The 2002 Winners

“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.  With well over 100 entries, I ended up having to reluctantly leave off some submissions I liked quite a bit.  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 winner is:

The pain wouldn’t stop, and Vern still had three cats left.

Andrew Davis

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:

“I raped your sister,” cruelly he sneered, “and now she is no problem,” and my friends that is the day my heart tore a sunder.

Andrew Plotkin

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:

His dark heart pulsated with raw evil, as he pumped it, furiously.

Aris Katsaris

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:

Listen: once upon a time (well, actually twice but I think the first one doesn’t really count… or is that “didn’t”) there was some guy!

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:

Gordon strove to be a nice pimp.

Peter Berman

Finally, we have this:

Herein lurk delegitimized power structures and epistemological straitjackets and stuff.

Duncan Stevens

In 2002 I also held a “Contest Z” for a hilariously bad final sentence to an imaginary novel.  The winner of this category is:

“Lawd a’mighty,” howled Caleb, to the consternation of those few who still remained in the helpless, drifting lifeboat, “some of y’all are lookin’ mighty tasty!”

Mark Silcox

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:

And that was it, more or less, except for dear Gwendolyn who had a little trouble with syphilis for some time afterwards.

Terje Johansen

Others that put a more inventive twist on the formula included these:

But Gran was once again lost in quiet reminiscence, or perhaps her epilepsy.

Andrew Davis

Bound, blindfolded, and buttered, at last Leopold knew the semblance of peace.

Ronan Leggatt

While defeating Mutantis, Gyroman lost everything, but learned that sometimes the clothes do make the man.

Bruce Otter

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:

Her sad death thirty-nine years (and four books, if my plans hold) later, would help lessen my rather unspeakable distress at this happily-ever-after ending.

Aris Katsaris

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:

Maria’s flossing was now complete.

Chris Piuma

And so is the 2002 Lyttle Lytton contest.  Many thanks to all the entrants!

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