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

Saturday, May 01, 2004
Editorial Note

From now until May 10th I'll be at a writing retreat with uncertain Internet access. Story Words may be delayed or absent during those days. Please keep checking back, though! Story Words will resume in a timely manner on May 10th.



I'm incommunicado now, it's a hollow place. The rooms are empty of all but dust, the gardens have lost their tiger lilies. I've tried the phones, harassed the pigeons, built a fire or two, but communicado is a lonely place to be.

Friday, April 30, 2004
Genus Locus

Every place has its genus locus, guiding spirit, tutelary muse. The echoing marble halls of the human heart are no exception, vast pillars of memory buttressing soaring arches of anticipation that would be empty without their spirit, their muse.

Who is your genus locus?

Are you mine?

Thursday, April 29, 2004
Solar Prominence

Fire arches from the sun in long-limbed shots to light Mercury's dread orbit. Seas of boiling lead glint beneath actinic light. Long holes of memory bored into the planet's tortured crust provide shelter from the solar prominences. Hands and hearts and heads lurk there, waiting to emerge into the warm light of her regard -- she, like the sun, burns great in the sky.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

The last time I saw you, you were at the head of the stairs in your orange sarong, smiling through the banister rails at me, wooden scan lines interrupting your face. The sun was orange this morning. The flowers in the meadow were orange yesterday. There is orange everywhere. Orange is the color which has no rhyme. Orange is the color which has no reason or time. What will the color be the next time I see you? I can hope for flame, but fear blue.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Metatarsals arch like graceful bridges of touch spanning the eternal distance insulating skin from skin. Smiles flash in the dark, tooth-ivory gleaming like sudden rise of a bright star in the cloud-ridden east. Moments pass, then moments more, before the metatarsals arch again in a long, shivering form of grace given only to us.

Monday, April 26, 2004
Fire Clock

I can count the hours in the gold-flecked gleam of your eyes. Each moment of the day shimmers in flame. Each passage of the night smolders like coals in an old forge. To follow the curve of your iris is to know the passage of all time, spark by spark, in the fire clock that is you.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

There's not much in this world that can be unrequited. Who ever heard of an unrequited tuna sandwich? Or an unrequited parliamentary procedure? The word is nearly bound to love, just as all our hearts are, an adjective spiralling down toward a distant, shifting target which will refuses to be anything but itself. Perhaps love should be condign, and punishment should be unrequited. Life would be so much simpler in that case.

  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.