Fifth Annual Movie-Plot Threat Contest Winner

On April 1, I announced the Fifth Annual Movie Plot Threat Contest:

Your task, ye Weavers of Tales, is to create a fable of fairytale suitable for instilling the appropriate level of fear in children so they grow up appreciating all the lords do to protect them.

On May 15, I announced the five semi-finalists. Voting continued through the end of the month, and the winner (improved by the author, with help from blog comments) is:

The Gashlycrumb Terrors, by Laura

A is for anthrax, so deadly and white.
B is for burglars who break in at night.
C is for cars that, with minds of their own,
accelerate suddenly in a school zone.
D is for dynamite lit with a fuse.
E is for everything we have to lose.
F is for foreigners, different and strange.
G is for gangs and the crimes they arrange.
H is for hand lotion, more than three ounces;
pray some brave agent sees it and pounces.
I is for ingenious criminal plans.
J is for jury-rigged pipe-bombs in vans.
K is for kids who would recklessly play
in playgrounds and parks with their friends every day.
L is for lead in our toys and our food.
M is for Mom’s cavalier attitude.
N is for neighbors—you never can tell:
is that a book club or terrorist cell?
O is for ostrich, with head in the sand.
P is for plots to blow up Disneyland.
Q is for those who would question authorities.
R is for radical sects and minorities.
S is for Satanists, who have been seen
giving kids razor blades on Halloween.
T is for terrorists, by definition.
U is for uncensored acts of sedition.
V is for vigilance, our leaders’ tool,
keeping us safe, both at home and at school.
W is for warnings with colors and levels.
X is for x-raying bags at all revels.
Y is for *you*, my dear daughter or son
Z is for Zero! No tolerance! None!

Laura, contact me with your address so I can send you your prize. Anyone interesting in illustrating this, preferably in Edward Gorey’s style, should e-mail me first.

History: The First Movie-Plot Threat Contest rules and winner. The Second Movie-Plot Threat Contest rules, semifinalists, and winner. The Third Movie-Plot Threat Contest rules, semifinalists, and winner. The Fourth Movie-Plot Threat Contest rules and winner.

Posted on June 15, 2010 at 6:02 AM22 Comments


Gareth Rees June 15, 2010 6:40 AM

That’s excellent. If someone’s going to make an illustrated version, it might be worth fixing (or at least improving) the scansion in lines ACHIKNPSVYZ. Here are some slight improvements:

A is for anthrax, so deadly and white.
C is for cars that have minds of their own
and do more than fifty-five in a school zone.
H is for hand lotion, more than three ounces;
let’s pray that some brave agent sees it and pounces.
I is for implants (but wait till you’re older).
N is for neighbors — you never can tell:
are they running a book club or terrorist cell?
P is for plots to explode Disneyland.
S is for satanists, who have been seen
giving poisonous candy bars on Halloween.

(which I donate to the public domain). I don’t have anything particularly good for KVYZ, but I’m sure that other commenters will.

Alan June 15, 2010 6:59 AM

K is for kids, those who aren’t afraid
V seems adequate
Y is for you so you won’t be a dope
Z stymies me

Bruce: you have Lords who protect you? May I come live in this faerie realm? LOL

yt June 15, 2010 8:10 AM

Congratulations, Laura. I had a feeling your entry would be the winner the first time I read it.

Steven June 15, 2010 8:38 AM

Great work by Laura, although it doesn’t exactly look like a “movie plot” to me.

Jos June 15, 2010 9:00 AM

Oh man, that is fantastic. I’ve been a fan of Mr. Gorey’s style for a long time, and this is so right-on. I wish i had the artistic skills to make this into an illustrated version. I tell you now, if someone does illustrate it, i’d buy a copy, and put it right beside my copy of the ghastlycrumb tinies.

Calum June 15, 2010 10:41 AM


Part of the peculiar appeal of Edward Gorey is the seemingly clumsy scansion. Aping it as Laura has done is a harder task than assembling regular prosody 🙂

BlueScreenOfDebt June 15, 2010 11:36 AM

Very funny entry. Reminds me a bit of a Bob Dylan song – Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues.

Laura June 15, 2010 11:39 AM

Thanks, all.

About the scansion – every line in Gorey’s version had exactly 10 syllables; I tried to do the same, but didn’t quite succeed.

@Steven – I decided pretty early on that it would be easier to throw together a bunch of unrelated and vaguely disturbing images than to write an actual story. This poem is basically the fairy-tale equivalent of using FUD instead of trying to make a coherent argument.

About specific lines — I was most worried about the “I” line, since the implants story has probably faded into obscurity already. I came up with another version that used “identity theft” instead, although it occurs to me that if anyone ever does illustrate it, exploding breast implants probably lend themselves to more interesting visuals. And yes, the last line doesn’t scan very well — I really wanted to use “zero tolerance”, but that turns out to be difficult to do anything reasonable with (in poetry as in life).

@tak – that’s hilarious. If anyone decides to write a series of 26 novels with these titles, please let me know.

DayOwl June 15, 2010 12:24 PM

@anon: I’ve been suspicious of my blender’s subversive activities for some time now. Now I know why.

Mailman June 15, 2010 5:09 PM

@Steven: “Great work by Laura, although it doesn’t exactly look like a “movie plot” to me.”

It’s called the Movie-Plot Threat contest, but this year’s rules were not about writing a movie plot.

Tommy Turtle June 16, 2010 2:47 AM

@ laura: I don’t know the original that you’re parodying (always a significant handicap), but if you’re looking for dactylic tetrameter, as used in Dr. Seuss and the Beatles’ “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”, (the last foot can be stretched so that there are only ten syllables, as you need, or eleven, as in “LitSwD”), the first thing that popped into mind, as an accomplished professional and amateur parodist, was:

Y is for you, ’cause you must be afraid:
Z stands for Zorro, who carves with his blade!

But you wanted “zero tolerance”. OK. (thinks for 30 seconds)

Y is for you, my dear daughter or son
Z is for Zero! No tolerance! None!

WARNING: Shameless plug approaching. Reader discretion advised.

For more of this writer’s general approach, while staying somewhat on topic, you can find my anti-Government parody of “The Star-Spangled Banner” (non-partisan) here:

my lambasting of the current anti-immigration hysteria, with a revision of the Statue Of Liberty pedestal inscription:

and the Gilbert & Sullivan parody of M. Ahmadinejad’s rants at the UN Conf on Racism Etc.:
“Iran’s The Very Model Of ‘Salaam’ Islamic Tolerance”:

Three plugs is the limit — or over the limit — but the main page, with all 344 parodies, can be reached by clicking the author name at the end of this post. Not all are political: some are low-brow humor, and even a bit racy. Fair warning. Email captcha link at the bottom copyright notice of each parody. Oh, and the Guide to perfect scansion:

D0R June 27, 2010 3:26 PM

Congratulations Laura — I voted for you, and I was quite sure you were going to win.

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