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

Issue 51, Volume 5 -- September 2001

Issue 52, Volume 5 will be online 1st week of October.

"And if you believe that- you'll buy this watch..."
Saint Robere Guilams

On September 11th, 2001, coordinated terrorist attacks destroyed the World Trade Center in New York City and severely damaged the Penagon building in Washington, DC. Thousands were killed in this act of senseless violence.

In memory of these innocent lives lost, this issue's front page has been rendered with a black background.

If you are not currently a blood donar, please see if you can give. If for some reason you cannot give blood, please consider making a donation to the Red Cross. You can donate to them directly via Amazon.com or Paypal.com.

The staff of Aphelion asks you all to include the families of these vicitms in whatever prayers you may be saying. Thank you.

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Since January 27th 1997

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The Senior Editor's usual drivel about whatever...

Hello and welcome!

Last month marked a first in my life, the first meteor shower I ever set out to watch on purpose. I got out my lawn chair, turned off my outside lighting, most of the inside lighting, and turned on the radio in the shed in the back yard.

Ever have one of those days when something that you'd often thought about as a "neat thing to do- One of these days..." turns out to be the only thing that you're able to get right all day? I'd read about the Perseid meteor shower, just like I'd read about countless other meteor showers in my life, and thought "wouldn't it be neat to stay up all night and see that?" Then I thought no more about it for a week or so. Then came that Saturday when everything went wrong. Everything I tried to do all day was a disaster. After cleaning up several messes, both physical and typographical, and seeing the sun about to go down, I gave up. I laid down on the couch and took a nap. Probably the most intelligent thing that I'd done all day, at this point.

I woke up, confused and groggy, just after 11 PM. And suddenly remembered the meteor shower that was going to start in one hour. I fired up the computer and downloaded a starchart from the Cosmiverse website. Once I had a printout, I took it outside to compare with the night sky. Could I find my way? After all, I'm just a sci-fi fan, not an astronomer. But as soon as I stepped out and looked, I knew I was in for some kind of show. I looked to the west, and there was Mars, flashing and gleaming like a topaz. I watched until Mars retreated below the treeline of my back yard, then turned to the east. Unknowingly, I was looking directly into the Perseid Radiant in the northeastern sky as I took in the whole of the horizon. By the time the moonrise began its first gleaming I had matched the printout with the sky and seen 5 meteors. I occluded the moonrise using my house and keeping to its shadow. I found that the meteors appeared all over the sky rather than in clusters near the Radiant. I thought that might be due to the half moon and the high whispy clouds, as well as light pollution from the neighbor's over-bright secutity light. (Over a quarter mile distant, and I can use it to see how to put my key in the doorknob of my front door. Too bright for local astronomy.) As the night progressed, I was able to see 25 or more meteoric streaks across the night sky, 3 large, bright fireballs-- one of those was really big --dozens of flashbulb-like bursts of light, and possibly another 30 streaks I caught just at the corner of my eye and turned too late to see much.

By 4AM the moon was almost directly overhead. I could look to the east and tell Saturn from Aldebaran as the star chart told me their names. Aldebaran was kind of orange and twinkled, Saturn was creamy white and didn't twinkle much at all. Orion, the only constellation I can regularly pick out, also rose almost directly beneath the moon. To Orion's north I could see what the chart told me was Jupiter-- looking a little bluer than Saturn, then Venus rose, bright white and glittering, a few minutes later and a bit more northerly.

When the meteors had slowed to more than half an hour between streaks, I knew that it was time to go back indoors. It was almost dawn, and I now had a memory that would last a lifetime. It might not have been much as meteor showers go to anyone else, but to me it was a first. Sure, I've seen meteors before, amybe 5 in my entire life. But from midnight to 4 AM August 12th 2001, I added 50 or 60 more to that total. It was a glorious night, and I owe it all to dumb luck. Murphy gave me a bad day and rewarded me with a beautiful memory of the following night. All I had to do was follow through on the coincidences and make the best of a bad situation. From a day of crashing programs, burning lunch, rotting vegetables, skinned knuckles, and agravation came a night that was joy and beauty and a memory of the wonder that we all take for granted. And that is a sad statement for a sci-fi writer to make. To admit that I've begun to take the beauty of the night sky for granted.

If I'd seen such sights as a child, I might have become an astronomer instead of a dreamer and writer. (I'd like to have a video tape of *that* timeline!)

Sure, we write stories that happen in far off solar systems, but how many of us can take someone outside at night and point to the star that we so glibly wrote about. How many of us know where Alpha Centauri is in the night sky? Aldebaran is where? Mars? Venus? Jupiter? Saturn? Even Mercury can be seen with the naked eye.

Perhaps I have an unfair advantage in having spent three quarters of my life out in the countryside, where light pollution is far less and the stars blaze forth like gemstones strewn across the black satin of the night sky. To look up on a cold winter night and see Orion and know that the star in the upper left arm, above the Belt, is Betelgeuse and famed Rigel is below the Belt and to the right. To understand when someone I've read about names a star as the location of that story. To write a story and be correct in stating that Betelgeuse is red and Vega is blue-white and Altair rotates on its axis every 10 hours or so-- amost the same speed that Jupiter rotates. For the same reason, their spin rate, they both are thicker through the equator than through the poles. And you might want to ask yourself at this point, "what is he getting at? What does this bulls**t actually mean?"

