable things to them. Or , at the very least ring and abuse them.

    Or maybe they'll just get their details submitted to a few Consumer Marketing Databases and get phone calls and pr0n emailed to them for all eternity.

    ** Windows has detected a mouse movement.
  • Oh, I heard a different version, which required religion, sex, drama, suspense, royalty...: "My God!" said the Duchess, "I'm pregnant! Who can the father be?"

  • its dead man.
  • ...maybe the story should've been filed under "Microsoft." Given the intro that won the science-fiction category, who's to say Kirk's blue-screen woes weren't some sort of Borg plot?
  • Suddenly, a smile draped across CmdrTaco's beleagured face. Within mere seconds of contemplation, Rob had formed a deceitful plan of treachery and escape formed in the halls of his mind.

    Rob quickly began rambling off numbers and techno babble to the poor Anne in a flurry matched by no other geek in this plane of existance. Anne found herself dazed and barely able to speak.

    "Have you spoken a word of this to any other?", CmdrTaco ask suspiciously. Anne still recovering from CmdrTaco's flurry of tech speak barely replied, "no, of course not, you wer..."

    Images of evil danced over robs face as he cut Anne off and quickly moved to busy her. Rambling, mumbling, and siting bizarre documentation anomalies, he set Anne dazed into a confused state nearing incapacitation.

    Rob set off quickly for the NOC. If he reached Anne in time and with a minor changes to some details, no one would knew he had been alerted to the outage. Rob could then be free to continue his devilish pursuits exploring the many sensal wonders of the new Diablo II expansion pack.

    Upon entering the NOC he was greeted by three very large slashdot trolls. "Calm yourselves boys, we have work tonight", Rob calmly stated to the trolls. Within moments he was upon Anne who was still looking over numerous statistical information printouts and continued to be held CmdrTaco's spell of techno babble.

    CmdrTaco smiled gravely as he spoke to her softly, "Poor Anne, if you were only a tech, you would have easily fended off my gibberish TEK." In a mere flick of his wrist the trolls were upon Anne, quickly petrifying here and soiling her with hot grits.

    Just as quickly as he had entered, CmdrTaco had left the noc, and retired to his small 12 node Beowulf of Diablo II.
  • by bnenning ( 58349 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @06:44PM (#92892)
    Check out the Lyttle Lytton Contest [adamcadre.ac], where the objective is to produce the worst beginning sentence using a maximum of 25 words. The entries can't use long streams of overblown descriptions and metaphors, so they're terrible in new and creative ways.
  • gosh this takes me back... I have some of the books [fatbrain.com] with [fatbrain.com] the best entries; the contest dates back to at least 1985.

    from the books, the purpose of the contest:
    "The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is an annual competition sponsored by San Jose State University. It challenges entrants to compose the worst possible opening sentence to a hypothetical novel. The contest 'honors' Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, a prolific Victorian novelist who opened his 'Paul Clifford' (1830) with a sentence that has become the standard for potboilers: 'It was a dark and stormy night...'"

    here's an example, the 1985 grand prize winner:
    "The countdown had stalled at T minus 69 seconds when Desiree, the first female ape to go up in space, winked at me slyly and pouted her thick, rubbery lips unmistakably - the first of many such advances during what would prove to be the longest, and most memorable, space voyage of my career"

    must be a single sentence.

  • "I been a private Ricardo for forty years, so I seen some god-dam ugly messes in my sweet life, but nothing like what happened to Dakota Joe - he looked like he'd swallowed a bobcat and then done something to piss it off."

    "She was like the driven snow beneath the galoshes of my lust"

    "Emily had always like little John, the neighbor's kid, and he was particularly good done this way in a delicate bechamel sauce with simmered mushrooms and just a hint of garlic"

  • this little gem.

    In A.D. 2101 War was beginning.

    Captain: What happen ?
    Mechanic: Somebody set up us the bomb
    Operator: We get signal
    Captain: What !
    Operator: Main screen turn on
    Captain: It's You !!
    Cats: How are you gentlemen !!
    Cats: All your base are belong to us
    Cats: You are on the way to destruction
    Captain: What you say !!
    Cats: You have no chance to survive make your time
    Cats: HA HA HA HA ....
    Captain: Take off every 'zig'
    Captain: You know what you doing
    Captain: Move 'zig'
    Captain: For great justice

    I'm just saying...
  • obviously you did not read the submissions, as they were the epitphamy of bad and there is no doubt, in anyone's mind, that they are.. bad.

  • (nice try)

    No, not witty quips. Purposely bad quips. From the canada.com article: "The tiny dog formed the basis of her winning entry Monday in the 20th annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest - given to the writer who can come up with the worst beginning to an imaginary novel."

    It's named after Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, who really did start off a novel (Paul Clifford) with the line "It was a dark and stormy night".

  • No, no no, its not violence, its mystery

    "Oh my God!" said the Queen, "I'm pregnant, i wonder who did it."
  • by MrBlack ( 104657 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @06:11PM (#92899)
    Someone needs to start a contest for bad technical writing. All the crappy books, articles and source code comments should provide a rich source of material. I first heard of the Bulwer-Lytton contest from a review of a book on SQL programming on Amazon.
  • What's the purpose of this contest?

