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Aphelion: The Webzine of Science Fiction and Fantasy

Issue 74, Volume 7 -- September 2003

Issue 75, Volume 7 will be online 1st week of October.

"And if you believe that- you'll buy this watch..."
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The Usual Rant from the Aphelion Senior Editor:

Oh friends, there are all sorts of strange goings on these days. We're living in interesting times. Me? I think I'm goning to start stockpiling MREs and gunpowder for my muzzle loader. Why? Forget terrorists and politics, the universe is getting dangerous out there! We're in the middle of the sunspot cycle for one thing, and the sun only half-flipped its magnetic field for that reason, rather than the full reversal that is normal. So we're getting measurably more fast moving, high energy particles, cosmic dust, and other such things streaming into the Solar System because the Sun isn't protecting us as much. If real life were a comic book, most of us would be trying on spandex right now. But since Earth has other protections, not just the Sun's magnetic field and the solar wind, no one is going to become their friendly neighborhood superhero anytime soon. (Even though someone has just invented a gamma-ray bomb that works on the same principle as a neutron bomb, but no one named Banner is connected with the project. I checked!) But I hope the ISS has good shielding, nevertheless.

Another good thing, that kind of counteracts that last bit a little, we have an Ion drive space probe that is going to reach the moon about 16 months after it starts. That's right, 16 months. Its a low thrust, solar powered experiment that could pave the way for better probes out into the asteroid belt and the outer solar system. Cheap, durable, efficent. In the meantime, another group is working on solar sail technology. That's exciting! The best plans I've seen for manned exploration of the solar system would be much more doable with solar sails. Or some sort of nuclear propulsion. And yet another group is working on getting thrust from ground-based lasers. Talk about leave your engine at home! This works like the Orion project, but on a much smaller scale and without using nuclear warheads as reaction mass. The probe tosses out material that the laser vaporises to produce thrust. Neat stuff! I've seen a small scale test version actually fly on one of the science channels on TV. But these folks ought to check in with the solar sail people, because there would be a point where a ground-based laser would give a sail a push without burning holes in it. And there is yet another group that is working internationally on using Russian subs and disarmed surplus ICBMs to launch space probes at sea, without all that costly gantry and launch pad. And the Russians still have some heavy-lift boosters we can use for normal ground launches, too. Furthermore, it seems like almost everyone has these peskey nukes that they want to safely get rid of...

Why am I glad to hear about all this new and old technology being developed and put to use? Because my life may be in danger soon, and this stuff- and more besides -may just save me from a lifetime as an unpaid extra in a "Road Warrior" movie. To wit: I found the following news item to be of particular interest when it was posted in one of the mailing lists of which I'm a member. The following is quoted exactly:

From the BBC
Asteroid warning for 2014
The British agency responsible for identifying potentially hazardous 
asteroids says US astronomers are warning of a possible collision in 2014.

The UK Government's Near Earth Object Centre says American astronomers have 
discovered a large, fast-approaching asteroid that could hit the Earth on 
21 March, 2014.

But they add the chances of it doing so are just one in 909,000.

What is more, any risk of an impact is likely to decrease as further data 
is gathered, they say.

Credible threat

The BBC's science correspondent Christine McGourty says that, although the 
chances this asteroid will hit the Earth are slim, it is considered worth 
monitoring due to its sheer size and velocity.

The rock is said to measure approximately two thirds of a mile across - 
only one tenth of the size of the meteor thought to have wiped out the 
dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

It is travelling at a speed of about 20 miles per second.

"In theory such an asteroid could cause devastation across an entire 
continent," Christine McGourty says.

It has been labelled "2003 QQ 47" and astronomers will be monitoring it 
closely for the next two months.
Story from BBC NEWS:


