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

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Festive is a word we pull out of trunks in our attics one every year or so. It lies curled, half-forgotten, nesting among silver ribbons and old candle stubs, smelling of frankincense and myrrh. Sometime after the First Turkey Feast and before the Ritual Gift Exchange we go up and root around for it. With the word comes red wool vest with silver buttons, old Bible dust blown free, and a license for temporary gluttony.

We are festive. The year is festive. If it is so fun, why do we fold it away in the January dark?

Friday, December 19, 2003

We stood among the flowers that towered higher than our close-shaven heads, staring up at the king daddy flower of them all. Particolored, it was, every color from none to all, with no step of the rainbow omitted in between. Leaves the size of tigers swooped down from the mighty stalk. Green mites larger than our dogs crawled up and down the vertiginous length.

"Time to go home," said Steubing.

There was a restive muttering from the krewe.

"Don't you want to climb it?" I asked.

"Nope." He shook his head, grinning that gap-toothed grin of his that had wooed princesses and hypnotized potentates. "Just seeing it is enough."

Though I would not turn away, the expedition did, so eventually I followed among the echoing screams of purple monkeys. That enormous stalk sways yet in my dreams, that particolored explosion at the top never quite complete.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Formally known as "mucus ecclesiasticum," synod is what runs out of the Church when there is an epistimological infection. The his-and-heresy ordinations going on now are a good example. Generally speaking, the Pope deploys a giant, inquisitive handkerchief and the whole thing blows over. Or out. Or past. Or something.

("Synod" courtesy of SarahB)

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

The Wheelwright Brothers made the first downhill wagon run in 7,854 B.C., contributing mightily to progress and the advancement of human culture. In 7,853 B.C. they refined their invention with custom rims, a lowered suspension and neon glows below the frame rails.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

A city on Mars famous for it's canyonside galleries and 'open air' restaurants, Polenta was founded by Peruvian-Italian immigrants as a refuge from the Second Tax Strife. Their numbers included a high proportion of masons, stone carvers and similar trades, which has led to a breath-taking architecture in Polenta's vertical kilometer of cliff frontage. For the technically minded, the sideways corn fields of Polenta are perhaps the most interesting sight. They produce the milled flour from which the city's signature dish gets its name.

Monday, December 15, 2003
Lymph Nodes

The greatest rock band to come out of the 2030's, the Lymph Nodes were critical in setting the stage for the White Cell movement, as well as the so-called Antigen Revival. Even the nomenclature reveals that era's obsession with healthcare and medical science, a holdover from the terrible pandemics of the 2000's and 2010's. There were few left in the eighty-four United States who had not lost love ones, close friends, and in some cases, entire extended families. The Lymph Nodes haunting discordant music spoke to the sense of loss and suffering, sometimes literally sending their audiences into chills or fever.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

This winter's bug has been a bad influenze on me and mine.

  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.