“On A Spiritual Plain” by Lou Antonelli

My first quick short story review got mentioned in File 770 (yeee!) and Vox Popoli (hurrrrm), and there was quite a bit of traffic coming this way, which is nice.

Some guy opined on Twitter that the Rzasa review was the final proof of the fact that there’s no Puppy/Anti-Puppy peace to be had. Ever. It does sound like a bit far-fetched conclusion after I’ve read one single short story and disliked it, but who am I to argue. No peace, then.

The next short story down the line is Lou Antonelli’s “On A Spiritual Plane”.

Category: Short story
Published in: Sci Phi Journal: A Journal about Science Fiction & Philosophy
Slates: Rabid Puppies & Sad Puppies

I have to admit that I was surprised to find this kind story on both of the Puppy slates. Their mission statement was to bring manly fun and rousing adventure back to SFF, but instead they offer here a calm and quiet story with no action, no conflict and no surprises. That’s baffling, but I guess I should blame Torgersen and his friend’s flaky understanding of what they think they like rather than this particular story.

“On A Spiritual Plain” takes place on a planet where the strong magnetic field prevents dead people’s ghosts from dissipating. The protagonist is a chaplain of the small base that humans have established on the planet. When one of the humans dies, the chaplain has to take care of the ghost. Luckily, the aliens are happy to help him and he gets the ghost to dissipate by travelling to the north polar plain with it.

There’s an actual story here, but it’s not very well executed. In the beginning, the reader is drowned with long-winded backstory, and it doesn’t get more interesting at any point. An actual conflict, some drama, an engaging character and/or more fleshed-out alien civilization could have made this a good story, but as is, it was quite tedious reading.

The philosophical aspect was probably supposed to be the mysterious Stonehenge-esque construct that has the dimensions of the Golden Mean (even though it seems it actually wasn’t), but whatever serious philosophical idea there was I’m afraid I was not able to grasp it. The very last scene also left me wondering what exactly was Antonelli’s purpose there (maybe show that now the chaplain knows what he is doing?). The chaplain being rude to aliens after the second human dies and becomes a ghost is just a weird way to end this story.

Score: 2.5/10. (I was going to only give out whole numbers, but I run into trouble right away. This is better than Rzasa’s “Turncoat” — so it has to get more than 2 — but not good enough to get a full 3.)

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14 thoughts on ““On A Spiritual Plain” by Lou Antonelli

  1. Lord Darque

    Possibly the reason it does not make a lot of sense is because that link does not lead to the Mission Statement of the Sad Puppies.

    These are the goals of the Sad Puppies:

    ● Use the democratic selection system of the Hugo awards.
    ● No “quiet” logrolling. Make it transparent.
    ● Boost authors, editors, and works — regardless of political persuasion.
    ● Bring recognition to people who’ve been long overlooked.
    ● Get some good promotion for new folks coming up in the field.
    ● Have fun!

    https://bradrtorgersen.wordpress.com/2015/04/16/we-are-not-rabid/

    Your link is about one aspect of the problem. And I think as you go forward you are going to find more stories that surprise you. Maybe you will even surprise me and find one you actually like.

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    1. spacefaringkitten Post author

      Torgersen’s quantum goalposts do seem to have the quality of existing in several locations at the same time. Around the time his slate was published, there was much talk about big and small fandoms and bringing the great consumer audience to Hugos and all that. Promoting works such as this is something very different, I think.

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      1. Lord Darque

        There has been a lot of talk about a lot of things. That does not change what they set out to do. My point which you have ignored is simple. If you truely object only to the idea that they used a slate then you should find something in the Sad Puppies list that you like. If you don’t then any outside observer will see you as just another person pushing an agenda.

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      2. spacefaringkitten Post author

        I don’t follow your reasoning there. I may dislike all their fiction nominees if my taste is different than theirs. I expect to like the Lego Movie, though.

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    2. Rob (@rob_matic)

      It strikes me that, if those were the true goals of the Sad Puppies, they could be achieved by people:

      – reading books that they like
      – talking about books that they like
      – voting for books that they like

      There is no need to organise like a political party, with leaders and murkily-selected candidates, or engage in clumsy rhetoric and insults.

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      1. Lord Darque

        Well they saw it differently. Which is their right. And I am sure you will disagree but the insults started with the other side. And whoever was the source for that EW article kicked things into high gear.

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      2. spacefaringkitten Post author

        The EW article was stupid of course, but I think insults started waaay earlier with Torgersen’s culture war mongering SP manifesto posts which were just a bunch of insults hurled at Hugo winners, voters and feminists, practically. He could have just campaigned for the stuff he likes without being an asshole.

        However, arguing about which side started is not moving the discussion forward.

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  2. Sean Clancy

    Rob, this was pretty much exactly what I suggested — it’s a noble goal, easily achieved — in the comments of one forum that was filled with Puppies. “Just vote for stories you loved.” I was instantly called stupid and accused of being dishonest. Sometimes I wonder if there’s even any point trying to have discussions with them at all.

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    1. spacefaringkitten Post author

      Their project has serious problems with logic, but I guess that Puppies who have really invested in it are not going to change the way they think, no matter what you or I say. However, there are almost always some casual observers and neutral fence-sitters around, and good arguments can make them re-think their positions.

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  4. Neil Ottenstein

    On top of the story being weak, there were several things an editor should rejected from it: “sermonblog” – why not just use “sermon”? This is supposed to take place in the future – this took me right out the story. Using “segway” which is trademarked and is not a generic term at the present time. Again, I was popped out of the story. Rover would have been a better term. And then there was the phrase “As the polar night began begin” – an editor was needed.

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    1. spacefaringkitten Post author

      I very much agree. Many of the slate stories are just not of professional quality, and reading them is painful.

      I read some sort of preamble by Antonelli the other day and he seems to think that many editors turned this down solely because of his politics. That’s, well, delusional, I think.

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