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Bulwer Lytton Fiction Contest

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Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest

"It was a dark and stormy night . . . and 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 Sir Edward George Bulwer-Lytton.

Grand Prize Winning Entries 1983 -2002

Bulwer/Lytton Fiction Contest All Winners | 2002 | 2001

It was a Dark and Stormy Night  Audio Cassette

Snoopy, via the pen of Charles Schultz, has made this opening line infamous.  This line also inspired Professor Scott Rice to become the founder of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.  The contest invites writers to pen the worst opening sentence to a novel (real or imaginary).  The contest has been sponsored by the English Department at San Jose State University, since 1982. Rules of Entry

Sir Edward George Bulwer Lytton

The Works of Edward Bulwer-Lytton (19 Volumes in Library Binding) Special Order | Classic Books

The Last Days of Pompeii | Hardcover | Paperback

Vril: The Power of the Coming Race | Hardcover | Paperback

Zanoni: A Rosicrucian Tale | Hardcover | Paperback

Last of the Barons | Paperback

Grand Prize Winning Entries 1983 -2002

2002 On reflection, Angela perceived that her relationship with Tom had always been rocky, not quite a roller-coaster ride but more like when the toilet-paper roll gets a little squashed so it hangs crooked and every time you pull some off you can hear the rest going bumpity-bumpity in its holder until you go nuts and push it back into shape, a degree of annoyance that Angela had now almost attained.  Ms. Rephah Berg Oakland CA

2001 A small assortment of astonishingly loud brass instruments raced each other lustily to the respective ends of their distinct musical choices as the gates flew open to release a torrent of tawny fur comprised of angry yapping bullets that nipped at Desdemona's ankles, causing her to reflect once again (as blood filled her sneakers and she fought her way through the panicking crowd) that the annual Running of the Pomeranians in Liechtenstein was a stupid idea. Sera Kirk Vancouver, British Columbia

2000 The heather-encrusted Headlands, veiled in fog as thick as smoke in a crowded pub, hunched precariously over the moors, their rocky elbows slipping off land's end, their bulbous, craggy noses thrust into the thick foam of the North Sea like bearded old men falling asleep in their pints.  Gary Dahl, Los Gatos, CA

1999 Through the gathering gloom of a late-October afternoon, along the greasy, cracked paving-stones slick from the sputum of the sky, Stanley Ruddlethorp wearily trudged up the hill from the cemetery where his wife, sister, brother, and three children were all buried, and forced open the door of his decaying house, blissfully unaware of the catastrophe that was soon to devastate his life.  Dr. David Chuter, Kingston, Surrey, ENGLAND

1998 The corpse exuded the irresistible aroma of a piquant, ancho chili glaze enticingly enhanced with a hint of fresh cilantro as it lay before him, coyly garnished by a garland of variegated radicchio and caramelized onions, and impishly drizzled with glistening rivulets of vintage balsamic vinegar and roasted garlic oil; yes, as he surveyed the body of the slain food critic slumped on the floor of the cozy, but nearly empty, bistro, a quick inventory of his senses told corpulent Inspector Moreau that this was, in all likelihood, an inside job.  Bob Perry, Milton, MA

1997 The moment he laid eyes on the lifeless body of the nude socialite sprawled across the bathroom floor, Detective Leary knew she had committed suicide by grasping the cap on the tamper-proof bottle, pushing down and twisting while she kept her thumb firmly pressed against the spot the arrow pointed to, until she hit the exact spot where the tab clicks into place, allowing her to remove the cap and swallow the entire contents of the bottle, thus ending her life.  Artie Kalemeris, Fairfax, VA

1996 "Ace, watch your head!" hissed Wanda urgently, yet somehow provocatively, through red, full, sensuous lips, but he couldn't you know, since nobody can actually watch more than part of his nose or a little cheek or lips if he really tries, but he appreciated her warning.  Janice Estey, Aspen, Colorado

1995 Paul Revere had just discovered that someone in Boston was a spy for the British, and when he saw the young woman believed to be the spy's girlfriend in an Italian restaurant he said to the waiter, "Hold the spumoni--I'm going to follow the chick an' catch a Tory."  John L. Ashman, Houston, Texas

1994 As the fading light of a dying day filtered through the window blinds, Roger stood over his victim with a smoking .45, surprised at the serenity that filled him after pumping six slugs into the bloodless tyrant that mocked him day after day, and then he shuffled out of the office with one last look back at the shattered computer terminal lying there like a silicon armadillo left to rot on the information superhighway.  Larry Brill, Austin, Texas

