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

Saturday, March 06, 2004

In the faraway kingdom of Wordd, it is libel or worse to go without the armor of wit, and a man must always be ready at the prate.

Friday, March 05, 2004

The Shibboleth slouched through the fields of grain and chickpeas, leaving a trail of crushed stalks in its wake. The stream ahead radiated the water scent that had finally tempted the beast from its summer-long sleep.

It stumbled over a set of deeper furrows and came across three men with stout sticks and sharp-scented fear upon them.

"Wa'er," said the Shibboleth.

"Demon," said one of the men. He had a small lacquered box on his forehead, a prayer held in place by a thin strap.

Three months of thirst had folded the Shibboleth's mouth into a dusty rind. "Na' de'on. Wa'er."

All three men raised their sticks. "No demon shall pass my fields!" shouted the man with the prayer upon his forehead.

"Wa'er," the Shibboleth said again.

When they struck at it, the creature took their blood instead.

("Shibboleth" courtesy of AnnaH)

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Doggerel verse
Is the very most worse
Form of poetry
We have to today

The stuff has to rhyme
All of the time
And be read
In a certain way

Better to forget
Or even better yet
Never to try it

("Doggerel" courtesy of AnnaH)

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Stormie Whether was the worst kind of sailor to be found in any majesty's navy -- a foul-mouthed, lazy, cowardly shirker who'd rather polish his own brass for hours in private than touch a brush or soil his fingers with a line. Which was why when Admiral Tendentious inspected His Imperial Majesty's Aerocruiser Principles of Motion it was Stormie that the captain called out on parade to represent the Prince Moe.

If the worst man on board could pass muster, then the ship would shine.

"What's the first thing you do when there's a fire in the hydrogen plant?" Admiral Tendentious asked Stormie.

"Blow harder," the sailor answered, cocking an eyebrow to his listeners, though there was no rippling laughter by way of an answer.

"Blow harder? What the devil do you mean, man?"

"Well, Admiral Tendencies, if there was gonna be a fire in the hydro, it'd be on account of me setting it. I'd blow hard, blow fast, and dive for the deep water."

When they hung him over the side, the rope broke. An hour later the fuses burned through and Stormie Whether the blowhard laughed from the back of his dolphin as the sky rained fire.

("Blowhard" courtesy of AnnaH)

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

The HMS Pareidolia steamed across the Sea of Holes like a beetle on a plate. The sun beat down brass-hammer on the heads of the crew, while the water lay green and pool table flat. Not even an albatross haunted this desolate ocean.

"Land!" shouted the second mate in a voice of desperation.

"Ho!" echoed the crew, as if they were slaves in some ancient galley.

"Where?" asked the captain.

They all strained their eyes looking for dry earth and salvation. It was but a log, converted by imagination into a sliver of hope.

They steamed onward into flat eternity.

("Pareidolia" was the Word Spy's word today.)

Monday, March 01, 2004

In the days before Charles Darwin invented evolution God's fingers still trailed across the world. He left His fingerprints on tardibears and sea dragons and thylacines and monotremes -- His little jokes to fool the curious monkeys. Another of His jokes was to divide the world in preternatural, natural and supernatural. And just wait until the curious monkeys open the door to the preternatural. Astrology will look like astronomy compared to what He has in store for us there.

Sunday, February 29, 2004

We sailed to sea in gravy boat
Big as a mock tureen
Past the mashed potato falls
That I had never seen
Into a rain of soup so hot
That it boiled all our beans
So we set a course again for home
Where the dishes were bright and clean

  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.