Aphelion Issue 223, Volume 21
November 2017
 
Editorial    
Long Fiction and Serials
Short Stories
Flash Fiction
Poetry
Features
Series
Archives
Submission Guidelines
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Flash Writing Challenge
Forum
   

Flash Fiction Guidelines

With straight talk from Iain Muir, Flash Fiction Editor
flash@aphelion-webzine.com

What I'm looking for:

Aphelion is here to help authors gain experience and to give stories exposure, but, above all, to entertain our readers. The number one piece of advice I can give to inexperienced authors is to tell a complete story about engaging characters.

Some people think flash is easier than a short story, but I find that the opposite is true: you will have to work much harder to make a great flash piece.

Generally speaking, you need to narrow your time frame and focus for flash compared to a short story. You get about 200 words to rope in the reader before he or she clicks on some other link, so don't waste those words, especially in a flash story. Start strong, make your character engaging, and give him, her, or it, a real, serious problem to overcome.

They may or may not overcome that problem, but write the ending in some way that makes the reader feel like they've learned or shared something in reading about the experience.

Reach a satisfying resolution. Some authors think a flash story should just be a moment in time, without a resolution. That's simply not true. If you send me a story where you show the problem but there's no end or solution to the problem, I feel gypped. I want to read the rest of the story. I want to know why I've invested in the characters, why I should care.

Leaving readers feeling unfulfilled (or 'hanging') isn't a good thing, so think about your plot before you submit. It is a good idea to have the ending in mind before you start. I like tales with a twist to them, where the author seems to be building to one thing, but ends with another. That may just be my preference.

Have more than one character, and have dialogue. It's not impossible to sell me on a story without either of these things, but good luck.

If you need examples of what I am describing, look in our forum under Fun and Games. For more than 10 years we have run a Flash Fiction writing challenge that anyone may enter, and all the entries are archived for your reading pleasure in two indexes with clickable links. There are over 500 flash pieces there for you to choose from.

General:

Aphelion will accept original stories with a science fiction, fantasy, or horror theme. Note, however, that the boundaries of 'science fiction', 'fantasy', and 'horror' are nebulous things, and we have been known to stretch the point.

We will accept only prose stories in this section. Luckily, if you feel that way inclined, there is poetry@aphelion-webzine.com.

Aphelion is an all-ages magazine, and I will edit to a PG-13 level. (Think to yourself, 'Could I say this on ABC late at night?') If you feel your story needs to contain large amounts of profanity and 'adult situations', this is not your market.

No erotica.

Stories that, in the opinion of the editors, contain bigotry or slander will not be published.

We will not accept fan fiction stories because of the risk of copyright infringement this often entails. Fan fiction, of course, is anything that involves copyrighted characters or institutions, including (but not limited to) Star Trek (TM); Star Wars (TM); or the works of Tolkein, Rowling, or other poular authors. Seriously folks, I'm not arguing with lawyers over 'fair use.'

No simultaneous submissions. I hate spending an hour getting your story ready only to have it go to someone else, so just don't do it. Plus, I will remember you, and not in a good way.

Copyright:

Aphelion asks only the right to publish the work once in our webzine and all other rights are kept by the author. We ask to be able to archive the published work, but will remove a work from the archive at the authors request (so as not to interfere with potentially paying markets). From time to time, we may run 'best of' selections, in which we may re-run previously published material. If you do not wish to allow your work to be included for consideration in this manner, please let us know.

Pet Peeves:

After you've done all the above and sent me your best work, I spend a lot of time fixing it up and formatting it for the magazine. Next, I send you an acceptance letter with a link to your story as it will appear in the magazine. DO NOT reply back with an all-new version of the same story that you want me to use instead. Did you think I'd be happy to know that I've now wasted an hour on your work and should now do it all over again?

Are you insane?

Editors are busy.Your story will be pulled, your new version dumped back in the slush pile, and once again, I will remember you… but in a crabby way.

"All right" is two words. "Already" is one. "Alot" is not a word.

There is no legitimate reason to start a sentence with the word "And." Really.

Punctuation goes inside the quote marks.

Spell check and proofread your story. Let me repeat that: SPELL CHECK and PROOFREAD.

If you use italics in every paragraph, I swear I will not even finish reading your story. A little goes a long way.

"Helping" me out:

If you feel inclined to "help" with formatting, please do not use smart quotes. We use the inch and foot symbols because some older browsers won't show smart quotes correctly. Replace ellipses(...) with three periods, and use a space after them when trailing a thought off, like...

Hyphens and EM dashes "—" don't always show up properly, so we replace those with "--" every time.

Please do not try to put in the html tags. Nine out of ten people do it wrong, and then I have to redo them, which makes the job longer and more frustrating.

Do not use extra lines between paragraphs. They’re the first thing I delete.

I go over all these things in your story anyway, but do yourself a favour. The content of the story is the deciding factor on whether or not we'll accept it, but the easier you make it on an editor, the more inclined he or she will be to approach your tale in a happy mood.

Editors have a lot to do and day jobs, too, so fixing your stream of consciousness without capital letters or punctuation isn't something I'll consider. (Unless you tell me up front that there is a reason it is written that way...)

Length:

Flash stories (1,000 words or less) should be sent to flash@aphelion-webzine.com.

Short stories (1,001 to 7,500 words) should be sent to shorts@aphelion-webzine.com.

Stories longer than 7,500 words should be sent to serials@aphelion-webzine.com.

All Mare Inebrium stories should be sent directly to the senior editor and publisher of Aphelion, Dan Hollifield, at mare@aphelion-webzine.com.

All poetry submissions should be sent to poetry@aphelion-webzine.com

Writers will receive copyright notices at the end of each story, and a short biography. If you do not supply a bio, don't be surprised if I make up a humorous one. Aphelion will also provide an optional link to your homepage and an e-mail link at the end of each story. Include the bio and URLs with your submission!

Cover Letter:

The cover letter should state that you are submitting the manuscript to Aphelion and should contain a brief biographical sketch. One or two sentences will be enough, more if you are so inclined. If it’s longer than your story, I will edit it. If you have published other work, please list the most recent ones, preferably work in the same genre as the story you are submitting.

Format:

Submit all stories as an attachment in Rich Text Format (.rtf), and not as text posted into the body of an email. If you can't do .rtf, then use word .doc.

---------------
length of story in words
your email address & bio information

Title
By (Your Pen Name)
[Text left justified]
THE END

---------------

Always:
1) include a title for your story.
2) indicate your byline beneath the title.
3) place the words "The End" at the end of the story so I will know that I have received everything.

Response Time:

You should receive a response within two months. Aphelion editors have day jobs, so don't be surprised if it takes longer, but if it gets to double that time, send me an email so I can be sure I didn't copy it into the wrong folder or something like that.

In practical terms, there's a limit to the number of stories an editor can get ready in a month. There's a steady flow of them coming in, and we have  to balance helping authors learn and grow, audience needs, and time available. Some stories are rejected because they're not the right fit for our audience. Others are refused because I have already enough tales that I feel will better entertain our readers, and those are the ones I need to focus my available time on.

It is not personal if you are rejected. I'm an author and I hate rejections, too. Keep trying with another story.