I thought that Project: Read As Much As Possible And Vote By Merit would be easier if I didn’t sit around waiting for the voter pack. Accordingly, I’ve reserved a bunch of the nominated novels at my elibrary of preference. As for short stories, all but one are available online, and I’ve started reading and organising my preferences.
(I really love preferential voting. I like to have my senate ballots prepared weeks ahead of an election. Of course I vote below the line. SO GREAT.)
It’s not clear whether this version on Antonelli’s blog is the same as that published in Sci Phi Journal #2. For the sake of my embarrassment squick, I hope not. The blog version’s dialogue is full of run on sentences, which (aside from being grammatically problematic) makes it a bit hard to read. I dearly hope it’s a first draft.
Anyway, it’s a story about an alien planet whose magnetic field creates ghosts of the dead, and a human chaplain who has to deal with the first human ghost.
The concept is mildly interesting, the execution mildly frustrating. An example:
Ymilans believe–as do many Terran religions–that each individual has a spark of an eternal extra-dimensional over-arching consciousness that is imbued in each of them at birth and ultimately returns to a higher dimensional plane when the physical form is no longer viable. I told him we call it the “soul”. They also know–I won’t say believe because the evidence was obvious on Ymilas–that while alive we develop an electromagnetic imprint as a result of the experiences of life that survives after death. I told Dergec an ancient Terran religion had the same belief, and in fact built elaborate pyramids and tombs filled with personal belongings to keep those spirits happy.
I don’t know that the Egyptian concept of the ba had anything whatsoever to do with electromagnetism, but the Ymilan religion — where ancestors remain part of a person’s life after death — has more to do with Chinese beliefs anyway. Beliefs which are contemporary and actually practised right now in the actual real world, and aren’t in fact alien in any way whatsoever. That the author doesn’t seem to realise this is … well, it shows a certain carelessness in research, or a lack of general knowledge, or maybe a cultural arrogance?
I found the writing amateurish and the central idea poorly executed. This is going above No Award, but only because it’s not actually insulting.
This is actually insulting. If Bible-quoting animals debating their place in the world after the extinction of humanity is your idea of a good time, this might be the story for you. If you thought that The Last Battle was amazing but needed to make its metaphors more obvious, this is definitely for you. If you like interesting, original and insightful fiction, I’m sorry, you will have to move on.
Wright is trying very hard to incorporate Catholic theology into this story, but the result frankly makes me a bit embarrassed to share a religion with him. It takes a very talented writer to pull off explicitly Christian references in what appears to be a secondary world fantasy setting, and John C Wright is no C S Lewis.
Going below No Award.
(A note: both of these short stories have been posted to blogs but formatted for paper — indents, no paragraph spacing, etc. Guys, don’t do that. It’s fine for a book or ereader, but in the context of a website, it’s just hard to read. And neither story has been worth the eye strain.)
Finally, some formatting I can read!
And this is the best story so far, which is not to say it’s not derivative in concept and execution, and kind of sexist in its portrayal of the sandwich-fetching grad student hated by the heroine. A scientist working on the preservation of living tissue after death is killed in an accident, her brain is preserved, but she only gets a short afterlife before decay sets in.
The idea’s been done a bunch of times, but this gets a neat ZOMGObamacare twist: preservation is dependent on your monetary worth. Death panels, guys! It’s weird and specifically American, but hey, this is an American story.
I’m pretty lukewarm overall, but it was readable (in every sense of the word) and largely inoffensive. I’m probably going to give this my first preference.
Look, the integration of human, AI and spaceship is not a new idea. Anne McCaffrey wrote The Ship Who Sang before I was born; Ann Leckie gave the concept a powerful new twist, oh, just a couple of years ago.
I guess Rzasa deserves some praise for claiming the subgenre for People Who Aren’t Named Ann(e), but it’s just soooooo boring. A whole paragraph about the protagonist’s hull and weaponry? *snore*
This feels like the author read Ancillary Justice and went, “Yes, but what this really needs is less ambiguity and a really boring main character.” It’s competently written, which is sadly high praise for the short story category this year, but that’s all I can say.
This whole “vote by merits” thing is really hard, guys. Like, I don’t think that this deserves an award. And yet two-fifths of the category is SO BAD that the overall standard is so low, I can’t in good conscience NOT place it second on my ballot.
The fifth nominated story is “A Single Samurai” by Stephen Diamond, which doesn’t appear to be available online. That will have to wait for the voter pack. Until I’ve read it, my ballot currently looks like:
- “On A Spiritual Plain”
- No Award
- “The Parliament of Beasts and Birds”
(I keep typing “The Parliament of Beats and Birds”, which I presume is about DJs and HORRIBLE AVIANS gathering together to work out their place in the universe after the fall of non-DJ humanity.)