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Aphelion: The Webzine of Science Fiction and Fantasy

Issue 167, Volume 16 -- October 2012

Editorial

It seems that it is an election year here in the US. Do remember to go cast your vote on Election Day. It is very important that you exercise your right to pick the political candidate that you prefer. Don't just stay at home, do nothing, and let other people make your choices for you. You have to do it yourself, or you won't get the choice you want. Please, go vote.

Now, that said, what sort of topic can I come up with for this issue? I've pretty much done everything to death. I keep finding myself thinking “no, done that, done that too, did that twice, did that far too often...” OK, that prompted an idea. Take a deep breath, center yourself, exhale... Ready?

How do you deal with Writer's Block? We've all suffered from it. That Dreaded Blank White Page, as Larry Niven called it, the terrible thing that looms so large and threatening. It is intimidating to sit down wanting to write, pulling up that Page, and then being unable to put a single mark on it because your mind goes blank. It happens to me every time I sit down to start a new project. But somehow, I manage to find a way to finally put the words on the paper. I've heard all sorts of tricks from other writers. Head full of ideas, dialog foaming away in your mind, plot points all neatly outlined, and then poof! Nothing comes out. Some people pull up some totally different project and do a little editing on it just to get the flow of thoughts to fingers moving. Others do typing exercises, then once they are in the groove, they delete whatever it was that got them moving. Some people start off with a list of stuff. It might be a story outline, a grocery list, a to-do list, whatever. Once the words start flowing, the method used to prime the pump is trivial. The results are all that matter.

Here's a better question. Why? Why do we get writer's block? It's not as if we do this sort of thing because we have no ideas, no imagination, no tiny little people living in our heads demanding to have their lives recorded. We have all of that, and more. We have entire worlds, entire universes inside our heads, clamoring to get out. I'm not going to say that writing is “like” a form of mental illness. I firmly believe that writing is a form of mental illness. It is incurable, self-induced, and quite beyond the powers of mere Medical wisdom to explain. All those voices in our heads, whole casts of characters, entire worlds spinning madly through the infinite reaches of our imaginations. But show them a Blank White Page and they shut up. They go hide. We have to reach in and drag them out, sometimes kicking and screaming, out into the cold light of day. We snatch them up and fling them down onto the paper. As if to say “there's your bloody stage, already! Now will you please get to the strutting and fretting? I could be out walking the dog, you know. The house needs sweeping. Those dishes aren't going to wash themselves! But no, you wouldn't leave me alone. You wanted out to play. So get to it!”

The inside of a writer's imagination is a crowded, noisy place. We can't help it. We couldn't stop if we tried. Once we embark upon the path of writing, we are well and truly ruined for any other kind of life. We do it to ourselves. Oh sure, we can say that it was something that we were born with. But we know it was actually a choice. We could have just stayed in the living room and watched cartoons. We could have taken up some kind of sport instead. We could have done so many other things. But we chose to sit down and write. Once we take that first step, we can't stop, not ever. Oh, we can redirect it. We can blog, or tweet, or post on some social website. We can even edit someone else's writing. But the one thing we cannot do is give it up. There is no addiction stronger than the written word. There are a thousand other things I could be doing today. There are a million little jobs around the house that aren't going to get done today. Because I choose to sit down and write.

It's a terrible, glorious, painful joy to be a writer. To sit down and throw words at a page. Words that might bring some reader to tears, to laughter, to wonder... Sometimes, someone even gives us money to keep doing it. But the truth is that we'd do it anyway. We have to. We did it to ourselves. No turning back... And guess what? This page isn't blank any more. Ta-dah!

Dan

Serials and Long Fiction

Sleeping Dogs Lie
By I. Verse
Joe Tibbs made his living as a medium -- nothing fancy, but enough to feed himself and his arthritic old dog, Digger. He was a fraud, of course -- the voices in his head were not the spirits of the dearly departed. But they did tell him what he needed to know.

Short Stories

Obscured by Madness
By Gary W. Feather
In ancient China, the warrior Lady Nu and her apprentice, One-Eyed Nu, accompanied the old man, Hao, on his perilous quest for a magical artifact of great power. The problem was that they weren't sure why...

From the Depths
By Sam Best
Paul Edgefield had worked at the recently-condemned water treatment plant for most of his life. It seemed odd that there could be a door he had never seen before -- and that door led somewhere strange and terrible.

The Crystal Ghost
By Matt Spencer
Cassias Morningstar and the deadly woman Aschera went into the labyrinth of pure blue Angel Lapis in search of the same treasure -- or so he thought. In any case, to survive would take all their considerable fighting skills and the magic that joined Cassias and his sword.
*** Contains adult language ***

Living the Lie
By J. I. Charles
Robert Sosa awoke in the perfect darkness of his living room -- he had unplugged all the gadgets -- to find a stranger sitting there. The stranger promised -- or threatened -- to change his life forever..

Lord of Snakes
By John Rovito
War and climate change had twisted the world and turned many men into monsters. Some of them claimed to be the old gods reborn, and one in particular now led an army against the town John Tanner and his followers have built in the desert.

Microwave
By P. C. Van Slyke
In his spare time, Mort Carrie was an inventor, using the skills acquired in his abortive electrical engineering studies cobbling together gadgets in his basement workshop. The strangely-heavy gadget he had picked up on eBay was a unique challenge -- he had no idea what it actually did. And identical devices were turning up all over town.

In Shadows I'm Gone
By Evan Davies
His office job was killing him, or at least making him wish he were dead, doing mindless things for even more mindless bosses, day after day. But in the shadows behind a printer/photocopier, he found a way out.
*** Contains adult language ***

Indigo Puree
By Connley (Lee) Landers
To allow so many billions to survive, the world had become a joyless, literally colorless place where real human contact and relationships were not quite prohibited. But Sonja decided that she and Bon Tra, her approved mate, would do things the old-fashioned way and put the "hue" back in "humanity".

***September 2012 Forum Challenge***

Congratulations to McCamy Taylor, author of the favorite entry in the September 2012 Forum Flash Fiction Challenge. Check out "All's Fair" and six more tales of the brains behind a throne taking the easy way for a change here, after sampling this month's editorial, poetry, short stories, and long fiction, of course...

Poetry and Filk Music

Damn Near Perfect!
by Mark Edgemon

Fountainhead of Faith
by Jonas Birge

Guests
by Clinton Van Inman

On Aging
by Richard Tornello

Survivor
by Mike Berger

Photon
by John M. Marshall

Teacher
by Robin Lipinski

Thoughts on Land Fills
by Richard Tornello

Features

Thoughts on Writing #42: The Very First 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. In this entry, she reminds us that we will never be "the next Stephen King", and we shouldn't want to be.

Rogues in Hell - Edited by Janet Morris & Chris Morris
Review by Dan L. Hollifield
Dan Hollifield reviews the latest installment in the "...in Hell" fantasy anthology series.


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