    As others have pointed out, it's looking for really bad first sentences to fictional novels. Their submissions are made up for the contest, by the participants. However, here's the original that inspired it (sorry, but you asked):

    "It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents --except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."

    --Paul Clifford (1830) by Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton (1803-73)
  • When I checked out the story on Canada.com, I noticed something very troubling: their partial list completely omitted the "Vile Pun" winners! Is there some Canadian plot against bad puns, or did the writer or editor just have a really bad time as a kid (everyone using wordplays on their name or something)?
  • Blue Screen of Death
  • Don't forget the instructions that accompany crappy Made in Taiwan/China/Korea products! I wish I had some examples handy, they should be winners. And of course about any tech specs written by non-native english speakers for companies that use english as their official language (I've seen quite a few Nokia telephone exchange s/w software specs... they're hilarious... written by fellow finnish programmers).
  • Where's the fun in judging people who write bad beginnings on purpose? Surely the fun of the competition should be in picking real printed books that were never meant to be bad and showing just how awful they are. Then you have the added bonus of knowing that (a) somebody actually bothered to publish this crasp and (b) some mug probably bought it! :)

  • Unfortunately for Eli, however, he quickly succumbed to the resistance in the darkened and microscopic channels in which he flowed. So he became heat, and thus was an electron no more.

    The End.

  • ... for another fine product of the modern liberal arts curriculum!

    Reasonable people can disagree on what constitutes "good" writing or "bad" writing, but to say that there is no bad writing...? Sheesh.

  • Just do what Voltaire [mp3s.com] does:

    And I say
    Bounce a graviton particle beam
    Off the main deflector dish
    That's the way we do things, lad,
    We're making s**t up as we wish
    The Klingons and the Romulans
    Pose no threat to us
    Cos if we find we're in a bind
    We just make some s**t up...

  • Oh my God, that is the funniest thing I have ever read!
  • It was a dark and stormy night in which our enemies were catching the ship we had stolen, a type 3 solar powered attack craft, according to tne manual we were beginning to translate.

  • The shattering news hit him like a blow to the solar plexus, and his adrenal glands prepared for a massive secretion of epinephrine and norepinephrine in the classic "fight or flight" response as he realized the truth-the mind-deadening months of toil, the endless Little Debbie Snack Cake-fueled late nights, the ingratiating compliments to the CEO's pubescent fourth wife, the obsequious pandering to the snide staff in Human Resources, the feigned interest in the Director of Purchasing's numbingly repetititive wingnut collection, the humiliating groveling to win the miniscule Withers-Grimes account, it had all been for nothing; Spivens, it seemed, would be getting the much-coveted translucent blue pencil sharpener.

    Sounds familiar, no?

    Check out the Vinny the Vampire [eplugz.com] comic strip

  • With the worst beginnings of a regular slashdot post, or something.

    Let's not forget such cult favorites as:
    "I know I'll get moderated down for this, but..."
    "CmdrTaco misspelled words in the story all three times that he posted it."

  • What's the purpose of this contest? It seems like a competition to come up with extremely short and witty quips.

    Frankly, I've seen much more clever prose generated much more quickly in the early stages of a new slashdot article.

    No, the point is indeed to create such total, overblown crap.


  • Doesn't Jon Katz win that one automatically?
  • Hel-loooooooooooooooooo Protagoras! [friesian.com]

    Amazing to see you doing so well today, after all these years.

  • With the worst beginnings of a regular slashdot post, or something. Who can forget that instant classic:
    First post!

    Or the second-most used (or abused) introduction to a post:
    IANAL, but... (Followed by 3 pages of weird, stupid and/or self-contradicting legal advice)

    Any takers?
    Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earth-bound misfit, I
  • by FreeMath ( 230584 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @05:44PM (#92916) Homepage Journal
    It is stormy. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.
  • I have cabled a large and indefinite sum to Amazon as a retainer . This may well be book of the new millenium.
  • by CaptCanuk ( 245649 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2001 @06:19AM (#92918) Journal
    Leave it to the president of the Mathematics and Actuarial Science's Student Union (http://www.math.utoronto.ca/massu/) of the University of Toronto to win the fantasy category. If you read his entry, it's obvious the guy only thinks of ACT courses. "overthrowing the evil mage's tyranny, he envisioned a progressive tax system based upon income brackets, yet allowing deductions for business expenses, dependents, and charitable donations." It just goes to prove that not all president's of math clubs are uber-geeks.
  • Who wants to join me on a massive prank calling campaign ... after all ... they gave us all of their phone numbers... Bowahahaha!
  • by spellcheckur ( 253528 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @05:26PM (#92920)
    What's the purpose of this contest? (Sorry, the link is /.ed to oblivion).
    It seems like a competition to come up with extremely short and witty quips.

    Frankly, I've seen much more clever prose generated much more quickly in the early stages of a new slashdot article.

    Did anyone try entering the contest with "FP!" or "Can you imagine..." ?

