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Desiree, The Flirtatious Space Ape, Stars In Bad Writing Contest

May 10, 1985

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) _ It’s no mean feat competing with ″a dark and stormy night,″ but the creator of the sly, winking Desiree, the first female ape in space, took a mighty pen in hand with the worst of them.

Martha Simpson of Glastonbury, Conn., was named Friday as the 1985 Grand Winner for the fourth annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest at San Jose State University, which asks writers to submit opening lines to the worst possible novel.

″The countdown stalled at T-Minus 69 seconds when Desiree, the first female ape to go up into space, winked at me slyly and pouted her thick, rubbery lips unmistakeably - the first of many such advances during what would prove to be the longest, and most memorable, space voyage of my career,″ Ms. Simpson wrote in her winning entry.

The prose was bad. So bad, in fact, that it could only have been inspired by Victorian literary has-been Lord Edward Bulwer-Lytton, the deadly serious, deadly dull writer who gave the world such phrases as, ″The Great Unwashed,″ ″The pen is mightier than the sword″ and ″It was a dark and stormy night.″

Ms. Simpson’s entry was selected from nearly 10,000 examples of wretched excess and ponderous prose submitted from all 50 states and 40 foreign countries. She won a personal computer.

One runner-up, D. Allen Janzen of Davis, wrote, ″Andre, a simple peasant, had only one thing on his mind as he crept along the east wall: ’Andre creep ... Andre creep ... Andre creep.‴

Categories include science fiction, detective, murder mystery, spy, horror, historical, western, purple prose and the Bulwer-Lytton Write Alike.

Craig Nagoshi of Boulder, Colo., won in the historical romance division with, ″Astride the rhythmically pulsating flanks of her galloping mount, Lady Ashcroft plunged into the dark, moistly warm forest, breathlessly bolted past the ancient plundered fortress once torn asunder by Saxon stones, came upon the jagged cliffs that pierced the brooding skies, where far below the surging waves relentlessly assaulted the mist-shrouded cover, and there she gravely pondered why Lord Ashcroft was always thinking about sex.″

The contest, brainchild of San Jose State English Professor Scott Rice, was inspired by the opening line to Bulwer-Lytton’s novel ″Paul Clifford,″ which reads, ″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 house-tops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.″

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