THE BULWER-LYTTON AWARDS
Along with the Razzies (awarded to each year’s worst films) and the Darwins (given posthumously to particularly stupid people whose folly kills them), the Bulwer-Lytton Awards are the most anticipated event of my cultural calendar.
Each year, enthusiasts submit overblown and wayward prose in the style of Edward Bulwer-Lytton, an otherwise distinguished Victorian writer who got rather carried away with the inflated minutiae of his own verbosity.
This is the sort of opening paragraph of which the Great Man was notoriously fond...
‘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….’
Here, then are this year’s winning entries. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
OVERALL WINNER - Cathy Bryant, England
‘As he told her that he loved her she gazed into his eyes, wondering, as she noted the infestation of eyelash mites, the tiny deodicids burrowing into his follicles to eat the greasy sebum therein, each female laying up to 25 eggs in a single follicle, causing inflammation, whether the eyes are truly the windows of the soul; and, if so, his soul needed regrouting.’
GRAND PANJANDRUM’S SPECIAL AWARD - David Pepper, California
‘As an ornithologist, George was fascinated by the fact that urine and faeces mix in birds’ rectums to form a unified, homogeneous slurry that is expelled through defecation, although eyeing Greta's face, and sensing the reaction of the congregation, he immediately realized he should have used a different analogy to describe their relationship in his wedding vows.’
WINNER: ADVENTURE - Greg Homer, California
‘The stifling atmosphere inside the Pink Dolphin Bar in the upper Amazon Basin carried barely enough oxygen for a man to survive – humid and thick the air was and full of little flying bugs, making the simple act of breathing like trying to suck hot Campbell’s Bean with Bacon soup through a paper straw.’
WINNER: CHILDREN’S LITERATURE - David S Nelson, Virginia
‘He swaggered into the room (in which he was now the ‘smartest guy’) with a certain Wikipedic insouciance, and without skipping a beat made a beeline towards Dorothy, busting right through her knot of admirers, and she threw her arms around him and gave him a passionate though slightly tickly kiss, moaning softly, ‘Oooohh, Scarecrow!’’
WINNER: CRIME - Sue Fondrie, Wisconsin
‘She slinked through my door wearing a dress that looked like it had been painted on … not with good paint, like Behr or Sherwin-Williams, but with that watered-down stuff that bubbles up right away if you don’t prime the surface before you slap it on, and – just like that cheap paint – the dress needed two more coats to cover her.
WINNER: FANTASY - David Lippmann, Austin, Texas
‘The brazen walls of the ancient city of Khoresand, situated where the mighty desert of Sind meets the endless Hyrkanean steppe, are guarded by day by the four valiant knights Sir Malin the Mighty, Sir Welkin the Wake, Sir Darien the Doughty, and Sir Yrien the Yare, all clad in armor of beaten gold, and at night the walls are guarded by Sir Arden the Ardent, Sir Fier the Fearless, Sir Cyril the Courageous, and Sir Damien the Dauntless, all clad in armor of burnished argent, but nothing much ever happens.'
WINNER: HISTORICAL FICTION - Leslie Craven, New Zealand
‘The ‘clunk’ of the guillotine blade’s release reminded Marie Antoinette, quite briefly, of the sound of the wooden leg of her favorite manservant as he not-quite-silently crossed the polished floors of Versailles to bring her another tray of petit fours.'
WINNER: PURPLE PROSE - Guy Foisy, Ontario
‘William, his senses roused by a warm fetid breeze, hoped it was an early spring’s equinoxial thaw causing rivers to swell like the blood-engorged gumlines of gingivitis, loosening winter’s plaque, exposing decay, and allowing the seasonal pot-pourris of Mother Nature’s morning breath to permeate the surrounding ether, but then he awoke to the unrelenting waves of his wife’s halitosis.’
WINNER: ROMANCE - Karen Hamilton, Texas
‘‘I’ll never get over him,’ she said to herself and the truth of that statement settled into her brain the way glitter settles on to a plastic landscape in a Christmas snow globe when she accepted the fact that she was trapped in bed between her half-ton boyfriend and the wall when he rolled over on to her nightgown and passed out, leaving her no way to climb out.’
WINNER: SCIENCE FICTION - Mary E Patrick, South Carolina
‘As I gardened, gazing towards the autumnal sky, I longed to run my finger through the trail of mucus left by a single speckled slug – innocuously thrusting past my rhododendrons – and in feeling that warm slime, be swept back to planet Alderon, back into the tentacles of the alien who loved me.’
WINNER: WESTERN - Ted Downes, Wales
‘They still talk about that fateful afternoon in Abilene, when Dancing Dan DuPre moonwalked through the doors of Fat Suzy’s saloon, made a passable reverse-turn, pirouetted twice followed by a double box-step, somersaulted onto the bar, drew his twin silver-plated Colt-45s and put twelve bullets through the eyes of the McLuskey sextuplets, on account of them varmints burning down his ranch and lynching his prize steer.’
Next year, I’m thinking of having a go myself.
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