Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Consulting Editor


Saturday Night in Saskatchewan
by Steve Stanton

Praise the System
by J. Richard Jacobs

Network Outage Engineer
by Erin Lale

Unintentional Colonists by Elizabeth Guizzetti

Mr. Weston’s Key
by Todd A. Burnett

Central Battle Command, Allied Forces: Day Four by Marilyn K. Martin

We Do Not Serve Weeping Men
by Eric Del Carlo


Zeros ... All Those Zeros! by Eric M. Jones

Facing Facts—And Analyzing Them
by John McCormick





Comic Strips



Perihelion Forum


A Pat and a Plug

Great to see this project underway—and only 40 years in the making. LOL. As you know, my first ever attempt at writing was when I wrote my autobiography. That was actually easy to do because I lived kind of a crazy life before being “born again.”

Since then, it's gotten my creative juices flowing. But the problem is because I don't live a crazy life anymore ... well ... I have less to write about. It's cool though because I learn more how to work the angles, drawing connections between what actually happened and the reasons it should be looked at as funny.

But to me the peak of creativity in our field is science fiction. Not only does the writer have to invent an entire story out of thin air, he must also create the world in which the story takes place. Sure, anyone can do it, but to do it well—to make fantasy realistic, to make characters in completely different worlds engaging and relatable—that takes skill indeed. I look forward to seeing what you guys come up with.

Don't forget—if you need a laugh head over to my comedy blog.

Brick Cruz
Los Angeles, CA


Did Allen Sneak In a Poem?

Through the fog of time comes news of the resurrection of an old friend, gone but not forgotten. How much can one recall from the sweet memories of days gone by and the bitterness of years lost? Of opportunities unavailable, of promises unkept, of debts unpaid?

Perihelion back? Was it long gone, or was it only just a while ago? Time is relative. Space is relative. Existence is relative. Who can remember?

The dinosaurs were here, then gone. Will they be coming back?

And what about me? I am now here. Was I here before? Will I be gone? Soon? Will I be back, too?

Will I live on the pages of Perihelion once again? Once again? I was there once; did I ever really leave?

Time is relative. Space is relative. Existence is relative. Everything matters. Nothing matters.

And in the great scheme of things, it matters little what happens on some lonely planet circling some middling star in the backwater of some remote galaxy rotating slowly in a universe of meaninglessness.

BTW: Good luck, Sam.

Allen M. Rolnick
Woodmere, NY


A Lot of Good Stuff On This Site

When I was a boy in Russia, I was in love with science fiction, especially outer space. That was during the romantic era when space travel had just become real, in the 1960s. Every teenager dreamed of becoming a Cosmonaut. Unfortunately, not any more. Now space programs are militarized, all about wars and spying—or making money with GPS, cell phones, satellite radio and TV. No country or corporation wants to spend money on space programs that will return profits in the far future. Everyone wants an immediate payoff, even if life on Earth itself will be in danger as a result. Today’s teenagers have different kinds of dreams. I’d rather not go into details for fear of sounding like a nostalgic, grumpy old man.

I am glad to see new efforts from the editors of “Perihelion” to restore some of the old traditions of science fiction.

“Zeros ... All Those Zeros!” by Eric M. Jones impressed me big-time. I’ve never counted the amount of zeros for numbers that are greater than 100,000 because it is difficult to feel these huge numbers. When you read the article, you can really understand and feel all those zeros.

Mikhail Lekhter
Rochester, NY


Astounding Science Fiction

Before beginning this I’d like to get a couple of things straight. It is not the purpose nor intent of this letter to tell anyone what to do—that would be presumptuous and egotistical of me. What is presented here represents opinion, experience and personal observation, nothing more.

Now, in my opinion, this is basically it: Science fiction; what is it ... really? The second word in the categorization of the genre is one we need to look upon with some serious, cheek-biting suspicion. First, a work of fiction consists of a series of lies containing fragments of truth here and there that are imaginatively arranged in such a way that what we call a coherent story emerges. That we sometimes get paid for the effort—albeit in wildly varying amounts—is amazing in itself. That we are able to attach the word science to the word fiction is, in the least, astounding. An oxymoron, to be sure.

