2022 Bulwer-Lytton Contest Winners

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest invites entries for the worst opening line to a novel. The 2022 winners have been announced.

The administrators said, “With a larger than usual response to our plea for entries, this year confronted our Panel of Undistinguished Judges with a more unsavory burden than usual. Acknowledging that ‘literary’ judgment is a highly subjective and imperfect process, please join us in saluting the ingenuity if not the perversity of our entrants.”

Chosen from over 5000 entries, the winner of the 40th Annual Lyttoniad is John Farmer of Aurora, Colorado.


“I knew she was trouble the second she walked into my 24-hour deli, laundromat, and detective agency, and after dropping a load of unmentionables in one of the heavy-duty machines (a mistake that would soon turn deadly) she turned to me, asking for two things: find her missing husband and make her a salami on rye with spicy mustard, breaking into tears when I told her I couldn’t help—I was fresh out of salami.”

— John Farmer, Aurora, CO

The complete list of category winners & (dis)honorable mentions is here.

Of genre interest:


“Pfandrilys was a classic beauty of her star-faring race, and Brian’s love was immediate, their kisses were magical, if scaly, and the alien sex was mind-blowing, and if only Brian had read more exobiology, perhaps he wouldn’t have been surprised that, when all was done, and they lay spent in each other’s arms, she bit his head off.”

— Thomas Hill, Mountain View, CA


“Sir Reginald Brimwater, Guardian of the Tome of Remembrance, Herald of the Immortal Word, Voice of the Histories Both Recent and Ancient, Archivist of the Eternal Ledger, and Memory of the Empire had forgotten his quill, but he was pretty sure he got the gist of what what’s-his-face was saying.”

— Jordan Peace, Mountlake Terrace, WA

Note: The Dishonorable Mentions contain more quotes like these for each category.

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6 thoughts on “2022 Bulwer-Lytton Contest Winners

  1. Really? They think that’s bad writing? I’ve seen far worse in many of the novels I’ve been sent in digital galleys directly by writers.

    By the way, the SF one is a trope so old that it’s been around long before I was reading the genre.

  2. @Cat, maybe you could invite them to submit to the Bulwer-Lytton Contest…

    I think of these winners & finalists as attempts to create sentences that are so bad they are good, or at the very least, entertaining.

  3. The science fiction winner seems more of a complete story than the opening sentence of one.

  4. Despite visiting Knebworth House; the Bulwer Lytton estate in Hertfordshire, England; I’m amused that it’s San Jose State University that administers this award.

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