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August 12, 2014 5:13 PM   Subscribe

Elizabeth Dorfman of Bainbridge Island, WA, is the 32nd grand prize winner of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, which challenges writers to concoct the worst opening sentence of a hypothetical novel. The winning entry:
When the dead moose floated into view the famished crew cheered – this had to mean land! – but Captain Walgrove, flinty-eyed and clear headed thanks to the starvation cleanse in progress, gave fateful orders to remain on the original course and await the appearance of a second and confirming moose.
More notable entries from this year.

The Bulwer-Lytton contest previously on Metafilter: 2011, 2010, 2008, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001.

Also previously, the shorter competition, the Lyttle Lyttons: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2009, 2004.
posted by Shmuel510 (45 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
Worst? I'm pretty intrigued by that opening. I have an hankering to read that book.

I'm not sure what that says about my literary taste. I just finished a Patrick Lee book (Breach). In my defence, I thought it was trash. Against me, I finished it. I'm trying to make up for a little by reading Brilliance now, which seems intriguing.
posted by Bovine Love at 5:25 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


No comma after "view"? Hmmmmmm ... otherwise an excellent choice.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 5:26 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


It's more a contest to see how many relative clauses one can use to tell a joke. This actually makes me appreciate Twitter.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:27 PM on August 12 [7 favorites]


I think I like "clear-eyed and flinty headed" better, but whatever.
posted by Wolfdog at 5:31 PM on August 12 [2 favorites]


Man, this is making me nostalgic for The Eye of Argon. That can't be healthy.

*backs away from the FPP with slow and furtive motions, eyes cast left, then right, then left again, refusing to give the pile of bad stories his back*
posted by mordax at 5:36 PM on August 12


As the foeman's axe descended, Ragnar Thorvaldsson thought quickly, but with uncannily prescient anachronism; that his paltry contribution to this raid would not be recorded in the great sagas, or even a minor tale, but at best he might be remembered centuries hence only as third oarsman in the Boy's Own Book of Viking Adventure Stories

That seems a little unfair - that's a perfectly good bit of Douglas Adams / Pratchett-y japery, surely?
posted by Jon Mitchell at 5:37 PM on August 12 [6 favorites]


On such a moist - so moist and fecundly marine as to feel as though one were almost Geoduckian at the lowest ebb of tides - Seattle summer sweltering day such as today, I have long considered entering myself amongst the respectable entrants to be counted but I fear that it would remove and reduce any carefully cultivated dis-respectability I have so far garnered and gleaned and as such it seems to win is only to lose, and to win is not to play.
posted by loquacious at 5:40 PM on August 12 [12 favorites]


I initially read it as "flirty-eyed," which took it a whole 'nother level.
posted by argonauta at 5:42 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


When the dead moose floated into view the famished crew cheered – this had to mean land! – but Captain Walgrove, flinty-eyed and clear headed thanks to the starvation cleanse in progress, gave fateful orders to remain on the original course and await the appearance of a second and confirming moose.

I would so read this book, or at least a few more paragraphs. It feels like an opening influenced by Douglas Adams.
posted by SpacemanStix at 5:43 PM on August 12 [3 favorites]


Also, this is the first time I've felt I might participate in a writing contest.
posted by SpacemanStix at 5:45 PM on August 12


That seems a little unfair - that's a perfectly good bit of Douglas Adams / Pratchett-y japery, surely?

It is true that there's a difference between straight-up bad writing and writers gleefully competing to produce baroque, punny, or otherwise dissonant short-short works. I'd take "bad opening sentences" more as a writing prompt than a judgment.
posted by Shmuel510 at 5:47 PM on August 12 [2 favorites]


Surely some combination of a romance novel and wall paper glue guide would win this?
posted by edgeways at 5:49 PM on August 12


As the foeman's axe descended, Ragnar Thorvaldsson thought quickly, but with uncannily prescient anachronism; that his paltry contribution to this raid would not be recorded in the great sagas, or even a minor tale, but at best he might be remembered centuries hence only as third oarsman in the Boy's Own Book of Viking Adventure Stories

That seems a little unfair - that's a perfectly good bit of Douglas Adams / Pratchett-y japery, surely?


