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

Saturday, December 14, 2002

Bob rest ye merry gentile-men
Let nothing circumcise
Eat shellfish, veal and cheese
Grow healthy, fat and wise
Levticus does not apply to us
Except when we decide
To follow the rules written therein
Written therein
To follow the rules written therein

("Gentile" courtesy of FrankW)

Friday, December 13, 2002

A coxcomb is of course a small grooming device used to maintain a merkin, or pubic wig. So called because it is often attached to the male member for ease of delivery. Very popular in North and South Merkia, of course.

("Coxcomb" courtesy of FrankW)

Thursday, December 12, 2002

One of our letters that often stands in for an entire word, synecdoche is a story device that can be used to express a single idea or an entire mountain range. A metaphor by any other name would smell just as sweet, and synecdoche is just a part of speech.

("Synecdoche" courtesy of TimP)

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

A caesura is a pause in the line of descent of kings, literally, the lacuna caesarea, later contracted by medieval scribes to caesura. Often the pause occurs because the king is trapped behind bars, as in Good King Richard of England, or perhaps suffers a medical condition such as intense cephalic foreshortening, such as Charles I of England. In lists of the lines of kings the caesure is usually marked as a double bar, ||, not to be confused with moaning at the bar, bar none, or two guys walking into a bar.

("Caesura" courtesy of SarahB)

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Antilles is a Creole word that literally refers to "ant hills", but metaphorically refers to the extremely large social position that the white colonists of the Carribean adopted for themselves. A Brit or Dutchman with a large house full of servants was said to live in an "Antille", which name of course had more to do with local attitudes about these outsiders than anything else. Also, these colonists were often noted for dragging home large hunks of carrion many times their weight, to dine on rotten whaleshark or giant squid like dogs at a dead deer.

("Antilles" courtesy of Jed, who has discovered the other end of the alphabet.)

Monday, December 09, 2002

After the Corpuscular Reforms of 1511, the Sanguinary Brothers were disbanded and sent into exile, for the most part ministering to the Jivaro tribe under the supervision of sadistic Franciscans. A small minority fled into darkest Wendland, where they mixed with the few remaining shamans of that lost Mitteleuropan people, to form a church called the Exsanguinates. They took their chief rites from early reports brought back from New Spain, and were know for their heartlessness.

("Exsanguinate" courtesy of MikeA.)

Sunday, December 08, 2002
Piano Nobile

Also known as the "royal heartsichord," the piano nobile was one of the most unusual instruments in Renaissance music. Invented in Venice, it found use as far away as Aleppo and Riga, and one was reportedly brought to the New World by Sebastian Cabot. It consisted of eighty-eight strings each held by a pair of servants (or slaves) -- traditionally deaf-mutes, though that requirement was eventually done away with -- who ran back and forth across a large field as the player danced across them. This also gave the player a high-level view of what was going on in the court or great house below them.

('Piano Nobile" courtesy of AnnaH.)

  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.