Aphelion Issue 232, Volume 22
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Aphelion: The Webzine of Science Fiction and Fantasy

Issue 139, Volume 13 -- December 2009 / January 2010

Editorial

Welcome to the December/January issue of Aphelion! Once again, we bring you a double issue so that the staff can enjoy the Holidays without deadlines looming over our heads. There should be enough stories and poetry here to keep you entertained until the Birthday issue in February Birthday issue comes out. And remember, Nate will be running the Flash Fiction challenges each month over in the Forums, even if the rest of us are slacking off! LOL! Indeed, I suggested one challenge subject to Nate that will require me to write a Mare Inebrium flash as the basis for the contest. Expect that one no earlier than February. Writers may want to read through the Mare stories to get a head start.

Doctor Who fans are getting down to the wire on David Tennant's tenure as the Doctor. In another couple of weeks his last two episodes will be broadcast. He will be missed, but hopefully he'll return in special episodes in the future. The rumor mill is working overtime on speculations about those last two shows, and even harder on what sort of dynamic the next actor will bring to the part. I've adopted a wait-and-see attitude about the whole thing. I've been a fan for so many years that only a major foul-up would get me to stop watching the show. Given that the show began in 1963 and has returned from cancellation at least twice, I believe the fan-base is strong enough to keep it going for a good long while yet. Of course there are going to be people who complain that the new actor isn't as good as the one who just left. But those sorts of things have been said about every new and departing actor that has landed the part. Matt Smith stands ready to assume the role as the 11th actor to play the Doctor since the series began. He's by far the youngest ever cast for the part, but if his other acting credits are any indication, he will do quite well.

On the home front, Michelle, Marc, & Jamie are planning to visit in early January. As are Judith & Anthony. It is possible that they might all be here during the same week. If all goes according to plan, Michelle will be taking her dog, cat, and her boxes of stuff back to Virginia when the visit is over. That will give Lyn and I an empty room, an empty closet, and two mostly-empty storage sheds. Plans are afoot to turn our guest bedroom into a sewing room for Lyn. I will be constructing a small fold-up bed that will mount to one wall of the room in order to keep the guest bedroom aspect available. As usual in this type of Murphy Bed, the hinges and folding legs will be the most challenging part of the project. The remaining contents of the storage sheds will then be consolidated so that I can turn the larger of them into a workshop. I have enough raw materials on hand to produce several different projects. Things that have been on hold awaiting room to be freed up and a decent workplace created. I don't have any idea which project will be green-lighted first, but just having a place to set up my tools and a big workbench will be wonderful.  Things have been very stressful here at Casa Vila for the last couple of years. Lyn and I have been frustrated since the fire, auto accident, and everything else that caused us to fill our storage sheds with so many boxes of stuff. I expect that several boxes that were packed after the fire will be emptied, sorted, and many loads of now-useless junk carted off to the local landfill. Who knows what treasures will reappear once we have room to open those boxes back up again? One thing is certain, lots of that stuff should have been trashed right away rather than boxed and stored, but the clean-up crew needed everything out of the way quickly in order to get to work.

But just what has this all got to do with writing? Indeed, you may ask that, but then I'm sure that several of you have leaped ahead of me and deduced my next paragraphs. The writing lesson from Doctor Who is simple. Plot, characters, set, and setting. That show has covered every point on the "good to bad" spectrum for all of those storytelling tools. Stories with a good plot, stories with so many plot holes they can't be saved, stories with little or no plot at all. Characters that people love, characters that people hate, and even really badly-written characters that people don't care about them in the slightest. Fantastic sets, and sets that are little more than a blank, empty room. Settings from history, mythology, the past, the future, the impossible, and the commonplace. Doctor Who has had shining examples of all those, both well done and poorly done. The show has proved that good writing can salvage a story from cheap sets. It has proved that great actors can take their characters and salvage something from poor writing. And it has proved that even the largest budget cannot make a story interesting if the characters and plot are poorly executed. A writer has to make their story work, using all the tools at their disposal. Balance every element, one against the other, and the story turns out to be great. If that balance isn't there, the story fails, falls flat, and the audience goes elsewhere.

The writing lesson from life at Casa Vila is a bit more complex. Life is unpredictable. Stuff happens, often for no easily understood reason. Bad things happen to good people, and bad people sometimes go unpunished for the disasters they cause. The stresses of everyday events can make a writer focus in things other than writing. There is always that temptation to procrastinate. To just avoid sitting down and getting some writing done because of other issues rearing their ugly heads. So things get piled up, things get shoved off into dark corners, and sometimes things get packed up and put away for a long time. But if a writer is going to manage to keep being a writer, those packed-up goodies will, eventually, have to be exhumed. Bring them back into the light, sort through them, discard the rubbish and save the forgotten treasures. A writer needs a place to write, a place to keep reference works handy, a place for their tools to stand ready for use. That's true, but it doesn't go far enough. A writer also needs to make a firm commitment to putting their self in the chair, at their writing instrument of choice, and writing. Good writing, bad, or indifferent, that is totally beside the point. A writer needs to write, not daydream about writing. The best plot, the best characters, the most beautiful sets and settings- All those are useless without that work being done, that writing being done, that in-the-chair-and-writing time each of us must spend in order to actually *be* a writer. The work has to be done, despite the distractions. All the tools and time and grand ideas in the universe are useless without that commitment to do the work. Writers write and dreamers dream. Choose wisely.


