Aphelion Issue 294, Volume 28
May 2024
Long Fiction and Serials
Short Stories
Flash Fiction
Submission Guidelines
Contact Us
Flash Writing Challenge
Dan's Promo Page

Short Story Guidelines

With straight talk from
Dan L. Hollifield
Senior Editor & Publisher
Short Story Editor

Aphelion is not a paying market. We don't charge you anything to submit a story, nor do we charge the readers to view your story, nor do we have any adverts to make money from. Aphelion is paid for entirely out of my own pocket. Always has been, always will be, as long as I live. For over a quarter of a century, Aphelion has cost me, personally, first person singular, roughly $2000 US each year to publish. I've been lucky enough to have had a day job that allows me to afford it. I am not by any means wealthy. I've worked in a factory for 45 years now. Aphelion has always been a labor of love. Over the past 26 years of Aphelion's existence, I have spent slightly more than what I originally paid for an acre of land and a small brick house out in the countryside. In 2024, I will retire from the factory and become a full-time writer--as well as a pensioner. The purpose of Aphelion is so that you, the writers, can learn enough of the tricks of the trade to begin selling your work to paying publishers, or to go indie and be your own publisher. I, and the Aphelion staff, will never make anything off of your work. Not one thin dime. Ever. Not as long as I'm the guy in charge.

What I'm looking for:

Aphelion is here to help authors gain experience and to give stories exposure, but, above all, to entertain our readers. The number one piece of advice I can give to inexperienced authors is to tell a complete story about engaging characters. Generally speaking, you get about 200 words to rope in the reader before he or she clicks on some other link, so don't waste those words. Start strong, make your character likable or engaging, and give them a real, serious problem to overcome. They may or may not overcome that problem, but write the ending in some way that makes the reader feel like they've learned or shared something in reading about the experience.

Reach a satisfying resolution. The biggest problem I usually see is that authors send in ideas rather than stories. A good idea is cool, but without a logical endpoint or meaningful development, it ends up lacking. Fill in the world, show us why we should care about it and your characters, and give it an ending.

Be creative. I want to be able to see the author’s mind behind their piece, however subtle. What makes this story yours? If you’re trying to write in order to emulate somebody or something else, the readers may not be interested. This might be the first time a reader is encountering your work; make sure they remember it. For a writer, remember that particular reader may just be an editor or publisher who is considering whether or not to send you a paycheck.

Aphelion is, after all, ultimately trying to help you prepare to join the Big Leagues; to begin to sell your work. Our greatest rewards, as well as our saddest moments, are when you turn pro.


Aphelion will accept original stories with a science fiction, fantasy, or horror theme and will not accept fan fiction stories because of the risk of copyright infringement this often entails. Note, however, that the boundaries of 'science fiction', 'fantasy', and 'horror' are nebulous things, and we have been known to stretch the point. Fan fiction, of course, is anything that involves copyrighted characters or institutions, including (but not limited to) Star Trek (TM), Star Wars (TM), etc., etc.

I will edit to a PG-13 level. (Think to yourself, 'Could I say this on CSI?') If you feel your story needs to contain all those 4-letter words, send it somewhere else. Aphelion is an all-ages magazine.

Stories that, in the opinion of the editors, contain bigotry or slander will not be published.

No simultaneous submissions. I hate spending 2-3 hours getting your story ready only to have it go to someone else, so just don't do it. Plus, I will remember you, and not in a good way.


Aphelion asks only the right to publish the work once in our webzine and all other rights are kept by the author. We ask to be able to archive the published work, but will remove a work from the archive at the authors request (so as not to interfere with potentially paying markets). From time to time, we may run 'best of' selections, in which we may re-run previously published material. If you do not wish to allow your work to be included for consideration in this manner, please let us know.

Pet Peeves:

After you've done all the above and sent me your best work, then I spend a lot of time fixing it up and formatting it for the magazine. Next, I send you an acceptance letter with a link to your story as it will appear in the magazine. DON'T reply back with an all-new version of the same story that you want me to use instead. I’ve already sunk so much work and care into this version, and to have you pop up another one at that point is just insulting.

"All right" is two words. "Already" is one.  Also, there is only one legitimate reason to start a sentence with the word "And." If it is dialog a character is thinking or speaking. That's it. Otherwise, do yourself a favor and break that habit.

Punctuation goes inside the quote marks, not after.

SPELL CHECK and PROOFREAD your story. Let me repeat that: SPELL CHECK and PROOFREAD. I mean that.

Please, PLEASE try to vary your word choice. If every paragraph has “said” in it, time and time again, I’ll end up miserable and bored to tears halfway through.

'Helping' me out:

If you feel inclined to "help" with formatting, don't use smart quotes. We use the inch and foot symbols because some older browsers won't show smart quotes right. Replace ellipses(...) with three periods, and use a space after them when trailing a thought off, like...  Hyphens and EM dashes "—" don't always show up right, so we replace those with "--" every time. Don't try to put in the html tags. Nine people out of ten do it wrong, and then I have to redo them, which irritates me. Don't use extra lines between paragraphs. The system does that automatically.

I go over all these things in your story anyway, but do yourself a favor. The content of the story is the deciding factor on whether or not we'll accept it, but the easier you make it on an editor, the more inclined he or she will be to approach your tale in a happy mood. Editors have a lot to do and day jobs, too, so fixing your stream of consciousness without capital letters or punctuation isn't something I'll consider.


