"What? Those are the winners?! Where is my glorious entry? Dammit, you wouldn't know funny if it bit you on the ass!"
No doubt. This sort of thing is enormously subjective. On a different day I might well have picked a slightly different group of winners, and a different judge would almost certainly have come up with a very different list. It's hard to draw a line between those that just barely make it in and those which are just barely left out. So if your sentence doesn't appear below, that doesn't necessarily mean it was no good — it just didn't jump out at me the way these did. And of course, I wouldn't know funny if it bit me on the ass.
So, with no further ado, the 2002 Lyttle Lytton Contest winners are:
Contest A winner:
This one relies on a fairly common formula, hinting at something both unspeakable and unguessable, but this is about as well as it can be done.
The runner-up and recipient of the Comrade Todd Award is this sentence in which both the prose and the situation described are indefinably off-kilter:
Another Comrade Todd Award goes to this one, which lacks the above sentence's stumble towards pathos but gets a lot of mileage out of a simple transitivity slip:
Two more special awards go to the people who set the standard for the awards in 2001. For instance, the Top Changwatchai Citation for cramming many different kinds of badness into one sentence goes to last year's winner, Top Changwatchai:
You've got an inappropriate Vonnegutian "listen," a similarly inappropriate fairy-tale intro, a grammatical digression within a parenthetical one, an undefined protagonist... even the punctuation is wrong. Quite a tour de force.
Similarly, the Peter Berman Prize for a sentence which is fairly innocuous in itself but which suggests a thoroughly cringeworthy novel goes to Peter Berman:
Finally, we have this:
I gave this an honorable mention in 2002. Posting the 2003 rules, I looked back at this page and couldn't figure out why this didn't win. Ah well.
And lurking on the other side of the page are the Contest Z winners...
Contest Z winner:
I had no idea what to expect with this contest for final sentences. Most of them, this year's winner being a rare exception, fell into one of two categories. One class of sentences went "And that was the end, except for..." with some bit of wackiness tacked on — "And they all lived happily ever after, except for Harold who never did get the tapioca stain off the seat of his pants." The best of these was probably this one:
Others that put a more inventive twist on the formula included these:
The other popular gimmick was to get all meta, with sentences like "And the next year they did it all again, but since the first time just took 400 pages to describe, I'm not going through that again!" or "And he died seventeen years later, but nothing interesting happened during that time so I'll stop here." My favorite of these was probably the following, with the added twist of the author rubbing his hands together at the thought of sweet, sweet revenue:
Finally, there's this one, which surely deserves the Contest Z equivalent of a Berman Prize for a sentence which suggests the end of a truly horrifying 500 pages:
And so is the 2002 Lyttle Lytton contest. Many thanks to all the entrants! Next year's contest will once again have an April 14th deadline, but in the interest of allowing time for the word to spread, I'll be accepting entries beginning 01 January 2003. See you then!