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“Climate change is real,” squawked the lady scientist to an auditorium crammed full of human sheep who didn’t question a word she said. “And I can ‘prove’ it.”
The upshot of this is that Lyttle Lytton entries that attempt to parody right‐wing polemic tend to take on the voice of a conservative attempting to lampoon liberals and faceplanting in the effort—that is, the entries mock the fictional author for being bad at mocking things. Harper’s fictional author is so eager to tear those silly libs a new one that virtually every word is over the top. I mean, the “the” is okay. But look at all the awfulness packed into that short opening: you’ve got the old‐fashioned condescension of “lady scientist” that tips into full‐on misogyny when paired with “squawked”, followed by a detour into “high school kid with black nail polish” territory with “human sheep”, and let’s not forget the scare‐quotes around “prove”… and all of this on top of the fact that our imaginary author is scoffing at the reality of climate change, which used to be sort of like denying that the world is round, and now is exactly like denying that the world is round thanks to the legions of people who have come out of the woodwork in the past year to unashamedly declare that globes are a hoax. The “who didn’t question a word she said” may be my favorite part, though.
Other entries didn’t achieve quite the same parodic density as Harper’s but were still composed along the same lines. Here’s one semifinalist:
The millennial squirmed, but there was no entitling her way out of the firm grip of reason.
Gunnar Þór Magnússon
Tanner was triggered once again, but a microaggression wouldn’t stop him this time.
Here’s a political entry of a different sort:
It was autumn, and the last leaf of liberty had fallen from the tree of tyranny onto the dirt of destruction.
One more political entry, this time another finalist:
This is the story of how I found my Father in Heaven, but it begins with my mommy, lying back as the cruel forceps tore apart my still forming yet passionately beating human heart.
My only problem with this entry is that it’s less ridiculous than the “today my mommy killed me” tracts that the anti‐abortion activists used to hand out in front of my high school. I changed my mind on abortion a few times as I was growing up, and one of these tracts actually flipped me to the pro‐choice side for a while. It was the “I want to be named Katie” line that did it—I didn’t know much about fetal development at age 12, but I did know that an embryo had no means by which to familiarize itself with geographically and generationally appropriate names and select one. And I figured that if one side of a debate had to stoop to transparent deception in establishing its fundamental premise (i.e., that a fetus is as fully sentient as a school‐aged child) then that side must not have any valid arguments to muster. This logic doesn’t hold up—a position may be held by different people for different reasons, some valid and some not—but it is better logic than “a crumb of bread is bread, so therefore a cell of a human is a human”, which was also in the flyer.
But that’s enough politics for now. Recent developments in that sphere make it all the more tempting to escape into a world of fantasy. This one seems pretty nice:
Tagg could scarce believe his young eyes as they met the feast laid out richly before him: all manner of mealbreads, ripest canteloons, and—by the Star!—an entire bandersnort, carved and dripping.
Dudley was a magician (not a wizard like in those Harry Potter books, and also he didn’t have a wand like in them), who was poor.
Quick tangent: I always wonder how entrants choose names for their characters. A lot of the time they pick names that were very common long enough ago to have established themselves as generic—for instance, coming up we have a Ted and a Mary, and while the popularity of those names has plunged in recent decades, they were at or near the top during my parents’ generation and even more so during that of my grandparents. But of the less common names, what prompts entrants to pick the particular ones they do? I guess with “Dudley” the answer is pretty easy, since it has “dud” in it, but in other cases it’s not so clear. Take this one:
Neera was a born disruptor, ready to take things and make them 2.0.
Anyway, back to fantasy entries!
Thornmill Greyeyes was a proud elf. His ears stood proud, his cock stood proud, but most of all his heart stood proud as he watched his bride mince down the isle with her ravishingly good looks.
This is kind of a tenuous transition, but I see that Lilly’s proud elf is named Thornmill Greyeyes, and a lot of entries this year focused on a character’s eye color (maybe because eye color was the focus of last year’s winner). Here are a few of the best of these:
Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful princess named Annabelle. She had lovely golden locks and sensuous blue eyes—a sparkling Aryan jewel, just like you! :)
The mists ran like dew over her green-eyed scarlet locks.
His tired blue-eyed gaze hit the lanky blonde and then turned to the brunette.
These liberated chestnut curls framed a handsome face made twice as radiant by the mysteries surely waiting just behind those light green eyes.
The Overton Window by Glenn Beck
I slanted my eyes down to meet her big brown ones, which were slanted up.
Poison à la Carte by Rex Stout
And though this is a tangent to a tangent, now that we’ve reached the detective story I think I’ll throw in this year’s top entries in the detective genre before returning to the finalists:
The new client’s titties could make a grown man cry a river, and Detective Johnson was in his own personal Pacific Ocean of sexy.
“I’ve got a feline these cats didn’t know what they unleashed when they picked a bone with me,” snarled Rex Steele, chief dogtective of the Paws Angeles Petlice Department. “This time, it’s fursonal.”
Hashtags of the murder were all over my newsfeed.
“Yeah,” I said as he asked if my beautiful wife got murdered yesterday (she did).
Simon has been friends with Darkness for a long time, like in the song “The Sound of Silence” by the protagonist’s namesake & Garfunkel.
