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

Saturday, July 17, 2004

The view behind is most accurate, and least informative, because it says nothing about the road ahead, the weather, or the condition of the marbled soul. Mirrors make terrible windows, and reverse is the hardest gear in which to drive. Why then do we insist on retrospectives of our work, of our beliefs, of our lives, when we all should be looking forward with the intensity of sunlight on water.

The answer: sunlight is a terrible teacher, and water drowns, but history informs us like amber informs the fly.

Friday, July 16, 2004

The creature seemed made of wood, its skin peeling off in birch-bark strips, its arms crooked branches twisting this way and that, its legs two thick trunks that ended in masses of roots.  Its hair was made of twigs which stood straight up from its head, a besom in which nested spiders and the birds who feasted on them.  On its shoulder sat a girl named Butterfly who had sworn to protect it with her life.  Frustrated loggers stood below smoking cigarettes, their chainsaws silent at long last.
(Today's Storyword courtesy of guest author Tiger Lily)

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Old King Card gripped his sword in one wizened hand, lifting the blade above his head where it stood shaking like dry leaves on a windy day.

"To me!" he cried, and started down the green hill at a gallop, only to topple from his horse and roll into the enemy's front line.

For a moment there was silence on the field as men on both sides watched the golden lump of ornate armor lie still on the grass. Then a cheer rose -- from both sides of the battleground. Card's Lord General, Faragain, rode forward, cast his sword before Castel, his heretofore mortal enemy, and said, "Thank God that man is dead. We surrender."

(Word and story courtesy of guest author DavidJ)

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

I had a faience once, but it bit my dog, ran off with my car and poured bechamel sauce all over my girlfriend. I hunted it down with trained marmosets and the requisite air gun, but air doesn't make for much in the way of bullets, so the faience flashed its chrome-steel teeth and vanished down a probability hole where I couldn't follow without distorting my wa into an elongated worm from which I might never recover. In the end I had to give up the hunt, though I brought home trophies enough for McGrew's Zoo. I bandaged the dog, ate the bechamel and bought a new car with the proceeds from my adventures. All's swell that ends swell, though I wonder where the faience ever came out.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

The Idea Bureau in Schenectady, New York is always busy. It is an open secret. Everyone knows it, everyone uses it, but no one, I mean no one, ever talks about it. To speak of it openly is to acknowledge that you use its services, so the best thing to do is to keep mum, keep sending the envelopes containing twenty dollar bills every month, and continue getting those wonderful packets of ideas that make one's career. Who cares where the lie comes from, as long as they are good?

(Word and story courtesy of James M. Palmer, and my thanks to Mystery Guest Editor!)

  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.