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

Saturday, July 19, 2003
Duck Inn

Long ago in the kingdom of Kwak there were two kinds of public accomodations. In one, the foreigners and persons of low class were permitted to lodge, eat and travel. In the other, the feathered aristocracy of Kwak took their ease. Naturally the aristocrats ate better, travelled in better-sprung carriages and took their indolent ease at all hours of the day and night. These Duck Inns, as they were called, became synonymous with all the excesses of the ruling class, and were burned in the Peking Rebellion, resulting in a lovely if somewhat brief feast.

("Duck Inn" courtesy of JoeL)

Friday, July 18, 2003

Little men with little wives live in little house with little lives.
They sneak out at night to view the baboons
and drink porter stout by the light of moon.
Dancing as they do within the confines of the zoo,
they become men of beasts
and beasts of men too.
This is the zoanthrope cotillion.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

"His temper was beyond phlegmatic, positively adiabatic. It was not that his affect was flat, though some biographers thought so. There was no emotional scarring lurking beneath his eerie calm and complete lack of heat, despite the contentions of the Brothertonites. It was just that he remained in a state of absolute equilibrium, possessed of an iron control and a Messianic sense of inner balance."

President Bozo: The Early Years, ed. Karsten Richards, New Ulm Press, 2056

(Today's word courtesy of MikeE)

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

In the land of optical physicists, the genders refract in several ways. There are the heterorefringents, who beget most of the young optical physicists. There are the homorefringenets, who beget most of the administrators and grant writers. And finally, much more rare, there are the birefringents, who beget children of both kinds, usually before the pair splits up.

("Birefringent" suggested by MikeE)

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Executing a clown is a silly business. Their crimes are always odd, they always plead inanity. When the time comes for their final moments, they have cream pies and bubblegum cigarettes, which stink mightily when lit. Finally, they are hung from the flibbertigibbet, where their necks stretch and they bounce around until their heads pop off and lots of tiny little clowns come pouring out to start the whole damned thing all over again.

You'd think the other clowns would learn, but no...

Monday, July 14, 2003

In Reggia Pflock, certain art forms proscribed elsewhere are thought to be most audacious and creatively stimulating. For many years, there was an Escritorium where women of fecund mien would stimulate the audience members with goosequill pens, then write the names of their children on sheets of rice paper in their menstrual blood. (That was eventually outlawed during the regency of Pratt II, the Nebula King.) The highest of otherwise proscribed art forms however, according to Nobbody's Guide to Culture, Cuisine and Bitchin' Horse Race Touts, is color-coordinated projectile vomiting, performed by exquisitely-trained eunuchs procured from the Near East and raised exclusively on diets of beets, carrots and soybeans. Unfortunately, the Vomitorium Maximus was burned to the ground during the Shaw Interventions, and though several civic-minded groups have attempted to restore the ancient practice, they have mostly succeeded in clogging the storm drains.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

There are seven kinds of empire. Only four need concern us, for three have passed from the world -- water monopoly empire, empire-by-divine-right, and hairy man empire. What remains are empire-by-might, circus empire, technology empire and vesicular empire. Empire-by-might is the old Soviet Union, circus empire is the mercantilism of the United States. Can you circulate an example of a vesicular empire?

(Today's Story Word courtesy of Stella E.)

  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.