Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


VICTORIAN AUTHOR Edward Bulwer-Lytton couldn’t have sensed his place in literary history when he began his 1830 novel Paul Clifford with these immortal words:

“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.”

In Bulwer-Lytton’s defense, he also coined such pithy phrases as “the pen is mightier than the sword,” “the almighty dollar,” and “the great unwashed.” He could be a wordsmith.

Another bit of Bulwer-Lyttoniana: His ancestral estate Knebworth was used as “stately Wayne manor” in Tim Burton’s Batman flick.


Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton, 1803–1873, English novelist, poet, playwright and politician, Secretary of State for the Colonies. Portrait by Henry William Pickersgill, c. 1831.

Indirectly, Bulwer-Lytton’s way with words in 1830 was to be commemorated 153 years later in establishment of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, a celebration of wretchedly excessive English prose still contested annually.


Sponsored by the English Department of San Jose State University, the BLFC is, quoting its website, “the brainchild (or Rosemary’s baby) of Professor Scott Rice.” In appropriately sportive nomenclature, the 2016 event is termed its XXXIVth Lyttoniad, “where “WWW” means “Wretched Writers Welcome.”


This year, the BLFC selected an Overall Winner, a Grand Panjandrum Special Award and class awards for Adventure, Children’s Lit, Crime/Detective, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Horror, Purple Prose, Romance, Science Fiction, Vile Puns and Miscellaneous Dishonorable Mentions. Here are three of my favorites.

Overall Winner. “Even from the hall, the overpowering stench told me the dingy caramel glow in his office would be from a ten-thousand-cigarette layer of nicotine baked on a naked bulb hanging from a frayed wire in the center of a likely cracked and water-stained ceiling, but I was broke, he was cheap, and I had to find her.” — William “Barry” Brockett, Tallahassee, Florida.

Winner, Purple Prose. “She was like my ex-girlfriend Ashley, who’d stolen my car, broken my heart, murdered my father, robbed a bank, and set off a pipe bomb in Central Park—tall.” —Rachel Nirenberg, Toronto, Canada. 

Dishonorable Mention, Adventure. “ ‘Penguins, damnable penguins,’ Cooperman muttered bitterly, staring hard into the maelstrom of cheap gin and bargain-basement vermouth swirling hopelessly in the low ball glass he held in his pale, doughy hand, the shards of rapidly melting ice crystals cruelly reminding him of those endless winter nights in the Antarctic weather station, and of Kwakina, with her lithe, lubricious figure, and tuxedo-feathered form.” — Stephen Lewis Davis, Sacramento, CA

A personal favorite from years past, alas, recalled sans attribution: “After The Rapids, the river widened.” ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2016


  1. Michael Rubin
    December 15, 2016

    Merci, sir, for sharing this. It is a dark and stormy night tonight hereabouts. (Napa)

  2. Bill Rabel
    December 21, 2016

    “On the other hand, she had warts.”
    – a favorite line from a late, dear friend.

    • simanaitissays
      December 22, 2016

      Have I got a gal for Cromwell!

    • David Rees
      December 27, 2016

      Excellent…that one deserves a rim-shot.

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