A Message From Gage Paine

Gage Paine, Vice President for Student Affairs

Gage Paine, Vice President for Student Affairs

It’s August, though not really because I’m writing this in July before I take some vacation time and it’s hot, though it must not be as hot as some years since I have yet to see a local news reporter reduced to frying eggs on the sidewalk or steaks on a car dashboard, and the busy start to the fall semester looms before us like an iceberg in front of the Titanic but without such a drop in temperature or such a disastrous ending, so it’s a good time to take a deep breath, enjoy the last bit of what passes for quiet on our campus and indulge in a little light reading (though since this is all online it doesn’t actually weigh anything at all).

In case you are wondering what that was all about, I am continuing a ‘it’s too hot to think’ tradition I started at The University of Texas at San Antonio and sharing a few of the winners of the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest* (and continuing my own quest to write the worst opening line of a staff newsletter article). “Since 1982 the English Department at San Jose State University has sponsored the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, a whimsical literary competition that challenges entrants to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels.”

Named after George Edward Bulwer-Lytton who opened his novel Paul Clifford with the line that the “Peanuts” beagle Snoopy has plagiarized for years, “It was a dark and stormy night….“ The 2013 winners have been announced — here are some of my favorites from this year (plus a couple from other years). So take a break and a deep breath, read and enjoy.

2013 Grand Panjandrum’s Special Award

“Don’t know no tunnels hereabout,” said the old-timer, “unless you mean the abandoned subway line that runs from Hanging Hill, under that weird ruined church, beneath the Indian burial ground, past the dilapidated Usher mansion, and out to the old abandoned asylum for the criminally insane where they had all those murders.” — Lawrence Person, Austin, TX

2013 Winner:  Adventure

“I told you to wear sensible shoes, but no, your vanity would not allow it!” he yelled at me as if that had something to do with the airplane crashing into the jungle and all the bodies draped in the trees, but it was just the sort of nonsense I was used to from him, making me wish one or the other of us was hanging dead above us, instead of Rodney. — Thor F. Carden, Madison, TN

2013 Runner Up:  Adventure

As the sun dropped below the horizon, the safari guide confirmed the approaching cape buffaloes were herbivores, which calmed everyone in the group, except for Herb, of course. — Ron D. Smith, Louisville, KY

2103 Winner:  Purple Prose

Before they met, his heart was a frozen block of ice, scarred by the skate blades of broken relationships, then she came along and like a beautiful Zamboni flooded his heart with warmth, scraped away the ugly slushy bits, and dumped them in the empty parking lot of his soul. — Howie McLennon, Ottawa, ON

2013 Winner: Western

“Ahgonogedoo, oosdiggingsuine!!!” screamed Jake Calhoun; but Doc Holliday, the legendary gunfighter/dentist, replied simply, “Smile when you say that, pardner, then swirl and spit out.” — John Cavanagh, Deer Island, OR

2013 Dishonorable Mention: Miscellaneous

To Juliet’s mind, he was just a small town Romeo, and – bummer – a Capulet to boot, but the men pickings in Verona were slim, so even though her daddy would have a cat, she decided, “What’s the worst that could happen?” — John Hardi, Falls Church, VA

2013 Winner: Vile Puns

What the Highway Department’s chief  IT guy for the new computerized roadway hated most was listening to the ‘smart’ components complain about being mixed with asphalt instead of silicon and made into speed bumps instead of graceful vases, like the one today from chip J176: “I coulda had glass; I coulda been a container; I coulda been some bottle, instead of a bump, which is what I am.” — Brian Brandt, Lansdale, PA

2013 Dishonorable Mention: Vile Puns

It was a dark and stormy night when in the course of being snoopy, I happened upon the most extraordinary dog – sitting at an old-school typewriter upon the roof of his doghouse – who grumbled that he was working of peanuts. – Amy Torchinsky, Greensboro, NC

Old favorites

2009 Winner

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. — David McKenzie, Federal Way, WA

2009 Winner: Detective Category

She walked into my office on legs as long as one of those long-legged birds that you see in Florida – the pink ones, not the white ones – except that she was standing on both of them not just one of them, like those birds, the pink ones, and she wasn’t wearing pink, but I knew right away that she was trouble, which those birds usually aren’t. — Eric Rice, Sun Prairie, WI

2010 Runner–Up–Detective

As Holmes, who had a nose for danger, quietly fingered the bloody knife and eyed the various body parts strewn along the dark, deserted highway, he placed his ear to the ground and, with his heart in his throat, silently mouthed to his companion, “Arm yourself, Watson, there is an evil hand afoot ahead.” — Dennis Pearce, Lexington, KY

2011 Winner: Crime

Wearily approaching the murder scene of Jeannie and Quentin Rose and needing to determine if this was the handiwork of the Scented Strangler–who had a twisted affinity for spraying his victims with his signature raspberry cologne–or that of a copycat, burnt-out insomniac detective Sonny Kirkland was sure of one thing: he’d have to stop and smell the Roses. — Mark Wisnewski, Flanders, NJ

We have a full fall semester fast approaching so enjoy this moment, take a deep breath and recharge for all the great work we have to come. Maybe you’ll even try to write a Bulwer-Lytton all your own.

All the best,