Aphelion Issue 234, Volume 22
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Aphelion: The Webzine of Science Fiction and Fantasy

Issue 77, Volume 7 -- December/January 2003/2004

Issue 78, Volume 8 will be online 1st week of February, 2004.

"And if you believe that- you'll buy this watch..."
Saint Robere Guilams



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Editorial

The Usual Rant from the Aphelion Senior Editor:


When the internet finally gets a voice of it’s own, you can bet it'll sound exactly like Majel Barrett.

Or Stephen Hawking. Or, in some homes, Peter Tuddenham.

Now, I'm not talking about AI here.

What I mean is, when we have voice control and read-to-me text-to-speech programs running in as many computers as we now have modems, we'll all get to pick the voice our own computers use to talk back to us. When its become comon and normal to give voice commands and recieve audible replies from the computer, we will have customized voices to pick from. Backing Majel's voice as one of the options is a sure bet. The Trek franchise is not going to miss the boat on that one. Brent Spiner would be another good bet, too. There'll be a C3PO voice, with optional R2D2 sound effects- you know there will. The BBC will licence the voices of K-9, Zen, Orac, and Slave. That's another sure bet. Maybe some of the voices of the Drs. Who, Daleks, various companions, and others as well. Sean Connery is also a sure bet. As is Christopher Lee- and the Hitchhiker's Guide voice, and Marvin the Paranoid Android, and Xena, and Foghorn Leghorn, and Jonny Quest... I'm sure that people will soon want their computers to read text to them, and give vocal responses to voice commands.

The voices we each pick for our computers will also become social cues. Girls will start checking out the guy's choice in computer voices as clues into the guy's personality. This will be useless- Single guys will probably opt for their computer responding to them in sexy female voices. Hmm, perhaps we should omit the word "single" in that last sentence. I think that "probably" can stay, though.

I don't know what guys will start looking for in the ladies' choice in computer voices. (An "I Dream of Genie" computer persona would be a sure-fire danger flag to all sexual orientations. I think that anyone who wants their computer to call them "master" is potentially dangerous, LOL!) But I'd tend to think that most women would opt for having their computers talk to them in their personal heart-throb's voices, too.

I'm already saving up for the Jessica Rabbit voice, myself... Just as an option. I figure the Majel voice will come standard on most computers by then. I also want a Dean Martin voice. That one would come in handy for chatrooms. ("Hey Pal, someone wants to send you a private message. You wanna accept it, or should I tell them you just stepped out for a drink?") This could revolutionize chatrooms again. And not only by letting your computer give you vocal responses for it's own alerts and popups. Just think of being able to pick the voice your nickname will sound like when it comes out of the other people's computer speakers. Hmmm... On second thought, chatters will probably opt for some variety of teleconferencing instead. A mix of text chat, speech-to-text chat, text-to-speech chat, live vocal chat, and video. I see the sales of great big computer monitors going up. Got to have more room for all those little windows... OK, I'm rambling again.

Alright, I admit that this will be a few years from now, but it will come. We ought to start making a list of the voices we want and let the programmers get started on it early. No need to waste time. Let's get in on the ground floor, here. Programmers, take note!

LOL! As if anyone ever listens to me!

And now, for something completely different:

Re: using old designs in an emergency. (The “Rednecks In Space” plan, LOL!)

"I say, if there is anything in orbit that can be used as-is or for parts, let's utilize it! Surely it would be better in the long run to save something, if only to have an existing framework to hang upgrades upon."

"And shouldn't we launch one or more of the remaining US space shuttles to leave in orbit as a working tugboat rather than ground them and let them rust away? Can't we think of a safe way to refuel them in orbit? I know that there are other problems with that idea too, but I hate to see a perfectly good workhorse put out to pasture. Surely there is a way to boost them out to higher and more useful orbits? I know the next generation of surface-to-orbit-to-surface craft is going to be a few years in the future. I just hate wasting things."

I’ve talked about this a little bit in a previous editorial, using space shuttles as the object of speculation. I’ve been thinking about the matter some more and come to new speculations for recycling our older tech for new uses. Like: Modify Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo capsule designs into craft to use as lifeboats for the ISS. Old designs, but updated and built using new materials and developments.

Put ‘em on anything that’ll launch ‘em up there, and dock them to the ISS at strategic locations. (I remember reading back in the 1970s about a design for an Apollo capsule to be used as a lifeboat, stripped of everything not needed for re-entry, that was able to have 5 to 7 seats shoehorned into the basic capsule. That’s from memory, so don’t be surprised if the number of passengers was actually higher.) Then in case of emergencies we’d have a way to get everyone off of the station safely. And for routine crew changes too, while the shuttles are grounded. (OK, this would only be possible if we already HAD some of these lifeboats built, I know.) Just send up the new crew in the lifeboat, and bring the old crew back down.

