Saturday, July 18, 2015


Most on-line reviews of Hugo-nominated short fiction this year are being done in bad faith by people who have an elitist agenda and who seem to want to teach the uppity peasants a lesson by showing them how shitty their writing is.

Which is accomplishing nothing because any honest and intelligent observer can see their obvious bias and antagonism. If not openly hostile, at the very least they hold this year's finalists to a much higher standard than usual.

Most of the personal comments I have received over my story - either online or face-to-face - have been positive. But blog posts have usually been a hatchet job. Occasionally some valid criticisms peek through. But generally the blatant hostility is obvious. I don't know why people make the effort for this; they must have a lot of time on their hands and hate in their hearts.

Interestingly, some of the most nuanced reviews have come from people who I've had run-ins in the past, and who seem to be trying to be fair when they know they have a personal bias against me. Although overall critical, they will hit on weaknesses even I would concede.

This all being the case, here's a review that's overall positive. I stand amazed.

Review of “On a Spiritual Plain,” short story by Lou Antonelli (Sci Phi Journal #2, 11-2014)
July 18, 2015

Lela E. Buis

I’m currently reading the Hugo nominations so I can vote. Here’s my second review.

Lou Antonelli’s story is about Earth-people at a base on a planet called Ymilas, and it’s narrated by the base chaplain, a young Methodist minister. Because of the planet’s strong magnetic field, it traps particles that show up as fantastic auroras. When one of the work crew named Joe dies, it becomes evident that it also traps ghosts. The young minister consults with the local alien religious leader and discusses the problem, finds that the spirits of the local dead are also trapped and that they must go on a pilgrimage to the north polar region where they can pass through a gate and dissipate into nothingness. The minister sets out with the religious leader on the pilgrimage and Joe, supported by the local Helpful Ancestors, passes on. When the next man dies, the minister knows they need to go on another pilgrimage.

I rather liked the premise here. The story is well-written, though not very complex, dramatic or exciting–a bit short on conflict. The setup with the magnetic field and the ghosts is creative and provokes questions about the nature of the human soul a.k.a. the electromagnetic imprint left by humans after they die. There is very mild humor in the base commander’s anxiety about the safe return of the transportation equipment the minister uses. Three stars.


  1. Having read your short and called it "reasonably competent," here's what I think is the problem. In many people's mind (or at least mine) there's a significant difference between "l like that story" and "wow, that story should win an award."

    Having not seen what you call "hatchet jobs" I can't comment specifically on those reviews, but in general what I'm seeing is a lot of "that was an okay story, but didn't wow me" reviews.

  2. Sorry - I hit "publish" too soon. Your post displays another trait that seems to be in common with other Puppies and which irritates me. Namely, it's completely non-specific. Instead of saying / linking to specific examples of "hatchet jobs" we're merely told some bloggers somewhere have done wrong in some vague and unspecified way.

    I would ask you how you'd respond if somebody said "all Sad Puppies are jerks." You'd (rightly, I think) ask "what did I do that causes you to say that?" You'd want specifics, so you could look at the action in question and evaluate it for yourself.

  3. Fair request: Here are some links:

  4. The Strange Horizons one is a bit snarky, yes, but if you've read any of what they publish you'd know that your work is exactly the sort of stuff they'd never publish.

    I think the Reading SFF review actually asks a good question, which is why does the human ghost want to dissipate?

    SF Kittens also makes a good point, which is that the conflict in the story is muted to the point of being non-existent.

    The Lis Carey link didn't work for me, but in short what I see are three thoughtful reviews by people who didn't like your story. And if you get on a ballot by shenanigans, it's entirely fair to point those shenanigans out.

  5. Keep hitting publish too quick. Go read this: and look at how the author deals with death vs. how your story handles death. Then tell me if you really think somebody who green-lit this is going to like your story.

  6. Anonymous3:48 PM

    Since you are talking about this story, I have a question - why is the ghost in the story not the soul? The thinking behind this is not explained and in most stories, it is assumed that the ghost is the soul - In Wright's Pale Realms of Shade he talks about how the actions of the ghost taken after his death will determine if he ends up in Heaven or Hell - and that's representative of other stories with ghosts I've read.
    So I am really wondering about your different view in this story. Why?

    1. I suppose I believe that a soul comes from God, and so in some way is a part of God (just as some religions believe the divine resides in us) and so it is impervious to any impediments to ascension posed by the material world.

      Therefore, to explain ghosts - in my thinking - we say they are a separate creation that accumulates during life and only dissipates after death, like any energy wave.

      Not standard theology, I suppose, but that's what I was thinking.


Latest reviews

"It’s possible that you haven’t run into the stories of Lou Antonelli. Since 2003, he’s been publishing delightful short tales of alternate history all over the nooks and crannies of the SF world. Thanks to Fantastic Books, we now have 28 of these little gems in one place. "Many of Antonelli’s stories have an unexpected twist ending. And many of them are what he calls “secret history” stories, which aren’t exactly alternate history—they’re set in our familiar history, but there’s always some element that contemporary observers missed. " -

- Don Sakers, The Reference Library, Analog July-Aug. 2014

A better path develops for a distraught man in “Double Exposure” by Lou Antonelli (debut 6/11 and reviewed by Frank D). Jake is about to end it all. He has been trying to keep his high maintenance wife happy for decades and has needed to embezzle to satisfy her spending habits. Now, on the verge of indictment and abandoned by his spouse, he buys a gun. Before he pulls the trigger, he spies a Kodak one-day photo hut. Curious, he pulls up to the window. They are holding pictures of him and his last girlfriend from 30 years before. The package is a lot thicker than it should be. Double Exposure” is listed as an Alternative History story but I would classify it as a Magical Realism tale. It is set as a second chance tale, a look into a life that should have been. The author is inspired by his memories of the old photo huts (I remember them) and of their disappearance. A cool idea (photos of another life), one that I could imagine would make for a great anthology.

- Frank Dutkiewicz, Diabolical Plots

“Great White Ship”: A traveler stuck waiting for a flight strikes up a conversation with an old airline employee. The Old Timer tells him a story of a Great White Airship that arrives from a most unusual destination. The story of a craft from an alternate reality and how it got there is only the precursor to the final act. This is one of my favorite stories from this site. I have a great passion for lighter-than-air craft and their potential as a future means of transport, which opens the story. The author uses this speculation to launch into an engaging tale. As fascinating as the main story line is, the alternate history premise that accompanies it is just as worthwhile. This story was well written and very well thought out. It is well worth the read. Recommended.

- James Hanzelka, Diabolical Plots

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