Read the finalists in the Quantum Shorts flash fiction competition

It’s time for us to do away with the uncertainty in the outcome of this competition. The shortlisting panel members of the Quantum Shorts flash fiction competition have read thousands and thousands of words across hundreds of stories to choose the shortlists from our 2017 call for entries.

We are thrilled to announce ten finalists in the competition’s open category and eight in the youth category, coming from writers around the world. Each story takes inspiration from quantum physics, is no more than 1000 words long, and includes the phrase “There are only two possibilities: yes or no”.

All of these writers have already won prizes – with more awards to be decided by our distinguished judges. Now it’s time for you to help someone get even more reward for their writing. You can vote in the People’s Choice prize from now until 23:59 GMT on Thursday 15 February. The story that gets the most support will win a People’s Choice prize of $500.

Be warned: you may find it a difficult decision. “This year’s quantum shorts were so amazing that, as I see it, there are only two possibilities: Either a lot of quantum physicists have turned writers, or many writers have picked up some serious quantum mechanics backgrounds. Both possibilities are really exciting,” says Spiros Michalakis, a quantum physicist and outreach manager at the Institute for Quantum Information and Matter at Caltech, which is a scientific partner of the competition.

The judging panel was full of praise for the entries. Singaporean writer Tania De Rozario described the stories as “engaging and diverse”, while Tobi Day-Hamilton at the Institute for Quantum Computing commended the “wonderful mix of story approaches and styles and themes”. Julia Cramer at QuTech observed that some were “very beautifully written”, and physicist Matt Edgar at QuantIC said there were “some exceptional pieces which could easily form the basis of an entire book”.

So start with the stories below, and vote for your favourite. Then keep going with the rest of the entries here.

Acceptable Loss
Beam Therapy
From the Ruins of Beijing
I dreamt of worms
Magic Lamp, 2050
The Fraction She Didn’t Know she Was
The Question Tree
The Scent of Strangeness
Till decoherence do us part

A Future with Fortran
Acts Of Observation
Dramatic Descriptions
End-User Agreement
The world had collapsed to just the both of us
Two words

News overview