Saturday, March 31, 2007

Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest

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 José 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. A prize of US$250 is awarded.

The contest was initiated in 1982 by Professor Scott Rice and is named "in honor" of English novelist and playwright Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, author of the much-quoted first line "It was a dark and stormy night." This opening 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 from on-campus, but it expanded to gain international attention and may attract as many as 10,000 entries in a year. There are also now several subcategories, such as detective fiction, romance novels, Western novels, and purple prose. Sentences that are notable but are judged not quite bad enough to merit the Grand Prize or a category prize are awarded Dishonorable Mentions.