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 149, Volume 15 -- February 2011


I'm really tired of Winter now. Thank goodness that Spring is only a few weeks away. Although this hasn't been the worst year for Winter weather that I can remember, it is high among the top five. Perhaps what makes this Winter feel so bad is the amount of time I've spent fighting off a cold or flu. I seem to get well for a week, then get sick again. Over and over and over... Not fun at all. Oh well, things could be worse. Today looks beautiful outdoors. Last night's little breath of snow has all melted away. The sky is a beautiful cloudless blue. I can hear birds singing. Not a bad day at all, really.

There are many things that give me reason to celebrate every new dawn I'm privileged to witness. Lots of those have to do with Aphelion, of course. Lots more are little victories in my private life. The best of these are indeed private, but the public one of which I am most fond I told you about last month. The sale of my second short story, I mean. I have learned that in mid-April of this year, 2011, "The Immersion Book Of Steampunk" will be released by Immersion Press featuring my short story titled "Test Run." It is an adventure story, in the tradition of Jules Verne's classic fiction, yet full of anachronistic elements that bring it into the steampunk genre. It even has a dash of romance, as well as tragedy, humor, and my usual love for inventing things. I hope it turns out to be as much fun to read as it was to write. We shall see, in two month's time!

Meanwhile, in two week's time, Lyn and I will be communing with our fellow steampunks from the Southeastern US at the third AhachroCon convention in Atlanta. February 25 through 27th, at the Holiday Inn Select Perimeter hotel. Writers Jana Oliver, Nick Valentino, Emilie Bush, Kimberly Richardson, and G. D. Falksen are among the guests. The Extraordinary Contraptions and The Vauxhall Garden Variety Players are among the musical guests. J.D. Sutton as Thomas Jefferson, Bill Pacer as Ben Franklin, and Scott Hodges as General James Edward Oglethorpe are among the historical character guests. Steampunk Boba Fett (John Strangeway) will be there. Lyn has been asked to play hostess for an authentic British Tea Party for the convention guests and the convention's Eternal Membership purchasers, and I will be on at least two panels myself. More details and the full guest list are available on the AnachroCon website. Check out the website, come to the Convention if you can. Memberships can still be had, though I hear that the hotel has been booked solid for Saturday night. Day passes are still available and are still inexpensive. We'd love to see you there!

This is the Birthday issue of Aphelion. 14 years have passed since the first issue went live online. There have been many changes over the years. We've all seen many websites come and go- Brief, firefly flickers gleaming brightly against the darkness. Things change, people change, time marches on as we grow and mature together. As is our usual habit whenever Aphelion's birthday rolls around, the Editorial Staff have sorted through all the stories and poetry submitted over the past year. They have picked out a representative sample of the year's best submissions to re-post in this issue. Then too, there are also a full compliment of brand new works for the readers to enjoy. Please do venture into our Forums to offer the writers comments and critiques on their work. Reader comments in the past have helped each writer become better at our craft. What readers have to say about each story serves to ensure that the next submission is better than those that came before. Your comments are important. Help your favorite Aphelion writers turn pro!

And now, it's time for me to cease babbling and let you get to reading. Enjoy!


Serials & Long Fiction

Cheng Ho
By R. Michael McLellan
A tale of horror in the farthest reaches of space... Captain Jim Stillson will be a rich man if he can bring the spaceship, Cheng Ho, back to earth. But after he discovers what killed the pets, crew and passengers, he has to decide if the risks are worth the money.

The Keeper of Snow's End
By Michael Lejeune
Once a year, while children all across the country hunt happily for Easter eggs, the men of the isolated farming community Nerleth go on a different kind of hunt. The survival of their town is at stake, so they have to get it right. However, one of their own has gone very, very wrong.

***Best Long Fiction of 2010***

Selected by McCamy Taylor

The Queen's Head (November 2010)
By Rob Hunter
A tale of the planet Chalifoux, inhabited by an advanced, weasel-like race. Police Inspector Pingold is called upon to solve a mystery involving murder and the head of a queen dead for millennia.

The Hot Bolt Kids (September/October 2010)
By Cody L. Stanford
A steampunk horror tale about sweatshop orphans, werewolves and a nosy reporter.

Vivian and the Dust (July/August 2010)
By Ken Kraus
Vivian, a young trainee addicted to snorting mind-altering dust, is arrested for smuggling a rare ore from Titanís North Pole. The station doctor intervenes to help with her cure, but she soon learns that all her troubles lead to the station morgue where the hidden corpse of his lover appears to be regenerating.

Short Stories

This being Aphelion's anniversary month, we present a shorter-than-usual slate of new stories, followed by a heaping helping of our favorites from the preceding year... Go! Read!

The Sad
By A. A. Garrison
Kalian had been born into a world where everybody was "Intelligence Enhanced" -- Inthanced, for short -- by a Machine that followed each person like a faithful pet. But he felt that there was something missing from his life -- or maybe from everybody's life.

By Michele Dutcher
Fragmented memories of bright lights, weird people, blackouts and lost time -- all are characteristics of a visit to a casino. Of course, there could be another explanation...

