Blogging the Hugos: On A Spiritual Plain

“On A Spiritual Plain”
Lou Antonelli
Category: Best Short Story

on-a-spiritual-plain_smallThis is a look at an alien planet where the dead of the local species leave an electromagnetic echo that has all the usual properties associated with ghosts. When the first human dies on the planet (due to poor OSHA compliance) it turns out that this happens to humans too. The narrator is the chaplain for the small human base here, and it turns out he’s who you’re gonna call in this situation. He learns that the locals go on pilgrimages to one of the planet’s magnetic poles, where the ghosts can dissipate. This he proceeds to do with no particular challenges or difficulty.

Unfortunately none of this was compelling enough to prevent me from being distracted by the blatant technical errors in this piece. I try to adjust for my own background and give writers a pass on the physics most of the time. But when you’re writing a story in which planetary magnetism has a central role, I do expect you to have a better understanding of magnets than the Insane Clown Posse. For that matter, if you’re going to base your story on a mysterious physical anomaly, you might try drawing from more current concepts. Magnetism has been well understood for over a hundred years, and unless you’re Jules Verne or H. G. Wells you shouldn’t be using it as the source of ghostly apparitions.

bats_arent_bugsAnd then there was the part where the author stated that the ratio 1:4:9 is the “Golden Mean”. If you don’t know what the golden ratio is, why would you make up a number instead of just looking it up on Wikipedia? It makes you seem like Calvin doing his report on bats with no research whatsoever.

If it seems like I’m just nitpicking rather than engaging with more significant elements of the story, it’s because I didn’t find much there. Neither the ideas nor the characters were particularly interesting, there wasn’t any discernible conflict, and the prose was fairly simplistic. There’s not much to say to this ghost story except “boo”.