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Aphelion: The Webzine of Science Fiction and Fantasy

Issue 127, Volume 12 -- November 2008

Editorial

Our esteemed Editor in Chief finds himself somewhat indisposed due to a combination of hard-drive-meltdown blues and steampunk writing mania. Since Nature and webzines abhor a vacuum almost as much as cats and dogs do, we offer the following serving of Webzine Helper.

What is an Editor supposed to do, anyway? When Cary Semar retired a few years ago (after about 7 years as Short Story Editor), I was offered the job and (for better or for worse) accepted. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask for the Big Book of Editing Rules and Regulations, and I've been wingin' it ever since.

Some authors feel that an Editor (or Slush Pile reader, at larger publications) should provide specific constructive criticism when rejecting a story, and should avoid making negative comments so the author is not unduly discouraged from continuing to write and submit his work. Some Editors (and Slush Pile readers) believe that it is sufficient to say "This story didn't work for me" or "Your submission does not meet our current needs"; after all, they work for the publication, not the authors.

To complicate matters, there is a significant difference between the kind of editing done by newspaper and newsmagazine editors, fiction magazine editors, and book editors. In the first two cases, the primary duty of the editor is to obtain the best material possible for their publication. This may involve copy-editing material that is close to the desired level of writing but contains easily-corrected errors, flatly rejecting material that is fundamentally flawed, and, of course, offering praise when praise is due.

Book editors, on the other hand, are mainly if not exclusively involved in line-by-line and chapter by chapter copy-editing of material that has already been accepted, at least in outline or proposal form, by them or by Higher Authorities. (Boss to Editor: "Stephen King is bored and wants to write a book based on the idea that Mole Men are causing all those enormous sinkholes that are swallowing up houses and cars these days. Even if it sucks, it'll make huge profits. Work with him on it until the result doesn't make your eyes bleed. Oh, and make sure it's ready to go to press in time for the Christmas rush.")

To expect thorough and detailed critiques from a magazine editor is probably too much, based on the experiences of anyone who has submitted material to a number of markets. Most publications that receive a substantial number of submissions (possibly hundreds per month for a high-profile magazine) rely on form rejections, often featuring the stock phrases quoted earlier. Of course, authors whose work has often been published in a particular market may receive more attention from the editors of that publication because their work is at least close to the editor's "standards", and thus relatively easy to "fix". (Authors should note, however, that a piece that "works" for one editor may be instantly rejected by another.)

At the other end of the spectrum from the "form rejection" or "acceptance as is" School of Editing, some Editors (namely me) will actually make small or even significant changes in a story rather than simply providing the author with suggestions for changes. Some authors are happy to accept the changes I make, some accept some changes and reject others, some insist on retaining things that drive me crazy (I know, it's such a short trip, I should walk...) Once I have decided that a story is worth running, I make it clear that it is the author's prerogative to approve the final version. (In the case of "Girl Facing Village" by Lee Alon, this meant replacing "my" version with the version as submitted...)

So -- what should I be doing? Anybody? Bueller? Bueller? And have the results over the past three years been good?

--Robert Moriyama
Short Stories Editor

Serials & Long Fiction

Running Time
By Kim Rush
When Jack sets out to see how far a can of gas and a motorcycle can take him, he gets a lot farther than he expected. A modern day fantasy.

Short Stories

Found
By T. Richard Williams
Brother Michael knows the truth about a vital piece of the Sedna colony's history, a history he helped to shape. But that truth could be dangerous -- so he must decide what to do with that knowledge.

The Sough Witch
By Scott T. Barnes
King Gunther was dying. His son mocked him for spending his last days seeking out the woman he claimed to have loved long ago, the legendary Sough Witch...

The Keeper
By Joshua L. Hamiltonl
The Keeper had waited patiently for eons while the world Above evolved and changed. But the time for him to fulfill his purpose was fast approaching as another Cycle neared its end.

Private Eye
By E. S. Strout
NASA decided that it was time to look at Mars through human eyes -- or rather one human eye.

Layover in an Oak Grove
By Mary Brunini McArdle
The old plane had crashed into Mary Jean Parker's favorite tree, and more -- it had crashed through Time.

Under the House
By Jeani Rector
The crawlspace under Kayla's house should have been scary -- it was dark and damp and full of spiderwebs and bugs. But it was also safer than the house above it.

The Assassination
By Casey Callaghan
Johan Schoeman is brilliant (he'd be the first -- but not the only one -- to say so). Now his brother has asked him to apply that brilliance to the mystery of how a man can be murdered by proxy with no weapons except fast food and a food court full of women.

Mistress of the Labyrinth
By Ash Hibbert
Climbing the cliffs overlooking the maze-like city and leaping off, she glides, and lets memories and dreams rush through her mind.

The Changeling
By K. A. Masters
The merman offered Alec the chance to join his people under the sea. But Alec's Fey nature was a little more complicated than Cazort knew.

The Last Warrior
By Joel Doonan
He was the last man, and there at the end of Everything, he was more important than he could have imagined.

Results of Forum Flash Challenge for October 2008

Congratulations to J. Davidson Hero, winner of the October 2008 Forum Flash Challenge. Shudder at the dark doings of "The Uncommon Bodgewick" and peer stealthily through two other windows into the souls of Evil Henchmen. And visit the Forum Fun and Games area around November 10th for the NEXT challenge to your imagination and writing skills.

Poetry and Filk Music

They've Come For Me Again
by Richard H. Fay

Terminal
by Holly Day

The Poltergeist's Recital
by James Matthew Byers

Untamed Waters
by Aurelio Rico Lopez III

Where Do Dark Times Come From?
by Mark Edgemon

Your Degree
by Richard Tornello

Features

Thoughts on Writing #4: People Are Going To Be Mean To You
By Seanan McGuire
In an ongoing series, Seanan McGuire takes apart the engine of writing to find out how it works, and offers her insights into how to put it back together again.

Off the Shelf
By Larissa March
Larissa March shares her thoughts on what she's been reading lately, with book reviews this month featuring John Scalzi and a collaboration between Spider Robinson and the late Robert Heinlein.


Aphelion Webzine is © 1997-2008 by Dan L. Hollifield