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 159, Volume 16 -- February 2012


Hello, and welcome to the beginning of another year of Aphelion Webzine!

We have been bringing our readers the best amateur Sci-Fi & Fantasy fiction for a decade and a half now. That is almost ten times the life of a normal website. I find it amazing that after all this time I can still find topics for an editorial. It isn't easy. Some months I don't have anything in particular that I feel like ranting or raving about. Some months I have far too many things to choose from as a topic. From time to time I've covered such diverse things as politics, humor, history, creative writing, current events, and the lateness of the current issue of Aphelion. In fact, I've covered the late issue topic more often than anything else, especially in the first few years of the zine. Let's face it, Aphelion will almost always be late coming out with a new issue. But it will always be worth waiting for!

In the last fifteen years, we've published thousands of stories and poems, helped over a hundred amateur writers learn how to make their writing better and begin selling their work, published reviews of new works that are hitting the shelves, and outlasted a score of other amateur and professional fiction websites. We've been used in classrooms in schools. We've had articles written about us. We've gained readers in over a hundred countries around the world. Why? Because we love doing it. How? Sheer blind luck, I suppose. That, and being too stubborn to give up. Sounds a lot like getting a manuscript published by the Pros, doesn't it?

I'd like to take a moment to thank the Aphelion staff for all the hard work they've done. Without them, I wouldn't be sitting here typing this. Without them, Aphelion would have long ago vanished into the mists of time. Just think about the work they do. Wading through the slush piles, messaging writers back and forth passing along tips and tricks to better their work, correcting endless typos, deleting spam posts in the Forums, scheduling time in their busy lives to do all this for free. There aren't any adverts, because Aphelion isn't about us making money. There aren't any membership fees or reading fees or any costs to the writers or readers. We have very few rules;

Format your submissions as if you were sending them to a pro publisher. This is so that writers get in the habit of working within the rules set by the pro markets.

Spell-Check! By hand as well as with your word processor.

Adult content must be flagged with a warning label. Aphelion has readers of all ages.

Ask for rewrites rather than give outright rejections. Anyone who believes that their first draft is set in stone isn't willing to admit that they can make mistakes,much less be willing to learn from them.

No overt fanfic, no fair using copyrighted characters or properties in a way that violates those copyrights. Developing your own characters and situations teaches you more about writing, and makes it far easier to sell your work. Naturally, Mare Inebrium stories have their own set of rules about copyrighted characters.

Serialized stories must be finished before we consider them for publication. Too many times in the early days a serial chapter just stopped being sent in for the next issue, long before the story was actually supposed to end.

The editorial staff reserve the right to add their own rules to this list as they find reasonable and right.

And that is about it, really. Be willing to work, be willing to listen to advice, be willing to do rewrites as needed, and be willing to be edited. Even a flaming tower of ego such as myself has to realize that my work is vastly improved by a good editor.

Now, let's move on, shall we?

In celebration of Aphelion's Birthday Month, this is the annual Best Of issue. In addition to new stories and poetry, we have a selection of the best things we published in 2011. So it is a big issue, nearly as big as the two-month Holiday Issue we put out every November. So welcome! Here follows the best stories and poetry from the past year, as well as new stories to begin the new year.

Thank you so very much for joining us,


Now... Ready? Set? Read!

***Best Long Fiction of 2011***

Selected by McCamy Taylor (with Lester Curtis)

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.

Whispers From The North
By Matthew Acheson
A gothic horror tale about the lengths some will go for love.

Chatterton Reef
By McCamy Taylor
The descendants of the human race left dry land behind long ago, choosing to live in the oceans with varying types and degrees of genetic modifications. But the one thing they took with them was the instinct for war.

Cross Bound
By Julie Travis
Modern day horror tale set in Great Britain. First came the cloud, which blotted out the sky over England for two months. Then the strangers began to arrive. Their plan---to exact revenge against the country that sent them to a watery grave four centuries ago.

