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Aphelion: The Webzine of Science Fiction and Fantasy

Issue 128, Volume 12 -- December 2008

Editorial

Another month has come and gone...

Here we are again at the end of another year. 2009 is just around the corner. Seems like only a few months ago that 1999 was drawing to a close with Millennium Madness and Y2k Fever sweeping the planet. Where does the time go? In any case, time marches on... During the last year life has been, well, I suppose "interesting" is the best way to describe it. "Eventful" is another accurate word that springs to mind. Loads of ups and downs, highs and lows, with disasters and blessings in equal measure. For example;

The largest hard drive in my computer crashed - Which turned loads of family photographs, music files, programs, downloaded files, drawings that had been scanned, and other bits of data into a cloud of random electrons. Gives a whole new meaning to "vaporware," doesn't it? But recovering from that saw my computer now holding far larger hard drives - Both internal and external. (By the way, if anyone has a dead Western Digital 32o Gb internal EIDE hard drive laying around, I could use the controller circuit board off of it to recover my lost files.)

One of our two cats had four kittens. Sadly, the oldest cat vanished and one of the kittens died a few months later. One of my eldest daughter's two cats died during the same time period. I cried a lot, but what else could I do? We still have three kittens and the momma cat. Michelle still has one of her cats as well as her giant dog.

The price of gasoline went through the roof. But the new van I'd bought to replace the car that was totaled in the wreck my wife and I were in last year gets twice the gas mileage that the car did. I actually came out better off than I would have been if the car hadn't been a total loss. Now that the price of gas had dropped back down to "almost normal" I'm even more able to afford the increase in the price of groceries!

Speaking of the aftermath of the auto accident, I went back to work only to find that the Housing Market had gone downhill. The result of that is that the factory where I work has gone through a lot of down-sizing and budget cutbacks. Yet I still have a job to go to, thankfully. Another point in my favor is that since I had to re-finance the mortgage on my house in order to pay cash for the new van, my house payment dropped by nearly $100 per month.

My wife and I discovered Steampunk, and have had loads of fun making costumes and accessories. We've made new friends and gone on mini-vacations together to meet like-minded people. We've also discovered that we have a few talents that could be turned into extra income - Which off-sets the price of new clothing and vacation expenses. Plus, I was able to turn that hobby into grist for my writing. A Steampunk novel is in the works. 30,000 words and climbing! There's a market for Steampunk at the moment. Hopefully I can finish the story and shop it around before the fad dies off.

Last month I rolled over in bed and poked my elbow through the top of my water bed mattress. The floor was flooded and the flooring under the carpet warped as it dried. But I was able to find a Memory-Foam mattress for one-half to one-sixth of the price they normally cost as a replacement...

But you get the idea. Out of every disaster came the seed of a blessing. The darkness was only temporary. The dawn that followed was always brighter than what had come before. Things change, or pass out of our lives, but new things enter to fill the void. "Interesting Times" can be a curse or a blessing. It is up to each of us to stand adversity upon its head in order to make something good out of what was bad.

Speaking of "something good," this new issue of Aphelion is full of really neat stuff!  There are lots of new stories and poetry for your enjoyment. There's also a new Flash Fiction Challenge under way in the Forums. Go! Read! When you're done, pop over to the Forums and comment on what you've read. Your comment could turn out to be exactly what one of the writers needs to hear in order to improve their writing. You can make a difference in someone's life.

Let's go have some fun!

Dan

Special postscript: The month of December has seen the passing of two cultural icons -- the esteemed Forrest J. Ackerman, a.k.a. "Uncle Forry", publisher of the marvelous "Famous Monsters of Filmland" and curator of the Ackermuseum, basically his personal collection of thousands of items of movie memorabilia, with emphasis on science fiction and horror movies, and Bettie Page, the quintessential pin-up model, famous for her lingerie (and less) photos and an early popularizer of the leather-and-lace look. Without Bettie Page, Madonna and Britney would have dressed like the Andrews Sisters, and Mrs. Peel might never have worn a leather catsuit... Ave atque vale, Forry and Bettie. Heaven just got a lot more interesting.

Serials & Long Fiction

The Gulf of Eden - Part Two
By McCamy Taylor
Part two of the ongoing serialization �The Gulf of Eden.� Isaac of Ethan has never seen anything like the Others before, but they swear that they have met him before---in a previous life.

Video Killed The Radio Star
By Lou Antonelli
A recent graduate who desperately needs a job finds something other than gold in them there hills. A sci-fi tale about Enchanted Rock, the Republic of Texas and a secret long buried.

The St. Regis
By Frank Minogue
A filthy fleabag hotel may seem pretty exciting to someone who is usually stuck aboard a spaceship. But be careful when they ask if you would like the game experience to be made a little bit more realistic. A horror tale.

The Dry Air
By David Brookes
What would you do if the world was coming to an end around you and the woman you loved was ready to step over the edge?

Short Stories

NOTE: We have 21 stories this issue, ranging in length from just over 1,000 words (2 or 3 of them) to over 6,000 words. For those who prefer particular genres within the rather elastic Aphelion range, I have tried to categorize the stories into 4 categories: Science Fiction (no "magic", and at least some semi-plausible technology or scientific elements); Fantasy (almost anything goes!); Heroic Fantasy, a.k.a. "Swords and Sorcery"; and Horror (somewhat overlapping with Fantasy, but tending toward the grim and sometimes gory). If this seems like a good idea, let me know...