The Fallen Comet
By A. Emery Watkins
When blood began to ooze from the rocks on the oddly-shaped mountain dubbed 'The Fallen Comet', the wizard Jules -- shapeshifted into a form more owl than human -- went with his companion Orb to investigate.

Corruption's Device - A Tale of the Crow Witch
By Mike Phillips
Miss Weigenmeister, the town librarian, was also the town's foremost practitioner of witchcraft. When she detected signs that someone was using -- or rather abusing -- magic to swindle or rob people she counted as her friends, she had to act.

Q & A
By Brian Rowe
On the thirty-fifth anniversary of the release of his one cult classic film, Theo Hauser found himself at yet another Question and Answer session, responding to queries and comments that he had heard many times before. But there was one fan -- one extremely annoying and peculiar fan -- who made the occasion special.

The Last March
By Matthew Acheson
The Titans -- trees that walked the land like giants -- marched to defend their friends, the little people, from the depredations wrought by the armies of Man.

Numinous Presence *** A Mare Inebrium Tale***
By Sergio Palumbo
"Did you know the Mare Inebrium is haunted?" When a team of intrepid reporters goes to Bethdish to investigate rumors of a ghostly presence in the Mare Inebrium, they find business going on as usual in the spaceport bar -- Or is it?

Results of Forum Flash Challenges for December 2010

The December 2010 Flash Challenge entries had to "bring the spirit of giving in a non-religious story set in a universe where toy-making elves hide from monsters, a prejudiced Santa needs to deliver on a schedule, and nonconformity can heap scorn upon you." Click HERE to read the winning story, "Oppression", by Casey Callaghan, and six more non-religious spiritual tales.

Results of Forum Flash Challenges for January 2011

The January 2011 Flash Challenge asked authors to write a continuation (specifically, a MIDDLE part) of Michele Dutcher's winning entry in the November challenge... Only three brave authors made the attempt, including Michele herself (who knew where SHE would have taken things after the opening kiloword). Click HERE to read the winning story, "Vanishing Returns", by Bill Wolfe, and two more "middling" tales.

***Best Short Stories of 2010***

(Selected by Robert Moriyama, assisted by Michele Dutcher and Lester Curtis)

In A Time Past (February 2010)
By J. E. Deegan
Cleo and her beloved dog, Joe -- or at least their spirits -- visited their graves every year, remembering the lives they had led and the events that had ended their brief lives. But this year would be different...

Is There Something in the Attic? (March 2010)
By Belinda Rees
The storm brought a blackout, and something else: something that moved around in the attic, frightening the woman and her two small children. She had to see what it was, and deal with it -- that was part of the job of being a mother.

Basilisks and Brian (and a Very Bad First Day) (March 2010)
By Stuart Sharp
Brian Northington had stumbled into a world he had never suspected right in the heart of modern London, a world where magical -- and sometimes dangerous -- creatures really existed. As new jobs went, dealing with them on behalf of P. Edgeborough and Co. was -- interesting.

The Last Concerto (March 2010)
By James A. Andrew
Radcliffe Willowsby wanted to be a great composer. His work met with indifference at best -- until he found a new source of inspiration.

The Tin City Good Deal (April 2010)
By Kurt Heinrich Hyatt
Moondog, wandering scavenger extraordinaire, had a chance to score a sweet handgun and all the ammo he could carry (to say nothing of the girl). All he had to do was steal or scam some food from the 900-foot Tin City tower, with packs of half-feral children doing their best to kill him.

Some Paradigms Don't Shift (April 2010)
By Jerrod Cotosman
Diaz fully expected the must-attend business presentation to be deadly dull and a waste of everybody's time. He was almost right.

A Lifetime of Memories (May 2010)
By Lester Curtis
Paul Beaman took almost everything from Lisa Willet: her money, and the memories that had made her who she was. But with the help of a friend, Lisa would make things right.

Coffee With The Last Man On Earth (May 2010)
By George Potter
Eric's visits were the highlight of Mary Ellen's day. He was young, and charming, and handsome, and that more than made up for his claims of being from a million years in the future.

The Moonshine Monarch and the Elm (June 2010)
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.

My Salieri Complex (July/August 2010)
By Marina Julia Neary
Kemp had grown up sickly, an outcast, but had become a star among the students at University College in Victorian London. Then Griffin arrived, and made him seem almost ordinary -- Griffin and his strange, secret project.

Homer and The Goddess (July/August 2010)
By Cary Semar
The poet and storyteller Homer had a few things to learn about the importance of pleasing his audience. For example, dismissing the existence of the Gods was a Very Bad Idea.

Shift / Change (July/August 2010)
By Roland Allnach
The new guy working the night shift at the morgue called himself John Smith. His reasons for being there were a little complicated -- and related to the obscene side business run by the other employees. *** Contains adult situations ***

Darkhall (September/October 2010)
By McCamy Taylor
A story that spans almost 80,000 years, from a time when the gods of the Hindu pantheon walked the land to the far future when the human race spans the stars... Bridging the two, the not-place called the Darkhall.

