Friday, June 21, 2024

“Wielder of Wit” • by Ian Li

Eileen eyed the wicked wizard with curiosity, for few foes dared duel her. Her sharp wit made her a formidable sorcerer, wielding jokes as incantations to deliver devastating spells.

Raising his spell-casting arms with a flourish, the stern-faced wizard taunted her. “Petty jokes are useless against me.”

As the wizard gathered darkness for his spell, Eileen began reciting an impromptu joke. But at the critical moment, she stumbled over the punchline.

The wizard cackled. “Bwahaha! You can’t even complete your joke.”

She smiled. “That’s okay. My spells only require you to laugh.” Ashen-faced, the wizard fled her surging flames.



Ian Li (he/him) writes speculative fiction and poetry and lives in Toronto. Formerly an economist and consultant, he loves spreadsheets, statistical curiosities, and brain teasers. Find his writing in print or forthcoming in Solarpunk Magazine, Radon Journal, and Flame Tree Press, as well as at

His most recent appearances in our pages were “Summit, in Memory,”  “Hosting a Tempest,” and most delightful of all, “The Potato Singer.”


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The Pete Wood Challenge is an informal ad hoc story-writing competition. Once a month Pete Wood spots writers the idea for a story, usually in the form of a phrase or a few key words, along with some restrictions on what can be submitted, usually in terms of length. Pete then collects the resulting entries, determines who has best met the challenge, and sends the winners over to Bruce Bethke, who arranges for them to be published on the Stupefying Stories web site.

You can find all the previous winners of the Pete Wood Challenge at this link.

This time the challenge was to write a flash fiction piece playing off key word: punchline.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s batch of Pete Wood Challenge stories. Next week, we return to our normal SHOWCASE schedule.


Gary said...

Superb! More story than so few lines would be expected to contain, and a perfect ending.