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Bad Sex in Fiction award canceled because 2020 was bad enough

For the first time in more than a decade, a contest to reward the worst sexual writing in the English language will fail to deliver a winner to the public, relief for readers left behind by the annual selection and sad news for global connoisseurs to cringe.

The Bad Sex in Fiction award is canceled.

The editors running the contest announced the decision on Tuesday on their magazine’s site, Literary Review, saying that 2020 has been a pretty nasty year without their input.

“The judges felt that the public had been subjected to too many bad things this year to justify exposing them to bad sex as well,” the statement said. “They cautioned, however, that the 2020 price cancellation should not be considered a license to write bad sex.”

Staff members of Literary Review, a British magazine not to be confused with a New Jersey-based publication of the same name, have curated terrible sexual writing for nearly three decades. The purpose of the award, according to the magazine, is to honor the “most horrific sexual description scene of the year” and to draw attention “to poorly written, redundant, or downright squeaky-worthy sexual description passages. in modern fiction ”.

Since the award was created in 1993 by critic Rhoda Koenig and publisher Auberon Waugh, son of Evelyn Waugh, nominated passages have included a comparison of an orgasm to a “demonic eel”, unconventional descriptions of the human body. hips “that could handle a whole range of toothbrushes” – and coital travel into space.

The winner in 2013, Manil Suri, likened sex to the explosion of supernovae, having characters “like past superheroes of solar systems” and “diving through banks of quarks and atomic nuclei”. Norman Mailer won, posthumously, in 2007, thanks to his inventive use of the phrase “a spool of excrement.” The winner in 1997, Nicholas Royle, described an exclamation “somewhere between a stranded seal and a police siren”.

Credit…Dave M. Benett / Getty Images

Although the winning list is dominated by men, a few women took home the award, including Rachel Johnson, a former magazine editor (and sister of Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Great Britain), who won in 2008 The judges noted its repeated use. animal images, as when she compared a character’s fingers to “a moth caught in a lampshade” and her tongue to “a cat licking a dish of cream”.

The nominees have included some of the most famous names in fiction of the past 30 years. In Ms Johnson’s year of victory, John Updike received a Lifetime Achievement Award. Shortlisted authors include Salman Rushdie, Stephen King, and Haruki Murakami.

Other years, Literary Review editors gather at the In and Out Club in central London to celebrate, reading excerpts aloud and presenting the prize to the winner: a plaster foot. Most of the writers received the award with good humor, including Ms Johnson, who called the award “absolute honor,” and Iain Hollingshead, who said after her victory in 2006: “I hope to win it every year. . “

Others have shown less interest, including singer Morrissey, who won in 2015 and told Uruguayan newspaper El Observador that it was “better to keep an indifferent distance” from “these disgusting horrors”. And some critics have called the award itself wandering and intimidating, saying it could scare writers into writing about sex.

The magazine’s editors, however, do not expect such cold weather. On Tuesday, they said via an anonymous spokesperson that they “expect a surge of entries next year” as lockdown regulations give rise to “all kinds of new sexual practices.”

“Authors are reminded that cybersex and other forms of home entertainment fall under this award,” the spokesperson said. “Scenes taking place in fields, parks or backyards, or indoors with windows open and fewer than six people present will also not be exempt from review.”

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