Poll Suggestion: It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

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Snoopy’s favorite opening line, “It was a dark and stormy night ...”* starts the opening sentence of the novel Paul Clifford by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton. The English Department at San Jose State University has sponsored the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest since 1983. 2017 marks the 35th anniversary for this contest, which challenges entrants to compose opening sentences for the worst possible novel. Which of these annual winners would inspire the most interesting film?

List: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls020773541/#1
Poll: TBD

*“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)

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1983 - The camel died quite suddenly on the second day,and Selena fretted sulkily and, buffing her already impeccable nails – not for the first time since the journey began –pondered snidely if this would dissolveinto a vignette of minor inconveniences like all the other holidays spent with Basil. — Gail Cain, San Francisco, CA

1984 - The lovely woman-child Kaa was mercilessly chained to the cruel post of the warrior-chief Beast, with his barbarous tribe now stacking wood at her nubile feet, when the strong, clear voice of the poetic and heroic Handsomas roared, “Flick your Bic, crisp that chick, and you’ll feel my steel through your last meal.” — Steven Garman, Pensacola, FL

1985 - The countdown had stalled at T minus 69 seconds when Desiree, the first female ape to go up in space, winked at me slyly and pouted her thick, rubbery lips unmistakably – the first of many such advances during what would prove to be the longest, and most memorable, space voyage ofmy career. — Martha Simpson, Glastonbury, CT

1986 - The bone-chilling scream split the warm summer night in two, the first half being before the scream when it was fairly balmy and calm and pleasant for those who hadn’t heard the scream at all, but not calm or balmy or even very nice for those who did hear the scream, discounting the little period of time during the actual scream itself when your ears mighthave been hearing it but your brain wasn’t reacting yet to let you know. — PatriciaE. Presutti, Lewiston, NY

1987 - The notes blatted skyward as the sun rose over the Canada geese, feathered rumps mooning the day, webbed appendages frantically peddling unseen bicycles in their search for sustenance, driven by Nature’smaxim, “Ya wanna eat, ya gotta work,” and at last I knew Pittsburgh. — SheilaB. Richter, Minneapolis, MN

1988 - Like an expensive sports car, fine-tuned and well-built, Portia was sleek, shapely, and gorgeous, her red jumpsuit molding her body, which was as warm as the seat covers in July, her hair as dark as new tires, her eyes flashing like bright hubcaps, and her lips as dewy as the beads of fresh rain on the hood; she was a woman driven – fueled by a single accelerant – and she needed a man, a man who wouldn’t shift from his views, a man to steer her along the right road, a man like Alf Romeo. — Rachel E.Sheeley, Williamsburg, IN

1989 - Professor Frobisher couldn't believe he had missed seeing it for so long – it was, after all, right there under his nose – but in all his years of research into the intricate and mysterious ways of the universe, he had never noticed that the freckles on his upper lip, just below and to the left of the nostril, partially hidden until now by a hairy mole he had just removed a week before, exactly matched the pattern of the stars in the Pleides, down to the angry red zit that had just popped up where he and his colleagues had only today discovered an exploding nova. —Ray C. Gainey, Indianapolis, IN

1990 - Dolores breezed along the surface of her life like a flat stone forever skipping across smooth water,rippling reality sporadically but oblivious to it consistently, until she finally lost momentum, sank, due to an overdose of fluoride as a child which caused her to lie forever on the floor of her life as useless as an appendix and as lonely as a five-hundred-pound barbell in a steroid-free fitness center.— Linda Vernon, Newark, CA

1991 - Sultry it was and humid, but no whisper of air caused the plump, laden spears of golden grain to nod their burdened heads as they unheedingly awaited the cyclic rape of their gleaming treasure, while overhead the burning orb of luminescence ascended its ever-upward path toward as weltering celestial apex, for although it is not in Kansas that our story takes place, it looks godawful like it. — Judy Frazier, Lathrop, MO

1992 - As the newest Lady Turnpot descended into the kitchen wrapped only in her celery-green dressing gown, her creamy bosom rising and falling like a temperamental soufflé, her tart mouth pursed in distaste,the sous-chef whispered to the scullery boy, “I don’t know what to make of her.” — Laurel Fortuner, Montendre, France

