Aphelion Issue 278, Volume 26
November 2022
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Aphelion: The Webzine of Science Fiction and Fantasy

Issue 104, Volume 10 -- August -September 2006

Issue 104, Volume 10 will be online 1st week of October, 2006.

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

Our Lettercol is once again available. The URL has changed, please update your bookmarks. Thank you for your patience. -- Rob


Since January 27th, 1997 when Aphelion first went online.

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The Usual Rant from Aphelion's Senior Editor:

Wow! August just flew by, didn't it? I was on vacation from work for most of the month. We help ApheliCon 2 the first weekend of the month and attendance was at a record high... Yeah, this year we had *eight* attendees! LOL! Whatta crowd, 'eh? Would have been nine, but Kate Thornton had to cancel at the last minute. Well, I still had enough food and drink for twenty, so we dove in and had a wonderful time anyway. My thanks go out to everyone who showed, and thanks for being there when we needed you, afterwards, too.

It was a good party, but next year's will have to be held at a somewhat cooler and less volatile time of year. Start e-mailing me now with requests for the date for ApheliCon 3 and I'll work the schedule out ahead of time. Either Spring or Fall, 'cause Summer down here in Georgia is just too bloody hot! LOL!

OK, now for something completely different... While I was on vacation, the factory where I work suffered a few-- accidents. Thank goodness that no one was injured. But it was a close thing, only the vagaries of chance prevented several deaths. Thursday the 18th of Augusta new tank for liquid urea was installed on the third floor of our Binder Mixing area. The tank was newly fabricated and weighed 20,000 pounds, empty. Instalation went flawlessly and the crew in that work area began to fill the tank. By the time that they finished filling it with 30,000 pounds of urea, it was time for their scheduled lunch break. So they all left the area, to return in 30 to 45 minutes and give the new tank its final leak test. There was also a special lunch laid on for our Maintaince crew in honor of their excellent safety record for the year. If it hadn't been for that Safety Award lunch, two men would have been killed. They would have been scheduled to begin working on some pumps directly underneath that new tank. Within minutes of the area having been vacated, the newly-fabricated tank ripped loose from its mount and plunged sixty feet to the floor, twisting foot-thick I-beams like silly-putty on the way down and punching a hole in the yard-thick reinforced concrete floor when it finally came to rest. When the workers came back the stench of spilled urea was overpowering, but thankfully there wasn't also the added scent of freshly spilled blood. The two men who were scheduled to start working under the tank were a bit weak-kneed at the realization of how close they had come to becoming human pancakes, but otherwise only the company budget was injured. It turns out that the tank was *not* built to the specifications supplied to the fabricator, who vehemently denied ever recieving *that* page of the blueprints! The question remains as to how they were able to place the anchor bolts in the right position for us to install the tank without *also* seeing that those self-same anchor bolts were to have been mounted *through* the sides of the tank, and not just stuck on underneath the fiberglass thermal coating? That matter is now in the hands of the company's lawers.

But wait, there's more...

Half an hour after the urea tank fell, the one of a kind, 20 year old and only halfway through its rated service life, 12,000 volt input/variable output electrical transformer for the world's second-largest electric glass-melting furnace shorted out during a routine pre-start warm-up, spewing a cloud of flaming oil and molten metal a hundred feet up into the sultry Georgia afternoon sky. The special fire-supression systems kicked in and kept the flames from spreading, but tens of millions of dollars worth of equipment, switch gear, and wiring was ruined. Once again, by a miracle, no one was in the area of the transformer itself when the accident occured. Hundreds of construction contractors were taking *their* lunch break and would have otherwise been in the middle of that inferno, except for mere chance. Forget the fact that the transformer could not have been replaced for less than one and a half million dollars and a year or more of fabrication time, the loss of life could have been more horrible than an airliner crash - if not for the coincidence of the explosion happening while everyone who had been working within mere yards of the equipment having gone to lunch 45 minutes beforehand. Fate, it seems, was on the side of everyone working there on the 18th. Lady Luck decreed that *no one* would die that day. Sure, it cost the company a lot of money to replace the switch gear and wiring... Sure, Georgia Power is losing $50,000 a day for every day that our factory is not making insulation... Sure, the company is losing three quarters of a million dollars in profit for every day that our factory is down, but *NO ONE WAS EVEN SCRATCHED! I'll take that over *any* of the alternatives, any day. If I hadn't been on vacation, I would have been working within 50 feet of *both* disasters. But I chose to hold ApheliCon 2 and take vacation time, just at the right time.

But these accidents were not without repercussions... Because of the extent of the damage and the extreme cost of the repairs, the owners of the factory came within a hair's bredth of closing it-- forever. The workforce was faced with the most terrible of questions --- would it be more expedient to shut us down and build a new factory in Mexico? Would all 500 of us be Unemployed and, not long afterwards, damn near Homeless? Almost none of us have large amounts of emergency savings. Almost every one of us lives paycheck-to-paycheck and knows no other way of life. One month without a paycheck could spell absolut disaster for everyone in the workforce. Breathlessly, we walked like mindless zombies through the following week of make-work tasks that were the best we could do towards some sense of normalcy at the plant-- while we awaited the WORD from On High... Rumors spread like a prarie fire, each one worse than the last. Gloom and doom were the order of the day. If the vending machines in the breakroom had been stocked with anti-depressents, the machines would have been empty by lunchtime each day. I could not function at home, on any level, while this Sword of Damoclese hung above my head. Investigations continued 24/7, reports were files, run-logs were requested and submitted... And on the 22nd of August, *The WordTM* came down to the workforce... "Nobody's fault," it said. "Equipment failure was the cause. All proper procedures were followed to the letter," it added. "Thank goodness that no one was hurt," was the next missive. "Make the repairs, resume the Start-up, order whatever parts and equipment you need to get the plant running again. Money is NO object..." came the final reprieve. And thus the Lords of Fiberglass spoke, and so your dear Editor is still gainfully employed. And damn glad of it...

