2023 Bulwer-Lytton Contest Winners

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest invites entries for the worst opening line to a novel. The 2023 winner is this submission from Maya Pasic of New York, New York:

She was a beautiful woman; more specifically she was the kind of beautiful woman who had an hourlong skincare routine that made her look either ethereal or like a glazed donut, depending on how attracted to her you were.

Winners of genre interest include:


In obedience to the Thousand-year Mandate of Hawksrealm, following the prophecy of Glenfrik the Morrowsayer, Klagnar and his (thus far) loyal Deathsword Warriors journeyed countless skyturns across the Burning Plains of Hellsplat and the Great Eastern Doomsea to an immense, shining folkshive that more or less resembled Fresno, but with a more genre-appropriate name.   

Drew Herman, Midlothian, VA


Her mind racing through the hasty protocol briefing she’d received shortly before launch fourteen months ago, Commander Winona Bengston, the first Earther to lead a delegation to the Nardoz system, regarded the alien commander who was now undressing her with his eyes, which wouldn’t have been that big a deal except that, his being Nardozian, the officer’s four eyes were ten feet long, and prehensile.

G. Andrew Lundberg, Los Angeles, CA

The YA category is even more worthy of your attention.


As Snow White met with her new, cheaper, replacement dwarfs for the first time, shaking hands in turn with the likes of Sweaty, Greasy, and Flabby, aptly named identical twins Grabby and Gropy, and proud owner-of-a-joy-buzzer Scabby, she found herself wondering if the savings would prove to be worth it, and she was about to learn why the others were so afraid of the seventh new dwarf, the oddly named Uzi.

David Snook, Berkeley, CA

And these brilliant runner-ups:

Determination and desperation make for a winning recipe, I thought as I watched Katmess Everclean, with her murky brown eyes sparkling with determination and her grip around her trusty plunger tight with desperation, approach the clogged toilet that stood between her and being crowned victor of the 74th Plumber Games. 

Mugdhaa Ranade, Mumbai, India

The witch received few visitors, residing deep in the haunted woods and all, so her culinary skills were rusty, and she wasn’t about to be busted not making dinner from scratch, so she disposed of the empty box of “Brat Helper,” threw Hansel and Gretel into the oven, and hoped like Hell the witches coming for dinner wouldn’t notice the difference.

John Tracy, Palm Desert, CA

And the winner of this category lives up to its name:


While she had no regrets about throwing the lever to douse her husband’s mistress in molten gold, Blanche did feel a pang of conscience for the innocent bystanders whose proximity had caused them to suffer gilt by association.

Adam Chmelka, Olathe, KS

3 thoughts on “2023 Bulwer-Lytton Contest Winners

  1. Oh. My. God.

    I’ve thought of entering this contest. Then, I see entries like this and realize that my “worst” can’t compete.

    And that pun!

  2. In the words of Leonard Pinth-Garnell:
    “Stunningly bad!”
    “Monumentally ill-advised!”
    “Perfectly awful!”
    The Fantasy and Horror line was both soggy and adroit. In my mind I could hear it being read aloud at a sf convention…

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