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

Aphelion: The Webzine of Science Fiction and Fantasy

Issue 118, Volume 12 -- February 2008

11th Anniversary Issue


This issue marks the start of Aphelion's eleventh year online. Once again, Happy Birthday Aphelion!

What does this new year hold in store for Aphelion? Who knows? More great fiction and poetry, more writers leaving us for the paying markets, and more new writers eager to learn all they can about fictioneering. Same as every year, I suppose. That's the thing about the future: the more things change, the more they stay the same. Change is the only constant.

What then can we each do to make our writing better and to garner more success in the year ahead? Well, read more books, on all sorts of subjects and every genre you can stand. Don't forget magazines and web pages, either. Read everything you can lay your hands on, because you'll need more information than you'll find in a single genre or subject. Writing is an art of synthesis, a way of putting different things together in a whole new way. History, science, biography, news, entertainment, culture, architecture, transportation - facts, as well as fiction - are just some of the tools of your trade. Writers turn anything and everything into elements of a story. Every part of your day-to-day life enters into your writing.

Study different styles of writing as you stock your mind and exercise your imagination. Look at the way the writers put words together in those books and articles that you like. Look even closer at the ones that you don't like. Every writer has something they can teach you. Whether it's "how to" or "how not to" write one style or another, everything you read can provide some sort of lesson. Learn how to construct dialog that sounds real to the mind's ear. Your characters will be better for it. Learn how to world-build, how to construct the sets and settings that your stories take place within. The stage and scenery that is the backdrop behind your story is just as important as the plot and the characters.

Naturally, there will be things that will be more difficult for you, yourself, than for someone else. That's because we're all individuals, with differing strengths and weaknesses. Think about those differences, but don't get hung up about them. "So-and-so writes better dialog than I do," or "so-and-so writes better characters than I do" are just different ways to say "I'm feeling depressed because I don't have the same strengths as someone else." That's the wrong way to look at it. Try "I like the way those characters speak," or "I'm going to try giving my characters some flaws this time, and see if I can add depth to them..." You can turn the situation on its head just by choosing to look at it in a different way. If you get discouraged about what you see as flaws in your work, don't give up, but do change the way you think about it. Explore different points of view. Stretch your mind a little. Try new things, or even old things in a different way.

When you have a story you want to submit to the paying publishers, you'll have worked on it a long time. You'll have checked out the kinds of stories that they accept as well as the formatting that they prefer. You'll have spell checked and re-read your story many, many times. You'll have checked for grammar errors while you re-read your story. You'll have asked someone else to read it to check for those mistakes that spellchecks overlook. You know the ones: "there" where you meant to write "their" or "sea" where you meant to write "see" or "you're" for "your" or any of hundreds of little nit-picky things like that. After a while, your mind fills in details that you meant to put in, even if you slipped up. That's why having someone else read and comment is so useful.

Another hard lesson to learn is to accept criticism without letting it make you feel angry or depressed. That was probably the most difficult lesson that I have had to face. For me, learning to use critiques as a tool to improve my writing was even harder than re-learning all those fiddley bits of grammar that I'd forgotten from school. Critiques are important, useful, vital tools. That's why Aphelion writers and readers are urged to use the Lettercol forums. Every comment you make about someone's story helps them to learn something. Every comment made about one of your stories helps you to learn something. The Aphelion community is one of the best tools we have to offer our fellow writers. Like any tool, it becomes dull if it isn't used.

So stock your mind by reading everything you can get your hands on. Study what you read, as well as what you write. Stretch your mind, excersize your imagination, explore different points of view... Keep your tools and your wits sharp by using them as much as you can. Polite, reasoned, constructive criticism is just as important a tool as a spellcheck or a grammar handbook. Use every tool at your disposal. Writing is hard work, but like any other kind of work it becomes easier with practice.

Now it's time for me to shut up and let you get to reading. This is our annual "Best Of" issue, so besides lots of new material, you'll find some of the most outstanding stories that Aphelion featured during the past year. Enjoy!


Serials and Novellas

The Strategy
By Janusz Cyran
(Translated from the Polish by Iwona Michalowska)
From the translator, Iwona Michalowska "The story The Strategy (original title Teoria diabla, literally Theory of the Devil) was published in "Nowa Fantastyka" in July 2006. Like most of Janusz Cyran's work, it deals with trying to make sense of religion in the light of the 21st century science."

Best of 2007 Long Fiction

Listening To The Words
Part One | Part Two
By Joseph Jordan
Tony wants to get David to the space station for a life saving procedure. David wants to see outer space before he dies. A story about second chances and last wishes.

The Shadowy Man
By Elena Clarke
The battle of reason versus magic played out in an age of enlightenment. When his royal charge disappears under mysterious circumstances, a rational man must look to the shadows for answers.

The Blind Collaborators
By Lee Alon, Nathan J Kailhofer, Iain Muir, TaoPhoenix, and Gareth D Jones
When things start going wrong on the orbital habitat Astropolis, the only people who can help are the ones who know nothing about it.