And that is the reason that this issue is a little bit late. I admit, it's a bit different from my usual excuses, but every word is true.


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
Robert Moriyama
Short Story Editor
McCamy Taylor
Assistant Short Story Editor
Jeffrey Williams
Production Editor/Serials Editor
Ralph Benedetto, Jr.
Assistant Serials Editor
Roger Bennett
Senior Editor Emeritus
Cary Semar
Short Story Editor Emeritus

Serialized Stories & Novellettes

  • Nightwatch: Adam
    By Iain Muir
    The peace talks were going well - as well as any peace talks ever do. If only the Arab delegates wouldn't keep turning up dead in their hotel rooms, they might have a chance. The killer refuses to show up on video tape, and leaves no fingerprints behind. What Vrchny Inspektor Franticek Capek can't understand is the traces of clay his men keep finding...

    A new shared universe series: Nightwatch, under the direction of Jeff Williams.

Short Stories

  • Another Isis
    by Josephine Goodman
    Seilya had a secret. She had left another name, another career, and what some people had deemed to be a major crime behind for a quiet existence on Libra Outpost One -- or so she thought. But some things about her past were secret even from her.

  • Endemic
    by J. R. Sherwin
    Dr. Mooney and his staff had the answer for the never-ending problem of sexual assault, from almost consensual sex through drug-assisted date rapes through to the most violent and even fatal attacks. Sure, it was a little drastic, but when a disease becomes endemic, drastic measures are needed to keep things from getting even worse.
    (Warning: Contains adult language and situations)

  • Reintegration
    by Daniel C. Smith
    Jameson Pierce had been called a hero, although all he had done was survive a battle that had left the rest of his unit dead. Then he had been labeled a criminal, perhaps with even less justification, and had served a forty-year virtual sentence in two days. Now he had to reenter a world that hadn't really changed at all. But he was different ...
    (Warning: Contains adult language and situations)

  • Trouble on Gaq 7
    by Thomas Lee Joseph Smith
    Dalton Diamond and Percy Falcon had just completed negotiations to establish trade between Earth and Gaq 7. That hadn't been easy, when neither side had more than a rudimentary grasp of the other side's language and customs. Now they were heading home, with Breet, a Gaq native chosen by his people as an emissary to Earth. That is, if they could get Breet into the ship without killing him ... and how hard could that be?

  • Miranda Solves the Case
    by Mary Brunini McArdle
    Cece was to be a bridesmaid at her friend Marcia's wedding, and was suffering the usual wardrobe anxiety. But when Marcia was murdered on the day of her bridal shower, and Cece became a suspect, wardrobe seemed a lot less important. Fortunately, Cece's cat Miranda had a few ideas about catching the killer ...

  • Meet the Bartletts
    by Karen Yeo
    Samantha and Bob Bartlett weren't used to having spaceships land in their neighbor's overgrown field, although Bob had plenty of experience -- with 50's science fiction movies, that is. But it was up to them to save the world, even if their son refused to take the situation seriously.

  • Versions of Me
    by Graeme Down
    Professor Julian Vinson had taken familiar technology used to clone individual organs for implantation one giant step further. He could create complete, viable human bodies. Naturally, his first experiments were aimed at copying himself. But he hadn't anticipated the possibility of a whole new kind of identity theft.

  • Into the Future
    by Mel Goldberg
    Vikram and Bimal had been friends childhood friends in the Khurai region of Imphal. Later, they had become colleagues, eventually ending up together at American Propulsion Laboratories in Arizona. They had always been fascinated by the idea of time travel -- until an accident left Vikram paralyzed, and his fascination became a personal quest.

  • Heart's Desire
    By Saki Channing
    The charm Michael had purchased from the old voodoo woman was supposed to grant him his heart's desire. And Michael knew exactly what he wanted: he wanted to be with Meghan again. At least, that's what he thought he wanted ...

  • 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 2/7/2004--

    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 6-28-05

    All the Nightwatch Stories to date.

    The Nightwatch Archives

    The Nightwatch Series Bible


    • The Pollwatchers!
      by Cary Semar
      Aphelion's Cary Semar turns his eye towards the 2004 political scene.

    • Dan Hollifield Reviews:
      The Tower of Morkai

      Book 3 of the Thran Chronicles
      A review of the 3rd Thran novel by H. David Blalock.

    • 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.
    • 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

    • A Challenge to Writers...
      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
      Click here to see the Links Page. Our fellow E-zines, Astronomy, research material, entertainment, and much, much more!

    • Aphelion IRC Chat
      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.

    Read more great stories from the

    Aphelion Archives

    Aphelion Archives


  • Image Copyright (c) 1997 by Laura Butler

    Back Issues
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    My storys and comments.

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