fantasy and science fiction book reviewsIt was a dark and stormy night.

That’s considered the worst, most clichéd opening line in fiction.  In honor of that author, Edward George Bulwer-Lytton and the opening line to his novel Paul Clifford, there is now an annual contest to pen the most horrendously bad opening sentence to a novel that you can imagine. And to make it even better, there’s a fantasy category.  Below, for your delectation and delight, are the winning and runner-up from last year’s fantasy contest.

Winner: Fantasy Fiction

A quest is not to be undertaken lightly — or at all! — pondered Hlothgar, Thrag of the Western Boglands, son of Glothar, nephew of Garthol, known far and wide as Skull Dunker, as he wielded his chesty stallion Hralgoth through the ever-darkening Thlargwood, beyond which, if he survived its horrors and if Hroglath the royal spittle reader spoke true, his destiny awaited — all this though his years numbered but fourteen.

Stuart Greenman (Seattle, WA)


Towards the dragon’s lair the fellowship marched — a noble human prince, a fair elf, a surly dwarf, and a disheveled copyright attorney who was frantically trying to find a way to differentiate this story from “Lord of the Rings.”

Andrew Manoske (Foster City, CA)

Okay, the gauntlet has been thrown down, dear readers.  Can you top these specimens of spectacular badness? 

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsMy challenge for you is to come up with the worst opening line to a fantasy novel that has never been written.  Or if the muse doesn’t move you, share with us the worst opening line of a fantasy novel you’ve read.

Give us your entry for this year’s Bulwer-Lytton contest – and enter it for real, if you like – and we’ll enter you in a drawing to win a copy of Red-Headed Stepchild by Jaye Wells.  Or if that book doesn’t tickle your fancy, you can pick a book off our stacks.

You have a week to enter into the drawing here, but the deadline for the real contest is April 15th.


  • Ruth Arnell

    RUTH ARNELL (on FanLit's staff January 2009 — August 2013) earned a Ph.D. in political science and is a college professor in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.