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

Friday, October 01, 2004

"It's all about size, Mick, I'm telling you." She sipped her coffee, turned back to the window.

"You'll turn everything into sex, won't you?" He leaned back in his chair, looked at the back of her blond head and Mt. St. Helens out the observatory window beyond, its ashy plume wisping away from the mountain's jagged rim in the midday breeze. After all the waiting, all that had come were steam and dust, no mud, no magma. The rumbling had stopped. For all intents and purposes, the event was over.

"Well, look, you said it yourself." She turned to face him again. "The last eruption took 180 years to come and it was huge. This one took only 18 and look -- it was a burp. A fart, really -- passing gas and all that."

"So the Earth is both impotent and flatulent."

"Like most of the men I know," she said with a grin.

("Seismic" storyword by guest author JannaS.)

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

In vulcanology we study prosperity and longevity and prosthetic ears and why things explode in fiery fountains like a still-beating heart tossed onto embers. What do you study?

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

I don't have to take this, she thought. Not his obloquy, his vituperation, his billingsgate, none of it. Not any more. While Steven watched, she packed it all up in a box with lots of newspaper inside to keep the noise to a minimum, then wrapped that with brown craft paper and string. She took the box out and left it by the Dumpster. That night in bed, even with the padding and the wrapping, she could still hear the words, the yelling, through the open window, muffled though they were. The pleasure of it was that the noise was outside, not indoors, and that it would be gone in the morning when the garbage men came. Best of all was that Steven, after all these years of abuse, was quiet that night. And as he had nothing to say to her but what she'd packed away, he would be quiet for quite some time to come.

("Obloquy" by guest author JannaS)

Monday, September 27, 2004
Phreatic eruption

"Hey, guys, Mount St. Helens just blew up."

"Yeah, sure, Sherry. And April Fools was a couple of days ago."

We were in a bus on the way to Berlin, a subsidized Auslandsamt trip to the metropolis for foreign students: a couple of Swiss guys studying architecture, some quiet Japanese girls who stuck together and never spoke with anyone else, a Turkish guy who spoke the Swabian dialect better than Turkish, and more than a handful of exchange students from Oregon.

Sherry raised the Herald Tribune she'd been reading above the back of the seat in front of her. "No, really, you guys, it says right here." Homesick Oregonians on a bus in Germany crowded around her, reading about the phreatic eruption of a mountain in Washington -- and glad it wasn't Mount Hood.

Do you know where you were on April 4, 1980?

(Today's storyword by guest author RuthN)

Sunday, September 26, 2004

I got lost in the garden, looking for an apple. Some damned snake dropped out of a tree, so I stomped the shit out of it. Bad idea, in bare feet, but shitkicker boots ain't been invented yet. Then some brown-eyed chick with trailing hair wandered by, laughing like a summer storm, and Eden never had looked so good. There was something about crocus bulbs after that, but I got lost in the details and the mud between my toes. Thanks, God, for the garden. Can I make some cider now?

  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.