What do you get if you combine creative writing with quantum mechanics? That's what the organisers of the Quantum Shorts short story competition are trying to find out with their biennial contest (it alternates each year between a prose competition and one for short films). The idea is that the genuinely weird world of quantum physics provides fertile ground for stories and, considering the number of entries they tend to get and the wide range of interpretations of the theme, it's hard to argue otherwise.
My story, The Physics of Falling (in Love), was inspired by the unpredictable behaviour of particles at the quantum (for anyone not up to speed on the terminology, for the purposes of this post you can just take that to mean very, very small) scale. The way quantum particles interact means it's very hard to accurately predict how one will influence another, and scientists can usually only work to establish the likelihood that Outcome X will happen, as opposed to Outcome Y. Although I did GCSE physics at school and several of the engineering topics I studied at university were heavily dependent on the subject, the quantum realm was never something I was required to learn about. I've read about bits of it since then, but I'm a long way from being any kind of expert.
The example I use in the story, of photons hitting a pane of glass, was something I heard on a radio programme during a long drive several years ago. I hope I've remembered it correctly, otherwise it's a really bad choice of metaphor! I actually wrote the first draft of the story for the 2013 competition, but I'd only heard about the contest very close to the deadline, and my initial attempt was way over the 1,000-word limit. In the end I couldn't edit it down in time, so I missed my chance. I refined it, send it out a couple of times - it was shortlisted for the Wells Festival of Literature short story competition in 2014 - but after that I decided it was probably worth waiting for the Quantum Shorts contest to come around again.
Anyway, the story is up on the website if you fancy having a read. Chances are it'll be the only love story powered by quantum physics you'll read today, but you never know. There's the option of rating the story if you feel so inclined, although I don't think it makes any difference at this point in time. If it makes the shortlist, though, I will be asking people to vote, as there's a "People's Choice" prize for the most popular/highest-rated tale.
If you feel suitably inspired to write a quantum-themed story, get cracking. It's free to enter, the prizes are pretty good, and submissions are open until 01 December 2015.