While I do love Los Angeles and consider it to be my beloved adopted home, I will always have a special place in my heart for the strange customs and traditions of my homeland Silicon Valley. One such tradition is San Jose State University’s annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, named in honor of Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, author of the immortal (if you’re Snoopy) words:
“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 words above are considered bad by those people who know about such things (I personally think they were just ahead of their time), and thus the Bulwer-Lytton prize is given to the person who writes the first sentence to the world’s worst novel. This is not to be confused with the world’s worst first sentence to a novel, though information on the contest is not completely consistent on this point. Anyway, the top prizes normally go to a very complicated and flowery compound sentence, and this year’s winning sentence by David McKenzie is no exception:
“Folks say that if you listen real close at the height of the full moon, when the wind is blowin’ off Nantucket Sound from the nor’ east and the dogs are howlin’ for no earthly reason, you can hear the awful screams of the crew of the “Ellie May,” a sturdy whaler Captained by John McTavish; for it was on just such a night when the rum was flowin’ and, Davey Jones be damned, big John brought his men on deck for the first of several screaming contests.”
My personal favorite this year, however, doesn’t follow the rules. Interestingly enough, it was penned by Tony Alfieri from… Los Angeles:
“In a flurry of flame and fur, fangs and wicker, thus ended the world’s first and only hot air baboon ride.”
Nicely done, Tony. I know LA’s a big city, but I have a feeling we might be neighbors.