Each year, San Jose State University's English department sponsors the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, named for Victorian novelist Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, whose novel Paul Clifford opens with the now-cliché phrase, "It was a dark and stormy night." The competition looks for the worst opening lines people can come up with for their terrible imaginary novels. And this year's winners include parodies of science fiction and fantasy novels.
Image is, naturally, from Charles Schulz's "Peanuts," which frequently paid tribute to Bulwer-Lytton.
The committee selects the best worst opening salvo submitted by contestants, as well as lines from a variety of literary genres. The worst lines may not be from real novels, but they're hilarious precisely because there's a plausible earnestness to them, and they often lampoon aspects of their respective genres.
The overall winner, Cathy Bryant, tackled one of our favorite subjects — parasitic infestation:
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.
Mary E. Patrick, winner of the worst science fiction line, opted for alien romance:
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.
And David Lippmann, who took the fantasy prize, employed unnecessary alliterations, epithets, and repeated use of the word "clad":
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.
Head over to the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest site for the science fiction and fantasy runners-up, as well as the winners and "dishonorable mentions" in such genres as adventure, romance, western, purple prose, and vile puns.