Submitted stories

Tell us what you thought about the June 2018 Issue!

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Post June 14, 2018, 08:52:00 PM

Submitted stories

Interesting how so many stories worthy of comment get nothing in the forum section.

Myself, I enjoy the poetry the most and find enjoyment in reading what people submit in the poetry section.

In the short stories and long fiction, there are some really great bits of writing. It would be great if anyone reading some of the stories give their input to such.

I wonder if readers and writers fully understand how wonderful it is that a website such as Aphelion exists?

Some writers I suspect fear rejection or negativity. Some readers I suspect could care less than to spend time commenting. That's great as at least the writing is there for all to see and enjoy (or not)

Dan Korigan's story was a fun read. Susan Anwin's story was a fun read also.

Also, since joining the Aphelion group, I have definitely noticed an improvement in the editorial entro. It feels real and human.

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Post June 14, 2018, 09:08:59 PM

Re: Submitted stories

Thank you for your comments, especially your first line. I agree totally. Personally I have gone through periods where I have read many of the stories and posted numerous comments, but then saw very little participation and got disillusioned, especially if I was one of the authors that month. Frankly, it would be fantastic if there was at least a way to click a link or counter at the end of a story... just to show you read it. If you had especially good or bad feedback you could take the next step of commenting in the forum. Even a thumbs up or down would help the authors know they aren't just filling a dusty bit-bucket.

That said, I remain extremely grateful to Aphelion for providing this venue, and would gladly continue to submit stories here even if I knew only the editor reads them. It's still an honor. Not to mention the benefit of protecting our copyright thorough online publication. Your standards, I believe, are high, and anyone who is published here can feel proud.

Thank you.
Glenn Diamond
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Post June 15, 2018, 07:09:10 PM

Re: Submitted stories

At one time we had hit counters on a few pages; the table of contents, the Mare Inebrium stories page, etc. Hit counters fell out of fashion for some reason, over the years, and they were hard to maintain from time to time. The main page had two million+ hits on it when we discontinued it, but that was built up over years and years of readers visiting the website.

I don't know of any web code that would allow a reader to click to add to a total, except for something like a survey vote tally. I suppose it could be done, but it would add to what the Editors already have to do for each page we lay out, and the votes themselves would quickly eat up all our web space. There is already a log file of I don't know what information, specifically--but that has to be deleted periodically or we run out of room to upload new stories. As it stands now, Aphelion's total file content can fit on a data DVD. The web space for the site costs me $60 per month, but for the first 20 years it was only $35. We finally ran out of room, so I opted to double our web space early this year instead of deleting older stories. You may have noticed your monthly subscription fees double in size two months ago. From nothing to twice nothing, LOL! No, I'm not going to pass Aphelion's expenses off to the readers. I'm not going to start putting adverts up either. Aphelion isn't here to make money for me, it's here so that writers have a chance to improve their skills enough for a paying publisher to start buying their work. Sure, I own the site and I've taken the liberty of putting up a page where people can find where my work is sold. I have no way of knowing if anyone does go and buy something because of that page, or not. Writers are encouraged to add a link to an Amazon search for their work in the bio they send with their submissions if they like. Or link to your publisher's page for your work on their website. One more line of code in a bio isn't going to take up too much of our web space.

And you're exactly right: comments in the Forum are a huge help to the writers. That's like having many editors giving suggestions on how something can be improved instead of just the one you sent your submission to originally. And of course, sometimes there has been feuds between some of the Forum members over how a comment was worded, or if someone was being unkind accidentally, or even, rarely, someone set out to be a troll and hurt other people's feelings intentionally. Sad, but it happens. Text can be a difficult form of communication because it lacks all the visual and inflectional cues that speaking in person uses so often. That's one reason emoticons came about, really. But if Forum members do take the time to comment on a story, usually that's the best sort of commentary to have: reader feedback.