A little over a month ago I received an interesting e-mail from an intern at a prominent Literary Agency. Of course, I looked them up on Preditors & Editors, Writer Beware, and several other reference websites to see if they were indeed real. Then I used an e-mail address from one of the reference sites to ask if the offer was real. Everything checked out. This is genuine. This is an open call for novel submissions from a respected, established Literary Agency. Read the rest of this page, then start getting your manuscripts ready for submission! Good luck, everyone!

This is the full text of the original e-mail:

Hello,
I work with a literary agent who is actively seeking new clients, especially in the science fiction and fantasy genres.We think that there is a lot of undiscovered talent on the internet and fan fiction circles. Your publication looks very well run and features some high quality writing. What we would like to do is publish a letter in your next few issues outlining who we are, what we do, who we represent, and what we can do for a new author. I've attached the intended letter for you to look at. There is a great opportunity for everyone involved, so I hope this is an amicable proposal. Let me know what you think, I hope to hear from you soon. Sincerely, Daniel Rogna intern@ethanellenberg.com (212) 431-4554

This is the reply I got from my query to the agency itself:


Dan,

I appreciate you following up regarding our open call for submissions. As you
may know, The Ethan Ellenberg Agency is a small agency specializing in
commercial fiction whose clients include John Scalzi, Mary Janice Davidson,
Sharon Shinn, Karen Miller, Mel Odom, and Gail Martin.

Our intern, Daniel Rogna, was indeed asked to contact several online
publications specializing in sci-fi and fantasy and present them with a letter
asking for submissions.

We are currently seeking new talent in the sci-fi and fantasy genres, and rather
than labor through several unrelated queries in our general mail box
(agent@ethanellenberg.com)we decided we'd make a more devoted effort to attract
up-and-coming talent by setting aside a separate inbox for science fiction and
fantasy queries and by imploring publications such as yours to post our open
call for submissions. That inbox, as listed in the letter, will be fantasy@ethanellenberg.com

If you have any further questions or concerns, then please let me know. Otherwise, I
look forward to seeing submissions from Aphelion contributors.

Thanks,

Evan Gregory
Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency 548 Broadway, No. 5E New York, NY 10012 (212) 431-4554

And here is the message attached to the original e-mail:


The Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency

I'm writing to introduce you to myself and my agency and let
you know we are actively seeking clients in the Science Fiction and
Fantasy genre.

We opened in 1984 and have always had an interest in both
genres. We are a full service agency, representing writers at
every stage of their career from unpublished through
maturity.  We are a very active, successful seller of
translation rights with agents in all foreign markets and a track
record of approximately 50 new sales per year. There is no
sub right we do not represent - movie, audio, e-book,
translation, United Kingdom rights.

We're privileged to represent a number of top
talents. In Science Fiction we represent Hugo winner John
Scalzi, probably the top talent to emerge in the last ten
years. We also represent Ian Douglas whose military science
fiction series for Avon have been selling well and in print for more
than a decade. We recently contracted for 5 more books in
these series. A recent client who is building nicely is Ed
Willet, whose most recent book TERRA INSEGURO was published by Daw.

We are even more known for our representation of fantasy
writers. Karen Miller is an international bestseller with
publishers in Australia, the United Kingdom and the USA. We
have represented Sharon Shinn from her very first book and today,
twenty one books later, we still represent her. We
represented Gail Martin for her first sale to Solaris and just
concluded a 4 book deal with Orbit to continue her TALES OF THE
NECROMANCER. We represent Mel Odom whose Tolkienesque series
beginning with THE ROVER was a hit for Tor.

Our success in this area is not confined to the adult market, Karen
Miller, Mel Odom, Sharon Shinn, and Ed Willet have all sold young adult
fiction.

We're actively acquiring new clients. The ideal
submission for us is an introductory letter, synopsis and the first 3
chapters of manuscript. We welcome electronic submissions to
fantasy@ethanellenberg.com. We also welcome submission by
mail with a self addressed stamped envelope for response.
Please check our website (ethanellenberg.com) and follow the directions
carefully so as not to fall afoul of U.S. postal regulations.

We remain upbeat, active and committed to the highest standards of
professional conduct and representation. We are members in
good standing of the Association of Author's Representatives
and consistently receive high marks from all the top professional
writer's organizations. We look forward to your
submission.


That's it folks, if you're one of our writers, go get a manuscript ready to submit. If you're a reader, cheer the writers on and then go read the stories and poetry in this issue.

Dan

Serials & Long Fiction

New Columbia - Part 3 of 3
By J. B. Hogan
Ari Blanque's danger-filled flight passes through the lawless Outworld and culminates in the discovery that New Columbia, the mythic, hoped for land, may truly exist.

