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Aphelion: The Webzine of Science Fiction and Fantasy

Issue 129, Volume 13 -- February 2009

Editorial

Hi there!

Welcome to the annual "Best Of" issue of Aphelion as we once again start another year of publication. We're now working on a dozen years online. That's amazing, especially when you consider the average life of a website to run roughly two years. Now that we're back from our annual Holiday break and everyone has had two months to read the end-of-year double issue, it is time for a quick review of the stories and poetry that the editors picked out as the most outstanding submissions of the last year. Of course, there are also some new stories and poems included in this issue.

As for myself, since there weren't any Mare Inebrium stories submitted in 2008, I've spent a few days rebuilding a pair of old computers that were donated to me. The smallest one will wind up in the living room here at Casa Vila, to be used as a video player of sorts. It'll be hooked up to the TV set just like a conventional DVD player. As a bonus, it'll also act like a Region-Free DVD, being able to play PAL format videos from the UK as well as the NTSC format that is the norm here in the US. All that remains to be done is to add some more RAM to its motherboard, pick up a wireless keyboard and mouse, and attach the necessary converter box to its VGA monitor socket so that the signal can be read by an ordinary TV set.

The other donor computer will wind up in my office, sharing the duties of my desktop computer. By using a different sort of converter box, I'll be able to switch between the two computers back here without the bother of needing to have two monitors, keyboards, and trackballs. With the touch of a button, I'll be able to switch between the two computers. I'm putting in a pair of hard drives, more RAM, and installing a new video card on it. When I was given this one, it was on the condition that I remove and destroy the hard drive, turning it into basically a motherboard and a power supply with a nice case. The donor wanted to prevent anyone from ever being able to reconstruct any data that was left on the drive. Since there were medical records and such on it before, I agreed to destroy the drive rather than simply formatting it. A few quick purchases from e-bay allowed me to gather up everything I need to do the rebuild. As a bonus, hooking it up to my present computer will give me a chance to tidy up all the sprawling yardage of wiring that clutter up the office.

Work on my steampunk story has slowed down, because I'm doing a lot of reading for the necessary research into US history. I'm finding out lots of things about the War of 1812 and the US Civil War eras that I'd never run across in my school years. Thanks to a safety award from work, I was able to go out to a bookstore and pick up a few history books on the eras I'll be using in the story. My work crew went two and a half years without any work-related injuries. The reward for that, besides no one being injured, was a small bonus added to my paycheck last week, and a free steak dinner served up at work one day. As for the story itself, the plot is progressing smoothly, the actual typing is still happening one or two days a week, and it is still a lot of fun being back at writing again after having spent so much time being unable to create. Perhaps 2009 will be a better year than 2007 or 2008.

Well, that's about enough blather from me. You ought to go read the stories and poetry now. I'll be back next month, and hopefully I'll have more interesting things to talk about.

Serials & Long Fiction

Sweet Strings and the 2:55 A.M. Train
By Matt Spencer
A modern day fantasy about a traveling musician whose guitar possesses supernatural powers over life and death.

Radiation Hotel
(When Insects Conquered the World, Almost
By Timothy Potter
If you get creeped out by itsy bitsy critters no bigger than your fingernail, you may think that this is a horror tale, but actually it is a science fiction-heroic adventure about the planet�s most successful inhabitants. Just don�t go stepping on... their shoes.

*Best Serials and Novellas of 2008*

(As selected by McCamy Taylor)

Half a Dream
By Elena Clark
Four years later, royal bodyguard Giacomo is having flashbacks to the supernatural events which he witnessed the first time his charge, Prince Lucas was kidnapped. Now, the Prince is danger again. Is Giacomo up to the challenge? Sequel to "The Shadowy Man".

The End of the Matter
By Robert Moriyama
Al Majius and his allies face the undead superwizard Aaron Morgenstern in open combat. Lion-men and vampires and werewolves, oh my...

Short Stories

The Glass Cage
By James Lecky
Ulphia's beauty was legendary. No man could resist it. To preserve it, she would pay any price...

First Contact
By E. S. Strout
The Mars lander found something that didn't belong -- an object that looked artificial among the worn and irregular Martian rocks.

The Furthest Adventures of Count Bakula
By Michael Ray Laemmle
He said he was a nobleman from the future. But he was often naked, or nearly so, and insisted on using a needle concealed in a hand puppet to puncture the flesh of us kids. Naturally, we all loved him.

The Octopus Curse
By Anna Caro
The young woman who brought four beautiful children to the food court looked both sad and exhausted (even moreso than caring for so many young ones would explain). But she had good reason for her sadness.

A Saturday Night Mutiny
By J. Keegan
The planet was beautiful, a prime candidate for colonization. But then they found proof that it was inhabited by intelligent creatures, and they had to decide: should they stay, and tell the universe what they had found, or leave the natives to be exterminated?

*Best Short Stories of 2008*

(As selected by Robert Moriyama -- in order of appearance)

The Twelfth of Never
By T. Richard Williams
When the asteroid struck, Theo was as ready as it was possible to be -- ready enough to survive the initial blast and the storms that devastated the surface. Now came the hard part: figuring out what to do next.