Now, there is a valid reason that I rarely comment on anyone stories. And it's a sad reason, too. I can't allow myself to comment on much because I'm the Publisher. There is a small, but non-trivial, chance that any comments I make will be thought of as submissions guidelines. The logic is simple, and a bit brutal, and it goes like this: "Oh! Dan really liked that story by Manassas Serengeti about the Bigfoot who stole a time machine and went back to the stone age to become the ancestor of all the neanderthals! That must be the kind of thing he wants us to submit! I'm gonna write one just like that and send it in..." The result would be that someone would think that what I enjoyed is all I want writers to send in. And that's not true at all. We have readers and writers who enjoy all sorts of fiction that isn't my cup of tea. My personal likes and dislikes are not a standard I want Aphelion to go by. What's worse is that I almost never see a submission before an issue goes online anyway. Unless it's a Mare Inebrium story, submissions don't come to me. And unless an Editor has a question about adult content or violence or cuss words and they want me to make a judgement call on a submission, I don't see anything sent to them until a new issue goes live. I don't micro-manage the staff, or the writers, or the readers. I'm a pretty laid-back guy. The Editors get their submissions, pick and choose by their own rules, writer's work gets seen by the public, and I kick back and pay the bills to make that happen. That's my Aphelion job in a nutshell. I built the original playground and I keep it open, I let the staff construct new rides and features to improve the playground, and occasionally I have to keep someone from trying to burn it down or break the playground equipment. Sometimes an unruly player will have to be asked to go play elsewhere. Sometimes said unruly player flounces off in a huff. I don't like either of those situations. I trust y'all, all y'all, to play nice with one another, to refrain from littering, and to communicate with each other as clearly and precisely as possible so the playground remains fun for as many people as possible.

Making time to write comments on each other's work is supposed to be part of the fun, part of the shared learning experience, and part of the reason you want to keep coming back. The equipment is there for you to use. If you're having trouble finding the words to say that "parts of this were really good, but other parts need work. Have you thought of trying this option, or that option?" That's part of the learning experience as well. So is "I don't really enjoy that genre very much, but this bit stood out as some really fine writing." Or even "I can't STAND first person narrators. I can't get into stories written that way. But I gave your story a chance and I found a paragraph of how you described the room the scene took place in, and that was really nice. It worked really well. Now, have you thought about trying to write something using third person? Might be something to consider, just to stretch yourself a bit. To step out of your comfort zine and try something new." Or what I would hear a lot about my stuff: "ARGH! Passive voice! Everything was going so well until you slipped into passive voice. That threw me out of the story so hard I almost broke my hip, LOL! I heard about this trick you can try..."

We writers can have fragile egos, sometimes. The trick is remembering that how diplomacy works is to make something negative seem like a polite gesture, made from genuine good will towards one another. Remember, the Forum is where you teach one another the trick you've learned. The Editors are here to teach you as well, but here you are able to teach one another. Aphelion is about learning, but everyone has something to learn here as well as something to teach. One big, yet slightly dysfunctional, family. You are all "cousins" so to speak. What one learns, another might need to know. One trick you've learned might just be the key to someone else's success. Don't be shy, don't be parsimonious with your time here. It's taken me hours to type this little essay. I didn't mean to write an editorial, but here we are, at the end of one of my better ones.

Maybe I should save this and use it for July. I'll be at a convention, so I'll have very little time to come up with a totally new one. What say ye? Do you think that this ought to be re-run outside of the Forums? Did it help? Was it instructional? Did it make you think about commenting in the Forums in a new light?

Thank you for reading this,

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Post June 15, 2018, 11:03:09 PM

Re: Submitted stories

My input Dan, to what you wrote, is a hearty, 'yes!'.

You put a lot of information about Aphelion that many to include myself did not know. I especially liked how you explained why you don't comment about stories.

So, it is a good idea to use your post in a more public way, that way, people will see the way Aphelion operates. (I like the word 'way' today)

Another thought related to commenting on stories is that is would be nice also to see more writers respond to any comments made about their submissions. Sorta like a two-way feedback.

I myself deplore the modern world where everybody gets a participation award. I think the 'like' button is pushed way too often just as the political agenda slant ( I'm guilty) button is pushed way too often.

