Scott Rice

Scott Rice
It Was a Dark and Stormy Night 

Maybe Professor Scott Rice just got tired of correcting term papers that murdered the English language, defied common sense, and read like they’d been constructed by Rube Goldberg. Whatever the reason, there came a day in 1983 when he launched the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, challenging scribes everywhere to concoct the opening sentence of the world’s worst novel. (According to the Bulwer-Lytton website, www stands for “wretched writers welcome.”)

Rice’s mailbox was flooded with entries, proving that there’s as much competition to be a terrible writer as there is to be a terrific one. He’s gathered the best—or rather the worst—from that first contest here for our entertainment. Chapters titled “Sister Marie in the Mud-Wrestling Pit,” “The Boulevards of Laredo,” and “Toddy Tworf the Morpeth Dwarf” hold plenty to keep you howling for hours.

A sampling of the shorter submissions:

“The leg, he is fractured,” he said in broken English.

Bunny Berryman belied his name; he was a sour cop with a sour disposition and a face like two-week-old milk forgotten on the back porch step, and he knew it—he also knew his mother had given him a better name than Bunny, but he’d been called Bunny for so long he’d forgotten exactly what it was.

“Totally grody to the max,” murmured Patty as wimpy Max Grody slouched across the Valley through the dark, stormy night, grabbed her, and like, you know, gagged her with a spoon.

And my personal favorite:

Just beyond the Narrows the river widens.

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