The story utilizes a form of the many worlds hypothesis, and is named after the Schrödinger's cat thought experiment. It first appeared in Omni, and its original novelette form was also featured in the third volume of The New Hugo Winners in 1994.
The story follows a Middle-Eastern woman, Jehan Fatima Ashûfi, through various realities, ranging from one in which she is raped when still a girl, subsequently abandoned by her family and dies alone, to one in which she is sentenced to death for killing her would-be rapist and being unable to pay the "blood price" to his family, and another in which she becomes a physicist and companion to well-known German scientists ranging from Heisenberg to Schrödinger, and subsequently prevents the Nazis from developing nuclear weapons during World War II by simply forwarding "unintelligible scientific papers" to key politicians looking into the idea.
She is, unusually, aware of the existence of these realities, which she perceives as "visions" and assumes might come to her from Allah. Throughout different points in the story, the adult Jehan of some realities struggles to reconcile her religious upbringing and "visions" with her scientific profession; in the end, however, an aged Jehan finds satisfaction in the explanation of Hugh Everett's theory regarding the possibility of alternate realities, which fits with her personal experiences.
Awards and nominations
It won the Hugo Award for Best Novelette in 1989, as well as a Nebula Award and the Seiun Award.