Aphelion Project Series
on art by William R. Warren, Jr., as well as characters and
situations created by Bill Wolfe, Casey Callaghan, and N.J. Kailhofer
Editor: N.J. Kailhofer
copyright 2009 by William R. Warren, Jr.
SOULS... THE RED PLANET... ONE DESTINY... STILL
In May of 2007, Aphelion Webzine featured a
by artist William R. Warren, Jr. The cover was submitted along with a
series proposal that was published in
of that year. In April and May of 2008, a Flash Fiction challenge was
run in Aphelion's forum to create possible settings and characters for
In February and March of 2009, another Flash Fiction Challenge was held
to support this series. In the '09 Challenge, the original '08 entries
were rewritten into one example piece, and entrants were tasked with
creating stories set in the first exploration mission to Mars as
described in that example.
This series is
dedicated to that mission.
Twelve souls departed for Mars
in 2035 as a part of The Aphelion Project, the largest and most
complicated undertaking in which man has ever taken part. Advance
planning for it began as early as 2018, but saw little support from
powerful nations until the so called "third-world" began to move in
earnest toward a Mars mission. That was enough to knock "leading"
nations out of their complacency. Missions organized as quickly as
national rivalries would permit, until the scope of the undertaking
forced the major players to work together (albeit sometimes uneasily)
if they were to be the first to Mars. Existing space agencies pooled
their duties and resources, forming one, somewhat decentralized, Mars
The mission itself
was one of the most deadly man had every conceived: Send two crews on a
six-month trip all the way to inhospitable Mars through radiation
storms and other perils, then keep them on the freezing, dusty surface
for 18 months without re-supply or reinforcements, then finally send
them back through the gauntlet of space again to return home. Survival
was not guaranteed.
The most rigorous,
extensive search of the globe brought forth the Mars crew: a
multi-national group of the finest explorers the human race could
offer, but one still made of humans with human frailties, forced to
live and work together in tight quarters for almost three years.
Tensions and attractions were inevitable, despite their training.
Both ends of the
timeline are fixed: 2018-2043. You have 25 years to play in and create.
series covers the first manned mission to Mars: Everything and everyone
it took to get the 12 into orbit, the journey and its hardships, what
the crew did on Mars and how it affected people back home, the journey
back to Earth (if they make it back), and what happened after because
of their mission.
this series is set in the very near future. Technology and settings
should be based on current scientific theories and plans, but this is
not a strict "hard" science universe. Be as "hard" as you can without
strangling your story. That being said, time travel, freak wormholes,
light sabers, faster than light engines, etc. will not be allowed.
This series is about
these people and what they discover, or the people back home. Will they
find Martians? Personally, we doubt it, but they might find evidence
they existed in the past. One never knows. Ghosts do exist, but they
cannot be perceived by the living.
Curtis Pilot & Mission Commander. British Royal Navy. Wife and
grown sons. Loves Bonsai trees, and is a no-nonsense, spit &
(Maj.) Dr. Harry
Smith "Doc" Surgeon & mechanical support. U.S. Marine Corps. 46
years old. Estranged from his wife and son. Loves food & has a
matching appetite. Jokester.
Lt. Chang Wei
Co-Pilot & communications. Chinese People's Liberation Army.
and dependable young officer, has uncanny knowledge of what is
happening on the ship at any given time.
Zwelitini "Gode" Chief Engineer, electronics. South African Army. Large
man, loves to laugh, and capable of improvising just about any repair
or food dish. Loves popcorn.
Penny Jones Botanist, life support. American, NASA. Bubbly and
energetic, also most likely to be affected by stress or conflict
Archana Ivanova Geologist, surface exploration. ESA representative from
Moldova. Spy for unknown eastern European or Asian government, a fact
known only to Curtis. Uses her sexuality as a tool & frequently
pushes Curtis' buttons.
Cmdr. Peter "Mac"
Macridin Pilot & Ship Commander. Canadian Navy. Has heavy
& is married to Helga. Murdered Barnes on day 95, a fact known
to Ophelia, one that may not be revealed to any other characters in any story.
Lt. Cmdr. Ophelia
Dunsirn Co-Pilot, communications. U.S. Navy. Of Pakistani-African
American descent, known for being quite a looker. Hurt in an explosion
on Day 43 that left her face scarred and was paralyzed from the neck
down until day 71. Mother of Sidney's child, which she gave up for
adoption in her academy days.
(Lt.) Dr. Chandra
Jandrain Physician, life support. Indian Army. Quiet, but known for
quoting Buddhist platitudes. Not as skilled with major injuries as Dr.
Sgt. Helga Macridin
Botanist, mechanical support. German Army. Married to Mac. No nonsense,
but is intensely jealous of the attention Ophelia receives from the
Airman 1st Class
Takuya Watanabe Chief Engineer, electronics. Japanese Air Defense
Force. Loves video games and hand-to-hand sparring.
Sidney Barnes Geologist, surface exploration. American. Nerdy and
unsure of himself, but fancies himself a ladies man. Does not get along
with Helga. Longtime friend of Ophelia, and father of her child.
Murdered on day 95. His spirit made an invisible appearance on Day 175
when the crew was trapped in a radiation shelter
settings as known are the two Aphelion
ships. Back on earth, one can assume there were training facilities,
mission control operations, and launch sites. There is a HAB module and
a fueled, emergency return vehicle waiting for them on Mars at "Port
Arthur". All other aspects and details will be added as stories are
completed. Research and invent!
Story Size: Stories
must be under 7501 words to
be considered short stories unless special permission granted.
Presentation: Stories in
will appear in
two ways: first, as individual stories that are published in a regular
issue of Aphelion or Forum writing challenge in the order they appeared
(and also later indexed in the series section of the zine), and also as
part of a continually-updated novel, available in the series section,
with each story added as it would appear chronologically and edited for
Art: Did we
mention Bill Warren? Bill Warren is the professional artist who created
the art that inspired this whole series. If so moved by your story, he
just might create some
wonderful illustrations for it.
Story ideas should be
sent to Nate Kailhofer, Editor Emeritus, at firstname.lastname@example.org for review. Sell him on your idea, and
give you the go ahead. Nate has final say on all things in the series.
He will also be the intermediary who sends the stories for Bill Warren to see
if he will create art as well as makes the html pages, updates the
Do not write a story
without an ok.
Unpaid, shared series
beset by delays because one person or another does not have their piece
ready when it was scheduled. Writers volunteer their time and sometimes
life gets in the way, or they just were not dedicated enough. This
holds up another story that might have been waiting as much as a year,
but could not run because it depended on something happening in the
other story. This series will not run like that.
Because the timeline
is fixed, it does not matter when the story is written. Stories appear
as they are completed, and will be coded with the correct dates for
placement in the novel version. If someone completes a story that would
change the plotline or setting of the later completed story, then the
story submitted first wins. The later-delivered story will have to
change their plotline to match, even if it was started first.
luck and enjoy!
Text ©2011-15 N.J. Kailhofer
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