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

Saturday, January 18, 2003

Most vegetables reproduce via flowers and fruiting bodies, but it is little known that the lowly radish reproduces via spores. "Sporadic" is the reproductive body of the radish -- small, crunchy and often confused with rapeseed or stray Post Grape-Nuts. Only occasionally found.

Friday, January 17, 2003

Having the properties of Ophid, a little-known Roman poet famous primarily for writing epics in pig-Anglic, a children's form of Latin. He was a real snake.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

In the realms of ancient Egypt, under the benevolent despotism of the pharaohs, the erection of obelisks was a common fixation, even an obsession. Obelisk-fixation-obsession became obfuscation, which means to obscure as thorougly as sideways walking hieroglyphs.

("Obfuscation" courtesy of AnnaH)

Wednesday, January 15, 2003
Dog Watches

In ancient days the hill-tribes of Cimmeria were plagued by wild animals who assaulted their villages, tracked their hunting parties, and widdled in their gazpacho. The custom developed of placing young men on nearby hilltops with large sacks of Milkbones -- the dog watch, which typically lasted all night. Hence the term "dog watches."

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Used primarily in the expression "mordant wit," it is a contraction from the Italian morta della Dante, literally, "the death of Dante." Dante was of course severely humor-impaired due to a tragic accident in childhood during which he lost significant portion of his limbic system. Rendered limbicless for life, he became tragicomically obsessed with things divine. He eventually died of a joke told to him by Cesar Borgia over a glass of malmsy wine.

Monday, January 13, 2003

In the high Grass Mountains of southwestern China, near the poorly-guarded Bhutanese border, some years ago there was an outbreak of kudzu. How this African plant had migrated to the trans-Himalayas was anyone's guess, but it may have involved the infamous Moon Pie smuggling ring that nearly ruined the Chinese bakery industry just before the Cultural Revolution. The local herbivores overfed on the kudzu, multiplying to epic proportions before experiencing a resultant mass die-off. The greatest casualty of this process was the giant panda. For many years after, their characteristic black-and-white skins were found in everywhere -- a pandermic. This surfeit of panda pelts also accounts for the black-and-white design of the modern soccer ball, which until the great pandermic were mostly of a pale green color, rendering the game much more difficult to play.

("Pandermic" courtesy of JedH)

Sunday, January 12, 2003

A small, needle-like medical instrument used to investigate strange smells and other people's business, especially smelly business. Also sometimes found in places where it doesn't belong, or painted various fetching shades of brown.


A small fruit from the Balearic Islands, often consumed with shaved ginger, a small bowl of vinegar and three boiled eggs. Featured prominently in the religious rights of the Riparian Heresy. Also known as "tidefruit."

  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.