Aphelion Issue 278, Volume 26
November 2022
Long Fiction and Serials
Short Stories
Flash Fiction
Submission Guidelines
Contact Us
Flash Writing Challenge
Dan's Promo Page
P&E Top Ten

Hello! Welcome to the May 2016 issue of Aphelion!

April just flew by like a rocket, didn't it? Seems like only yesterday that we were taking the shrink-wrap off and installing a new month. Yet here we go again, counting down one more calendar page as we rush headlong towards Aphelion's twentieth year. Half a year from now, when Winter once again has us in his icy embrace, we will begin Aphelion's third decade. What changes will the future bring? Well, we'll just have to explore it together.

But that is the future. We're here in the present day, taking the slow path, slogging forward day by day. Events will eventually eventuate, as they always do, taking their own sweet time of it. Yet, we are all on the cutting edge of the blade of time. That moment which is the eternal now, scything between the infinite past and the rapidly approaching future. "Now is the time..." Well, yeah, the time is always now. Think about that for a moment. Wax philosophical, if you will. We write all these stories about the distant future, or the dim and dusty past, or even set them in magical realms of other worlds. Yet we aren't prognosticators or historians or even wild-eyed mystics--We are entertainers. When we tell a story, we want our readers to become immersed in the worlds we use as a backdrop. We want them to hang, spellbound, on our every word as we relate the adventures or our characters. "The Hero's Journey," as it has been so aptly called.

That is what all our stories really are. Our characters are introduced, they struggle, they learn some valuable lesson, they face setbacks and overcome obstacles, and eventually become new people due to everything they experienced. We can paint the most beautiful worlds for them to stride across, but without them, the characters themselves, those worlds are barren and empty. Without our characters, there is no story, there is only scenery. Beautiful scenery, perhaps, but mere painted backdrops will not hold our readers interests. Not for long.

Think of every story you've ever loved. Picture it in your mind. Now examine it closely. Allow the action to play out in your mind's eye. What are you drawn to? The mountains in the distance, or the hero as they cross the wilderness to reach those mountains? You see, there is a trap we can fall into as writers. Sometimes the scenery gets all the attention, but it is the characters who move the story along. We focus on world-building and forget the people who will need to live in that world in order for a story to happen. Our characters can't be just paper cutouts that we parade across the stages we build. Our readers want people, people with strengths and weaknesses, people they can identify with, characters who lift the reader out of their own lives and allow them to live the hero's life for a shot while.

People aren't perfect. They have character flaws. It is their flaws which give them their character.

Now think about the story. Think about what the hero is up against. There has to be a struggle against something, or the readers will leave. In order to win in the end, they have to lose many times along the journey. A few steps forward, then a setback, a few more steps forward, and another setback. Again, and again, and again, the hero keeps pushing onward, battered and bloody and always on the verge of giving up, but in the end, they triumph.

When you are writing, always keep your readers in mind. If you don't make the hero's journey difficult, the readers will get bored and go read someone else's story. Danger, excitement, cliffhangers! Deaths and betrayals, ambushes and rockslides, hunger and pain! Those are the spices we need to throw into the story. Every time things get too easy for your heroes, slap them with another disaster! They aren't called plot twists for nothing!

OK, time for me to shut up and let you get to reading...


Mare Inebrium Anthology


First off, if you do the Facebook thing, feel free to join us on the Aphelion page there. The link is Aphelion Webzine. As an aside, the Editorial Mafia and I have found Facebook to be very useful. Given our different locations and schedules, it's come in handy as a way to discuss production details of new issues. Sometimes there are several of us using Facebook at the same time, so it's almost like the old chat room days.

My first collection of Mare Inebrium spaceport bar short stories was published in February by Dark Oak Press. It is available in both Kindle an Nook e-book formats, paperback, and hardback. I also that thre albums of instrumenal music out throgh the Create Space self-publishing website. If you like, you can click on the photo or the link below to fin all the info you would need to purchase my book in your preferred format, or an e-book of Flash of Aphelion, buy a CD of my music, or listen to tracks off of the albums on my Bandcamp website. Enjoy!

Dan's Promo Page



HST ACS/HRC Wide View of Fomalhaut System

Photo Credit: NASA, and ESA.

Acknowledgment:  NASA, ESA, P. Kalas, J. Graham, E. Chiang, E. Kite (University of California, Berkeley), M. Clampin (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), M. Fitzgerald (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory), and K. Stapelfeldt and J. Krist (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory).