MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Please help us find these "lost" works of mathematical fiction:

I frequently receive e-mail messages from site visitors who are looking for stories that they remember reading a long time ago. Sometimes I am able to help them locate these stories, but not always. So, I am creating this list of ``lost stories'' in the hopes that you can help us find them:

Missing Mathematical Fiction: No. 1
Sought by Kerry
I was online trying to track a child's story and wondered if have come across it... I saw some Russian Children's books in your database that may be similar but this I'm not sure if it would be a translation. The book would have been available in the later 70s early 80s and has that kind of look board cover and lots of oranges and purples in the illustrations, a picture book. I feel like the name is the Land of Nil or the Kingdom of Nil but those don't turn up any results and I could be wrong. It is the story of Nil (though I'm now wondering if the name was Zero) a lonely jester-like character in the kingdom with no real importance because he can't be added - multiplied - divided or subtracted like the other numbers. The crux of the story is somehow related to the decimal point. The decimal point makes him a valued member of the kingdom and there is some kind of fairy who helps him discover this. Just tossing this our in can you may have come across it. If it's already in your database and I missed it I apologize... I often think of the book but it's just outside memory's grasp.

-Kerry

If you have any information about this "lost story", please write to kasmana@cofc.edu. Thank you! -Alex

Missing Mathematical Fiction: No. 2
Sought by Marilyn
I have something to add to your database except that I can't find it and have been searching for a long time; as a matter of fact, I found your database because I was searching. It's a short story which is similar to one of Asimov's short stories (The Feeling of Power) except that it's a child in an arithmetic class who discovers arithmetic while using his calculator. I thought the title was 4 by 4x and that it was by Heinlein; however, that doesn't seem to be the case. At any rate, I read it many years ago -- probably around forty or so. Please let me know if anyone should come across it; I'd really, really appreciate it! Thank you.

-Marilyn

If you have any information about this "lost story", please write to kasmana@cofc.edu. Thank you! -Alex

Missing Mathematical Fiction: No. 3
Sought by Jacqueline
I read a story some years ago about a young man who lived in a time when all mathematics were done by a computer in a temple, in which the young man was a priest or attendant. When he discovers that he can do math himself, he is considered to be a threat to the worship of the computer. Do you have any idea what that story might be? I've been looking for it for years, but have no recall of the author or title....

-Jacqueline

I thought it might be Souls in the Great Machine, but apparently not. If you have any information about this "lost story", please write to kasmana@cofc.edu. Thank you! -Alex

Missing Mathematical Fiction: No. 4
Sought by Ken
I've been trying to remember the title of a book I read about where the premise was about the different route(s) the development of science could have taken if the initial conditions (e.g. the ancient Greek emphasis on the axiomatic development of geometry) had been different. Does that ring a bell for you? I've tried to have my history of math students think about this idea at times but I'm stuck trying to remember where I was reading about that in the first place. I certainly would apreciate if you could drop me an email if you do know of the book.

-Ken

If you have any information about this "lost story", please write to kasmana@cofc.edu. Thank you! -Alex

Missing Mathematical Fiction: No. 5
Sought by Don
I would really appreciate it if you could help me. Many years ago when I was a boy (around the years 1969 & 1970), I read a short science fiction story. The story was part of an anthology most likely published in the 1940s or 1950s. I would like very much to track down this story for my teenage son so that he could also read it.

Here is what I can recall about the short story:

The story is told in first person. It opens up with the narrator telling that he has a watch that runs backwards and his heart is now on his right side. He then talks about how this came to be. His friend was very brilliant (said he was one of the few people who understood Einstein’s theory of relativity) And Abbot’s book “Flatland” was discussed. His friend constructed a portal through the 4th dimension and in to a parallel universe. The two men threw tennis balls through the portal. The balls bounced back! However it was inside out the red rubber inside was on the outside and the fuzzy surface was on the inside! The two men got their 38 automatics and other gear and passed through the portal. I believe in separate trips. However at one point they went together. At any rate, one way or another they found themselves on a shore of a sea. At one point, they saw a strange creature that changed shape. The brilliant friend explained that the creature had four dimensions. Thus when it passed through our own three dimensions it changed shape. Just like a sphere passing through a plane in flatland. At another point in the story one of the men falls asleep and wakes up in a pit. When he manages to get out the two men figure out that to the fourth dimensional creature the construction of a pit is no more of a problem than for a three dimensional creature to draw a circle around a flatlander. In the end something terrible happens and the brilliant friend is trapped on the other side.

-Don

Thanks to Mike Gannis, this missing story has been found. It turned out to be The Land of No Shadow. If you have any information about this "lost story", please write to kasmana@cofc.edu. Thank you! -Alex

Missing Mathematical Fiction: No. 6
Sought by Cali
A few years ago I read a children's novel for grades 4 - 6 that included math problems in every chapter. It was a novel that followed a story, but the child had to do a great deal of math in order to understand the book. Hidden in the book were questions like this:

Girls
+ Boys
------
????

By using clues in the book the children had to figure out what the number for each corresponding letter would be. Ex: all the r's would be the same number and so on. The answer to the problem helped you understand something important in the plot.

Do you know the name of the book?

-Cali

It looks like this was Sideways Arithmetic from Wayside School by Louis Sachar, author of the wonderful book/movie Holes. However, this book is not really fiction, just a puzzle book associated with a work of fiction. So, I won't be adding it to the database.) If you have any information about this "lost story", please write to kasmana@cofc.edu. Thank you! -Alex

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Your Help Needed: Some site visitors remember reading works of mathematical fiction that neither they nor I can identify. It is time to crowdsource this problem and ask for your help! You would help a neighbor find a missing pet...can't you also help a fellow site visitor find some missing works of mathematical fiction? Please take a look and let us know if you have seen these missing stories anywhere!.

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)