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

Saturday, December 07, 2002

In the early years of the nineteenth century, Dutch explorers mapping out the lesser-know portions of the Malayan archipelago came across a giant, floating island made entirely of the corpses of ants. Later statistical analysis on the contemporary descriptions of the island indicate that there may have been as many as 6.024 x 10^23 ants, or in effect, a giant mole. The Dutch named the island "Formica," after the Latin word for ant, although it was later known as "Taitwo," a cheap imitation of "Taiwan."

("Formica" courtesy of AnnaH.)

Friday, December 06, 2002
Under the Radar

A political and cultural phrase that metaphorically refers to the fact that most radar mechanics in the International Radarman's Union work beneath their radar sets rather than in front of them. Working "in front of the radar" would most likely result in massive hair loss and glowing testicles, conditions for which some people pay good money in expensive German brothels, but the trusty IRU lads would prefer to avoid.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

The Idiolects are a series of commentaries on Confucious' Analects by Comte Edgar de Morone, an early French traveller to the Far East. De Morone took a distinctive approach to Confucianism, translating mostly from what his illiterate (in Chinese, at least) Siberian guide claimed was the original text, then rendering it into sestinas for consumption in the emerging parlor societies back home in Paris. Today the term refers to any stupid reference understood only by the utterer, such as "D'oh," "Like, you know," or "I'll still respect you in the morning."

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

In the distant undersea kingdom of Kelpia the Clam King rules with an iron shell. His word is law, and even the barnacles upon his shell are sacred. Long ago the Egyptians visited Kelpia, bringing with them the concept of "Ka", or the soul. Unfortunately, the Clam King is immortal, and thus has no need of souls. He considers mortal life a gamble anyway, so he famously said, "Ka, sea, no!" which has been corrupted in these reduced and venal times to "casino."

("Casino" courtesy of me, because I'm staying at Harrah's in Council Bluffs, IA tonight.)

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Prodromal is one of a powerful new series of drugs developed in South Africa and Korea designed to turn any ordinary personal into a professional racer. Bicycle, automobile, aircraft, camel (Bactrian or dromedary) -- no matter. Prodromal will take your old amateur self off the couch and help you be ready to compete in the 'drome of your choice.

("Prodromal" courtesy of AnnaH)

Monday, December 02, 2002

Locative form of the word "ziggur," as in, "Where's that ziggur at?" "Ziggurat" came into common use during the Spelling Reforms in Continental Europe, when Les Apostrophes de 'Homme were hacking the pinkie fingers off persons using non-standard spelling, slang imported from England and the Colonies, and anyone having a bad hair day. The "ziggur" was the term for the pinkie guillotine used during those perilous times. They are still occasionally found in cigar shops, the best ones being obtained from clay-pit workshops in Mesopotamia.

("Ziggurat" courtesy of Jed, who apparently likes "z" words)

Sunday, December 01, 2002

A very small subgroup of the Aryan race having many, many legs, often found scuttling under furniture, pronouncing Holocaust revisionism and agitating for racial purity. Sometimes puts on a nice suit and runs for office as a Republican.

  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.