The City of Never
By Roland Allnach
A science fiction retelling of one of the west’s oldest stories. An eccentric genius plans to create his masterpiece, the most beautiful city in the universe. In order to fulfill his dream, he must inject an element of sorrow and loss into the work---and he does not care who gets hurt in the process.

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 Mulligan Box
By E. A. Moore
Myron had always said that he had bad luck, if he had any luck at all. The old wooden box changed all that.

The Garden of Eden
By Martin Westlake
The Heinz exploratory vessel Ark arrived at the strange little planetoid (or planemo -- planetary mass object) called Eden according to plan. But one of its immortal-through-transcription 'disciples' was searching for something that was not part of the program.

The World Famous Wrestling Bear
By Mike Phillips
The little town on the icy shore of Lake Superior depended on tourist dollars to get through the long, cold winter. Even the librarian, Miss Weigenmeister, knew that. Some things, however, were worth more than money.

A Bad Day For Fishing
By Rory Steves
Conner and his family went to sleep in their tent by the river, planning to spend the next day fishing. They woke up on another world, where the fishing was not so good. But at least the assorted aliens seemed friendly...

Mission To Mars!
By Dave Weaver
Mars really seemed like Heaven, even if you had to keep your spacesuit on. The previously-friendly natives were restless, however, and that probably wasn't a good sign.

Concerto For Spies
A Mare Inebrium tale By D. J. Rout
Of all the gin joints in all the worlds...

Results of Forum Flash Challenges for December 2011

The December 2011 Flash Challenge entries had to feature a lunar colonist looking for The Perfect Gift -- at the last moment, of course. Click HERE to read the winning story, "The Present", by Richard Tornello, and three more tales of the Christmas rush, moonbase style.

Results of Forum Flash Challenges for January 2012

Congratulations to Bill Wolfe, winner of the "Tales of the Sea" challenge -- an impressive feat, after some time out of the game. Click HERE to read the winning story, "Deadly Echoes", and four more stories of non-human (and non-alien) aquatic life and whatever it is such creatures talk about under water.

***Best Short Stories of 2011***

(Selected by Robert Moriyama)

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.

Where Dreams Die
By Frederick Rustam
Shasty Mummert was a hillbilly, but he loved learning. His fondest ambition was to travel to the City of Scholars and become a Scholar himself. The Scholars, however, were not what he expected at all.

By J. E. Deegan
Ned Reece was an apex predator in the lawless wasteland called Limboland. He knew how to survive, and how to kill with ruthless efficiency. And if he had a small obsession with shadows, what harm could it do him?

Sacred Logs and Crocodiles
By Walter G. Esselman
Gideon had been raised by dragons, and had gained some of their powers -- and a flying, fire-breathing foster brother. For that duo, even retrieving an overdue library book could turn into an adventure...

Fries With That?
By D. Conteur
The diner served traditional greasy-spoon fare to local clientele, and to anyone else who passed through the little outpost on the interstellar trade routes. The war with the Gleeb was already affecting business (what with the threat of expropriation by the government), and it was about to get a lot worse.

A Confidential Correspondence in Capitalist Conflict
By P. F. White
A Steampunk tale of sibling rivalry gone mad, told through the medium of the letters exchanged by the two brothers.

The Dark kNight
By Richard Tornello
A fairy tale, involving a princess, a dragon, an evil wizard, and a knight. But not the one you're expecting!

Chump Change
By Kate Thornton
The good ship Linda Rae had carried some peculiar cargo in its long and varied career. But going all the way to Toshiba to deliver a single coin was a first...

Tunguska Retro
By E. S. Strout
Karen Mosby and her team of geologists hoped to learn what had happened over Tunguska in 1908 by studying traces left in the Siberian soil and rocks. The story that emerged from their findings and from old eyewitness accounts was ... not what they expected.

Remembering Marchosia
By Jack Dowden
The goddess Marchosia -- ageless, possessing terrifying powers, but not unkillable -- wanted to find a way to bestow godhood on the humans among whom she lived, starting with her egregori (bodyguard and lover) Uriel. But the other gods opposed her plans...