Science Fiction

Mars's Gift
By Jonathan Schlosser
The marines returning from Mars looked like they'd lost a firefight -- but it was a plague, not bullets, that had mortally wounded them.

If The Sky Should Fall
By Mike Driver
It's a lousy job, manning a Texaco service station on a road made redundant by the main highway through the moors of England. But strange things can happen in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night.

Flesh, Blood and Hell
By DC Grondo
Life on the remote world of Trevor was tough. The bird-like marne had never been friendly, but now they were taking humans as slaves, and that was sure to lead to trouble -- war with the marne, and even with the human rangers and Spaceforce.

Hiroshima
By David Wright
Sei Horikawa was on a mission to study the past. The hard part would be leaving the people who had befriended her to their fate...

The Last One
By J. B. Hogan
Stephen wasn't crazy about the outing to the zoo. There was a lot of walking, some of the people looking a little scary, and the food...

At The Center Of The Universe
By Frederick Rustam
The old man in the trailer claimed to be an agent of Galactic Control. He was crazy, of course -- but then why were the FBI so interested in his effects after he died?

Too Perfect
By Norman C. Stoker
Emma had everything -- incredible wealth, fame, talent, and a gorgeous, sexy husband who loved her. But something felt wrong...

Door Gunner
By J. B. Hogan
Stephen was on a hunting trip with his uncle Carl when something happened: one moment he was in Missouri, looking for quail -- the next, he was in Vietnam, trying to stay alive and help his buddies do the same.

Fantasy

Torch Song
By George J. Condon
The woman in red was so sexy she made Tom Nolan feel like a gawky kid, and she could handle the booze as fast as Tom could serve it. But who was she?

His Last Bull Ride...
By Chris Sharp
...had left the rodeo cowboy with brain damage. His train of thought was off the rails more than it was on, but that was mostly okay with him. There were compensations...

Niloufar's Friends
By Amalita Kriyodhi
It is a father's duty to try to guide his daughter onto the right path. Sometimes that means asking her friends to help -- even if they aren't human.

The White Violin
By C. L. Kimmel
He'd found the ticket on the street, and the come-on line was intriguing: Let the White Violin reveal worlds beloved and forgotten.

Cats and Fairies
By Stuart Sharp
Like all cats, Nadia had a certain air of mystery. She'd arrived out of nowhere, and sometimes behaved in rather unfeline ways. But the intruders who came to see her made Nadia seem like the very paragon of normalcy!

Darnell the Allure
By Alexander Scott Tullis
DarNell was an Allure, a courtesan of the highest rank. But she was much more than that.

Final Notice
By Richard Tornello
The Vice President found the eviction notices issued to every household on Earth very, very annoying. But he would handle it, as he handled everything else the President, a.k.a. the Cowboy, couldn't deal with.

Heroic Fantasy (a.k.a. "Swords and Sorcery")

The Gold Idol
By J. A. Andrew
Stealing the little gold idol seemed like just another job, but for Ossrad the Skadian, it would mean months of hell.

Culpug the Cavelord and the Nameless King
By Michael Panush
Culpug of the Mountain Clan traveled further than most of his race, but always made his way home to his wife and child. The bandit chieftain Kaveem gave him a choice: enter the tomb that had swallowed up many of Kaveem's men, or die along with the rest of the caravan Culpug had failed to protect.

Horror

Paralysis
By Jeff Curry
Unable to move, barely able to breathe, to see... It had happened before, but what if it was permanent this time? And was there someone else in the room?

Horrorscope
By Jeani Rector
He was just a man trying to please his mother. It was the way he went about it, guided by his unusual interpretation of the daily horoscope that would lead to trouble.

The Allies
By Stuart Plotkin
Kidnapped by a brutal loanshark and thug over his girlfriend's debts, he had to find a way to survive and avenge her murder. Fortunately, it turned out that he was not alone.

The Bogeyman's Warning
By Benjamin Green
Detective Longman thought there was a connection linking the disappearance of Tommy Tucker and the grisly murders that began soon after. The answer would be one that he would rather forget.

Results of Forum Flash Challenge for November 2008

Congratulations to Richard Tornello and G. C. Dillon, co-winners of the November 2008 Forum Flash Challenge. Laugh and cringe at the adventures of inept wizards in "DUCK DUCK Mouse" and "The Wicked Witch" and four other tales of Discount Magic. And visit the Forum Fun and Games area NOW for the NEXT challenge to your imagination and writing skills.

Poetry and Filk Music

Alien Ship
by Thomas D Reynolds

Alternate Fuel
by Stuart Sharp

Dead Heading
by Richard Tornello

Gingerbread Lady
by Michael Lee Johnson

Stark Ebon Tower
by Richard H Fay

The Dinner Fly
by James Matthew Byers

Unending End
by Chris Wood

Vinculum #445
by Todd-Earl Rhodes

Features

Thoughts on Writing #5: People Are Going To Be Mean To You: Take Two
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.

Urasawa Naoki�s Pluto Comes to America: Film Noir Meets Astro Boy
By McCamy Taylor
Our Serials and Novellas Editor reviews the classic Japanese manga (graphic novel) Pluto, soon to be available in a new edition from publisher Viz.


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