Or modify them further for use as workhorses in space. Like the Larry Niven singleships that the Belters use in some of his stories. Take something like a Gemini, and outfit it for a single astronaut to use. Add on a “service module” a-la Apollo and you’d wind up with a nice little runabout. Start launching up big sections of space station or segments of big rocket stages and tugboat them to Lunar orbit, or into a Lagrange point for assembly. Some of the Russian capsule designs could be used too. And this could also mean a new use for some of those old ICBMs that we want to disarm- free engines for stuff. And new jobs for the people that will be needed to put all this stuff together.

We HAD the technology. We can rebuilt it- some of it, the really good bits -and put it to new uses. We can make it stronger, faster, better... We’ve got lots of info and material to recycle. I do realize that it sounds more like a plan to build dune buggies out of old cars, but if it’ll get the human race out into the solar system quicker, then let’s do it.

We’re going to need lots of edges and advantages to retain our presence in space. I see where the next Chinese rocket will have two astronauts aboard, and they also have both unmanned and manned Lunar missions scheduled for further in the decade. China may colonize the Moon and Mars before the US or Russia finally get serious about people exploring space again. (Weeks after I wrote this, President Bush announced a US return to the Moon. Could it be that we have the makings of another Space Race here? If so, good- We can use whatever crowbar that we can get to motivate the burrocrats -{ NOT a typo }- of various nations to move towards the future.) I admit that there is an awsome amount that we can learn with robotic probes. I’m all in favor of continueing their use. But there is still the dream of many to actually go there. To live on the Lunar colony, or an L-5, or on Mars, or out in the asteroid belt, or even the outer system.

Some of us want to go. Right now- if possible. We’ve been ready for years while we’ve waited for technology to catch up with our dreams. Give us an engine that will get us there, a buggy to strap it to, places we can trade at, a place to live, jobs, and millions of people would leave Earth for the rest of the solar system. Today. You’re sitting there reading this-- Wouldn’t you go? Right now?

We’ve been learning how to get into space for half a century now. Let’s not forget that we can use everything we’ve learned so far to go even further. We’ll have to use everything we can lay our hands on if we’re ever going to get more space stations- and even colonies -going. Or mining the asteroids for their wealth. Or setting up new instruments to track comets and asteroids for possible threats. Or planting colonies all over the solar system, or putting space stations out where they’d make good waystations for long trips. Or whatever. This is our future. How can we make it real as rapidly as possible?

Colonies on other planets or the moons of other planets would not only give humanity room to grow, but challenges to learn from as well. Ditto with space stations in distant regions of the solar system. I like to think of it as getting more eggs and lots of different baskets. Right now, we’re doomed if anything catastrophic happens to Earth. We need to spread out further, so one big rock doesn’t take us all out at once. And we need to spread out soon, while we still have a chance. Its only a matter of time before Earth catches another cosmic Kung-Fu punch from some equally cosmic debris. And I hate to have to be the one to point out that it won’t be those cute and cuddly dinosaurs that get extincted this time. It’ll be you and me, partner. Getting humans to live off of Earth and spreading them all over the rest of the solar system is the only way to keep our species safe from the next celestial smack-down.

And there will be a next one. Its only a matter of time.

Of course, the swifter of those among you have already noted that in my speculations I’m oversimplifying many, many real-world problems that would actually take years of hard work to overcome. What I’m really getting at in this editorial is that there are many possibilities out there for “re-inventing what we’ve already invented” that have yet to be explored-- while we wait for new space shuttle designs to become real. We can’t abandon research into new vehicles, but we can get a head-start by upgrading old ones in the interim. Humanity needs to start exploring space more fully, right now!

Think of it as making use of modern reproductions of grand old antiques if it helps clarify the concept for you. Like those rebuilt Model T roadsters with modern, high-performance engines and suspensions that you see on the highways sometimes. Or, to continue the automobile analogy further, any of those classic automobile replica kit-cars that can be seen on the roads today. Take what we’ve already got and make it new again. Updated, upgraded, and accelerated!

Make the most of what we have at hand, while learning how to make new tools. That’s the philosophy that built this little civilization of ours. Use it up, wear it out, make it do, invent new uses! Thinking caps on, people! There will be a pop quiz sometime later-- and survival is a pass or fail subject. There are no second chances.

Besides, getting off of Earth ought to be fun!

Don’t just dream it, be it.

Dan

I now return you to your regularly scheduled reading...



Tell us what you think in Aphelion's Lettercol!

I'd like to thank those of you who have sent e-mails or signed into the Lettercol for your feedback. Keep those messages coming, folks! Without those messages we will never know what we need to improve upon. Hope you like the improvements so far!

