In 1982, Professor Scott E. Rice at San Jose State University created the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, and it is my favorite thing in the world that I can’t drink or blow up. Every year, writers from all across America write and submit the opening lines to terrible novels that don’t actually exist, and every year the judges pick winners, and they are all fucking gold. Here’s 2015’s winner, written by Dr. Joel Phillips, who was proud enough of his education to include his PhD on his Terrible Writing Contest submission, totally oblivious to how I would eventually make fun of him for it right now:
Seeing how the victim’s body, or what remained of it, was wedged between the grill of the Peterbilt 389 and the bumper of the 2008 Cadillac Escalade EXT, officer “Dirk” Dirksen wondered why reporters always used the phrase “sandwiched” to describe such a scene since there was nothing appetizing about it, but still, he thought, they might have a point because some of this would probably end up on the front of his shirt.
On Feb. 19 I proposed to Virginia, and was accepted. It was an awkward moment, as you may imagine, especially as I realised, the very minute it was happening, that the whole thing was repulsive to me. Her sense was amazing, and luckily it turned out that she’s not in love. The result was that I was able to manage a fairly honorable retreat.
Add “first Slade Professor at University College, London” and the Tate’s summary of Poynter fits him well: “English painter, draughtsman, decorative designer and museum official.” That is, practically everything.
Here, though, we see his work at the outset of his career, when he had just started to show work at the Royal Academy.
Perhaps that accounts for the clearly deliberate audience pandering he engages in, painting a character of a popular novel (Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s The Last Days of Pompeii) in a tragically heroic moment of dutifulness: ignoring the coins around his feet and the death behind him, as the Walker Art Gallery puts it, he “stands at his post whilst Pompeii and its citizens are destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius.”
In his defense the moment isn’t wholly ludicrous—Bulwer-Lytton gleaned inspiration for the story from the body of a fully-armed guard found in the excavations at Pompeii.
Nonetheless, there is just a little bit of the same spirit that runs through Pompeii in 3D running through Faithful Unto Death.