Add realism to your stories. A memory such as my night among meteors can be mined for many different stories, for many different reasons. Mix it with some facts, and the reader's willingness to suspend disbelief will become easier. Mix metaphor with useful facts, imagery and knowledge, poetry and accuracy. Shake well and your concoction will become easier to swallow. Remember, if we can teach a little bit without making it dull, don't we craft better stories? Not only events from our own lives become useful plot elements, but things we can explain, things we can show, things that invite wonder. Better stories may be just a memory away, because being a writer can mean giving of one's self in order to better tell the tale.

Live life! Everything that you are, everything that you do, everything you can do, everything that you can teach, can all find their way into the stories that you write. It can make them better stories. Call that an excuse to enjoy life, if you need one. And learning should be something to enjoy. So should teaching. Boy, now there is a topic I'd like to see. "The Joy of Teaching" by-- Oh, there are a few teachers in out midst. Maybe a guest editorial will happen one month soon. --Whoever would like to write it. I've found that mixing in elements from my own life, suitably disguised of course, I can add a measure of believability to an otherwise ordinary tale. That's how my gun collection wound up in "Saucerful of Secrets", how my motorcycle wreck and the painting on my motorcycle jacket wound up in "Abducted!", how my sword cane became part of "A Study in Alizarin Crimson", and how my life at college, and after, turned into the Mare Inebrium series. The truth is in the telling, and the telling is the tale. Fact, fiction, fantasy...

"A little bit of sugar helps the medicine go down."

Thanks for your time.


Tell us what you think in Aphelion's Lettercol!

I'd like to thank those of you who have sent e-mails or signed into the Lettercol for your feedback. Keep those messages coming, folks! Without those messages we will never know what we need to improve upon. Hope you like the improvements so far!

Aphelion Staff:

Dan Hollifield
Senior Editor, Publisher
Kim Holec
Poetry/Filk Editor
Robert Wynne
Cary Semar
Short Story Editor
McCamy Taylor
Assistant Short Story Editor
Jeffrey Williams
Production Editor/Serials Editor
Ralph Benedetto, Jr.
Assistant Serials Editor
Roger Bennett
Editor Emeritus

Serialized Stories & Novellettes

  • Hatchling
    By Guy Hasson
    Thirteen-year-old Glynis Hatch, born 2006, searches for her past. Only to discover secrets heaped upon secrets - and all of them have to do with her conception.

  • Read more great stories from the
    Aphelion Archives
    Aphelion Back Issues

    Or Take

    - 8\8\2000 - A Challenge to Writers...
    Not a contest, but a series of ideas to spark off a story.

    Short Stories

  • The Lollygaggers
    By L. Joseph Shosty
    Here is a tale in the tradition of Ray Bradbury.
  • Walker
    By McCamy Taylor
    Tolkien ended his trilogy with "The Return of the King". In this story, the king's return is only the beginning. A fantasy with political implications.

  • At the Tower of Dragons
    By Mark R. Knight
    Lore the Barbarian doesn't like cruelty to animals. Expecially dragons.  He'd do everything in his power to make Gizznad the Wizard see the error of his ways.

  • The Days of Our Vikings
    By Fred Harvey
    Of all the booty Aslak brought back from his voyage, he wanted for himself only the woman Saleela.

  • Get Me Off This Planet
    By Shalane L. Weidow
    The typical K-trill native is a hive mind, consisting of flocks of up to one hundred bird-like creatures averaging a meter in height, each of which looks as if a lonely peacock had gotten romantically and genetically entertwined with a squid... A writer's challenge 2 story

  • Sisyphus Content
    By Umut Topcuoglu
    The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy...Albert Camus.

  • The Machines of Destiny
    By Raymond DiFronzo
    From their secret base under the ice of Europa, Shield wages a desperate struggle to free Earth from a tyrannical government.

  • The Not So Hero
    By Julie Winningham
    Legends arise from humble beginnings.

  • The Persecutor
    By Peter Bergman, Jr.
    Jon Sol did not consider himself an assassin.  He considered himself a patriot.

  • Skul Dazz
    By Patick P. Diorio
    Only the strongest, the smartest, and the most fit will make it to skul.

  • Read the updated Submissions Guidelines
    Aphelion Submissions Guidelines Page

    Poetry and Filk Music

  • Ghost Wind
    By Teri Wachowiak

  • Lorelei
    By Michael Fantina

  • The New StarBlazers Battle Theme
    By Nick Pollotta

  • There Was A...
    By Ian Albright

  • The Mare Inebrium

    Links Updated -- 9-10-00 --
    Each of the three links below have changed. Please take note and adjust your Bookmarks if necessary. The first link below gives you the introduction to the Mare Inebrium, the banner link now gives you access to all of the Mare stories, and the third link now gives you acess to the Mare Inebrium Online Starter kit. The online Starter Kit will be updated as often as Mare writers make necessary.

