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

Saturday, February 15, 2003

Most people don't realize that Shakespeare actually had a pretty good copy editor, named Rodger Hamm, who smoked a lot. Hamm had a bout of ephysema when Shakespeare was writing one of his lesser known sonnets, and the manuscript was released as a chapbook for the betterment of Her Majesty's tars before Hamm got a chance to slice it up and cure the problems. Therefore, when the HMS Pelican Shorts brought back a new fruit from the bird-infested wilds of Borneo, it was named after the locally-famous Shakespeare line, "My ladye if you carrot all for me, allow me then to kum quat with thee."

("Kumquat" courtesy of Elizabeth)

Thursday, February 13, 2003

In the faraway country of Lastt, where everyone sticks to their business and all the streets are cobbled, various cults have arised around the garb of saints. There are the robers, who's sacrament is theft by night, and the hatters, who are all mad as March hairs. Most curious are the Bootes, worshippers of a distant star who celebrate that star's footware. There have been many schisms over the centuries, the laceists setting off in exile to become Irish doily makers, the tonguers branching off into orgiastic rites of unsurpassed popularity, and so forth. However, the bedrock of all the cults of Lastt are the solecists. Solecism preaches that a foot flat on the ground is the key to happiness, and thus forbids leaping, diving, jumping rope, etc. On the other foot, they can always be found where you expect them, and everyone else is attached to them.

("Solecism" courtesy of A-Word-A-Day,

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

The sound made by a small stone as it hits the water, taken from the Shoshone word for rhubarb.

Monday, February 10, 2003

There are many kinds of cities in the world -- capital cities (Washington), cities of the heart (Paris), duplicities (Minneapolis-St. Paul), multiplicities (the quad cities area of eastern Iowa and southern Illinois), simplicities (Van Horn, TX), implicities (New York, NY), but the best kind of city is an authenticity -- the real thing, like my home town of Portland, OR. Is your town an authenticity? Or is it a monstrocity?

("Authenticity" courtesy of Sarah)

Sunday, February 09, 2003

In the stony highlands of Silesia among the German-speaking remnants of the vanished Wendish peoples of Mitteleuropa there thrives a Cult of the Divine Chimney. It is the Chimneyites belief that the Angel of the Annunciation came down the chimney to bring the Biblical Good News. (They also believe the Angel wore a red fur suit, but that's another story.) As the Wendish word for "chimney" was "schnoot", these people are known as "schnooters." Immigrants to America from the Chimneyite sect brought that word with them, where it was applied to their large, red, furry noses that lit up on winter nights.

("Schnooter" courtest of the Schroers)

  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.