MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Phantom (2006)
Terry Goodkind
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Richard Rahl, the protagonist of the best-selling Sword of Truth series, seeks to protect the world from an evil spell which (among other things) has removed his wife from existence.

As Kati Voigt points out to me, in the fifth chapter of this tenth novel in the series, Richard makes use of a relationship between math and magic to explain his reasoning to some of his partners. For example:

(quoted from Phantom)

Ann's face had gone crimson. "It's a spell-form! It's inert! It can't be biological!"

"That's the problem," Richard said, answering her point rather than her anger. "You can't have these kind of variables tainting what's supposed to be a constant. It would be like a math equation in which any of the numbers could spontaneously change their value. Such a thing would render math invalid and unworkable. Algebraic symbols can vary -- but even then they are specific relational variables. The numbers, though, are constants. Same with this structure: emblems have to be constructed of inert constants -- you might say like simple addition or subtractions. An interval variable currupts the constant of an emblematic form."

"I don't follow," Zedd admitted.

Richard gestured to the table. "You drew the Grace in blood. The Grace is a constant. The blood is biological. Why did you do it that way?"

"To make it work," Ann snapped. "We had to do it that way in order to initiate an interior perspective of the verification web. That's the way it's done. That's the method."

Richard held up a finder. "Exactly. You deliberately introduced a controlled biological variable -- blood -- into what is a constant -- a Grace. Keep in mind though, that it remains outside the spell-form itself; it's merely an empowering agent, a catalyst. I think it must be that such a variable in the Grace allows the spell you nitiated to run its course without being influenced by a constant -- the Grace. Do you see? ..."

I don't really see what he is getting at, even though I work with variables and constants for a living. And, it appears that there is only this one chapter of the book (which is only one in a series) that discusses math so explicitly. So, you might say that this tiny amount of mathematical nonsense is not worth including on this database. However, I find it terribly interesting the way Richard seems to be able to use math to understand the magic whereas his colleagues just have memorized some techniques that work. This seems very much like a role that mathematics plays in the real world as well.

Moreover, this is only one of a large number of works of fiction which draw analogies between math and magic. (See the list of "similar" works below.) This, I think, is "emblematic" (to use one of Richard Rahl's favorite terms) of the fact that many people find mathematics to be incomprehensible and powerful, like magical spells.

Thanks to Kati Voigt for pointing out this small but interesting bit of mathematical fiction!

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(Note: This is just one work of mathematical fiction from the list. To see the entire list or to see more works of mathematical fiction, return to the Homepage.)

Works Similar to Phantom
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. A Logical Magician by Robert Weinberg
  2. The Last Page by Anthony Huso
  3. Mathemagics by Margaret Ball
  4. The Mathematics of Magic by L. Sprague de Camp / Fletcher Pratt
  5. The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross
  6. Your Magic or Mine by Ann Macela
  7. Voyage of the Shadowmoon by Sean McMullen
  8. Black Numbers by Dean Frank Lappi
  9. Napier's Bones by Derryl Murphy
  10. The Gate of the Flying Knives by Poul Anderson
Ratings for Phantom:
RatingsHave you seen/read this work of mathematical fiction? Then click here to enter your own votes on its mathematical content and literary quality or send me comments to post on this Webpage.
Mathematical Content:
1/5 (1 votes)
..
Literary Quality:
3/5 (1 votes)
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Categories:
GenreFantasy,
Motif
Topic
MediumNovels,

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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)