Clarkesworld magazine. Using a random number generator, this is the short story, out of fifty-seven from the 2014 Locus Recommended Reading List, that a digital roll of the dice selected for me (Amy) to read and review.
"Pernicious Romance" is set in the present day somewhere in America. It tells of a strange occurrence at a college football game. At halftime, there was a brilliant explosion of light from the 50-yard line. No videos survived because it was accompanied by a damaging EMP event. The blast directly killed about sixty people. Everyone else in the stadium, tens of thousands of people, were knocked unconscious. Those in the high seats, farthest from the blast, woke up later that evening. But others, people closer to the blast, woke up weeks, months, or even a year later. All of those affected experienced an intensely real, loving relationship subjectively lasting a week up to fifty years when they were unconscious. Maybe due to the bad effect this had on marriages, the condition became termed pernicious romance.
At first, the explosion was thought to be a terrorist attack, but no one claimed responsibility. There were no suspects. It was postulated that this may have been the test of a new weapon or technology. But no explanation was offered.
This story features the case studies of five victims. It tells how these people's lives were transformed by this unprecedented event and their unexpected experiences.
I found "Pernicious Romance" to be an interesting, well-written short story. It feels profound despite its improbability. Each case study made me realize that the event was weirder than I initially thought. The story left me contemplating it afterward.
Robert Reed is a Hugo Award-winning American science fiction author. I've read and enjoyed a number of his short fiction stories in magazines over the years. According to Wikipedia, Reed has also written a dozen novels.
The first two short stories I've randomly read have been vastly different, but both good. I wonder what I'll get to read next time I try this.