Falls Church’s John Hardi has won the Children’s/Young Adult Literature and Romance Literature categories in this year’s Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.
The contest originated at San Jose State University in 1983 as the brainchild of Prof. Scott Rice of the Department of English. The contest took its name from the Victorian novelist Edward George Bulwer-Lytton (1803-73) whose “Paul Clifford” (1832) began with “It was a dark and stormy night.” The line was a pot boiling cliché when Lytton chose to have fun with it but Prof. Rice mistook Lytton as the originator and hence named his bad-writing contest in his honor.
Despite the error, the contest managed to seize the public imagination and received widespread publicity from the major media such as Time Magazine and the BBC. As a result, the contest drew thousands of entrants and continues to do so to the present.
If Lytton did not originate “It was a dark and stormy night,” he did coin expressions like “the pen is mightier than the sword,” “the great unwashed” and “the almighty dollar.”
Here are excerpts from Hardi’s winning entries:
“Old man Buckman had been murdering and dismembering teenagers in our town for years, and getting away with it, and it’s important to emphasize this right up front, because young readers like you have painfully short attention spans, and unless a story grabs you right off the bat, you’ll be back on your video games or phones or skateboards in the blink of an eye.”
“The villa in Tuscany is abandoned now, and nature, in the form of invasive vegetation, is reclaiming the small vineyard where Rodolfo and Susannah made love each afternoon, beginning with the creeping Coccinia virginiana, followed by the woody Polemonium gloriosa, and ending, of course, with the drooping Glandularia vulgaris.”