  • he he he he hah hah hah ha heh heh ha hah ha ha haa ha. Ok. That link was hysterical. I only read the first couple of paragraphs for fear of waking up the neighbors with my laughter.
  • by Momboleum ( 257861 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @05:30PM (#92922)
    Slashdotters around the world were putting away their toyz & preparing to surf the mighty internet all night when a giant wordsmith strode amongst them all, wielding an o.e.d. under one mighty thew & a roget's thesaurus under the other, hoping to smite all contenders & thus qualify for the title of world's windiest writer!
  • Does it count if we do a quick AYBation with the Fish?

    "I make no guarantees as to the contents of this file being 100% accurate, so edit at your own risk."
    >> Japanese >>
    "I do not make guarantee accurate in regard to the contents of this file which is 100% year old, therefore you yourself being dangerous, compile."

  • Ah, those were the days.. remember such things as the Apple II, Ascii Express lines, and BBS's? Remember those silly groups like Anarchy, Inc. and Octothorpe? Remember the classic textfiles, the various "Black Box Plans" and whatnot?

    Who could forget such classics as "Murder at 300 baud"? Or "Boog and the Art of Zen [textfiles.com]", a bit of nonsense I wrote back in 1986? I tell you, if you want excellent examples of bad writing, old textfiles really stand out!
  • by parl ( 301693 )
    It's actually "All yuor base are belong..." not "All your base...".
  • Oh, kind of like Engrish [engrish.com]?

  • To create the worst possible opening lines.

    I'd like to point out that Lord Bulwer-Lytton is an ancestor of mine, although I wasn't conceived on a dark and stormy night (back of a VW bus for me :)

  • by s20451 ( 410424 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @05:22PM (#92928) Journal
    It Was a Dark and Stormy Night
    by Snoopy

    Part 1

    It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly, a shot rang out! A door slammed. The maid screamed.

    Suddenly, a pirate ship appeared on the horizon!

    While millions of people were starving, the king lived in luxury. Meanwhile, on a small farm in Kansas, a boy was growing up.

    Part 2

    A light snow was falling, and the little girl with the tattered shawl had not sold a violet all day.

    At that very moment, a young intern at City Hospital was making an important discovery. The mysterious patient in Room 213 had finally awakened. She moaned softly.

    Could it be that she was the sister of the boy in Kansas who loved the girl with the tattered shawl who was the daughter of the maid who had escaped from the pirates? The intern frowned.

    "Stampede!" the foreman shouted, and forty thousand head of cattle thundered down on the tiny camp. The two men rolled on the ground grappling beneath the murderous hooves. A left and a right. A left. Another left and right. An uppercut to the jaw. The fight was over. And so the ranch was saved.

    The young intern sat by himself in one corner of the coffee shop. He had learned about medicine, but more importantly, he had learned something about life.

    The End

  • by sakusha ( 441986 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @08:11PM (#92929)
    I remember reading a story about Bulwer-Lytton, someone criticised his novels as lacking the elements that a serious novel required: sex, violence, royalty, and religion. B-L said he could do that in one sentence, and wrote:

    "'Get your hand off my knee or I'll kill you,' said the Duchess to the Bishop."
  • The Dark and stormy night hits. --more--
    You Die.
  • Google is not affiliated with the authors of this page nor responsible for its content.

    so google isn't affiliated with google? how does that work again?


  • by SilentChris ( 452960 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @05:35PM (#92932) Homepage
    As a fellow writer, most of this is primarily subjective. I always thought the beginning to "A Tale of Two Cities" was not only repetitive and full of alliteration, but downright bad writing. While the beginning of "Grapes of Wrath" was really solid.

    The funny thing is, there is no such thing as "bad writing". Everybody views something good as bad, and bad as good (especially in the New York art sense).

  • Thank you thank you thank you! Haven't read a MiSTing in some time, and that was a good one! Two thumbs up from this reviewer!
  • I'm looking at the screen shot from Zero Wing, and nope, it's definitely 'your' not 'yuor'. Or YOUR to be precise since everything was in uppercase. (I can't believe I just spell-corrected an AYBABTU reference. Shoot me now. =)
  • It was midnight, I didn't care to check my spelling. Please forgive me.
  • Someone reply with the second paragraph. I'll make more contributions if a thread gets started :)
  • by Kappelmeister ( 464986 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @05:57PM (#92937)
    A barrage of incessantly excited electrons, zipping back and forth in an intricate magnetic dance, flowed like the Niagra through the labyrinthine catacombs of Cisco's resistors and capacitors within the muggy, dust-ridden interior of OSDN's overworked, recently repaired router. One in particular tumbled through transistors with impunity, spinning with such decided direction that, as it thought, Schrodinger had better start digging a permanent residence for his furry feline friend. Bereft of passion or conviction, one of a garganutan series, this election lived and died like an Egyption spirit for the data he lugged about like a woker ant. He is Eli Electron -- and this is his story.
  • He would have been ok if only they hadnt decided to run outlook express for the enterpise mail system - damn that i love you virus to hell !

    "This is higly illogical jim, it appears that we are now owned by someone called jeff K"

In less than a century, computers will be making substantial progress on ... the overriding problem of war and peace. -- James Slagle