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

Saturday, May 29, 2004

The badger is a lowly animal, teeth and fur and deep burrows within the dark coils of the intestines of the earth. Yet here in Wisconsin he is also totemized, elevated to a tutelary spirit endowed with magical powers over the virility of youths, the scoring of football, and the attractiveness of what would nominally be athletic wear. These are a simple folk, close to their soil and their cheese, and in their badger they find solace beyond what any ordinary folk might comprehend.

Friday, May 28, 2004

The sun lights our sky, the glaring eye of God spreading warm benison upon this Earth. The sinner seeks the shadows, the wise man walks in shade, but the innocent and lover stand among the heliotropic flowers in the fields of play, staring upward into Heaven's kind regard.

Thursday, May 27, 2004
Intertidal Zone

The ocean loves the shore in a billion-year affair, salty kisses brushes dryland moment by moment through every spin of this old world. She's a fickle lover, that ocean, advancing then retreating, always running away, always coming back, so the shore has made a place for her in his sandy heart. In that place the sand dollars contemplate the stormy sky with their blind, blank eyes, while anemones wave in a forever departure that leads nowhere. In that place hermit crabs search endlessly for a better home, their hearts always broken by their last leavetaking. In that place sea glass and broken shells litter the glistening beach, unstrung jewelry remarking on ocean's beauty. The intertidal zone is where the churn is, where the billion-year affair continues, forever and ever amen.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

My car is misaligned, they tell me. A strange word, close cousin in seeming to "malign", but also to "realignment." Nothing is straight, nothing fits together, nothing goes where I expect it to. The hoped for drifts off the shoulder, to be replaced by the unexpected -- dangerous, abrupt, but somehow thrilling all the same.

To be misaligned is to be aimed in an unknown direction. To be misaligned is to find the unlooked for instead of the hoped for. To be misaligned is to steer by an unknown star, following a mysterious heading, for a port with dark lights and silent docks.

Which is better? The straight course, with well-lit streets, or to be misaligned like my poor car?

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Minerals are created in the secret depths of the Earth, through alchemies of pressure and heat and the impersonal attentions of Mother Gaea. They come to the surface in time, pushed up in seabeds or ejected in caldera, to be found by hairy folk wandering the plains in search of food and carved into tiny oxen and primitive Venuses. But some come to light in the sparkle and fire of a woman's eyes, flashing to brilliant olivine that haunts my dreams.

Monday, May 24, 2004
Social Architecture

The secret lives of buildings are rarely discussed. What goes on between the big red barn and the silo is between them and whatever chickens are disturbed. The signature buildings of our world's great cities have their public lives of course, being public personae, but for the most part social architecture is a private thing. So when a roomy, slightly run-down writer's colony in Oregon falls hard for a bright red Bohemian mansion with olive window frames further up the coast, what is architecture to do except pine for the hardwood from whence it came and the dust to which it shall go. Buildings love, live and die by the hands of men and women. Do men and women no less love, live and die by the grace of their architecture?

("Social Architecture" courtesy of MarkH)

Sunday, May 23, 2004
Spin State

They talk about spin state and charm, those physicists. Bastards, messing with quanta like that's something any man should do. The true particles of the universe are love, attention, distance and desire. You can map any relationship out of those and their inverses. We're all in spin states, us with human hearts and echoing souls, spinning toward and away from everything we can be and everything we want. Measure me, and you will not know where I am. Observe me uncertainly and you will never know where I'm going. But shower me with those true particles and watch my spin state.

  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.