    The Mare Inebrium shared universe project
    I open up my own Spaceport Bar to other writers!
    This link takes you to the full introduction to the project.

    Tales of the Mare Inebrium
    All the Mare Inebrium Stories to date.

    The banner above links to
    all the Mare Inebrium Stories on one page!

    The Mare Inebrium Starter Kit.
    --Updated 12/10/2000--

    This is a link to all the background information for the Mare Inebrium stories so far.
    This is a must read for all Mare Inebrium writers and fans!


  • Aphelion's Daily Comics
    By Mark Stanley, and Steve Troop
    Did he say daily? Yep, Aphelion is proud to feature two of the funniest comic strips on the Internet, Mark Stanley's "Freefall" and Steve Troop's "The Melonpool Chronicles". Bookmark this page, you don't want to miss a single installment!

  • Double Wide
    by Jim Parnell
    Say Good Night Gracie
    WARNING: Contains Language.
    Aphelion reluctantly presents the last regular installment of Double Wide. Jim informs us that he's begun work on a novel and wants to give it his full attention, and he's the kind of guy that can't stand to do less than his best. Please join myself and the Editorial Mafia in suporting his decision to take that next big step as a writer.
  • Dan Hollifield reviews:
    "An Alien World"

    The new novel by David Kerr
    The Aliens contacted Earth in hope of peaceful commerce. But they never expected humans to be so strange!
  • The Listening Room
    by Rob Wynne
    Rob Wynne bangs his head against Phoenix's "Into the Fire"

  • The Awards Page
    All of the Awards that Aphelion has won.

  • A Challenge to Writers...
    Not a contest, but a series of ideas to spark off a story. Challenge 1 is the paintings of Daniel Hannaquand, Challenge 2 is a collection of narrative hooks composed by Dan Hollifield.
  • Aphelion Links Page
    Click here to see the Links Page. Our fellow E-zines, Astronomy, research material, entertainment, and much, much more!

  • Aphelion IRC Chat
    Information about a new feature for Aphelion. IRC Chat is a fun way to talk to our readers, writers, staff members, and other netizens. This link takes you to a basic intro and provides further links to the IRC software that you can download for free. Look for new updates as we refine this feature.
  • Aphelion JAVA Chat
    For a quick look at the JAVA chat client, this link launches a new browser window that takes you to a Log-in form for a JAVA-based chat in your browser window. No specian programs are needed. This will be a very simple, but passable IRC client, very no-frills. This will also tell you if there's anyone else in the chatroom, by the way.

  • Aphelion Banners
    And banner artwork for links.

    If you want to link to Aphelion and want more than a text link, then this page is for you. Some of these banners are finished, but most of them lack only my adding text to make them complete. Unfinished banners can be completed and e-mailed to you within 8 days. The banner HTML code-- and image --can be e-mailed on request, or can be more simply copied from the "View / Page Source" option in your web browser. Finished images can be copied from the banner artwork page itself. An exchange of links or banner links is always welcome.
    Link Swap E-mail should be sent to: Dan Hollifield

  • If you would like to receive notices from Aphelion when this page is updated, please join our new, revised, automatic mailing list. To subscribe:
    Send a message to majordomo@america.net with the following in the body of the message:

    subscribe aphelion <email address>

    As always, this mailing list will only be used to notify you of new issues and will never be given out to anyone else... 'cause I hate spam as much as you do!

  • --6\08\2001-- Click here to see the Links Page
  • Link Swap E-mail: Dan Hollifield

  • Excentrivial Musings: Dan Hollifield's Original Cartoon Page. Not updated in a long time.
  • Dan Hollifield reviews: The reviews index page.
  • Review Inqueries E-mail: Dan Hollifield
  • Review Query FAQ: All the info you need to mail a book or CD to Aphelion for review.
  • Short story submissions: Cary Semar
  • Serialized stories: Jeff Williams
  • Poetry: Kim Holec
  • Features: Robert Wynne
  • Mare Inebrium Stories: Dan Hollifield
  • Click here to see the Submissions Guidelines Page.
  • Aphelion Explanations and Thanks Where the name "Aphelion" came from and other info.

  • Back Issues:

    Instead of the back issues the banner below now takes you to the Archives-where all our past stories are available for you to read.

    I've decided to ditch the back issues in favor of the Archives. The Archives are easier to use and can be indexed by author or story title. Hopefully this will ease the task of finding a favorite story. We may start a page of our past cover art, if there is a call for it. Thanks for your readership for without you, nothing we do has any meaning.

    Aphelion Back Issues!

    You can e-mail the Senior Editor by clicking here.

    Sideways to the Mare Inebrium!

    Sideways to the Mare Inebrium, homepage of Aphelion's Editor: Dan L. Hollifield

    Click HERE to vote for this page as a Starting Point Hot Site.

    Aphelion Webzine is © 1997-2000 by Dan L. Hollifield