Aphelion Issue 221, Volume 21
September 2017
Long Fiction and Serials
Short Stories
Flash Fiction
Submission Guidelines
Contact Us
Flash Writing Challenge

Short Story Guidelines

With straight talk from
Nate Kailhofer
Short Story Editor

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. Generally speaking, 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. Start strong, make your character likable or 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. 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 I've invested in the characters, why I'm caring. Leaving readers feeling unfulfilled isn't a good thing, so think about your plot before you submit.

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


Aphelion will accept original stories with a science fiction, fantasy, or horror theme and will not accept fan fiction stories because of the risk of copyright infringement this often entails. Note, however, that the boundaries of 'science fiction', 'fantasy', and 'horror' are nebulous things, and we have been known to stretch the point. Fan fiction, of course, is anything that involves copyrighted characters or institutions, including (but not limited to) Star Trek (TM), Star Wars (TM), etc., etc.

I will edit to a PG-13 level. (Think to yourself, 'Could I say this on CSI?') If you feel your story needs to contain all those 4-letter words, send it somewhere else. Aphelion is an all-ages magazine.

Stories that, in the opinion of the editors, contain bigotry or slander will not be published.

No simultaneous submissions. I hate spending 2-3 hours 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.


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, then 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. DON'T 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 2-3 hours 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... also not in a good way.

"All right" is two words. "Already" is one.  Also, there is no legitimate reason to start a sentence with the word "And." Really.

Punctuation goes inside the quote marks, not after.

SPELL CHECK and PROOFREAD your story. Let me repeat that: SPELL CHECK and PROOFREAD. I mean that.

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, don't use smart quotes. We use the inch and foot symbols because some older browsers won't show smart quotes right. 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 right, so we replace those with "--" every time. Don't try to put in the html tags. Nine people out of ten do it wrong, and then I have to redo them, which irritates me. Don't use extra lines between paragraphs. The system does that automatically.

I go over all these things in your story anyway, but do yourself a favor. 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.


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

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

Stories longer than 7,500 words should be sent to Lester Curtis at 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 Iain Muir at 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 a humorous one up. 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 you have published other work, please list the most recent ones, preferably work in the same genre as the story you are submitting.


Submit all stories as Rich Text Format (.rtf). The latest versions of Word have been giving the old versions owned by the Shorts Editor a lot of headaches. If you can't do .rtf, then use word .doc, but keep it to the 1997-2003 standard.

length of story in words
your email address & bio information

By (Your Pen Name)
[Text left justified]


Always include a title for your story. Always indicate your byline beneath the title.

Always place the words "The End" at the end of the story so we will know that I have received everything.

Response Time:

Currently, response is within 2 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. I've got 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.