There have been other entries built around pop culture references like this—the Space: 1999 entry back in 2009 springs to mind—but I had to include this one as well:
This is my coming-of-age story. Not literally, like the movie “Big”, starring Tom Hanks, or the movie “13 Going On 30”, starring Jennifer Garner, although those are both good movies.
I’ll get to the remaining semifinalists in a moment, but since I’ve now revealed every finalist except for the winner, let’s finish off that set. The winner of the 2017 Lyttle Lytton Contest is:
1. YOU, the Anagramancer, stare down the invading MANTICORE: Will you ROMANCE IT (turn to 123), give it CREMATION (turn to 213), or summon EROTIC MAN (turn to 312)?
Not only do two‐thirds of the letters change values, but two of them represent a different value for each of the four words! (And that R is only stable because I’m from California and have a rhoticized accent.) So a whole book about an “Anagramancer” whose adventures are dictated by the rearrangement of these hazily defined symbols… gah, it’d be linguistic Calvinball. What a terrible, terrible book that would be! Ergo, we have our winner.
But we still have lots of semifinalists left to reveal! Where to start? Well, now that we’ve summoned EROTIC MAN, this seems like the obvious candidate:
His steel-corded muscles pressed into her body, so close there was scarcely room to breathe beneath the pillowy swell of her breasts.
The hot Florida sun battered my recently bruised shoulders that were a part of the activities where my virginity was lost.
“The time was now and the location was here; I’m ready,” thought nubile, 18-year-old Jenny as she lay fertilely on Johnny’s bed, blithely unready for the future.
Normally Frank was as happy as the next guy to have an erection, meaning very happy, but this was ridiculous.
Sixty Days and Counting by Kim Stanley Robinson
I first laid eyes on her at a mutual friend’s wedding. Her body shone through her dress; it wasn’t unbecoming, but you could see enough.
She wanted to be loved like most women do, but was mostly ignored like the Alpini in the 12th Isonzo-Battle.
“I’m breaking up with you”—her words shot into my heart, like bullets from the gun that her mouth was like.
Her wit was sharp like a lawnmower blade—it could cut you down to size (which she could adjust, like a lawnmower).
“Oh no,” Alex gasped when realization crashed over her like the ocean wave soon to be killing her.
Like the Jews, the corals of the Great Barrier Reef observe a lunar calendar.
The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert
I dunno. Maybe this didn’t seem like such a big deal back before Nazis took over the executive branch, but in 2017 it seems to me that whenever you find yourself starting a sentence with the words “Like the Jews”, it might be time to reach for the backspace.
“Ah, little Abu,” sighed wisely the Master as his eyes roved the desert sands. “When will it be that the Muslim, the Christian, and the Jew learn to listen together to the sound of the wind?”
So where were we? Similes? All right then:
Just as the equine bott fly invades its host equus to inject its larvae, Ted’s glowing aura now infected Mary’s every thought.
“I only wish He would understand me like you do,” Rebecca sighed, twirling her fingers not only through her auburn hair but also the horse’s.
Rebecca’s lament signals that we’ve reached the part of the contest in which people are sad.
There she was, staring at the sunset, wondering why it was blue… then she remembered she was staring at it through the sad filter of her tears.
Almo gripped the hysteric female. “Tranquilize yourself!”
The newly single Macho Man certainly wasn’t ready for the pain caused when Miss Elizabeth hit him with an elbow from the emotional top ropes.
Words about a fictional storyline involving the characters that Randall Poffo and Elizabeth Hulette played in professional wrestling: over 4800
Words about their actual real‐life marriage and divorce: 131
Anyway, for some reason there were lots and lots of lachrymose entries this year—here’s another one:
The rain was pouring, but I cried harder, my tears sweeping away into the gutter where I belonged.
Susan drank water, the liquid of life, unaware that soon death would be hers.
A.R. Van Rhyn
The day began like any other. My alarm clock rang at 6:51 a.m. and James Brown told me that he felt good—he knew that he would. If only I myself had known that later, I would not feel good.
“So the ‘establishment’ likes opera, huh?” I thought to myself. That’s when I had the epiphany that started it all. “Well, let's see how they handle a rock opera!”
Oh, hey. Somehow we only have one original semifinalist left. And here it is:
G0bl1n always told me: “You can’t speedrun life, Ph4z0r; not even tool-assisted.”
It was too peaceful out here, surrounded by the vacuum of space and with only the continual hum of the twin ion drives breaking the silence.
Wild Space: Star Wars Legends (The Clone Wars)
She turned to her side and watched the people nearest to her, starting the process of listening.
anonymous entrant quoting a friend’s story
Some time before the Mega-Quake of ’26 erased Neo-Tokyo from the Matrix, the first unsuspecting CEO was sitting in his New Nippon garden enjoying his ’trodes when he was downloaded by the enemy.
Rim by Alexander Besher
And yet ultimately I had to give the nod to this entry as the winner of the Found division this year:
When settlers first came to the shores of North America, they found several things. They found a land inhabited by an exotic people that was rich in resources and in wolves.
Managing Our Natural Resources
All of which is really just a footnote to the glorious ending to the second sentence, “rich in resources and in wolves”. I love the idea that these authors had a mental Family Feud board listing the eight or nine things that North America had, and that one of the answers was “resources” and another was “wolves”. And number three? Mealbreads.