Aphelion Issue 278, Volume 26
November 2022
Long Fiction and Serials
Short Stories
Flash Fiction
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Aphelion: The Webzine of Science Fiction and Fantasy

Issue 144, Volume 14 -- June 2010


What do you do when you find that there isn't a word for something that you want to describe? In a Facebook post today, Nick Pollotta described the need for a word to mean "re-editing previous chapters of a story to include foreshadowing elements for a new plot twist that one comes up with in the middle of a story." In Nick's words

WRITERS: We need to invent a term for when you're writing a chapter in the middle of a book, and suddenly realize that you now need to mention little details in all of the previous chapters (just a word, or two) to make this twist logical, yet surprising. Dominoes, perhaps, or maybe breadcrumbs? "Sorry, hon, I was doing breadcrumbs all day, and my brain is exhausted!"

There were many replies. Kate Collins suggested "rewind/splice." I saw a possible simplification of that. I suggested "back-splicing" and people seemed to like it. Don't be surprised if you see it used elsewhere. Larry Niven is good at this sort of thing. In one of his commentaries on his stories he said that he liked to take a familiar word and change it slightly to come up with a new term for something. In one story, he needed a special word for a roving reporter with a video camera. He came up with "Newstaper"- someone who tapes news as it happens. This sort of thing helps make Larry's stories more fun to read, as well as to give a more futuristic feel to the language being used in the story. George Orwell did this a lot in "1984." Cordwainer Smith was another writer to use this little trick to great effect. In fact, the more I think about it, the older this concept gets. People have been inventing and combining words to express themselves since... Well, since words were invented, I suppose.

Years ago, when I was world-building on my Bethdish stories, I came up with the term "sleepfreeze" to describe a suspended animation process for slower-than-light star ship crews to use on long voyages. Later on, as I recall, I ran across that very word in an old story I'd never read before that was in a paperback published long before I began to write. I can't remember now, nor am I inclined to search through my book collection to find out who the writer was that thought along similar lines to myself. Clearly a case of parallel evolution- Because I hadn't read that story before, so I couldn't have been remembering the word from earlier reading. But that's the thing, isn't it? Every writer has a bag of tricks that they use. What I call "your toolbox," the tips and tricks and word games that you use while composing a story. As a writing exercise I once wrote a series of short chapters to be scattered in a Bethdish story wherein I forced myself to make each paragraph begin with either three instances of alliteration, or an adverb followed by a comma. Re-edits of those chapters removed the word games, but the exercise had succeeded in forcing me to think in terms of sentence structure before creating the actual content. Thinking in a new direction is usually a good thing for a writer to do.

Words are some of the tools we use to capture the imagination of our readers. Dull tools lead to dull stories and lost readers. Do whatever it takes to keep the tools in your writing toolbox sharp and polished. Play word games, invent new terms by combining or changing existing words, and never be afraid of editing something into a better story.

Well, it's about time I shut up and let you get to reading the new issue.

Thanks for your time. Enjoy reading all the great stuff we have on tap for you this month. Be sure to go over to our Forums section and comment on the stories and poetry. Check out the Flash Fiction competition, too. Nate has a good one lined up for this month!


Serials & Long Fiction

The Receptive Ocean
By Robert L. Read
A family of humans and dolphins trying to survive in the polluted Gulf of Mexico, are caught in a war between land and sea.

Short Stories

The Moonshine Monarch and the Elm
By P. F. White
Lucas Black had re-upped to serve in Vietnam three times, until a wound that left him limping had sent him home for good. Now he was home -- but home was turning out to be as strange and terrible as anything in the jungle.

Don't Tax Black Magic!
By Gary W. Feather
Gao's job as village guard leader also made him the local tax collector, an unpleasant task at the best of times. But collecting from Old Lady Ko, reputed to be a powerful sorceress, was downright dangerous.

By Rick Huffman
John Morphy was having fun as the "cybernetic man" -- the first one to test-drive the company's new active-transponder implant. It made him feel like the computers around him were an extension of his own mind and body...

Change Is Hard
By Jonathan Saville
Thomas Eberle was an ordinary guy, with a wife, children, and hyperactive dog. But his relationship with 'grandmother' Chen made him unusually well qualified to recognize signs that a dragon was in town.

The Visitor
By Natalie J E Potts
Matthews was content to work at home in his flannelette "comfort work trousers", and live there, too, rarely moving from the chair in front of his computer. The sociability counselor hired by Matthews's employer to protect their employees from their own reclusive impulses hoped to change all that.

Hell Hound
By Brian Lo Rocco
Barry's friend Colin was younger, more successful, and was married to a woman Barry had wanted for himself. Still, when Colin asked for his advice about how to explain that a small, blob-like fish had apparently eaten a young woman, Barry couldn't say no.

Turning Point
By Kevin Gordon
Ruche found his job boring for the most part, controlling thousands of clones as they performed most of the scutwork and the fighting for the good ship LN-33. But then his commander ordered him to use the clones as suicide pilots...

Grandfather's Axe
By Daniel Ribot
Bernard Foswick-Pfaltz thought he had the perfect way to get away with murder -- teleport, and cease to be the man who had committed the crime. Dr. Malcolm Brook hoped to prove him wrong, by explaining the principle of 'Grandfather's Axe'.

Inky Beast
By M. J. Nicholls
The Chief Editor at Scalped Olives Publications knew that most of the books the company released were crap. This was not surprising as they were all written by members of the not-very-talented editorial staff. But even he was surprised by the nature -- and the source -- of the worst reviews they would ever receive.

A Rabbit's Tale
By William Dexter Wade
In which an intrepid rabbit faces a terrifying monster with glowing eyes (and eighteen wheels).

Call For Dave
By Dave Weaver
The voice in Dave Clayton's head was real, claimed to be from the future, and had a very important task for him to perform.

Results of Forum Flash Challenges for May 2010

The May 2010 Flash Challenge was to write a tale centering around either aliens or alien archaeology, or both. (Fertile ground, with potsherds aplenty!) Click HERE to read the winning story, "From Antarctica With Love", by G. C. Dillon, and eight more tales of things found under rocks (or ice), after reading the other fine stories, poems, features, etc., etc. Then click HERE to view the rules and example story for the June Challenge.

Poetry and Filk Music

by Lester Curtis

Dark Knight's Sword
by Robert William Shmigelsky

by Richard Tornello

Exotic New Particle
by Mike Berger

by Stephanie Smith

Glimmering Embers
by Richard H Fay

Nightmares of Mrs. Adams
by June Nandy

Spacer's Song
by TN Dockrey

The Bear
by Jean Jones

The Name
by Bruce Whealton

Thumb in the Eye of the Gods
by Richard Tornello


Thoughts on Writing #21: Magpie Moments
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.

More Manga That Should Be Licenced In The US
By McCamy Taylor
McCamy Taylor takes a look at Takemitsu Zamurai, and gives some pointers for attending Anime conventions.

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