DONALD WOLLHEIM, Editor, with Arthur W. Saha – The 1989 Annual World’s Best SF. Daw #783, paperback original; 1st printing, June 1989. Cover art by Jim Burns.

#4. GEORGE ALEC EFFINGER “Schrödinger’s Kitten.” Novelette. First published in Omni, September 1988. Published in a single volume by Pulphouse Publishing, hardcover/paperback, February 1992. First collected in Budayeen Nights, Golden Gryphon Press, hardcover, September 2003. Winner of both the Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette of the Year.

   The story begins with a young twelve-year-old girl waiting in an alley at festival time in the Budayeen quarter of the same unnamed Middle-Eastern city where several other works by George Alec Effinger take place. Her purpose: to kill the boy she knows will rape her.

   She does not know the boy, who he is, or anything about him. She knows what will happen only through the visions she has been having, many times over. Sometimes he succeeds, sometimes he does not. Sometimes she dies, sometime she lives. When she lives, sometimes she dies alone, after a bitter life of prostitution, sometimes she is rescued.

   And these visions alternate in the telling of the story with futures in which she become a noted nuclear physicist, working alongside the likes of Werner Heisenberg and Erwin Schrödinger, in the era of Einstein, Max Born and Max Planck as they feverishly try to find the mathematics that correctly describe quantum physics.

   It’s quite a mixture. Jehan also has a hand in keeping the Nazis from succeeding in their experiments with the atom bomb. As it turns out, as experienced SFnal readers will quickly deduce, these not exactly visions that Jehan is having while she waits for her would-be rapist in the alley. I think most such readers will catch on very quickly, even before Effinger reveals their secrets, that these are glimpses of parallel worlds. Worlds that are created at every single fraction of a second, and have been since the beginning of time, branching out with the each of the billions of possibilities, continuing on now and the future.

   This is heady stuff, well told. It is no wonder the story won both a Hugo and a Nebula. It was well deserved.


Previously from the Wollheim anthology:   JOHN SHIRLEY “Shaman.”