Short Stories

The Wrong Princess
By Richard K. Lyon
The wizard Thoth Amon thought he had the perfect plan to achieve wealth and power: kidnap Princesses, kill and rob the Princes who came to rescue or ransom them, repeat as required. But he really should have paid more attention to his choice of Princesses to abduct.

By Rob Hunter
Gearbox Barsoomian (a.k.a. Rachel Mae Welding) had her work cut out for her if she wanted to earn an instant upgrade from gawky teenager to curvaceous superhero...

The Game
By N. J. Kailhofer
The police psychologist and the detective didn't know what to think about Jack Davidson. He had turned himself in and said he was responsible for multiple murders, but he seemed completely unconcerned about the consequences if they took him seriously.

The Twelfth of Never
By T. Richard Williams
When the asteroid struck, Theo was as ready as it was possible to be -- ready enough to survive the initial blast and the storms that devastated the surface. Now came the hard part: figuring out what to do next.

How Could They Do That?
By William Brently
The Chandian came in with devastating injuries, but nothing that couldn't be fixed with the array of advanced prosthetics the medic had available. There would be time to ponder the implications of using technology to save an anti-technology cult member later...

By K. C. Stapleton
Webster's life was going downhill fast. He was stuck doing hack work on so-called graphic novels with content and layout that belonged in the Tin Age of Comics, and even that job was about to be yanked away. The weirdness that started happening in his apartment seemed like more of an opportunity than a threat.

Running With The Dead©
By D. Thomas Mooers
Bill Reisen had avoided running through the cemetery until one day he did it by accident -- and found that he liked the relative peace and quiet. But then he found that it wasn't nearly as quiet as he thought it would be...

Time Is The Best Healer
By Michael Goldberger
Leda had to watch while her clan starved in the unnatural cold that gripped their village for month after month, and friends and family succumbed to a strange illness one by one. But she could never have imagined the source of all their troubles was thousands of years in her future...

Best Short Stories of 2007

A Study in Silicon
By McCamy Taylor
(This story received more nominating votes than any other piece from 2007. Congratulations, McCamy!)

The Periambulant Oracle
By Frederick Rustam

By Frank Byrns

World Without Boats
By Michael J. Martineck

By Martyn Taylor

The Zeitsev
By Michael Hart

A Pocket Filled With Posies
By Michele Dutcher

Flight of the Dragon
By Tara McFadden

By Coffee Anderson

Walking the Cobblebones
By Jaimie L. Elliott

The Moonborn
By L. J. Geoffrion

The Organist
By Stephen H. Wallenfels

Audience of One
By John Hickman

The Ouroboros
By S. H. Hughes

Inside Out
By E. S. Strout

***January 2008 Forum Challenge***

Congratulations to G. C. Dillon, author of the favorite entry in the January 2008 Forum Flash Fiction Challenge. Check out "Serendipity Is a Happy Accident?" and three more morsels of time-twisting here (after reading our new stories, novellas, and poetry, reviewing our "Best of 2007" selections, and checking to see if there's anything good on TV (there isn't much, since the WGA is still on strike)... But wait! There's more:

***2007 Forum Challenge Winners***

Click here to read the winning entries
from the 2007 Aphelion Forum Monthly Flash Fiction Challenges.
Eight months, eight challenges, ten bite-size stories
for your reading pleasure!

Poetry and Filk Music

When My Computer is Not Happy
by Richard Tornello

Blackwater And Friends
by Richard Tornello

by Christian Ward

Hardwick Village. War Memorial 1914-1918
by Jon Stocks

Intergalactic Getaway
by Richard H Fay

The Best of 2007

The Critics
by Gary William Crawford

Ghost Runner
by Thomas D Reynolds

Cheney, Cheney, Lying Might
by Richard Tornello

by Richard H Fay

The Compliance Officer
by Daniel C. Smith

We Build Our Captors Here
by John Kuhn

Beneath The Floorboards
by Aurelio Lopez III

Pest Control
by Stuart Sharp

The Raven's Deliverance
by James Matthew Byers

Best of 2007

With Great Boyfriends Come Great Responsibilities
By Becky Kletnieks
Becky Kletnieks has some words of advice for anyone considering a romantic entanglement with a costumed superhero.

The Listening Room: Stars Fall Home
By Rob Wynne
Rob reviews Seanan McGuire's debut studio album.

Writing On The Edge of the Wood: The Fool's Journey
By Gwen Knighton
In this essay on writing, Gwen Knighton considers the virtues of eccentricity.

The Idiot Box: Flash Gordon
By Terence Chua
Terence takes a look a the new Flash Gordon series

Myth Conceptions: Mythic Masculinity
By Jaimie L. Elliot
Jaimie examines how shifting societal perspectives change the way we frame stories from mythology.

Space Policy In The 21st Century: The New Commons vs. A Sky Full of Enrons
By Daniel C. Smith
Daniel C. Smith examines the future of manned space travel.

Aphelion Webzine is © 1997-2008 by Dan L. Hollifield