Nature Future Conditional

Enter the world of Quantum Shorts

There is a far-flung corner of the Universe where ‘Quantum Shorts’ are the very latest in haute couture — and to be fair some of the designs are very fetching, even if they really only suit species indigenous to a handful of moons many light years from Earth (you can sometimes get the garments on intergalactic mail order — but to carry the look off, it tends to help if you have more than five legs).Quantum-Twitter_v2

For the rest of us, the phrase Quantum Shorts means it is time for the annual competition run by the Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore. Launched in 2012, the competition seeks science-fiction inspiration in the quantum world. This year, it wants you to write a piece of flash fiction — no more than 1,000 words long — that in some way features something quantum. Up for grabs is a first prize of US$1,500 as well as a year’s subscription to the digital edition of Scientific American. The rules are simple: write a 1,000-word story and submit it via the Quantum Shorts website by 11.59 EST on 1 December 2015.

Nature Futures is delighted to be one of the judges this year and — assuming the temporal literature-transfer unit doesn’t blow another fuse — is eagerly looking forward to reading the entries in December.

There’s a host of useful links on the Quantum Shorts website to help inspire you. Here, Brian Crawford, who won the Quantum Shorts contest in 2013 with his story The Knight of Infinity, offers some insight into the competition. 

How did you hear about the Quantum Shorts contest?

I saw an advertisement for the Quantum Shorts contest while thumbing through a Scientific American magazine on an airplane. It’s ironic that I discovered this futuristic contest in a print advertisement.

What inspired your story?

There may have been some quantum entanglement  at work in the events leading up to my writing The Knight of Infinity.  I had just visited my clairvoyant dentist (seriously), and she told me I should explore quantum physics and multiple universes in my writing. I always agree with my dentist, because I can’t talk back. The next day I saw the ad in Scientific American.

At the same time, there was lot of debate in the news about California’s proposed bullet train, so the idea of Rider Quinn’s train was born.

I’ve been fascinated with quantum physics since college. And I love bending my mind around the concept of infinity, the idea that everything that could happen is happening, an infinite number of times. So there’s an infinite number of Brian Crawford’s typing this write right now, and a second ago, and a million years from now, and this Brian has blue hair, and that one is typing with his nose, and … you get the picture.

What do you think makes good science fiction? Do you have any tips for people who are going to enter Quantum Shorts this year?

The science is important, but focus more on the universal elements of a good story. Make the reader care about your characters in as few words as possible. As for popular contests, my little brother told me this about karaoke: This isn’t the place to demonstrate your mastery of some obscure opera. The audience wants something they can relate to. So put on a universal song, and sing your heart out.


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