Final three winners of the Quantum Shorts flash fiction competition

Published on
April 14, 2024

Three stories inspired by quantum physics have claimed prizes in the final round of the international Quantum Shorts competition.

First Prize goes to the author of “A World in Threads” – in which a girl searches for a perfect reality through many worlds. “The Observer”, where the emergence of observers within an observed universe causes problems, is Runner Up. A public poll on the shortlist chose “Root Consciousness” for the People’s Choice Prize.

Quantum Shorts is organised by the Centre for Quantum Technologies in Singapore with Scientific American and Nature as media partners, and scientific partners the ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems; the Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonic and Quantum Technologies; the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo, Canada; the Institute for Quantum Information and Matter at Caltech; QuTech; and the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme.

A panel of judges selected the two stories for the competition’s top honours from a shortlist often quantum-inspired stories. The judges were Chad Orzel, George Musser, Ingrid Jendrzejewski, José Ignacio Latorre, Ken Liu, Leonardo Benini and Tania De Rozario.

“The finalists represented a wide range of styles, approaches, and subject matter. It was so inspiring to see how creatively the writers interpreted the premise and spun expected tropes in unexpected directions,” said speculative fiction author Ken Liu. “Congrats to the winners, and I hope everyone continues to tell the stories they want to tell.”

In addition to the shortlist award, certificate and digital subscription to Scientific American that is awarded to all the finalists, the three winners get cash awards and an engraved trophy.

The fantastical story “A World in Threads” struck a chord with the judges. Science writer George Musser called it “surreal but affecting” while Leonardo Benini, Senior Editor at Nature Physics praised the “surreal, oneiric, evocative writing”. For winning First Prize, Acadia Reynolds receives USD 1500.

“I’m thrilled about winning first place,” she said. “I’m pursuing a career in science writing, so it feels great for my writing to be validated like this. I plan on continuing to write and improve.”

Aspiring writer DanGoodman is Runner Up, winning USD 1000. His story “The Observer” was afavourite of writer Ingrid Jendrzejewski. “This is a wonderfully creative piecewith an ambitious concept,” she said. “I love how it leans into the science andweaves it into the story’s world.”

On being the Runner Up, Dan Goodman said, “To be honest, I had been so thrilled just to make the shortlist that I had no expectations whatsoever. This news came as a complete surprise. All the shortlisted entries were wonderful, some truly outstanding, so I am honoured and humbled for my story to be chosen as the runner up.”

The People’s Choice Prize of USD 500 went to Tony Tsoi of “Root Consciousness”. He said, “This story is my second submission ever to a writing contest. I am thrilled to be awarded the People’s Choice Prize. I would like to thank my two writing buddies who have accompanied me on my writing journey since Day 1. Special thanks go to my wife, Wing-Yee, who lets me interrupt her whenever I need to brainstorm ideas.”

“I would like to thank everyone who has taken part in Quantum Shorts since the Centre for Quantum Technologies started this series in2012,” said José Ignacio Latorre, who is also Director of the Centre for Quantum Technologies. “Our lives are richer for your creative work. I particularly appreciate the films and fiction that explore science in subtle ways. This year’s winner did that beautifully.”

Congratulations to the winners! Find all the shortlisted stories, and interviews with the shortlisted authors on their inspiration on the Quantum Shorts website.

Audiences can also share their thoughts on Quantum Shorts through the competition’s survey – with the chance of receiving a book in thanks. We’ll be giving 20 lucky recipients chosen at random a free print copy of the first Quantum Shorts book.

A forthcoming second volume of quantum short stories is also planned, collecting the honourably mentioned, shortlisted and winning stories of the last three years of the flash fiction competitions. The e-book will be available for free download.