Evolutionary
By Chris Hertz
Humanity had its chance and blew it. Now, it is time for some other species to take a crack at running the earth.

Lady of Knives
By Chad Banks
Figuring out who killed a member of a rival gang is the easy part for Monkey and his companions. Stopping her and her knives is much more of a problem.

Short Stories

NOTE: We have 20 stories this issue, ranging in length from under 1,000 words to about 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

Thy Kingdom Come, My Will Be Done
By Frederick Rustam
The starship TerraNav carried scholars for every major discipline on a mission of exploration. Unfortunately, it also carried a frustrated Chaplain and an A.I. that was eager to hear The Word.

In God's Image
By DoA Worrell
Leonardo Toure found the key to immortality. His discovery would change the world in ways that no one could have anticipated.

Antimatter Dreams
By David Wright
Ayesha was a psychologist, a family therapist on her way to her dream job on board the planet-girdling International Antimatter Collector station. It was too bad that she couldn't connect with her own teenage son.

Scimitar of God
By E. S. Strout
The terrorist group Scimitar of God has unleashed a lethal plague. Millions have died, included most of the population of Europe and North America. All Eli Morrison can do is try to survive -- and plan his revenge.

Imprint
By Jack Skelter
Ethan Laurence used an old typewriter to write because he thought computers had no soul. His old friend Bill had other ideas...

UnHistory
By Lee Gimenez
Insurance investigator Sam McCall had seen every kind of fraud ever attempted by people trying to pry money out of the companies he worked for. Or so he thought.

Starport
By Joe Pezzula
Allison was frustrated. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't make an emotional connection with her exotic (and artificial) pets.

Dust Mote
By T. N. Dockrey
Kate had something in her eye, something that gave the term "foreign object" a whole new meaning.

Fantasy

All That He Plants Takes Root
By Michael Hitchcock
Martin of Do'aash couldn't go home until he learned the meaning of the riddle-song given to him by his Teacher. In the meantime, living in the barren wilderness gave him plenty of time to think.

Receipt for a Dragon
By Stuart Sharp
Brian was between jobs, and about to be between girlfriends, thanks to his love of reptiles. Investigating the odd receipt he found in an old book would at least occupy his time.

Hermesian Parameters
By Kim Rush
Archibald Hermes, harried medical equipment sales representative, asked for peace, and got it -- sort of.

The Deeper the Lust, the Sweeter the Flesh
By Kimberly Grenfell
The reward for the heart of Legendfire was too good to pass up, even if adventurer Orrin had a really bad feeling about the whole business. Dragons were not known for surrendering their hearts without a fight...

Perchance To Dream
By Bruce Memblatt
The doctors didn't know why John Stewart kept having heart attack after heart attack without regaining consciousness -- but somehow refused to die. But while his body was failing, his mind was lost in dreams -- or nightmares.

History Lesson
By Shane McKenzie
Gabe hated detention, but the substitute teacher "Mr. E" made it interesting. Too interesting.

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

Near Neighbor, Far Brother
By Kristen Lee Knapp
Riccor would fight for his fiefdom, his honor, and his daughter's life, even against a man he thought of as a brother.

No More Heroes
By Mark Ward
From the beginning of time, men have called upon the gods and the spirits of past heroes to help them in battle. Depending on that help has never been a good idea.

Horror

Zombies and Demons and Feds (Oh My)
By Franchot Lewis
Ray's demon lover had turned him into a zombie of sorts -- almost mindless, hungry for flesh. Ray's Homeland Security bosses would have put him down if they knew -- but his mother, brother, and ex-partner all had other plans.

Loneliness Or A Warm Gun
By Dwayne Bunney
All John and Dylan wanted was a drink or two and a willing woman before they set sail on the long journey back to England. They found something much darker in Port Arthur.

On the 6th
By Philip Roberts
Sara was a nurse. She had seen death often enough before. But there was something different about the homeless man who had died tonight. For one thing, he had been killed by the car Sara was in.

The Last Wonder in the World
By T. N. Dockrey
Cala knew the strange plant she found in her yard was special. Her new neighbor just didn't understand...

Results of Forum Flash Challenge for November 2009

Congratulations to McCamy Taylor, winner of the November 2009 Forum Flash Challenge. Consider the possibilities as a mysterious prisoner faces a turning point in his life in "Box of Enlightenment", then ponder six other Moments of Truth. And visit the Forum Fun and Games area NOW for the NEXT challenge to your imagination and writing skills.

Poetry and Filk Music

Fairy Bandits
by Richard H. Fay

Forgotten
by Ron Bruno

The Guest in the Attic
by John Grey

Holy Leper
by J. B. Hogan

Jones Ropes A Thistle
by Mike Wilson

Lava Planet
by J. Davidson Hero

Modern Art
by Mike Berger

Stumblin' Mumblin'
by Raymond Towers

The King of Beasts
by James J. Dye

Twittering Machine
by Richard Tornello

Words
by Richard Tornello

Features

Thoughts on Writing #16: Be Realistic About the Market
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.


Aphelion Webzine is © 1997-2010 by Dan L. Hollifield