Rec: “Odd Hours” by Tony Pisculli

In July, the SFWA added a webzine called Grievous Angel to its list of qualifying markets but I somehow didn’t notice it until a few days ago. Since it’s nearly a microfiction site (700 words or less) and has published only 25 pieces of fiction this year, I was able to catch up in a day or two. It’s mostly not my sort of thing but I did encounter a couple of noteworthy items with the most recent serendipitously being the best. (It’s the second story in a single post.)

Odd Hours” by Tony Pisculli, Grievous Angel 2017-11-14, SF/F short story

The editor calls this a foray into “cyberpunk,” indicating the whole thing occurs in a VR but, even so, it didn’t strike me as having anything to do with cyberpunk. I started with the January stories and had taken to reading the blurbs last because they were often spoilery or otherwise conditioned the reader’s approach to the stories so I just took this as a modern/urban fantasy with the changes occurring by magic. The issue here is the nature of the imaginative element: a club or bar which metamorphoses from one time period or style to another and stands for chaos. The narrator is waiting for his girlfriend to show up, giving us elegant flashes of character like:

Update from Ani. She’s around the corner. Which means everything, and nothing. The more specific her location, the more uncertain her momentum. Still, the simple fact that she’s nearby thrills me.

So it has a genuinely imaginative element (and perhaps the Heisenberg reference does indicate SF more than F) and it’s “literary” but not preciously, showily so. It’s got a little character and, while it’s, of course, lacking in plot, it does have a plot-like arc. It worked for me.

The other noteworthy story (“Candont” by Deborah L. Davitt, 2017-05-29) is more in honorable mention territory. It uses quantum mechanics to look into whether the characters’ world is the worst of all possible worlds. It appeals to my streak of whimsical pessimism and I like its sly ending, though it’s a fairly simple story and such inversions don’t hold up if read too critically or literally.

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