Some Truly Awful Writing

Last week, I knew I’d have some time to kill in class while students worked and I had little to grade or plan.  Not having my usual books with me, I swung by the library to grab something easy and quick with which to while away the quiet spots of one evening on campus.  I scanned the short story collections at the Clark County library, and grabbed Writers of the Future, volume XVIII.  This annual anthology collects the winners of their science fiction and fantasy writing contests.  I’ve read some other volumes in the series, and they’ve been pretty good.

This one wasn’t bad, also, offering some enjoyable new stories.  However, I started one called “Worlds Apart,” whose second page contains the following ridiculously wretched lines:

Her hair was ohh.  Her face was ahh.  Her body was the gift that keeps on giving.  Maybe that’s why I kissed her.

Woah.  This won a contest?  Maybe it should have been entered in the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.  It could have won that one, too.

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A Silly Test of Book of Mormon Authorship

This morning, First Thoughts featured a link to a new tool called “I Write Like…” where writers can compare their work to the styles of famous authors.  The site is clearly an ad for a publishing agency, and gives wildly illogical results: for example, though it correctly identified the first chapter of Huck Finn for me as written in the style of Mark Twain and the short story “Araby” as by James Joyce, it also said the first chapter of Genesis (King James Version) was in the style of Kurt Vonnegut and that the first few paragraphs of Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” sounded like H.P. Lovecraft.  Those comparisons are plausible, I suppose, but still a bit far-fetched.

The site does not provide any commentary on its analyses, nor does it even explain its program’s methodology.  Such background information would make this much more enjoyable.  As it is, it’s little more than a cute novelty. 

However, as I played with this toy, I thought about the issue of Book of Mormon authorship.  Though this would hardly be a scholarly study, I wondered what this site would say about it: does all of the text seem to come from one author, or many?  Does it sound like Joseph Smith?  (Though, to be fair, “I Write Like…” surely doesn’t have Smith in its program, nor is it consistent: in the space of two pages, Faulkner’s short story goes from sounding like Lovecraft, apparently, to Vladimir Nabokov.  My test here is purely facetious fun.) 

1 Nephi chapter 1 is written in the style of cyberpunk master William Gibson.  (Strange, I don’t remember Nephi spending much time dwelling on malevolent artificial intelligence.  Perhaps the desert wilderness into which his family was exiled was the Matrix?) 

1 Nephi 22 sounds like Daniel Defoe.  Makes sense.  Nephi Robinson and Lehi Crusoe sure could have used Friday. 

Alma chapter 1 could have come from the pen of Jane Austen, it says.  Continue reading