“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.” — Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford (1830)
The rules to the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest are childishly simple:
Each entry must consist of a single sentence but you may submit as many entries as you wish. (One fellow once submitted over 3,000 entries.)
Sentences may be of any length but we strongly recommend that entries not go beyond 50 or 60 words. Entries must be “original” (as it were) and previously unpublished.
Surface mail entries should be submitted on index cards, the sentence on one side and the entrant's name, address, and phone number on the other.
E-mail entries should be in the body of the message, not in an attachment (and it would be really swell if you submitted your entries in Arial 12 font). One e-mail may contain multiple entries.
Entries will be judged by categories, from “general” to detective, western, science fiction, romance, and so on. There will be overall winners as well as category winners.
The official deadline is April 15 (a date that Americans associate with painful submissions and making up bad stories). The actual deadline is June 30.
The contest accepts submissions every day of the livelong year.
Wild Card Rule: Resist the temptation to work with puns like “It was a stark and dormy night.“
Finally, in keeping with the gravitas, high seriousness, and general bignitude of the contest, the grand prize winner will receive … a pittance.
Sticks and Stones (a “new” contest, last updated August 2010)
Suite.101.com interviews 2008 Winner Garrison Spik (August 16, 2008)
Suite.101.com interviews the Grand Panjandrum (August 16, 2008)
Mariann Simms, BLFC winnr, writes about the contest in her blog. (April 2006)
Celine Shinbutsu: Fantasy Category winner’s blog from Japan.
“The Great Bulwer-Lytton Debate” (Manchester Guardian)
Bulwer-Lytton’s Bicentennial Birthday Celebration at Knebworth House. With pictures. (May 20-23, 2003)
Literary Locales: Over 1,350 picture links to places that figure in the lives and writings of famous authors
“Dark and Stormy Night Cocktail” from the Swig Bar in San Francisco: Pour ginger beer into a highball glass and top with Zaya rum.