Being Whimsical (Seriously)

Photo by Will Myers on Unsplash

“Okay, so it’s summer time again, and while not as hot as last summer, when the drought was so heavy that UTSA lay under the horrendous heat like coal that has been buried for millions of years, under thousands of pounds of pressure creating diamonds that glisten like ice in the glass of sweet tea that sits sweating on the picnic table, it’s still hot. This means it’s too hot to think sensible thoughts or to write inspiring or even mildly interesting essays.”

I wrote that sentence for the late July edition of the UTSA Student Affairs newsletter in 2010. It was my attempt to match the style necessary to win the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. Here’s a description of the contest from the website:

“Since 1982 the Bulwer Lytton Fiction Contest has challenged participants to write an atrocious opening sentence to the worst novel never written. The whimsical literary competition honors Sir Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, whose 1830 novel Paul Clifford begins with “It was a dark and stormy night.”


The contest receives thousands of entries each year, and every summer our Panel of Undistinguished Judges convenes to select winners and dishonorable mentions for such categories as Purpose Prose and Vile Puns.”

There are so many serious and important things we need to be thinking about these days, but as I thought about what to write this week as we head into the last quarter of the year, I decided that we could use a bit of whimsy. (Or maybe that’s just me.) Either way, below are some of my favorite winners of the BLFC over the past few years. If you want to find your own gems, here’s the link: https://www.bulwer-lytton.comTake care and keep smiling,



Bulwer-Lytton Contest Winners Across the Years

1986 Winner by Patricia E. Presutti
“The bone-chilling scream split the warm summer night in two, the first half being before the scream when it was fairly calm and pleasant for those who hadn’t heard the scream at all, but not calm or balmy or even very nice for those who did hear the scream, discounting the little period of time during the actual scream itself when you ears might have been hearing it but your brain wasn’t reacting to let you know.”

2009 Winner by David McKenzie
“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.”

2019 Winner in the Adventure Category by Andrew Lundberg
“Dropping his now-empty Remington .30-06 and tearing across the tundra after two weeks of hunting in the Alaskan wilderness in the company of none other than three-time Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt—the rustic outing being the spoils of his winning bid at the Sun Valley Country Day School live-auction fundraiser—Bart Michaelman realized with dismay that, in this particular instance, he did in fact have to outrun the bear.”

2021 Winner in the Science Fiction Category by Reinhold Friebertshauser
“Believe it or not Ripley refrained from firing her laser at the alien creature lurking in the starship’s ceiling above the crew’s happy hour gathering, its dripping secretions burning through the titanium floor like it was made of cheap wet toilet paper, when she discovered by sheer accident that just one drop of the oozing substance reacted with the contents of her cocktail glass to produce a martini so perfect that 007 himself would have betrayed Queen and country for just one sip, as long as it was shaken and not stirred.”

2021 Winner in the Vile Puns Category by Fr. Jerry Kopacek.
“One time at the hoagie shop the actress Ms. O’Hara asked what the tiny pimiento-stuffed thing in my cheddar-bread sandwich was and I had to respond: ‘Wee olive in a yellow sub, Maureen.'”

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