Demons, computers, cats, and many worlds abound in shortlist
March 07, 2022
The shortlisting panel has read, contemplated, and finally made a decision! From just over 400 stories submitted to the Quantum Shorts flash fiction competition, ten have emerged as finalists. They vie for three top prizes, including one to be decided by public vote.
In 2021, we asked writers to tease out a story from the many possibilities of the quantum world. Our shortlisting judges were impressed with the results.
“I have encountered so many amazingly creative ideas in the stories. It is refreshing to think about quantum mechanical phenomena in new ways,” said shortlisting judge Floor van Riggelen at QuTech, a physicist.
Entries built intriguing worlds, developed plots and created characters, each time in not more than 1000 words. As an added challenge, writers had to also include the phrase “it’s a lot to think about”.
The shortlisted stories took inspiration from topics in quantum physics including quantum computing, the many-worlds interpretation and the observer effect, to spin tales about demons, coronaviruses, cats, and terrifying quantum games.
Some stories tug at the reader’s heartstrings. Author Michael Brooks said, “I was impressed with the way some of these stories immersed me in the characters’ emotions and dilemmas – the science really brought their humanity to the fore.” Librarian Mindy Tan said, “The stories that touched me emotionally, despite my lack of background in quantum physics, really pulled me in.”
For their efforts, authors of the shortlisted stories have won a USD 100 shortlist award and a one-year digital subscription to Scientific American. They could also win more prizes as our judging panel decide the First Prize and Runner Up and a public vote settles the People’s Choice Prize.
The ten shortlisted stories are, in alphabetical order:
A Tale of Two Viruses – Written by Connie Chen, in an eerily familiar world, Evan’s search for a coronavirus vaccine has unintended consequences.
A World Apart – Colm O’Shea explores the thought processes of a quantum processor.
Better, Faster, Stronger, Lonelier – The classical-quantum debate is reframed in chat messages between a classical computer and a quantum computer by Álvaro Buendía.
Demons Hunt in Darkness – S.G. Phillips tells a fantastical story about a demon-haunted world and a girl’s quest for a new way to live.
Helping Hands – Cora Valderas’s story is a spooky warning to always be careful when handling quantum machinery.
Lost and Found – Ana mysteriously finds children’s socks on her bed after moving into her new home in this story by Giancarla Aritao.
Possible Cats – Michael Haiden confronts the issues that arrive with a dangerous and expensive new technology.
Powers of Observation – With a speculative eye on the future, Charmaine Smith creates a powerful job that carries a cost.
Quantum et Circenses – In this tale by Sabrina Patsch, participants in a race about strategy, courage and luck also have to contend with quantum effects.
Quantum Luck – Through the adventures of Captain Brinks, Brian Wells tells a story about quantum tunnelling, with a twist.
Congratulations to the finalists! You can read the stories one by one, hear from the finalists in their Q&As, and vote for your favourite story. The online public vote to decide the People’s Choice Prize is open from now till 21 March 2022.
We thank all writers who shared their stories with us and wish the shortlisted authors all the best in the final judging.