Ruta Norte (September/October 2010)
By Jonathan Mascitelli
He was backpacking across the northern regions of Chile, a stranger in a strange land. Then he boarded a bus that seemed to be going further than he ever imagined...

The Tale of the Heavenly Bureaucracy (September/October 2010)
By Stephen Weinstock
The spirit Cta was not conventionally religious in life, so she had no firm idea of what the afterlife might be like. But she never expected a bureaucracy that made the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Passport Office seem downright sensible and efficient by comparison.

Father Friday Cemetery (November 2010)
By McCamy Taylor
On the island of Boymere, dark magic is a part of life. The girl, Agatha, had a talent for speaking with the dead, which made her a valuable commodity.

Mel's Tours (November 2010)
By Robert Walton
All Scooter wanted was a car the cops weren't already looking for, so he and Jennifer could get out of town after a botched robbery. Instead, he got shanghaied into helping with one of Mel's tours for adventure-seeking extraterrestrials!

Gone to Abaddon (December/January 2010-11)
By McCamy Taylor
They were creatures of the Summer Lands, never meant to live in the mortal world. But some fell in love with humans, and paid the price.

Jesus of the West (December/January 2010-11)
By Joel Doonan
What if Jesus, the tough, angry Jesus who drove the moneylenders from the Temple, appeared in a tough town in the American West?

Hollywood Squared (December/January 2010-11)
By P. F. White
Ace would do anything for his big break -- a starring role in Spade Studios' next blockbuster. Ben, once a star, was just as desperate. In fact, half the town was desperate in one way or another -- and prone to spectacular violence. It was Hollywood, after all.

Turning Out The Lights (December/January 2010-11)
By Michele Dutcher
In the far future, the human race has changed, modified by genetic engineering and cybernetic implants. On old Earth, however, two visitors find what seems to be the last unenhanced human.

Best Flash Challenge Stories of 2010 (Selected by N. J. Kailhofer)

by J. Davidson Hero
Guilt and frailty ate at the old man, drawing him toward the grave for something he had hidden his whole life.

by Bill Wolfe
Arty thought it was elementary. The Judge, however, seemed to think otherwise.

From Antarctica with Love by G.C. Dillon
Aliens and archaeologists mix to find a frozen surprise.

Phase Transitions or Cold & Old
by Richard Tornello
A hot upset of cold beliefs.

The Last Hurrah by David Alan Jones
Not even death could keep Guy and Bex from their self-appointed task.

Heirs of Atlantis
by Michele Dutcher
A thinking person's vampire tale...

Poetry and Filk Music

A Photon's Flight
by Richard Tornello

by Heather Kuehl

Who (or What) is it at the Door?
by Richard H. Fay

Krayor, the Snake Charmer
by Thomas Reynolds

Paradise Arrival
by Sven Klöpping

Restless Souls
by Chris Lavoie

by Stephanie Smith

Strange Noises In My Head
by Richard Tornello

Worn Genes
by Teresa Ann Frazee

The Best Poetry and Filk Music of 2010

A short note on the use of the word 'best.' These are the pieces that the Poetry Editor liked best of last year's selection. Not everyone will agree with me. Feel free to nominate others on the forum pages!

by Will Conway

Your Dewy Throne
by J. B. Hogan

Howling on the Moor
by Richard H. Fay

A Warning
by Bruce Whealton

by J B Hogan

by Lester Curtis

Metaphysics 101
by Richard Tornello

Bones In The Tiles
by Lee Eric

Chainsaws Sharpened Here
by Thomas Reynolds

Siren's Song
by Heather Kuehl

Ride a Broomstick
by Richard Tornello


Thoughts on Writing #26: Hermitage
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.

Retrograde: Run Silent, Run Free
By Daniel C. Smith
In the first installment of a new series, Daniel C. Smith looks back at Douglas Trumbull's 1971 film "Silent Running".

Best of Features 2010

Thoughts on Writing #20: Boundaries
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.

Off the Shelf: A Local Habitation
By Rob Wynne
October "Toby" Daye returns in Seanan McGuire's second novel, A Local Habitation, out in paperback this week from DAW. Rob Wynne takes a look.

The Engine of Writing
By Mark Edgemon
Mark Edgemon has a few thoughts of his own about writing. Ignore Adopt his advice at your peril!

Off the Shelf: Feed
By Larissa March
Larissa March spends some time with Mira Grant's dystopian science-fiction zombie political thriller, Feed.

Conventional Wisdom: AnachroCon 2010
By Dan Hollifield
Our fearless leader spends a weekend traveling back to a time that never was, at Atlanta's second-annual steampunk convention.

Bad Girls of Manga
By McCamy Taylor
McCamy Taylor takes a look at Gokusen, Tokyo Crazy Paradise, Oresama Sensei, and Yankee-kun to Megane-chan

Aphelion Review: Boneshaker
By Dan Hollifield
Dan dives into Cherie Priest's latest Clockwork Century novel.

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