Aphelion Staff:

Dan Hollifield
Senior Editor, Publisher
Iain Muir
Poetry/Filk Editor
Robert Wynne
WebMaven
Cary Semar
Short Story Editor
McCamy Taylor
Assistant Short Story Editor
Jeffrey Williams
Production Editor/Serials Editor
Ralph Benedetto, Jr.
Assistant Serials Editor
Roger Bennett
Editor Emeritus

Serialized Stories & Novellettes

  • The Nord
    By Cameron Neilson
    Dead or living, he was prepared for both, but the truth was he preferred the dead. Sure, the creatures were gruesome to look upon, and often the mere smell of their steaming rotten bodies made him retch, but the dead couldn't pull a trigger.
  • The Butterfly Collector
    By Kenneth O'Brien
    Samuel Caburrosso spreads the word for his Church. But The Word has left him. Then, an old friend appears on the scene - with a secret that will change Sam's life forever.
  • The Followers of the Light
    By Sonny Meadows
    When the prize possession of the Great Wyrm is stolen the world is sent into chaos. But the revenge of the Wyrm is the least of the world's worries...
  • Remivores
    By McCamy Taylor
    "I am not quite sure whether I am dreaming or remembering, whether I have lived my life or dreamed it. Just as dreams do, memory makes me profoundly aware of the unreality, the evanescence of the world, a fleeting image in the moving water."
    --Eugène Ionesco
  • Best of 2003: Forlorn
    By Jeff Williams
    Kyle Halcyon, only scion of Ulysses and Lydia Halcyon, boarded Starry Night at the Port of Stars, the last place on the continent before land gave way to ocean. What awaited him was beyond even his powers of imagination...
  • Best of 2003: The Questors
    By Frederick Rustam
    Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four Part Five Part Six

    Questor Institute is a new, experimental technical school where bright-but-poor high-school graduates on full scholarships spend two years seeking to become wizards of Internet sorcery by studying the science and philosophy of information retrieval from textual databases such as the World Wide Web.
  • Best of 2003: That Darn Squid God -- Sample Chapters!
    By Nick Pollotta & James Clay
    Stepping from a horse-drawn carriage into the thick mist, Professor Felix Einstein paused on the sidewalk to briefly consult the small glass globe in his hand. Trapped in the middle of the crystalline sphere was a mummified Egyptian tarantula that remained motionless under his hard scrutiny, and the professor relaxed at the sign that there was no evil magic in the immediate vicinity. At least, for the moment.
    Look for an Aphelion Review of the complete novel, soon!



Read more great stories from the
Aphelion Archives
And
Aphelion Back Issues

Or Take

- 8\8\2000 - A Challenge to Writers...
Not a contest, but a series of ideas to spark off a story.





Short Stories

  • The White Lady
    By Darren Joy
    A traditional, epic fantasy by a new contributor to Aphelion.
  • Doctor Kulik's Folly
    By Colin Harvey
    Sometimes scientists, in their very efforts to avoid contaminating the experiment, make things even worse.
  • Fortune From Time
    By David L. Erickson
    When Wayne teamed up with a time travelling criminal, he quickly amassed a fortune. It all turned sour when he caught a virus in the twenty-fifth century.
  • Dark Matters
    By Robert Moriyama
    Al Majius new spell goes awry (again), sending him and Githros on a perilous adventure (again).
  • Pixie Dusting
    By Susan Buckner
    Pixie dusting is the last thing farmers do every year before the snow falls. This story illustrates why it is so important to get it done.
  • Elfenwurl
    By Donald Sullivan
    Willy O'Toole's story ends not far from where it begins, but oh what a ride!

  • Best of 2003: Redshift Sue Sings the Blues
    By Dan L. Hollifield

    "I sat stunned at the first sound of this woman's voice. She was crying out her pain and loss for a lover long gone. Low, husky, somehow seductive, but filled with pain. I took a quick gulp of my drink as she began to sing..."
  • Best of 2003: Last Man Standing
    By L.G. Carrillo
    Trevor finds himself far from home in a world left in ruins, perhaps the Last Man Standing after a nuclear exchange involving the U.S., Korea, and China.
  • Best of 2003: Four's a Crowd
    By E.S. Strout
    When a crew of intrepid space explorers reach the edge of the universe, they are amazed by what they find, but the real surprise awaits them when they return.
  • Best of 2003: The Killer's Choice
    By John Biggs
    Sometimes the only significance of a man's life consists of one single act.
  • Best of 2003: Saint Valentine's Day
    By McCamy Taylor
    Marnie was born and trained to kill; a natural warrior. When she rebelled, the authorities were determined to get her back.
  • Best of 2003: Chat Room
    By Owen James Handford
    We know that machine intelligence is impossible, don't we? After all, a computer that complex would cover the entire planet!
  • Best of 2003: The Treasure of Agrinothe
    By Sharon Partington
    Brak of Calmor was the best thief in the Thirty Kingdoms. How then, did he end up in the dungeons of Sgaithe? Easy...it was all part of his master plan.
    A Writer's Challenge 2 story.
  • Best of 2003: Unsung Heroes
    By Mizu Ash

    He used to send out agents to adjust timelines, but now he's retired and wants to check the impact he had made on the probable histories of the human race.