It is obvious most stories and poetry submitted and published on Aphelion is the result of writers putting much effort into their respective works. Therefore it would be nice if they could get constructive feedback. And along those lines, I once belonged to a online poetry website where if you submitted a poem you also had to comment on another writers poem. Maybe that is a suggestion that might spur more comments? Any writers having something published here take the time to pick a story or poem, even at random if they don't want to read everything, and make some constructive comments even if that comment is something like this..."I liked how the author used such flowery words, I even had to look up some in a dusty dictionary. Also, I was a bit confused on how the brain of the alien ended up as the main entree at Burger King..."

Anyway, thanks Dan for the information and for keeping the site going.

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Post June 16, 2018, 08:43:44 PM

Re: Submitted stories

Thanks to Dan also... for taking all that time to address issues around the forum, etc. And regarding the touchy issue of writer's egos, I struggle with that too. This might be a cop-out, but sometimes if I read a story that I don't particularly like, I will at least find the best part of that story and point out that one thing. My hope is that the author "reads between the lines". He or she will at least know the story was read, and what to take away for the next one.

Even a story with a bad plot might be well written, and even a two-word "Well written" comment is helpful.

Thanks again!
Glenn Diamond
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Post June 17, 2018, 04:01:53 PM

Re: Submitted stories

There are many good guides for critiquing stories. Some of the best are those used at ---aka, Critters.


IMO, if a writer wants solid, useful critiques and an adequate number of them, Critters is the place to go, but it's strictly business and you pay in kind for the service. I ran a large number of chapters through there and almost never got a critique that wasn't useful.

It's not a casual environment, though; they had a social forum page, but nobody ever posted anything in it. We're more of a hangout, with no entry fees in the form of work--and that's the rub: no one is obligated to post comments here. In fact, at Critters, you can't even *read* stories unless you're a member.

Critters would not be an efficient choice for writers who only produce a few short stories now and again; they'd have to continue giving critiques to maintain their eligibility toward the event of their next submission. Of course, there are people who enjoy critting, and it's an excellent way to learn more about how to become a better writer.

I wish we could find a way to encourage more feedback, but it's all voluntary here.
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Post June 24, 2018, 06:49:05 PM

Re: Submitted stories

I've never agreed with the not commenting thing, Dan. You have the unique perspective of a publisher, which is something that could be extremely valuable to authors. That you are largely hands off to your department heads is beside the point. You've been successfully published yourself, know quite a few people in the biz now from Cons, and have been doing it for a long time. You will not look at a story like a green author (or any other color, for that matter), and that's precisely why you should comment.

Editors should all comment. Heck, I should more than I do, and I semi-retired from this.

I've always told authors to give critiques as the best way to get them back. Here. There's a lot to that, even if they don't feel they're qualified. The very act of critiquing will help make you a better writer.

However, I feel that the bigger problem was and still is: Facebook.

Many of the things that Aphelion a wonderful community have been taken over by FB. People posting links to cool sites they've found. People talking about what's going on in their lives, interacting with each other, telling stories, poking good-natured fun at each other etc., etc. That made it a community where it was fun to be here. FB stole all that. Then, naturally, these same people read and commented on stories while they were here and wrote new stories for their Aphelion friends to read and comment on.

My grandparents never got over television. The wonder and miracle of it. The one-eyed god was never off in their house, talking to them via 3 VHF and 1 UHF channels. I see most of us are stuck the same way with the new digital god, Facebook. It does wonderful, yet empty, things to dazzle us and get us to join together by not actually joining together in person. Just on a FB's screens. I check it about every day, so I'm not free of it either, and it can suck me in so very easily. An hour or two later, I still hadn't added to the story I was avoiding by checking FB.

So long as FB takes away what Aphelion did, I doubt it will improve. The challenges are the only thing left to build community, and we have found that every time the challenges are high in participation, posting story reviews go up in number.

It's really all about community, and it's that's simple, in my opinion.
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Post June 27, 2018, 09:16:33 AM

Re: Submitted stories

I try to comment on stories but can't every month. This month I'll read some but since my wife broke her hip, I've been very busy with her. I have her home now, but taking care of her fills up much of my time. When I do get a few minutes to read, I get interrupted with a phone call or one of my wife's needs. However, I will continue to comment when I can.
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