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

Thursday, June 10, 2004

The SS Perspicacity sailed the Ocean of Darkness, her wake plowing the black waters with the pale glow of disturbed plankton.

"There be zombie whales in these waters," muttered the first mate, chewing on a stick of rum-soaked ebony.

"There be women with teeth where their 'eads should be," said the navigator, a man who walked with a lisp and talked with a limp.

"There be fools who don't know they rudder from they rubber," said the Captain, always a quick man with a hard hand.

But somehow the crew found courage hidden in the shadows and resources stored in the mossy ballast tanks and sailed on, over far horizons.

("Perspicacity" courtesy of TL)

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Polyphemus the Cyclops had a lesser known brother, Polysemous the Bicyclops. All the other cyclopediae were mean to Polysemous because of his binocular defect, which caused him to see double meanings in everything. Sometimes more than double, depending how badly Polysemous had been slapped around. Luckily for him, Polysemous was able to steal the secret of the bow from Odysseus when the wily king came calling on his brother. Being a bicyclops among monocular cyclopediae meant superior depth perception, and he was able to inflict meanings and meanness over and over again arrow's point from a safe distance away, with superior definition in the bargain.

("Polysemous" courtesy of TL)

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Rutabaga waddles along on fleshy yellow roots, leaving behind a trail of soil from the garden plot he has just escaped. Ignoring the stares of the gardener, and of passersby as he makes his way down the street, he takes in new sights that weren't visible from beneath the earth: flowers, dogs, squashed Red Bull cans strewn among the leaves and seed pods of spring. Like Rutabaga, the lucky ones will grow into something new someday.
Uprooted by choice, Rutabaga is on a journey of choices. At the end of the street, he chooses left.

("Rutabaga" by guest author TL)

Monday, June 07, 2004

What comes from bulbs?

Light, of course.

What else?

Sugar water. Turkey grease. Tiger lilies.

A bulb is a potential, deep in the soil, a curling, crouching spear of green encysted in onionskin, awaiting sun and rain and the right kind of weather-love to leap skyward and open wide.

How different is that from you, me or anyone?

Sunday, June 06, 2004

The Black Door opens, we pass through, the Black Door shuts. What lies on the other side? Another day, no different from the last. Another year in the arc of years. The other half of life, or less, if we are cheated by disease or a downtown bus of the balance of it. We can turn back here, pause for a moment on the threshold of the Black Door and look back, asking, "What have we done with the days and years of our life?"


Two marriages.
A child.
Walked the soil of more places than we can count.
And sometimes, won.

Then we turn and look forward, asking, "What will we do with the days and years of our life which remain to us?"


Follow the fire.

Anything else is privilege, entering forty.

  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.