1993 - She wasn’t really my type, a hard-looking but untalented reporter from the local cat box liner, but the first second that the third-rate representative of the fourth estate cracked open a new fifth of old Scotch, my sixth sense said seventh heaven was as close as an eighth note from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, so, nervous as a tenth grader drowning ineleventh-hour cramming for a physics exam, I swept her into my longing arms,and, humming “The Twelfth of Never,” I got lucky on Friday the thirteenth. —Wm. W. “Buddy” Ocheltree, Port Townsend, WA

1994 - As the fading light of a dying day filtered through the window blinds, Roger stood over his victim with a smoking .45,surprised at the serenity that filled him after pumping six slugs into the bloodless tyrant that mocked him day after day, and then he shuffled out of the office with one last look back at the shattered computer terminal lying therelike a silicon armadillo left to rot on the information superhighway. — Larry Brill, Austin, TX

1995 - Paul Revere had just discovered that someone in Boston was a spy for the British, and when he saw the young woman believed to be the spy’s girlfriend in an Italian restaurant he said to the waiter, “Hold the spumoni – I’m going to follow the chick an’ catch a Tory.” — John L.Ashman, Houston, TX

1996 - “Ace, watch your head!” hissed Wanda urgently, yet somehow provocatively, through red, full, sensuous lips, but he couldn’t you know, since nobody can actually watch more than part of his nose or a little cheek or lips if he really tries, but he appreciated her warning. — Janice Estey, Aspen, CO

1997 - The moment he laid eyes on the lifeless body of the nude socialite sprawled across the bathroom floor, Detective Leary knew she had committed suicide by grasping the cap on the tamper-proof bottle, pushing down and twisting while she kept her thumb firmly pressed against the spot the arrow pointed to, until she hit the exact spot where the tab clicks into place,allowing her to remove the cap and swallow the entire contents of the bottle,thus ending her life. — Artie Kalemeris, Fairfax, VA

1998 - The corpse exuded the irresistible aroma of apiquant, ancho chili glaze enticingly enhanced with a hint of fresh cilantro as it lay before him, coyly garnished by a garland of variegated radicchio and caramelized onions, and impishly drizzled with glistening rivulets of vintage balsamic vinegar and roasted garlic oil; yes, as he surveyed the body of theslain food critic slumped on the floor of the cozy, but nearly empty, bistro, a quick inventory of his senses told corpulent Inspector Moreau that this was, inall likelihood, an inside job. — Bob Perry, Milton, MA

1999 - Through the gathering gloom of a late-October afternoon, along the greasy, cracked paving-stones slick from the sputum of the sky, Stanley Ruddlethorp wearily trudged up the hill from the cemetery where his wife, sister, brother, and three children were all buried, and forced open the door of his decaying house, blissfully unaware of the catastrophe that was soon to devastate his life. — Dr. David Chuter, Kingston, Surrey, England

2000 - The heather-encrusted Headlands, veiled in fog asthick as smoke in a crowded pub, hunched precariously over the moors, their rocky elbows slipping off land’s end, their bulbous, craggy noses thrust into the thick foam of the North Sea like bearded old men falling asleep in their pints. — Gary Dahl, Los Gatos, CA

2001 - A small assortment of astonishingly loud brass instruments raced each other lustily to the respective ends of their distinct musical choices as the gates flew open to release a torrent of tawny fur comprised of angry yapping bullets that nipped at Desdemona’s ankles, causing her to reflect once again (as blood filled her sneakers and she fought her way through the panicking crowd) that the annual Running of the Pomeranians in Liechtenstein was a stupid idea. — Sera Kirk, Vancouver, BC

2002 - On reflection, Angela perceived that her relationship with Tom had always been rocky, not quite a roller-coaster ride but more like when the toilet-paper roll gets a little squashed so it hangs crooked and every time you pull some off you can hear the rest going bumpity-bumpity in its holder until you go nuts and push it back into shape, a degree of annoyance that Angela had now almost attained. — Rephah Berg,Oakland, CA

2003 - They had but one last remaining night together, so they embraced each other as tightly as that two-flavor entwined string cheese that is orange and yellowish-white, the orange probably being a bland Cheddar and the white ... Mozzarella, although it could possibly be Provolone or just plain American, as it really doesn’t taste distinctly dissimilar from the orange, yet they would have you believe it does by coloring it differently. —Mariann Simms, Wetumpka, AL

