Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest

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The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (BLFC) is a tongue-in-cheek contest that takes place annually and is sponsored by the English Department of San Jose State University in San Jose, California. Entrants are invited "to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels" – that is, deliberately bad. According to the official rules, the prize for winning the contest is "a pittance",[1] or $250.[2]

The contest was started in 1982 by Professor Scott E. Rice of the English Department at San Jose State University and is named for English novelist and playwright Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, author of the much-quoted first line "It was a dark and stormy night". This opening, from the 1830 novel Paul Clifford, continues floridly:

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.

The first year of the competition attracted just three entries, but it went public the next year, received media attention, and attracted 10,000 entries.[3] There are now several subcategories, such as detective fiction, romance novels, Western novels, and purple prose. Sentences that are notable but not quite bad enough to merit the Grand Prize or a category prize are awarded Dishonorable Mentions.

Winning entrants[edit]

The winning entries are available at the contest website.

Year Author
1983 Gail Cain San Francisco, California
1984 Steven Garman Pensacola, Florida
1985 Martha Simpson Glastonbury, Connecticut
1986 Patricia E. Presutti Lewiston, New York
1987 Sheila B. Richter Minneapolis, Minnesota
1988 Rachel E. Sheeley Williamsburg, Indiana
1989 Ray C. Gainey Indianapolis, Indiana
1990 Linda Vernon Newark, California
1991 Judy Frazier Lathrop, Missouri
1992 Laurel Fortuner Montendre, France
1993 Wm. W. "Buddy" Ocheltree Port Townsend, Washington
1994 Larry Brill Austin, Texas
1995 John L. Ashman Houston, Texas
1996 Janice Estey Aspen, Colorado
1997 Artie Kalemeris Fairfax, Virginia
1998 Bob Perry Milton, Massachusetts
1999 Dr. David Chuter Kingston, U.K.
2000 Gary Dahl Los Gatos, California
2001 Sera Kirk Vancouver, Canada
2002 Rephah Berg Oakland, California
2003 Mariann Simms Wetumpka, Alabama
2004 Dave Zobel Manhattan Beach, California
2005 Dan McKay Fargo, North Dakota
2006 Jim Guigli Carmichael, California
2007 Jim Gleeson Madison, Wisconsin
2008 Garrison Spik Washington, D.C.
2009 David McKenzie Federal Way, Washington
2010 Molly Ringle Seattle, Washington
2011 Sue Fondrie Appleton, Wisconsin
2012 Cathy Bryant Manchester, U.K.
2013 Chris Wieloch Brookfield, Wisconsin

Collections[edit]

Six books collecting the best BLFC entries have been published:

An audio cassette of the winning entries in the BLFC was also released:

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest: Rules (page down)
  2. ^ Hesse, Monica (August 15, 2008). "Purple Prose? His Is Truly Bruising". The Washington Post. Retrieved 30 June 2010. 
  3. ^ History of the BLFC (page down)

External links[edit]