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

Issue 136, Volume 13 -- September 2009


Steve Miller was right. Time does keep on slipping away- Rushing from the unknown future, through the ever-present now like a runaway freight train, and into the unreachable past. Constant, unchanging, and immutable- The flow of each second from the "what will be" to the "what was" as it dances without a care through that fleeting bit of our reality that we think of as the "what is" can be measured on a simple clock. But time does some strange things when it impinges upon human perceptions. We have even made up some truly telling sayings to express some of those concepts that we dimly grasp as we see the future turn into the past each day.

"My, how time flies when you're having fun" is one. "Time seems to be dragging along" is another. A "frozen moment in time" is yet a third. "Take time," "make time," waste time," "make up for lost time," "timeless moments..." Yes, I know that these merely express our views of different states of human consciousness. They're just words strung together to describe ways in which we perceive a few of the processes that make up the inner workings of the human mind. But in a way those trite phrases are clues to part of what makes us human. I want to take a moment - Ha! There's another one! - "Take a moment" to look at these sayings a little more closely. I apologize in advance for the inevitable mixing of tenses that I'm going to perpetrate for the purposes of this discussion. Some may be jarring, but in order to keep from re-wording those trite little phrases we use I'm afraid that you'll "just have to bear with me for a moment."

"Time flies when you're having fun" is probably the most common one. We all know what it means. We're focused on some activity rather than "watching the clock." We think only a few moments have passed, but yet when we do "stop for a second" and actually look at a clock we see that much more time has passed than we thought. Somehow, we are constantly surprised that our perceptions have not stayed in lockstep with our measuring devices. We've disengaged from our "biological clocks" and our observation of "the passage of time" while we devote our perceptual focus on whatever it was that we were doing. Why are we surprised? Isn't it always "later than you think" when we bring ourselves "back to the present moment"? In and of itself, this is a pretty good statement about human perceptions. We don't seem to be able to multi-task very well when it comes to "the passage of time." Our minds seem to be "only able to concentrate on one thing at a time." This seems to be one of the limits imposed by our biology. We don't focus on duration and perception "at the same time."

My, how those telling little word-constructs are piling up! But let us move on to the next, opposite state of being, shall we? After all, "we don't have all day."

There are lots of variations on statements we've made up to describe the opposing point of view; "time seemed to stand still," a watched pot never boils," "a frozen moment," and so forth. We recognize it in situations like waiting for the end of the work day, or waiting for school to end, or even when something traumatic occurs. Our minds race ahead, leaving the clock behind. Once again, we're focused on some activity, but in this case we're so hyper-aware of each passing second while we watch those events unfold that each of those seconds "seems to take forever." Once again, we are focusing our concentration, but "this time" the results are polar opposites to "time flies." Why is this? It isn't a simple case of fun equals fast and not-fun equals slow. No, these "frozen moments" can be either pleasant or umpleasant. So it isn't the content of the perception that determines which state our minds choose to operate within. Well, what is it then? What makes the difference? We all recognize both of these states of hyper-awareness and hypo-awareness of the clock "ticking away the moments that make up a dull day," or the "perfect moment that seems to last forever." Is there a difference between how our minds process the causes of this hyper-aware state? I don't think so. I think that the quality, fun or not-fun, has little to do with the shift to that hyper-awareness. I think it has more to do with anticipation. We're waiting for a highly desired result that should occur within a easily measured span of time. So we focus on the "now" so tightly that the hypo-awareness of "time flies" shifts to the hyper-awareness of "time standing still." Our minds are amazing things. Physically, they are electro-chemical reactions taking place between thousands of individual brain cells. But we're no more aware of each synapse firing to create a thought than we are of each muscle cell contracting to raise our hands in the air to ask the teacher a question. A beautiful and wonderful physical process that takes place automatically "every moment of every day."

"Like sands through the hourglass" the "passage of time" remains constant for all of us. But according to how we focus our perceptions "time stands still," or "time marches on." What is really amazing is that we can past through these states dozens of "times" a day, every day, throughout our entire lives. We don't usually stop to think about it when it happens to us. We just do it. And then we remark upon it with these little word-constructs that we've made up to describe these common experiences.

Why did I "take the time" to compose this little essay? Why, partly as a means to impart a lesson on the craft of writing, of course. See the way I've brought attention to some common phrases in the English language? By putting those trite phrases in quotation marks, I drew your attention to just how often they can occur in a written work. It was also fun to explore the way we perceive the "passage of time" and choose to express it to one another. It was a trick. One intended to cause you to think about the way we use words and phrases to describe common, ordinary concepts that we all share. Did it work? Are you going to be more aware of these phrases when you write from now on? Possibly so, I hope. Being aware of words and strings of words that tie together what might just be universal concepts could help you write tighter compositions. You might choose to edit some fluff or insert some passage that can help to turn an ordinary story into something better. If so, then my little trick worked. Think about the words you use, the way you use them, and why you use one word rather than another, different word to express the same idea. Think about the things we all share. Think about the ways we are all different even though we all have much in common.

