Jim Gleeson, a forty-seven-year-old media technician from Madison, Wisconsin, was recently named winner of the 25th annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, but it’s unlikely that the distinction will earn him any book deals. The award, sponsored by San Jose State University, is given for the year’s worst writing. According to the Bulwer-Lytton Web site, Gleeson will receive "a pittance."
The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is named after the nineteenth-century author Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton, who penned the infamous opener "It was a dark and stormy night." Gleeson’s winning sentence is: "Gerald began—but was interrupted by a piercing whistle which cost him ten percent of his hearing permanently, as it did everyone else in a ten-mile radius of the eruption, not that it mattered much because for them 'permanently' meant the next ten minutes or so until buried by searing lava or suffocated by choking ash—to pee."
An anthology of this year’s notable entries—titled, naturally, It Was a Dark and Stormy Night—will be published by the London-based independent press Friday Project Limited on August 17. (In the past, Penguin has published collections of the best of the bad.)
The contest accepts entries year-round. For more information, and a selection of this year’s most pestilent prose, visit the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest Web site.