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

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Scriven was boy so thin they told him not to stand sideways in the wind. He walked the fields and farms of his native country, marking mysterious little sigils on the rock walls in a language of his own devising. They told him not to do that, either, but Scriven was simple of mind -- or perhaps complex -- that he paid them no heed, not even when they beat him.

Eventually the beatings stopped, but the sigils did not.

Scriven grew to a man so tall the women joked of bean poles and boats' masts and wondered secretly if all of him were as long as his shanks. But he was still thin as a chalk line, and he still wandered the land thinking his simple -- or perhaps complex -- thoughts, and scratching on rocks.

It eventually happened that the flowering girlfriend of a boat-owning bully found infatuation with Scriven. The bully did not care for this state of affairs and challenged Scriven to a fight. Scriven just stepped around him and kept walking. After the three challenges required by custom and tale, the bully struck Scriven from behind, carried the thin man to his boat, and set out to sea on an angry wind to throw his erstwhile rival in love overboard.

When Scriven met the sea, salt-wet for the first time in his life, he screamed like a broken-backed rabbit, then slipped between the waves as if he were a fired arrow. That was when the people of his native country first began to learn that Scriven's sigils were little traps or terrors for the demons which had crept into the land. For the sake of pride and a false declaration of love, all was lost, until nothing was left but smoking ashes of houses and broken stones with traces of sigils upon them.

Friday, March 26, 2004

"Math is boring!"

"What, 'let's go to the mall?'"

"No, it's just boring."

"There's worse things in life."


"There's always...polymath."


"That's like, you know, lots of math. Done by real smart people."

"Look, I've got this homework..."

"Quadratics, man, become, like, polyquadratics. Which is a lot of quads."

"I'm sorry I brought this up."

"Don't even get me started on polytrig."

"Too late."

"And then..."

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Worming their way through the tracks and castings of yet another ancient culture, the two oligochaetologists eventually split. Each half grew a new head, so that they become multiple, and wiser, and gave thanks that God loved them so much that He made them nearly infinite within the bounded world. Knowledge, sadly, remained as elusive as ever.

("Oligochaetologists" courtesy of AnnaH)

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Young and foolish girls eventually become wizened women only by walking a long, hard road of the heart. With luck, they tarry a while in fields of joy along the way.

("Wizened" courtesy of AnnaH)

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Postcolonalism is the worst form of forest exploitation.

Monday, March 22, 2004

See wit, soul of.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

The lassitude was the least-known tool in the kit of the Western cowboy, most often employed when the dogies were lowing by the water and Slim or Fat Frank or somebody with a name like that was plucking on the guitar and singing songs about moonlight and women. Today the lassitude survives primarily in the form of the television remote control.

  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.