Story Words
Very short fiction, written on the fly, from words submitted by readers.
© 2002, 2003, 2004 Jay Lake

Saturday, November 09, 2002

"Microfilari" are the tiniest hairs on the human body, so small they can only seen with an electron scanning microscope. The subject must be prepared with a tincture of mustard seed and barium, then spend twelve hours in a Navajo sweat lodge under a strict fast, before entering the cloaca of the microscope. One inside, crowds of scientists, graduate students, journalists and costermongers gather 'round to read the secret messages written by God in our tiniest hairs. Unfortunately, He is a bad speller and often omits vowels, which has already led to two accidental purges and a shooting war between North Dakota and Saskatchewan. Remember, no matter how hairy the problem, a good shave is always the solution. "Microfilari."

Friday, November 08, 2002

A little known and now-discredited unit of the metric system, the sphygmomanometer was first proposed by the Hugonauts, followers of Victor Hugo in nineteenth century France, as a unit based on the "sphygmo," an oblong fruit grown only in Corsica and the Balearic Islands. As Napoleon III hated sphygmos, and in fact had embarked on an eradication campaign with the help of Dutch horticulturalists assisted by Balinese shamans, he had the Hugonauts expelled, whereupon they moved to American and formed a medical device company. "Sphygmomanometer."

Thursday, November 07, 2002

"Onomatopaeia," a word that means exactly what you think it means. Which, if you think about it, ought to be pronounced "word." What would we do with all the silent letters? Rearrange them into a foreign aid package for Serbia? Sell them in the souks of Central Asia? Send them back to France where they would be lost in the sea of silent letters and angry Francophone chauvinists? Onomatopaeia, when nothing else will do.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

The Muses were all steamed up. Nothing was going right for them. First that idiot Odysseus had gotten lost, just like a man, then that moron Homer -- and who the Hades named him? Why not Melvin, for Apollo's sake? -- got the story wrong. They were done inspiring the hand of man. Comedy, dance, history, the whole business could go rot. In fact, Calliope was so mad, she ran away and joined the circus. "Calliope."

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Long ago during the reign of the great Swedish king Karl-Gustav-Andromachus the First-and-Only, it was the custom of the smaller Baltic states to send His Swedish Majesty offerings upon the Royal Birthday and at Michaelmas. In Riga, safely across the Gulf of Bothnia, the prince became restive with respect to his obligations and one year sent only a simple wooden board in lieu of the usual treasure laden ships. Karl-Gustav-Andromachus waxed wrothful and brought down great armies to smash this insolent ruler, Prince Smerga. In the distant lands of barbarian England, rumors of this offense and the ensuing assault were reinterpeted as a great feast -- the smorgasbord.

Monday, November 04, 2002

Dirndl. In the faraway lands of the Eastern Carpathians, the world's richest vowel mines could once be found. Unfortunately, after the Great Elision of 987, the Pope issued a Bull that good Christians could no longer work in the Carpathian vowel mines. Only young Jewish women worked there thereafter, forced into servitude for the vowels they brought up from the rich earth. Even their own private vowels were often robbed by unscrupulous vowel merchants, resulting in their traditional daywear being named the "dirndl."

  I've been nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Novelette, and for the John W. Campbell, Jr. Award for Best New Writer!
Award info | Me

Read the Hugo-nominated story for free at

Q: What is this?
A: A fiction experiment. Every day, people email me words. At some random point in the day, I pick a word, write a quick story about it on the spot, and post it unedited (except for a quick typo patrol).

Q: What did that word mean?
A: Look it up:

Q: Can I send you a word?
A: You bet. Include a definition if the word is deeply obscure -- or not, if you prefer. Send it to

Q: I've got something to say about this.
A: Click over to the Story Words discussion topic.

Q: Who else is silly enough to do this? I think it's kind of neat.
A: David Jones, for one. Surf over there and check him out. Drop him an encouraging word, too. He's a brave man.
A: Jeremy Tolbert, for another, with his Microscopica project. Likewise show him some love.
A: Jason Erik Lundberg with his Mythologism blog.

Q: You're even cooler than KITT the Knight Rider car. Do you have a mailing list to announce your latest hijinks?
A: Of course I do. What kind of self-promoting, narcissistic writer would I be otherwise? Email me. Occasional mailings regarding stories appearing in print and online, weird stuff in general, and appearances of the Greek Chorus.