An Echo of Strings
By L. J. Geoffrion
On November 10, 1975, the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald was lost to Lake Superior, with all hands. No one knows what happened that stormy night. This is the story of The Lady of the Lake, the Finnish Snow "God", Heikke Lunta and the Mighty Fitz...

Bug
By Coffee Anderson
PeeWee was only two years old, and unlikely to make it to three unless an odd assortment of people scattered around the globe could cure the artificial disease in his blood.

The Battle for Castle Greystone -or- Beanie and the Floaters
By Michael J. Flanagan
Only the old and the young who had nowhere else to go lived in the flooded coastal cities. Satch, Beanie, and What's-her-name had made a home for themselves in one old building, and were content with their makeshift castle -- until outsiders tried to claim it for themselves.

Mystic Canyon
By T. Richard Williams
The mission to search for life on Titan was a One-Way -- reserved for terminally-ill volunteers like Jake Youngblood. Some people opposed One-Ways because they thought they treated people like Jake as expendable... but Jake didn't care.

Forty Pieces of Lead
By Joel Doonan
Three Feathers knew that Fancy Town was no place for an Indian. In fact, during the day, it was barely a place at all. But at night, its neon-lit streets were home to Cowboys -- and Hollow Men...

The Season Without Sun
By James Lecky
In a world of endless winter, the Amjak people had to fight to survive. Their enemies: the cold, the scarcity of game -- and the brutally warlike Dajzyn.

A Dragon's Tale
By Ty Johnston
The dragon and the knight should have been enemies -- after all, the first time they met, the knight had done his best to kill the beast. But time and circumstance can change a lot.

Sideshow
By Georgy A. Kolotove
Ashan the assassin was an honorable man. He always lived up to the letter of his contracts, although those contracts were never written down. Working for both parties in a marital dispute was an interesting challenge...

The Keeper
By Joshua L. Hamilton
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.

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.

***December 2008 Forum Challenge***

Congratulations to J. Davidson Hero, author of the favorite entry in the December 2008 Forum Flash Fiction Challenge. Check out "Forever the Day" and six more tales of holiday woe here (after reading our new stories, novellas, and poetry, reviewing our "Best of 2008" selections, and checking to see if there's anything good on TV (there isn't much, since they cancelled most of the GOOD shows). But wait! There's more:

***January 2009 Forum Challenge***

Congratulations to J. Davidson Hero (again??), author of the favorite entry in the January 2009 Forum Flash Fiction Challenge. Check out "Salviati's Siren" and four more solitary sojourns in lonely places here. (Note that Nate Kailhofer has provided a quick and easy index that allows direct access to any of the previous months' challenge entries here, for those hungry for more snack-sized stories...)

Poetry and Filk Music

Rod Stroked Survival with a Deadly Hammer
by Michael Lee Johnson

The Clone
by J. Davidson Hero

The Cosmist Worm
by James Dye

The Patient Suitor
by A. K. Sykora

The Tattoo
by Kelly Haisan

Two Dimensional Visitors
by Richard H. Fay

Valentine Conundrum
by Richard Tornello 

The Best Poetry and Filk Music of 2008

Dead Heading
by Richard Tornello

Mary's Little Alien
by Stuart Sharp

The Nameless Squire's Tale
by James Matthew Byers

The Outer Inner Limits
by Mark Edgemon

Beauty And The Rose
by Megan Arkenberg

Contact
by Thomas D Reynolds

The Study Of Man's Past
by Holly Day

Numb
by Tracy Hantke

Shasta Among The Tombs
by Jonathan Stefanovic

A Cacophany Of Horror
by Steven Vaughn

Echolocation
by Casey Callaghan

Here
by John Grey

Horrorku
by Aurelio Rico Lopez III

Osiris Rising
by J. Davidson Hero

Bearshirt
by Richard H Fay

Swirling Grey Storm Clouds
by Heather Kuehl

Industrial Action
by Stuart Sharp

Plasma
by Don Coonrod

Features

Thoughts on Writing #6: Kill Your Darlings
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.

20th Century Boys: A manga review
By McCamy Taylor
Our Serials and Novellas Editor reviews another classic Japanese manga (graphic novel) by Urasawa Naoki: 20th Century Boys, available in a new edition from publisher Viz.

Best of Features 2008

Reader's Corner: Myth Adventures, Volumes 1 & 2
By TaoPhoenix
TaoPhoenix dives into Meisha Merlin's new ominbus reprintings of Robert Asprin's classic fantasy humour series.

Thoughts on Writing #1: You're Going To Suck
By Seanan McGuire
In the first of 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.

Thoughts on Writing #3: You May Not Be A Novelist (And That's OK)
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.

Conventional Wisdom: Atlanta Steampunk Meetup
By Dan Hollifield
Dan heads to Oakland Park cemetary in Atlanta to participate in a gathering of steampunk fans, and files this report.

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.

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