I would say Tom Holt
posted by Area Man at 5:50 PM on August 12


The Bulwer-Lytton contest has morphed from something genuinely funny into a bloated exercise in verbal masturbation. For those more interested in the spirit of the original competition, I recommend the Lyttle Lytton contest.
posted by Behemoth at 5:52 PM on August 12 [12 favorites]


"My name is Shilesta," the princess whispered to me as I escorted her from the throne room, "But I have many more names, titles, and remarkable qualities that you may use instead if your word count demands."
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:54 PM on August 12 [12 favorites]


The night sky roared with a silence not so much deafening but rather, demeaning. The moon glowered with insolence and demanded a sacrifice. Who was I to argue?
posted by aydeejones at 5:59 PM on August 12 [4 favorites]


That sentence obviously started with the idea "a second and confirming moose".
posted by 2bucksplus at 6:08 PM on August 12 [9 favorites]


"I really don't feel like seeing anybody or doing anything at all", she sighed to no one in particular, "and for the next 600 pages, I won't!"
posted by 2bucksplus at 6:11 PM on August 12 [3 favorites]


The Bulwer-Lytton contest has morphed from something genuinely funny into a bloated exercise in verbal masturbation.

The contest does tend to produce a lot of identically-structured entries--some combination of run-on sentences, overlong similes or metaphors, and rampant amplification. The grand prize winner's non-winning "Some stories are so compelling they almost seem to write themselves, but not this one" struck me as funnier than a lot of the winners. (Not that I didn't laugh, mind you.)

Perhaps from years of reading Victorian religious fiction of dubious-to-non-existent aesthetic merit, B-L's notorious opening sentence strikes me as...really not that bad. Certainly not for him, anyway.
posted by thomas j wise at 6:45 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: a second and confirming walrus
posted by uosuaq at 6:46 PM on August 12


Magic was a thing that was alive and well and capable of extraordinary feats unfortunately all the really good jobs were in magic-prohibition law or dentistry; the first occupation more interesting in preventing acts of magic, the second, gingivitis.
posted by 2bucksplus at 6:47 PM on August 12 [2 favorites]


The Confirming Moose is the title of my next ambient/Arvo Part/Canadian lumberjack album
posted by Devonian at 6:48 PM on August 12 [7 favorites]


I'm not clear on the point of simulated bad writing; seems like there was plenty of the authentic variety going around even before this glorious new era of the 99 cent self-published ebook.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:50 PM on August 12 [2 favorites]


Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum's Grand Gallery. He lunged for the nearest painting he could see, a Caravaggio. Grabbing the gilded frame, the seventy-six-year-old man heaved the masterpiece toward himself until it tore from the wall and Saunière collapsed backward in a heap beneath the canvas.

That's how you do bad writing, Brucie.
posted by Sebmojo at 6:54 PM on August 12 [14 favorites]


I'm not clear on the point of simulated bad writing

Because they're funny! Mystery solved, detective.
posted by neuromodulator at 6:55 PM on August 12 [3 favorites]


I keep forgetting to submit entries to this thing, like an architect forgetting about a doorway design contest.
posted by uosuaq at 7:10 PM on August 12 [3 favorites]


I would read the full novel for every last one of these.
posted by mochapickle at 7:11 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


The Confirming Moose is the title of my next ambient/Arvo Part/Canadian lumberjack album

I need this so badly that I actually just clicked through to your profile hoping you occasionally posted to MeFiMu.
posted by dorque at 7:31 PM on August 12


Wow, yeah, I'm spoiled on Lyttle Lytton too. Most of these just feel like they're trying too hard — as we all know, b. is t. soul of
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:38 PM on August 12 [4 favorites]


They're funny like people doing Monty Python skits to each other on the bus in the morning.
posted by Sebmojo at 7:42 PM on August 12 [5 favorites]


The Bulwer-Lytton contest has morphed from something genuinely funny into a bloated exercise in verbal masturbation.

