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

Friday, June 27, 2003

Philo T. Farnsworth invented television, though you'd be hard pressed to know that. RCA ripped off his patents and pretty much buried him. Although he knew everything, and loved it, he never quite added up.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

In the early days of writing, when letters were precious, extracted by the sea by sweating men with long skeins searching for squid ink, spelling was difficult. Clay tablets and chiseled stone were media to be respected. Each season was indicated by a short, sharp word -- Witer, Sprig, Sumer, Fal. Now we are profligate, and have put the "m" back in summer at ever solice.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

In the time of giants, when barbarian heroes roamed the mountains seeking trophy skulls inside of which to build their palaces, "belittle" was the best advice a worried giantess could give her towering son. Unfortunately, it was the barbarians who put down the giants, rather than the reverse, so belittling was enlarged.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Bubba ignored the sardonic laughter erupting from the crowd as he took the stage. He delicately extricated the rear of his Dickies overalls from his buttocks, which the drunks in Joe’s Spirits and Times found hilarious. The karaoke machine was set to sing, but Bubba switched that function off, opting for music alone. He keyed the mike, turned his yellow Marlboro hat around backwards and switched on the subtitles. Taunts and catcalls echoed up from the darkness behind the stage lights as the music, wholly out of place in this smoky backwoods bar, began to blare from the man-sized speakers on either side of the room. But every voice, every crack of pool balls, every shuffle of plates and chairs and silverware died when Bubba lifted the mike to his lips and barreled into a rendition of, Three Little Maids from School, that would have made Yum-Yum, Peep-Bo, and Patti-Sing proud. When it was done, as Bubba’s perfect falsetto faded into the murk, the patrons sat in stunned silence until one man, a burly biker type, began to clap and then the crowd roared, pleading for more. But Bubba would not be persuaded. He readjusted his ball cap, sidled to the bar, and drank till he dropped.

("Sardonic" courtesy of DavidJ, who is also the guest author of this Story Word.)

Monday, June 23, 2003

Oh the knight he rode into the desert
An Ay-rab for to see
And he had a metal pot upon his head
And a metal greave upon his shin
And how that greave did sheen

Oh the knight his horse stumbled in the sand
No Ay-rab near to see
His metal pot it burned his head
And his metal grave his shin
And how that greave did gleam

Oh an Ay-rab came walking by his robes about his chest
And a blue turban upon his brow
The Ay-rab laughed to see the knight ablaze
Burns upon his face and chin
And how that greave did steam

Oh the knight he begged the Ay-rab for some water
And some shade
The Ay-rab smiled and said
I am a fellahin
Sworn to send you to your grave unseen

Sunday, June 22, 2003

King Card sat upon his ivory throne, watching three barbarians saunter towards him down the rose walk. The Nineron King, called Steppan, walked in the center, flanked by two burly retainers. He carried a double-headed axe in one meaty hand, and a bastard sword strapped to his back, the long handle poking above his red hair. His hard gray eyes pierced King Card who had, not three hours before, watched his city fall to this man’s advancing horde. Onerate, Card’s manservant, stepped before the barbarians as they neared.

"You sap lappers have no place here. Call off yer dogs and have them go sniff you out some honor."

"Peace," said King Card, rising from the throne and tossing his golden crown at the barbarian king’s feet. "Your objurgation falls on ears of stone."

("Objurgation" courtesy of DavidJ, who is also the guest author of this Story Word.)

  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.