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

Saturday, June 07, 2003
Polled Hereford

In the kingdom of the chickens, cattle get no vote. In the kingdom of the swine, cattle are the knights. In the kingdom of the horses, cattle are the dunces. But in the kingdom of the cattle, all Herefords are polled.

Friday, June 06, 2003

In the faraway Mountains of Lune the Fire Tribe and the Water Tribe battle at each summer solstice, though most years they make only steam, which sheds water upon the lowlands. When that water falls, the Pomegranate of Doom flowers for just one day. If the winds are from the south, the Bee of Destiny pollinates the Pomegranate of Doom. There is then borne a fruit, on good years, which falls to the ground and rolls into the Brook of Briah, only to be carried to the sea, grasped by a fish eagle ad flown back to the Mountains of Lune, where it is traditionally dropped on the head of the youngest child. Weather is the fire that lies beneath, and the cause and cost of this all.

Thursday, June 05, 2003
Soup Wars

During the fourth year of his reign, Pope Felton IV ("the Wee Li'l Pope") was apparently poisoned, though non-fatally, by a batch of mushroom soup sent to him by the Patriarch of Ankara. The enraged pope issued a Papal Bull calling for "the trampling of heretics and persons of poor taste." Though no Roman Rite forces ever reached Ankara, the Bull had far-reaching consequences for minority and dissident groups throughout the Mediterranean. The Holy Office of Soup was formed, their edicts enforced by the dreaded ladleteers, who travelled Christendom with eight foot, iron-tipped soup ladles sampling cooking and administering horrendous punishments for such crimes as oversalting, watering down and inappropriate use of root vegetables. The Soup Wars were finally ended by the death of Pope Felton IV, who drowned in a vat of gazpacho, apparently an "assisted death."

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Once in the far reaches of North Cathay, there was a little fish who wanted to be bigger. He lived in a tiny pond beneath a mossy rock in a damp vale in the midst of a great desert, so he had nowhere to grow. He had no company either, except for the little insects who came to his pond, whom he ate, and Grandfather Krill, who lived beneath the shiny pebble at the bottom of the pond. "Grandfather Krill," said the tiny fish, "I want to grow. What shall I do." "You're a radical fool," said Grandfather Krill, but he mumbled so into his palps that the tiny fish thought he heard "Go to medical school." So he went to a Moscow medical school and eventually became one of the most famous doctors in the Danube, the surgeon sturgeon.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Shorthand for a fielder's error in baseball, or analogous behaviors in other sports and professions. From the Medieval French "proulappe," meaning "before the flood." See "prolapsarian."

Monday, June 02, 2003

"Tiny purple fishes run laughing through your fingers." How do they fit? What do they eat? What could it all mean? Brought to you by the miracle of stoma, soma's close cousin. Where soma just blisses you out, a lifetime of lotus lift, stoma makes you full, happy and warm-bellied, all the while allowing you to uptake food through tiny ports in your nubbly skin.

Sunday, June 01, 2003

An obscure Spanish sect of Gnostic Christianity whose main rite revolved around the veneration of small turnips. Though they vied for control of the Iberian Peninsula, they were bested in the Soup Wars of Pope Felton IV, and eventually retreated in the ill-fated Turnip Crusade to found a small, hedonistic community in Majorca that evolved into today's Club Med.

("Saccade" courtest of Jed H.)

  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.