July 17, 2012

Kirk Poland Memorial Bad Prose Competition

A fixture of the Readercon program is the Kirk Poland Bad Prose Competition. It’s a game show. Each round starts with an unfortunate passage from a published work of fiction*. A panel of five writers read continuations of the passage: one is the original text and the rest are invented by other panelists. The audience votes on which passage they think is authentic. The audience is almost always wildly wrong.

This doesn’t sound like a rollicking good time, but it’s absolutely hilarious. These people can flat-our write, they think about writing, and the see the gaffes at once. One unfortunate writer over-used m-dashes, and at each m-dash every panelist made an identical Klingon salute, and pretty soon you could see those m-dashes coming. One adverb too many and the audience starts to giggle; three excessive adverbs and people are rolling in the aisle.

I had earlier found a scalpel-like instrument of transparent metal in one of the cupboards of the suites above, which I had secreted about my person under the abbreviated tunic the science magician had given me to wear — an effeminate, silky thing, colored a repulsive lavender, which left my brown legs bare to the upper thigh. Now I snatched the glassy blade from its hiding place and slashed at the ropy tendril which wound ever tighter about my foot.

I’m pretty sure that they take care to make sure the unfortunate writer isn’t in the audience.