Zombie Charades
By Susan Stec
The plague of zombies had been contained and covered up. Now the military wanted to turn them into weapons...if they could just find a way to train them to go after a specific target instead of eating whatever (or whomever) they could catch!

The Body Surfer
By Edward Ahern
Danton moved from host to host like a wisp of smoke sliding through the cracks in their souls, experiencing everything about their lives. But death, not life, was his real focus.

Master Apprentice
By Todd Nelsen
Kesil Lundfrick was only an apprentice wizard, and not a particularly powerful one at that. (The fact that his familiar was a mouse was not a matter of choice.) But the death of his Master had made him heir to all the secrets of the Tower.

Tin Indian
By Joel Doonan
The day Alena had vanished without a word of explanation was the day his life had gone into a holding pattern. He worked at the cannery, ate lunch with his friend Samson, and waited... Then the tin Indians, fortune-telling machines at the old arcade, spat out the strangest messages he'd ever seen.

Teacher 417
By Eric Jackson
The Teachers were literally remote -- communicating with their students only via instantaneous text and video messaging -- and always, always impersonal. Then Teacher 417 asked Jessica to help with "getting me out of here".

Best Flash Challenge Stories of 2011 (Selected by N. J. Kailhofer -- NOT necessarily the 'winners' based on votes submitted!)

Mechanical Error
by Michelle Dutcher
The challenge was to tell the tale of the moment love was won.

by Lester Curtis
The challenge was tell the story of the first sentient connection with a disappointed symbiont.

Meat Me in Saint Louey
by Bill Wolfe
The challenge was tell the story of the first sentient connection with a disappointed symbiont.

A Dental Persuasion
by Richard Tornello
The challenge was to take a simple, everyday event and then change it into a Science Fiction story.

The Blind Rebellion
by J. Davidson Hero
The challenge was to craft the tale of a character on a planetary orphan caught up in a larger event without describing the world, the character's goal, or their flaw.

The Family Dog
by George T. Philibin
The challenge was to tell a story where a diminutive superhero rose to right the wrongs being committed.

The Consequences of Space Travel
by Sergio Palumbo
The challenge was to write a flash story inspired by the theme of "Dark Matter" in two hours or less.

A Ruse By Any Other Name
by Mark Edgemon
The challenge was to write the tale of a human struggling to perform the perfect murder.

Fuller Foreclosure
by I.Verse
The challenge was to write the tale of a human struggling to perform the perfect murder.

by Casey Callaghan
The challenge was to write the story of a lunar colonist trying to find a last-minute gift for their significant other.

Poetry and Filk Music

Amplitude, Altitude, Attitude
by Mike Wilson

An Explorer Out There Somewhere
by John Grey

by Elizabeth Einspanier

I Like to Play
by Robin B. Lipinski

Story Of A Death
by Alex Dodo Niculae

by John M. Marshall

The Others
by Stephenson Muret

The Best Poetry and Filk Music of 2011

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 Stephen Jarrell Williams

In the Year 4000
by John Grey

Report On The Recent Excavations At Norwich
by David Barber

I’m Sorry, But…
by Stuart Sharp

The Time Traveller's Guide To Jane Austin
by David Barber

Your Life as a Genetic Holding Pattern
by Bill Wolfe

Peg Powler
by Richard H. Fay

How Old Am I?
by Brian S. Lingard

Out Of Africa
by David Barber

The Devil Speaks
by Jean Jones

Renaissance ((Man))
by Robin B. Lipinski

by Richard Tornello


Thoughts on Writing #35: Gimme a Break!
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.

The Case of the Displaced Detective, Books 1 & 2, by Stephanie Osborn: A Preview
By Dan L. Hollifield
Dan provides a look at Stephanie Osborn's series featuring a time-shifted Sherlock Holmes battling evil in a high-tech modern world.

iSLY, by Stanley Gerson: A Preview
By Dan L. Hollifield
Dan gives us an excerpt and comments on Stanley Gerson's novel of 'droids gone wild -- or worse, wily.

Aphelion Webzine is © 1997-2013 by Dan L. Hollifield