“Hello” Said the Stick
by Michael Swanwick
• Word count: 1358
• Page count: 4
“Hello” Said the Stick is a 2002 science fiction short story by Michael Swanwick. It is about a soldier who finds a talking stick with a deadly secret.
“Hello” Said the Stick follows the story of an unnamed foot soldier who is off to join the Iron Duke in his siege of Port Morningstar. Along the way he finds a talking stick which encourages him to take it with him. As time passes the man doesn’t feel too well and realizes that there is more to the stick than meets the eye.
A very short, humorous story, “Hello” Said the Stick is a reminder of the great lengths warring parties will go to in order to win.
“Hello” Said the Stick was nominated for the 2003 Hugo Award for Best Short Story as well as the 2003 Locus Award.
“Pick me up,” said the stick. “Take me with you.”
“Because I make an excellent weapon.”
“No, I mean what’s in it for you?”
The stick paused. “You’re smarter than you look.”
“Thanks. I think.”
“OK, here’s the deal. I’m a symbiotic mechanism. I was designed to be totally helpless without a human partner. Pick me up, throw an acorn in the air, take a swing at it, and I can shift my weight so you hit it a country mile. Leave me here and I can’t budge an inch.”
“Why would they build you like that?”
“So I’d be a good and faithful tool. And I will. I’ll be the best quarterstaff you ever had. Try me and see.”
Where you can find “Hello” Said the Stick:
• “Hello” Said the Stick first appeared in the March 2002 edition of Analog.
• You can read this story in Michael Swanwick’s 2007 book of collected short stories The Dog Said Bow-Wow.
• You can read a nice HTML version of “Hello” Said the Stick online for free at Analog’s web site.
Michael Swanwick is rapidly becoming one of my favorite authors. In the past twenty years he has been nominated for (and won) several Hugo and Nebula awards. You can learn more about this amazing science fiction author on Wikipedia.
If you liked this story you may enjoy The Dog Said Bow-Wow, the Hugo award winning short story that is also by Michael Swanwick.