Keep going and you get Atlas Shrugged?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:02 PM on August 12 [2 favorites]


My personal preference tends toward oral masturbation.
posted by maxsparber at 9:13 PM on August 12


Mmmppphh.
posted by maxsparber at 9:14 PM on August 12


"Mad Dog lay in a bath tub of steamy water with two beautiful women at his side. He was smoking a Cuban cigar and drank a beer while he flirted with the girls. Suddenly the door flew open with a thunderous boom and in jumped an angry little man with a very big gun. Mad Dog leapt to his feet, a huge muscular torso and shlong dangling between his knees. The gunman fired a tremendous blow that landed Mad Dog in the elbow. He jumped on the little dude and struck him with his blows. Mad Dog beat that man for every last drop and made him beg for his forgiveness. He tossed his shredded corpse in the bath tub and shot both of the naked bimbos so that they wouldn’t talk. He dressed and bandaged himself and went across the street, to a fancy little bar to have himself a drink."

(Written hurriedly but totally in earnest by a stoned teenage friend)
posted by ELF Radio at 10:08 PM on August 12 [7 favorites]


The white letters sharply contrasting against a blue background, Metafilter relentlessly debated whether a mushroom hamburger could launch from a treadmill todd lokken.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:25 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


todd lokken

gods, that one is so old I actually had to look it up on the wiki.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:49 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


Thanks, Behemoth, for the Lyttle Lytton link. I've really enjoyed reading the winners there.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:03 AM on August 13


Stone teenage friend, yeah
*winks*
posted by glasseyes at 5:34 AM on August 13


On and on the rain fell, on and on it came, but she was safe inside, in my arms, even though it was 9/11 (the one in 2001).
posted by clockzero at 6:49 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


I'm sure that in the hyper-terse world of the 22nd century, people will be imitating the verbose and turgid prose of metafilter posts, just for the entertainment value.

Runner-up, "Sarcastic Commentary" division, 2118

posted by happyroach at 7:13 AM on August 13


a huge muscular torso and shlong dangling between his knees

Why is there a torso dangling between his knees? Presumably it has its own schlong as well? Is that the schlong being mentioned? How is the torso even being held in place to dangle? Tape? Suspenders?
posted by Panjandrum at 7:55 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


Courtesy of Warren Ellis:
[S]ometimes, deep in the armpit of the night, these sketches call to me. I dream that perhaps I walked away from the purest fiction ever to have touched a screen. And then I dream that I’m being repeatedly punched in the face by everybody.
Planet Earth’s Control Room

Jesus Christ’s liver tasted of gin and semen. I gobbed it out on to the floor and looked around the control room. Somewhere out back, the Pope was still screaming. If I hadn’t punched the teeth out of the pirahna before I poured them up him, he might be dead by now. The only thing muffling his fucking noise was the mouthful of used condoms. The Virgin Mary came out of a side door with a shotgun. I bit off the end and spat it in her eye, laughing. “Virgin Mary my arse,” I said. “Any wife of mine coming home with that story would have been left out for the lepers before midnight. You like the taste of dadpaste and no mistake. I’ve chewed open your son and washed his raw meat down with a bottle of shit wine. What do you think to that?” As the Virgin Mary went down on her booted knees and skilfully guided my purple-headed battering ram past her prehensile tonsils, I looked at the control panel. There was a depression in it with a red button at the bottom with the sign DO NOT PRESS. At the last moment, I ripped my beef missile free of her vocal cords with both hands and shoved it down into the control console.

The world exploded.

And THEN I ejaculated.

The end. Fuck off.

The Insulted Lover

I grabbed a handful of my own semen out of Mother Teresa and flung it at the oncoming cops. They all got instantly pregnant and fell over. Even the men.

“I’ve had better,” said Mother Teresa, sparking a match off her nipple and lighting up a joint.

It was then I knew I had to kill everyone in the city. With my penis.

I flexed my flaming meathammer. The road cracked in half. The cops exploded. So did the buildings. Everybody died.

Except me.

Result.

The end. Fuck off.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 10:39 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


This is a tale of love, pain, loss, and redemption – and of a baboon, Amelia.

A future Best Seller!
posted by BlueHorse at 9:27 PM on August 13


Jonquil Storme opened her languorous blue eyes and looked at the clock. 'O drat and bother' she expectorated. The clock said seven o'clock and Jonquil was due at Heathrow Airport at seven fifteen, where she was in charge of Concorde.
- A. A. Mole
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:56 PM on August 13


prehensile tonsils

halp i think i just died of lol
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:58 PM on August 13


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