2004 - She resolved to end the love affair with Ramon tonight ... summarily, like Martha Stewart ripping the sand vein out of a shrimp’s tail ... though the term “love affair” now struck her as a ridiculous euphemism ... not unlike “sand vein,” which is after all an intestine, not a vein... and that tarry substance inside certainly isn’t sand ... and that brought her back to Ramon. — Dave Zobel, Manhattan Beach, CA

2005 - As he stared at her ample bosom, he daydreamed of the dual Stromberg carburetors in his vintage Triumph Spitfire, highly functional yet pleasingly formed, perched prominently on top of the intake manifold, aching for experienced hands, the small knurled caps of the oil dampeners begging to be inspected and adjusted as described in chapter seven of the shop manual. — Dan McKay, Fargo, ND

2006 - Detective Bart Lasiter was in his office studying the light from his one small window falling on his super burrito when the door swung open to reveal a woman whose body said you’ve had your last burrito for awhile, whose face said angels did exist, and whose eyes said she could make you dig your own grave and lick the shovel clean. — Jim Guigli, Carmichael, CA

2007 - 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. — Jim Gleeson, Madison, WI

2008 - Theirs was a New York love, a checkered taxi ride burning rubber, and like the city, their passion was open 24/7, steam rising from their bodies like slick streets exhaling warm, moist breath through manhole covers stamped “Forged by DeLaney Bros., Piscataway, N. J.” — Gordon Spik, Washington, D.C.

2009 - Folks say that if you listen real close at the height of the full moon, when the wind is blown’ off Nantucket Sound from nor’east and the dogs are howlin’ for no earthly reason, you can hear the awful screams of the crew of the “Ellie May,” a sturdy whaler captained by John McTavish; for it was on just such a night when the rum was flowin’ and, Davey Jones be damned, big John brought his men on deck for the first of several screaming contests. — David McKenzie, Federal Way, WA

2010 - For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity’s affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss – a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity’s mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world’s thirstiest gerbil. — Molly Ringle, Seattle, WA

2011 - Cheryl’s mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories. — Sue Fondrie, Oshkosh, WI

2012 - As he told her that he loved her she gazed into his eyes, wondering, as she noted the infestation of eyelash mites, the tiny deodicids burrowing into his follicles to eat the greasy sebum therein, each female laying up to 25 eggs in a single follicle, causing inflammation, whether the eyes are truly the windows of the soul; and, if so,his soul needed regrouting. — Cathy Bryant, Manchester, England

2013 - She strutted into my office wearing a dress that clung to her like Saran Wrap to a sloppily butchered pork knuckle, bone and sinew jutting and lurching asymmetrically beneath its folds,the tightness exaggerating the granularity of the suet and causing what little palatable meat there was to sweat, its transparency the thief of imagination. —Chris Wieloch, Brookfield, WI

2014 - When the dead moose floated into view the famished crew cheered – this had to mean land! – but Captain Walgrove, flinty-eyed and clear headed thanks to the starvation cleanse in progress, gave fateful orders to remain on the original course and await the appearance of a second and confirming moose. — Elizabeth (Betsy) Dorfman, Bainbridge Island, WA

2015 - Seeing how the victim's body,or what remained of it, was wedged between the grill of the Peterbilt 389 and the bumper of the 2008 Cadillac Escalade EXT, officer "Dirk" Dirksen wondered why reporters always used the phrase "sandwiched" to describe such a scene since there was nothing appetizing about it, but still,he thought, they might have a point because some of this would probably end upon the front of his shirt. — Joel Phillips, West Trenton, NJ

2016 - 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 Iwas broke, he was cheap, and I had to find her. — William "Barry"Brockett, Tallahassee, FL

2017 - The elven city of Losstiifaced towering sea cliffs and abutted rolling hills that in the summer were covered with blankets of flowers and in the winter were covered with blankets,because the elves wanted to keep the flowers warm and didn’t know much at all about gardening. — KatRusso, Loveland, Colorado
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Dan Dassow, Champion

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1993 or 1994
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Jessica, Champion

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Intriguing poll, Dan.