But why would all that technology I mentioned at the beginning prove out to be useful in preventing an asteroid or comet impact? Well, you go out to the thing well ahead of time and try to change its orbit so that it misses. You'll need heavy lift boosters to get there in time, but you can start sending other supplies using low-thrust ion engines to cheaply coast stuff along to where you plan to meet the asteroid.There are lots of possibilities, like: anchor a solar sail to one side and change the orbit by hitting the sail with lasers, launch some nukes at it designed to go off above the surface and push it aside, boil one side of it with lasers, or lasers and nukes, and use the boiling away of the surface as thrust to nudge it aside. (That actually works better with comets than asteroids, but the principle is the same.) Or lasers, nukes, and the solar sail... Whatever it takes. Just blowing it into bits wouldn't work, because the bits would still hit us, and that could wind up being even worse than getting hit by one big chunk. But whatever we do we're going to have to plan ahead and use what we've already got or can whip up really quick to do the job- If it turns out that the thing isn't going to miss after all. And lets face it, it probably will miss. But the possibility is real that Earth will be hit by some stray object, sooner or later. So you can see that mankind just might have to beat their swords into asteroid-deflecting technology in the near future. And with all appologies to Hollywood, it wouldn't be as easy as the movies make it look. So what are you going to do? Keep yourself informed, check out the story link above, any links on the subject that the BBC may provide from their page, Google the asteroid number, and remember that as time goes by and better measurements are made the astronomers will be better able to tell just how close this rock will really come. Don't panic, but don't bury your head in the sand, either. You are still much more likely to be killed in an auto accident or airplane crash than by an asteroid. But the trouble is that with an asteroid, we all go at the same time. Like I said, I'm going to stock up on stuff. If nothing happens, I'll be set for camping gear, hunting supplies, and fishing tackle for several years to come. And if you really want an insight into the possibilities of comet or asteroid impacts, go out and get yourself a copy of Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's classic novel "Lucifer's Hammer" which is chock-ful of real science as well as wonderful writing.

Thanks for your time,


I now return you to your regularly scheduled reading...

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
Iain Muir
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

  • The Trench Crawler
    By Indraprimat Das
    In between the trenches was no man's land, but for the trench crawler, inside the trenches was the same, if he made it so. It was his choice. That was the one thing he could revel in, in or out of the trenches. But it was difficult. Outside, he ate dirt, smelled the damp earth just to keep the bullets from scraping off his skin. All in the name of neutrality.

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

  • Curtain Call
    By Shaun A. Saunders
    The ancient Mayan civilisation constructed a stone calendar which spanned the centuries from 3113 BC to 2011 AD. The significance of these dates is not known.
  • The Spirit Stone
    By Sharon Partington
    The lone survivor of a massacre sends Tieran on a desperate mission.
  • The Writing on the Wall
    By Robert Starr
    If you drive home the same way everyday, and then one day you change your route, are you able to shake it off or do you say to yourself: "From now on this is the way Iíll always go."
  • Luna Park
    By Alex Shternshain
    When the Luna Park came to town, everything changed for Danny.
  • Time And Again
    By Peter Pike
    When Sheriff Garland's men found a corpse with no head and no feet, he was only too glad to receive the unsolicited help of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
  • The Way Things Are
    By Ken Lehnig
    Condemned to perpetual imprisonment on a bleak outpost of Hell, a defeated warrior race seemingly faces a future without hope.
  • A Matter Of Taste
    By Robert Moriyama
    Fans of Al Majius, the madcap mage, will find a smorgasbord of delights in this toothsome tale.

  • Onion Skinner
    By GL Schmitt
    In the future, Justice will not be blindfolded, but the scales and metres of Justice still require uninfluenced interpretation.

Read the updated (July 3, 2003) Submissions Guidelines
Aphelion Submissions Guidelines Page

Poetry and Filk Music

The Mare Inebrium

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.
The Mare Inebrium Starter Kit.
--Updated 4/22/2002--

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!

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!

A Timeline of Bethdish: Updated 4/11/2002


  • Dan Hollifield Previews:
    "Soul Music"

    The animated movie of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel on DVD.
    A tale of sects, dwarfs, and rock 'n' roll!
  • Dan Hollifield Reviews:
    "Thran Reborn: Book One of the Thran Chronicles"

    The first of a new series of novels by Aphelion writer H. David Blalock!

  • Double Wide
    by Jim Parnell
    The collected wisdom of Bubba
    WARNING: Contains Language.

    Aphelion proudly presents the installments of Double Wide all on one page of links. We wanted to make sure that the wit and wisdom of Bubba wasn't lost for new readers, so we made a mini-archive list of just the Double Wide features.
  • 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 an underused 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
    --Repaired 3\25\2003--
    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 special 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@lists.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!

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!
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Aphelion Webzine is © 1997-2002 by Dan L. Hollifield