Short stories (1,001 to 7,500 words) should be sent to Dan Hollifield at shorts@aphelion-webzine.com.

Flash stories (1,000 words or less) should be sent to flash@aphelion-webzine.com.

Stories longer than 7,500 words should be sent to Lester Curtis at serials@aphelion-webzine.com

All Mare Inebrium stories should be sent directly to the senior editor and publisher of Aphelion, Dan Hollifield at mare@aphelion-webzine.com

All poetry submissions should be sent to Iain Muir at poetry@aphelion-webzine.com

Writers will receive copyright notices at the end of each story, and a short biography. If you do not supply a bio, there won't be one because I'm pressed for time to get all the stories ready. Aphelion will also provide an optional link to your homepage and an e-mail link at the end of each story. Include the bio and URLs with your submission, or do please indicate if you don't wish the general public to know your actual contact info. If you like, I can fake up dead links for your email and/or website--or leave them off entirely!

Cover Letter:

The cover letter should state that you are submitting the manuscript to Aphelion and should contain a brief biographical sketch. One or two sentences will be enough, a few more if you are so inclined, but don't make it huge. If you have published other work, please list just the most recent ones, preferably work in the same genre as the story you are submitting. The cover letter is to get new writers used to the idea of sending a cover letter to a pro publisher. I don't really need it, but paying publishers sometimes do, so it's a good habit to get into. What I like is having the content of a normal cover letter at the top of a submission, followed by a couple of blank lines, then the title, byline and the story itself. Makes things faster for me. Other publishers will have different rules.


  1. If you are using multiple fonts and font sizes, or deliberately using other forms of fancy formatting: TELL ME! 
  2. If you use British spellings, my US spellcheck will flag those as wrong: Tell me, please.
  3. If you're using European quotation mark formats, remember that is backwards to what I have been taught in the US. Doesn't mean you're doing anything wrong, but it does mean my word processor will think it's wrong. I don't mind all the fancy, cosmopolitan formatting from around the world.
  4. If you are including an illustration, or even more than one, remember that those take up extra space on our website server--which I have to pay for out of my own pocket. Also, they can be troublesome to anchor to the exact spot in your text you want it to appear. It's going to slow me down, so tell me in the cover letter portion of your submission. Furthermore, pro publishers might not like that. Online is one thing, print is quite a different thing. Read the submissions guidelines for each publisher to whom you want to send a submission.
  5. Read the submissions guidelines for each publisher to whom you want to send a submission.  For pro publishers, Submission Guidelines are a sort of test. Not reading them and not following them may tend to get your submissions tossed out without anyone reading your story at all.That would lead to loads of heartache for you. The pro market is hard enough to break into without adding additional hurdles for you to leap. Always read the submission guideline for every publisher you intend to send a submission.  

Otherwise, have fun, write the best story you are able, accept constructive criticism, and remember that everyone turns out far better work when they have an editor.

Submit all stories (to me) as .DOCX or .DOC or as a last resort, Rich Text Format (.rtf). 
  1. My preferred font is Times New Roman. That's what the webpage will display.
  2. Line space is single lines.
  3. Don’t indent your paragraphs, please. Websites have different rules compaired to print.
  4. If possible, don’t put a blank line between your paragraphs except for when you do a scene change.
  5. Indicate scene changes with six asterisks, centered if possible, in an otherwise blank line, like so:  ******
  6. Include a short bio with your three to five most recent publication credits.
  7. Include your email address, your website if you have one, your pen name if you don’t want me to use your public name, and if you don’t want your email or website included on the story’s page on Aphelion.
  8. Send your submissions as attachments to your email. Please don’t include the submission IN your email. You have no idea how much that slows me down when I’m processing your story.
  9. I actually like the Oxford Comma, but don't overdo it.

Thank you very much for sending your stories to Aphelion. I have enjoyed reading them and look forward to you each sending more—until you inevitably become pro writers and sell your work for obscene amounts of cash. That will happen. I have faith in you.

 Dan L. Hollifield; Senior Editor & Publisher, Aphelion Webzine


length of story in words
your email address & bio information

By (Your Pen Name)
[Text left justified, no paragraph indents, single-spaced, no blank lines between paragraphs]

Next Paragraph
Next Paragraph
Scene Change:
Following Scene:
Next Paragraph
Next Paragraph
Next Paragraph
Blank line between your last word and


Always include a title for your story. Always indicate your byline beneath the title.

Always place the words "The End" at the end of the story so we will know that I have received everything.

Response Time:

Currently, response is within 2 months. Aphelion editors have day jobs so don't be surprised if it takes longer, but if it gets to double that time, send me an email so I can be sure I did receive it, didn't copy it into the wrong folder, or something like that.

In practical terms, there's a limit to the number of stories an editor can get ready in a month. There's a steady flow of them coming in. I've got to balance helping authors learn and grow, audience needs, and time available. Some stories are rejected because they're not the right fit for our audience. Others are refused because I have already enough tales that I feel will better entertain our readers, and those are the ones I need to focus my available time on. It is not personal if you are rejected. I'm an author and I hate rejections, too. Keep trying with another story.