I read this short fiction about 10-15 years ago but of course it might have been written long before, I don't remember what collection it was in. It was about a short novelette length, maybe technically still a "short story" but not a short-short one.

The main character is a woman physicist, specialist in quantum mechanics. She attends a big scientific conference. There she meets another QM physicist, a man, whom she met already at one (or more) similar conferences and had, at that time expressed his romantic interest in her, very nicely and politely, but she had declined. And she keeps declining when he expresses it again. Note that though he is persistent he is never harassing her, always very nice and polite. Still, in order not to pain him, she tries to avoid him. It is a big conference, with parallel talks at the same time. Also there are lots of various restaurants around, and various things to do during recesses. But though she tries to make decisions at the last moment so he cannot know what talk, restaurant or whatever she chooses, whenever there is a choice, he is always there when she arrives. But it is not through spying, it does not look like "magic" in a "fantasy story", nor some kind of SF "mind reading". No, the writer manages to convey the idea that they are like "quantum entangled particles."

It is really very well done. In the end, she finally admits to herself that she really is attracted to the guy and all's well that ends well.

When I read it, I knew of course whether the author was a man or a woman, but now I forgot the author's name. However, I think that at that time I thought that indeed, only a woman could have written that. But this might be a false, fabricated memory.

In answer to some remarks below

  • It was definitely in an SF collection. As user14111 pointed out, that seems to me a good definition of a SF story.
  • The man never used the expression "entangled particles". It is the reader who comes to this conclusion due to clues the author gives. The titles of the talks to which they attend, things like that.
  • Also, the man definitely does not harass the woman. He does not follow her. She goes someplace at random, and just bumps into him, he was there already.
  • @ Invisible Trihedron Bellwether is a novel, and my story is not that long, though it might be technically a novelette, I don't remember exactly enough. But Connie Willis, that rings a bell. She is a woman, in particular. However, even if it is by her (and I am not sure) she wrote so many stories... Another suggestion ?
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    @Stormblessed - People aren't normally entangled like quantum particles.
    – Valorum
    Nov 10, 2019 at 0:24
  • 3
    Hmm... If not SF, it could still be fantasy. It sounds like something Connie Willis would write in a lighter mood (cf. Bellwether). Nov 10, 2019 at 0:53
  • 3
    @Valorum - That could be more of a metaphor. But seriously, that sounds like a bad pickup line. "Baby, you and I must be entangled particles, because our spins are correlated."
    – Adamant
    Nov 10, 2019 at 1:09
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    @Stormblessed Was it presented as science fiction, e.g., was it published in a science fiction magazine or anthology? If so, then it's science fiction and it's on topic. Because that's what "science fiction" is, a marketing category. If it means something else, point me to the official sci-fi.se definition.
    – user14111
    Nov 10, 2019 at 4:11
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    @Stormblessed My comment was intended for the OP as well as for you. Maybe Alfred will tell us if he read the story in a science fiction book.
    – user14111
    Nov 10, 2019 at 4:25

2 Answers 2


Possibly the novelette At the Rialto by Connie Willis. I read it in the anthology Impossible Things.

The physicist is Dr. Ruth Baringer and the man she keeps bumping into is just referred to as David - we never learn his surname. The story is as you describe, though as with many of Connie Willis's short stories it is complicated and I have to confess I'm not sure I understand it. Much of the action is set at the hotel called The Rialto where the conference is taking place.

The story is interspersed with titles of talks from the conference e.g.

Thursday, 7:30–9 P.M. Opening Ceremonies. Dr. Halvard Onofrio, University of Maryland at College Park, will speak on the topic, “Doubts Surrounding the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.” Ballroom


Thursday, 9–10 P.M. “The Science of Chaos.” I. Durcheinander, University of Leipzig. A seminar on the structure of chaos. Principles of chaos will be discussed, including the Butterfly Effect, fractals, and insolid billowing. Clara Bow Room.

There is also a mysterious character called Dr. Gedanken whose whereabouts no-one seems to know. The story ends at Graumann's Theatre:

I looked up at the marquee. Benji IX was showing in all three theaters, the huge main theater and the two smaller ones on either side. “They’re doing audience-reaction surveys,” Kimberly said. “Each theater has a different ending.”

“Which one’s in the main theater?”

“I don’t know. I just work here part-time to pay for my organic breathing lessons.”

“Do you have any dice?” I asked, and then realized I was going about this all wrong. This was quantum theory, not Newtonian. It didn’t matter which theater I chose or which seat I sat down in. This was a delayed-choice experiment, and David was already in flight.

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    Definitely my story ! Thank you very much !!!!
    – Alfred
    Nov 10, 2019 at 6:40

Could it be this one? I don't know if it matches your plot description, as I haven't read it and would prefer not to, unless it's absolutely necessary.

"Entangled Eyes Are Smiling", a novelette by John Meaney, published in Interzone #190, July–August 2003, available at the Internet Archive.

The link between quantum-entangled particles can be surprisingly robust. That mystic, time-denying bond survives all sorts of attempts to separate the particles' states. Ram one half of the pair through a solid metal sheet: still the couple remain as one.

Is this the basis of true love? Breathing in a lover's spawned particles? Or something deeper, a process which reaches beneath the normal layers of reality?

Or perhaps it is not quantum, but a higher-level pairing, an emergent resonance between two complex neural structures: the standing wave of love.


Up ahead, a slim form was waving at me.

"Over here!"

I called back a greeting:

"Hello, Maddie."

As I drew closer, I saw something strange: not a fiery link, but a brief sputtering evanescence, like a fire trying to start.

Sapphire sparks, just for a moment, scintillated in her eyes.

"I just spotted you. I was out shopping."

  • 1
    The general theme seems the same, but it does not fit a very clear memory that it happened during a scientific conference, with talks by various other physicists, a very prominent feature in the story. But thanks anyway.
    – Alfred
    Nov 10, 2019 at 5:09

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