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

Saturday, March 01, 2003
Important Note

I will be out of pocket at a writers' retreat on the Oregon Coast from 3/1 through 3/17, and thus will be posting no Story Words at that time. Check back here in the second half of March!



A little-known Belgian artist primarily important for his early, unsuccessful experiments with optical illusions. He came to a messy, existential end, but other artists more more escher.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Sometimes when things ain't going well, you get lachrylease, which means as few tears as possible. Sometimes when things is going well, you get lachrymose, which means as many tears as possible. Either way, you're always lachrying in something.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

The command station for a now-forgotten type of vessel called an "overw," a word taken from the Dutch "ouveroow," meaning "above the oars." This was a bireme galley experimentally used by the Royal Navy during the Great Wind Crisis of 1803-04. The captain and the pilot stood at the overw helm, where they could see absolutely nothing due to the large number of rowers around them, and thus tended to run into other ships, barges, bridges, France etc.

Sunday, February 23, 2003

In the early years of electro-mechanical climate control, people lucky enough to work in such environments were called "condites," the term from which we draw the modern coinage "air conditioning." Upon leaving, and before returning, they would tell their families, "I'll soon be recondite." They were rarely forgiven.

  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.