Read the updated (July 3, 2003) Submissions Guidelines
Aphelion Submissions Guidelines Page


Poetry and Filk Music



The Mare Inebrium


The Mare Inebrium
Shared Universe Project...

I open up my own Spaceport Bar to other writers!
This link takes you to the full introduction to the project.
The Mare Inebrium Starter Kit.
--Updated 4/22/2002--

This is a link to all the background information for the Mare Inebrium stories so far.
This is a must read for all Mare Inebrium writers and fans!


Tales of the Mare Inebrium
All the Mare Inebrium Stories to date.

The banner above links to
all the Mare Inebrium Stories on one page!

A Timeline of Bethdish: Updated 12/16/2003




Features

  • The Pollwatchers!
    by Cary Semar
    Aphelion's Cary Semar turns his eye towards the political scene in this new feature!

  • Dan Hollifield Reviews:
    The Monstrous Regiment

    The newest Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett.
    A fun and thoughtful look at the military life on the Discworld.
  • Dan Hollifield Reviews:
    "DreamQuest"

    The new Fantasy novel by Bill Pottle
    A young boy's dream brings both power to him and a new hope to the people of Daranor.
  • The Writing Process
    By Dan L. Hollifield

    An article on the way I create my fiction, as well as proofread and revise it for publication using the internet as a tool..

  • Double Wide
    by Jim Parnell
    The collected wisdom of Bubba
    WARNING: Contains Language.

    Aphelion proudly presents the installments of Double Wide all on one page of links. We wanted to make sure that the wit and wisdom of Bubba wasn't lost for new readers, so we made a mini-archive list of just the Double Wide features.
  • A Challenge to Writers...
    --8\8\2000--
    Not a contest, but a series of ideas to spark off a story. Challenge 1 is the paintings of Daniel Hannaquand, Challenge 2 is a collection of narrative hooks composed by Dan Hollifield.
  • Aphelion Links Page
    --3\01\2003--
    Click here to see the Links Page. Our fellow E-zines, Astronomy, research material, entertainment, and much, much more!


  • Aphelion IRC Chat
    --7\31\2003--
    Information about an underused feature for Aphelion. IRC Chat is a fun way to talk to our readers, writers, staff members, and other netizens. This link takes you to a basic intro and provides further links to the IRC software that you can download for free. Look for new updates as we refine this feature.
  • Aphelion JAVA Chat
    --Repaired 3\25\2003--
    For a quick look at the JAVA chat client, this link launches a new browser window that takes you to a Log-in form for a JAVA-based chat in your browser window. No special programs are needed. This will be a very simple, but passable IRC client, very no-frills. This will also tell you if there's anyone else in the chatroom, by the way.


  • Aphelion Banners
    And banner artwork for links.

    If you want to link to Aphelion and want more than a text link, then this page is for you. Some of these banners are finished, but most of them lack only my adding text to make them complete. Unfinished banners can be completed and e-mailed to you within 8 days. The banner HTML code-- and image --can be e-mailed on request, or can be more simply copied from the "View / Page Source" option in your web browser. Finished images can be copied from the banner artwork page itself. An exchange of links or banner links is always welcome.
    Link Swap E-mail should be sent to: Dan Hollifield



If you would like to receive notices from Aphelion when this page is updated, please join our new, revised, automatic mailing list. To subscribe:
Send a message to majordomo@lists.america.net with the following in the body of the message:


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As always, this mailing list will only be used to notify you of new issues and will never be given out to anyone else... 'cause I hate spam as much as you do!


Back Issues:

Instead of the back issues the banner below now takes you to the Archives-where all our past stories are available for you to read.

I've decided to ditch the back issues in favor of the Archives. The Archives are easier to use and can be indexed by author or story title. Hopefully this will ease the task of finding a favorite story. We may start a page of our past cover art, if there is a call for it. Thanks for your readership for without you, nothing we do has any meaning.

Aphelion Back Issues!
You can e-mail the Senior Editor by clicking here.


My storys and comments.

A page of my own story links, with comments.
Along with some MIDI files, MP3s of music,
links to some of my artwork,
links to photos of my home, etc.

Dan L. Hollifield

Click HERE to vote for this page as a Starting Point Hot Site.


Aphelion Webzine is © 1997-2003 by Dan L. Hollifield