Now, there are different classifications of the science fiction genre, the two principle ones being Hard Science Fiction, where I tend to work most of the time, and Soft Science Fiction where I go for fun. In both cases, science is the foundation upon which the story is constructed. Both of these science fictions could be lumped under the general heading of Speculative Fiction. What if ...?

To write solid science fiction, hard or soft, requires more than a passing knowledge of the sciences including that awful word, mathematics. Does that mean you have to be a scientist to write this stuff? No, it does not, but it helps. You see, buzz words and technobabble do not science fiction make. Strange and/or bizarre surroundings are also insufficient support for the story you are trying to tell. You had better know the sciences you are using well enough before you begin writing or your tale will jump the track and become so much entertaining nonsense that no longer fits into the genre of science fiction. Entertaining and engaging, but not science fiction.

Science Fantasy, I go there, too, on occasion, as opposed to Science Fiction, does not place such demands on the author, even though writing fantasy is indeed a tough discipline. That is to say, readers will not form lynch mobs to hunt you down for placing an Earth-like planet in an impossible orbit or blatantly violating physical principles without a defensible theory to float your idea, no matter how off-the-wall the theory may be.

I have a neat and handy way of defining hard and soft science fiction. Hard science fiction employs one or more of the sciences as the hinge pin(s) for the story. But so does soft science fiction. So, how can you tell the difference? Simple. In hard science fiction the science rides in the front seat and shares the driving chores with other elements of the story. In the soft variety, the science is a passenger along for the ride. In both, the science must be at least defensible and fit within the boundaries of reasonable, plausible physics. If it does not, it is no longer science fiction. If you’re lucky, it could slip into science fantasy or, God forbid, space opera.

Oh, you can push the edges of the envelope—indeed, I would encourage you to do so because it lends interest and sends the awe factor soaring—but be careful when and how much you stretch unless you really know what you're doing.

In one of my recent works I was on uncertain ground with the prime science supporting the story. What does one do when that happens? You research and you seek help wherever you can get it. I am fortunate in that I have a number of friends and associates who are working at the cutting edge (some of them a bit beyond the edge, almost in the fringe zone) of genetics, thus guidance and what-iffing aid was readily available. When that is not the case, you can get the help you need simply by letting it be known that you are writing a book in which this or that science is being featured and, if that doesn’t work, you can even resort to such nasty ego traps as, “... and I’ll include your name in the acknowledgements.” It is interesting how well that one works.

In conclusion, I think that when dealing with that natty question, “What is science fiction,” it all comes down to the the fact that Perihelion is the ultimate definition of science fiction.

David Ya’akov
Phoenix, AZ


What’s In a Trope?

In a recent discussion on LinkedIn, it was mentioned that Ben Kenobi and Batman were “tropes.”

Ben Kenobi or Batman aren’t tropes themselves; they’re characters (specifically trademarked and very valuable characters). To expand on that, we should look at the word “trope.” In the more standard literary definition, trope (from the Greek tropos, meaning turn or direction) is a name for the category of figures of speech that includes things like metaphor, irony, hyperbole, and so on. Thus in the technical definition it refers to very particular techniques of writing/speaking.

However, the modern definition (as exemplified on TVTropes) is of any recurring/well known motif, cliche, theme, etc., found in popular literature, television, movies, video games, etc.

By the standards of this definition, then, the characters cited are very “tropey”—that is, they strongly embody one or more tropes; Batman, for instance, is one of the iconic examples of “Badass Normal,” “The Cowl,” and “Crazy Prepared,” and has provided the name or key example of other tropes; Obi-Wan Kenobi’s role is sufficiently iconic that a mentor-figure who teaches the young hero and then dies is listed under “The Obi-Wan” trope. But neither of them as characters are tropes themselves.

The modern definition of tropes encompasses, in essence, any significant and in some way widely recognizable (within the key audience) component of a story that can be used to evoke particular reactions or expectations in a reader. As they emphasize on the TVTropes site, tropes are not bad—everything almost certainly contains at least one widely-recognized trope—and most tropes are not cliches in and of themselves, either (although most if not all cliches are also tropes).

Ryk E. Spoor
Troy, NY



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