The Big Idea: David Walton
Quantum physics gets a workout in Superposition, the new novel from Philip K. Dick Award winner David Walton. He’s here to catch you up on how abstruse, higher-order physics works for action and adventure.
I love stories that tie my mind in knots.
Stories like the film Inception, that juggle multiple layers of reality, each of them affecting the others in complex but logical ways. The kind of stories that take big chances and then deliver. I wanted to write a novel like that, but how? What idea could I have that would be big enough to drive such a story?
Two things happened to answer that question for me. One, I was reading non-fiction books about quantum physics. Two, I had jury duty and was picked for a trial. The trial was a doozie: a grown brother and sister were illegally spying on their father, trying to catch him having an affair. The father, however, had plans to fake his own death, collect his own life insurance, and flee the country with his mistress, a Russian native with mob connections. It wasn’t until the father turned up murdered that the police got involved. The femme fatale herself took the witness stand, hostile as a wolf, defending her dead lover’s good intentions. Sometimes, reality is stranger than fiction.
And nowhere is that more true than in the world of quantum physics. At the subatomic level, nothing behaves the way we expect. Particles exist in more than one place, or more than one state, at the same time. Electrons move from point A to point B without ever existing in some of the places in between. Measurement of one particle instantaneously influences another, regardless of the distance between them.
From these two unlikely parents, the Big Idea for my novel Superposition was born. In the novel, as you might have guessed, the crazy properties of the quantum level start showing up in the larger world—thanks to a new technology and the interference of an alien quantum intelligence. Everyday objects jump through walls. Bullets diffract instead of photons. People exist in more than one place at the same time.
Superposition is mind-bending, but it’s no cerebral drama. It’s a fast-paced thriller, with high-stakes danger and a race to the finish. It starts when a former colleague shows up at Jacob Kelley’s door full of unbelievable tales and fires a gun at Jacob’s wife. When the colleague shows up dead, Jacob is accused of murder. Soon he and his teenage daughter are on the run, pursued by the police and by a quantum intelligence unconstrained by the normal limits of space and matter. Father and daughter have to pick up the pieces, following multiple paths of possibility to get to the truth and put their lives back together again.
It’s a whirlwind from beginning to end, and it was great fun to write. I hope you’ll give it a try!