1993 She wasn't really my type, a hard-looking but untalented reporter from the local cat box liner, but the first second that the third-rate representative of the fourth estate cracked open a new fifth of old Scotch, my sixth sense said seventh heaven was as close as an eighth note from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, so, nervous as a tenth grader drowning in eleventh-hour cramming for a physics exam, I swept her into my longing arms, and, humming "The Twelfth of Never," I got lucky on Friday the thirteenth.  Wm. W. "Buddy" Ocheltree, Port Townsend, Washington

1992 As the newest Lady Turnpot descended into the kitchen wrapped only in her celery-green dressing gown, her creamy bosom rising and falling like a temperamental soufflé, her tart mouth pursed in distaste, the sous-chef whispered to the scullery boy, "I don't know what to make of her."  Laurel Fortuner, Montendre, France

1991 Sultry it was and humid, but no whisper of air caused the plump, laden spears of golden grain to nod their burdened heads as they unheedingly awaited the cyclic rape of their gleaming treasure, while overhead the burning orb of luminescence ascended its ever-upward path toward a sweltering celestial apex, for although it is not in Kansas that our story takes place, it looks god awful like it.  Judy Frazier, Lathrop, Missouri

1990 Dolores breezed along the surface of her life like a flat stone forever skipping across smooth water, rippling reality sporadically but oblivious to it consistently, until she finally lost momentum, sank, and due to an overdose of fluoride as a child which caused her to lie forever on the floor of her life as useless as an appendix and as lonely as a five-hundred-pound barbell in a steroid-free fitness center.  Linda Vernon, Newark, California

1989 Professor Frobisher couldn't believe he had missed seeing it for so long--it was, after all, right there under his nose--but in all his years of research into the intricate and mysterious ways of the universe, he had never noticed that the freckles on his upper lip, just below and to the left of the nostril, partially hidden until now by a hairy mole he had just removed a week before, exactly matched the pattern of the stars in the Pleiades, down to the angry red zit that had just popped up where he and his colleagues had only today discovered an exploding nova.  Ray C. Gainey, Indianapolis, Indiana

1988 Like an expensive sports car, fine-tuned and well-built, Portia was sleek, shapely, and gorgeous, her red jumpsuit molding her body, which was as warm as the seat covers in July, her hair as dark as new tires, her eyes flashing like bright hubcaps, and her lips as dewy as the beads of fresh rain on the hood; she was a woman driven--fueled by a single accelerant--and she needed a man, a man who wouldn't shift from his views, a man to steer her along the right road, a man like Alf Romeo.  Rachel E. Sheeley, Williamsburg, Indiana

1987 The notes blatted skyward as the sun rose over the Canada geese, feathered rumps mooning the day, webbed appendages frantically peddling unseen bicycles in their search for sustenance, driven by Nature's maxim, "Ya wanna eat, ya gotta work," and at last I knew Pittsburgh.  Sheila B. Richter, Minneapolis, Minnesota

1986 The bone-chilling scream split the warm summer night in two, the first half being before the scream when it was fairly balmy and calm and pleasant for those who hadn't heard the scream at all, but not calm or balmy or even very nice for those who did hear the scream, discounting the little period of time during the actual scream itself when your ears might have been hearing it but your brain wasn't reacting yet to let you know.  Patricia E. Presutti, Lewiston, New York

1985 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. Martha Simpson, Glastonbury, Connecticut

1984 The lovely woman-child Kaa was mercilessly chained to the cruel post of the warrior-chief Beast, with his barbarous tribe now stacking wood at her nubile feet, when the strong, clear voice of the poetic and heroic Handsomas roared, "Flick your Bic, crisp that chick, and you'll feel my steel through your last meal."  Steven Garman, Pensacola, Florida

1983 The camel died quite suddenly on the second day, and Selena fretted sulkily and, buffing her already impeccable nails--not for the first time since the journey began--pondered snidely if this would dissolve into a vignette of minor inconveniences like all the other holidays spent with Basil.  Gail Cain, San Francisco, California

The rules of entry: Sentences may be of any length (though you go beyond 50 or 60 words at your peril), and entrants may submit more than one, but all entries must be original and previously unpublished.

Entries should be submitted on index cards, the sentence on one side and the entrant's name, address, and phone number on the other.

Entries will be judged by categories, from "general" to detective, western, science fiction, romance, and so on. There will be overall winners as well as category winners.

The deadline is April 15 (a date Americans associate with painful submissions and making up bad stories - Although they like telling people that the contest deadline is April 15, it is actually in early July, the time established by procrastination to announce the results. In fact, they receive entries all the livelong year.).  Rules reprinted from

Send your entries via postal mail to:
Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest
Department of English
San Jose State University
San Jose, CA 95192-0090

To send your BLFC entry electronically, write to: Be sure to include your name, address and phone number.

It was a dark and stormy night

Bulwer Lytton Fiction Contest

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