"But for now," it is probably "high time" that I shut up and let you get on with reading the stories in this month's issue. After all, "time and tide wait for no man." "Time marches on," and so must I. Enjoy your reading!


Serials & Long Fiction

Three Revolvers On Mars
By Kristen Lee Knapp
A tale of murder and revenge set in the future.

Hazardous Materials
By Matthew Quinn Martin
Jarrod kicked the smoking habit, but who can resist the lure of the arcade game from hell?

Short Stories

One With The Stars
By Steele Tyler Filipek
Cowrie's people wandered the stars at will in their "planetoids", sentient machines that could cross interstellar distances in an instant. But for her, the prospect of her grandfather's imminent demise outweighed all the wonders her world could offer.

Time Warps and Jump Fever
By T. N. Dockrey
Shadow, the beautiful young stowaway, talked of 'phantoms' and 'albatrosses' -- ghosts that haunted the Spines, the paths through jump-space that made interstellar travel practical and predictable.

Pale Nations of the Dead
By James Lecky
In Pame Glorias, the Llorona Xalbadora wept tears of ruby crystal, and waited for one who could free her from her eternal sorrow.

Butterfly Cocoon
By A. R. Norris
Marie Hadner's life as a law enforcement officer on the isolated space colony was tedious beyond belief, one trivial incident after another blown out of proportion by people as bored as she was. Then the comet -- at least it looked like a comet -- parked itself nearby, and people began to disappear.

It Is Better To Give...
By Michael Bagen
The other inmates of the prison colony called Prisoner 87 a whore and a traitor, believing her to be the mistress of the Commandant. They didn't know she was really the mechanic that kept him -- it -- running.

The Power of Reverie
By Sergio Palumbo
The magic lamp, combined with Seruele's powers, brought forth wonderful things. But the child was willful and too curious for her own good.

Eat Me: My Dinner With The Last of the Got'a'sniz'scuzmi Tribe
By Mark Edgemon and Robert Moriyama
Samuel Winston's trip to New Guinea was a memorable one. Good thing, because the voice and video recordings that he might have used for his show on The Travel Network were lost...

Experiment 1919
By Richard Tornello
In the name of science and The System, "A" and "B" tortured condemned prisoners to death and tried to capture their thoughts.

By Jayne Waggoner
The young tree became the vessel for a vengeful spirit, and found itself doing untreelike things -- like walking.

Never Friday **A Mare Inebrium Tale**
By Greg Barozzi
When the two Captains of the Silver Moon return to the Mare Inebrium, Max isn't very glad to see them. But they buy their way into Max's good graces with a large credit chip, and a sad story. After all, in the Mare Inebrium, a story to tell is as valuable as hard currency...

***August 2009 Forum Challenge***

Congratulations to Chris C(allaghan), winner of the "Do Over" Forum Flash Challenge. Check out Chris's entry "Second Chance" and five more tales of time-editing fun -- after you have read and commented on our other stories, novellas, poetry, and features, of course. Mark Edgemon of 'The Creator and the Catalyst' studio will be producing an audio version of the story.

(All entries will also be available -- in text form only -- (shortly, if not immediately) via the Flash Index in the Fun and Games section of the Forum, provided by Nate Kailhofer, Flash Editor and Challenge Master.)

Special Note: For the second month in a row, there was a peculiar influx of votes which most believe to be the work of a "troll". The same method was used in each case, but different authors received the suspect votes, so there is no suspicion that any Challenge author is in any way responsible. However, all Challenge authors agree that the resulting fuss detracts from the purpose of the Challenges: to encourage writers to develop their skills and have a little competitive fun in the process. This may lead to changes in the voting process -- stay tuned!

Poetry and Filk Music

Once Upon a Time
by Richard Tornello

by J.B. Hogan

Eldritch Mistress
by Richard H. Fay

by Mike Berger

by Thomas D Reynolds

Space Message
by Stephen Jarrell Williams


Thoughts on Writing #13: Reading Outside The Box
By Seanan McGuire
In an ongoing series, Seanan McGuire takes apart the engine of writing to find out how it works, and offers her insights into how to put it back together again.

Aphelion Review: Burnout: The Mystery of Space Shuttle STS-281
Review By Dan L. Hollifield
Dan Hollifield dives into Stephanie Osborn's space shuttle mystery novel.

It's The End Of The World As We Know It: Post-Apocalypitc Manga
By McCamy Taylor
McCamy Taylor examines three manga stories set after the fall.

From the Balcony: Moon
By Robert Moriyama
Robert Moriyama examines Duncan Jones's tense, thought-provoking film, Moon.

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