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

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Eschaton is the end of the beginning, the beginning of the end. What the world has come to, what has come to the world. The heart has its own eschatons, epiphanies and redemptions from which recovery is impossible. There is only one direction from eschaton -- forward into the uncertain darkness, believing in the future of light.

Friday, November 19, 2004

The most feared of the rulers of the Outer Planets is the Plutocrat. He sits, a spider in orbit so distant the sun is barely a glimmer, staring jealously down the gravity well at the water belt and the swarming mass of men. His webs are tenuous and tenebrous both, but his power is profound all the same. Watch for him when darkness swarms down the sun.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Liquid brown eyes vast as any wine-dark sea. Breath like a grass storm. Towering, leathery walls of skin, bristling with forests of hair wild as any tropical jungle. Great wolf-killing legs. The cow has three thoughts in her head. First, that she should chew. Second, that she should move on. Third is her secret thought, which may be anything. All the memory of the world is in the heads of cattle, in the third secret thought. This cow remembers Plancks' Constant. That cow knows Pachelbel's canon in D major. The cow with her feet in the muddy stream can translate Kierkegaard from Danish into German. But the cow will never tell you. Her beauty is hidden, her sense concealed, beneath the chewing and the walking.

("Cow" suggested by RuthN)

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Subtle is your middle name. It fits you well. You spin through life like an F3 tornado in reverse, pulling people and events into your wake and leaving them better than they were. You talk and laugh as though you were on stage, you walk like Brando into the sun, and you smile like moonrise in the Rockies. If I could be so subtle, I'd be twice the man I am.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Altitude makes you high. No, wait. At altitude you are high. No, wait. High altitude makes you...


Something about mountains robs the brain and feeds the heart, until you stand above the trees with ice beneath your feet and watch the cloud sea push at distant ridges and think on why you are here, really here. Then you take her hand and walk onward.

(Better, that.)

Altitude -- what allows us to get above ourselves.

Monday, November 15, 2004

If I were a dolphin, I could navigate the ocean with echolocation, sending out clicks to find my way and my prey, while whistling to the sleek friends beside me. If I were a whale, the train through my melon would focus the sound wave to guide me thousands of miles. If I were a bat, I could spend the glare of the day with my fellows in the crevices of the Congress Avenue Bridge, taking flight at dusk over the night sky of Austin, not blind as people say, because I could see with sound. But I am not a dolphin or a whale or a bat, and I see with my eyes, navigate with sight, judge by the mere appearance of things, being misled by what I see.

("Echolocation" storyword courtesy of guest author RuthN)

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Djibouti is small, on the horn of Africa. Like a chipmunk, Djibouti must be flexible. Like a baobab tree, Djibouti must save up against bad times. Like a mosquito, Djibouti must steer through the tropical storms. Perhaps we should all be Djibouti, taking what comes to us and making more of less. Perhaps none of us should be Djibouti, preferring instead our own solemn fastnesses high above the cares of the world. Which small nation shall you be?

("Djibouti" suggested by RuthN)

  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.