A really strong story from O’Connell that will appear in some Year’s Best volumes next year, and which I’m putting into the pot for consideration for the Best SF Short Story Award 2014.
A young couple find the old man the apartment below a bit of a nuisance, and when the fire alarms go off due to his leaving a pan on the stove, it looks like social services will need to be called in.
However, the young man gets to know The Old Man, who achieves capitalisation status in the story. There’s much, much more going on downstairs than you might think. (Spoilers ahead!). Clearly the guy is a senior figure in a crazy Alternate History Society, as he’s got reams of high quality facsimiles of newspapers each describing a cataclysmic end of the world due to either asteroid impact, or nuclear war, or similar. What could the alternative be?
Returning to his flat upstairs, the young man comes face to face with the alternative, and we follow him as he works closely with The Old Man, facing some major challenges, to edit out those endings from Earth’s timeline(s). There are prices to be paid – what price a happy ending(s)?
It’s a complex, detailed story with lots of layers and depth, and I’ll be looking out for O’Connell’s next stories.