MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Chronicles of a Comer (1972)
K.M O'Donnell (aka Barry N. Malzberg)
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Contributed by Vijay Fafat

A short story about a statistician who believes in the second coming of Christ and looks for it in the statistical correlations between the events and people's reactions to those events (e.g. "14% of college-educated housewives believe in stronger repressive measures against the drug-culture, 51% of working class males above the median salary believe television is a government plot"). Presumably, he's looking for spikes in certain types of correlations which could signal His arrival.. He gets so obsessed that his marriage suffers ("my wife says, 'you're just a cold-hearted statistician who only sees people as numbers and trends'") along with his professional life ("simple statistical errors, flaws of computation a child would not have made, misplacement of median and mode" and "today I missed an entire distribution curve").

His obsession leads him to suspect that He might show up as a regular character in his daily life and half-believes the crazed beggar into whom he runs during lunch hour one day might be Jesus. Turns out that the crazed beggar really was a lunatic; the beggar attacks him without reason, putting him out of commission for a few days. After that, the statistician starts leading a normal life but then has a new vision... he sees Christ in the statistical fact that 47% of Dayton, Ohio, does not believe in the teachings of any of the various Churches...

Originally published in the collection "And Walk Now Gently Through the Fire" (ed. Roger Elwood, Chilton 1972) and prominently reprinted in "Chronicles of a Comer and Other Religious Science Fiction Stories" (ed. Roger Elwood, John Knox Press 1974).

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Works Similar to Chronicles of a Comer
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Math Takes a Holiday by Paul Di Filippo
  2. The Gigantic Fluctuation by Arkady Strugatsky / Boris Strugatsky
  3. De Impossibilitate Vitae and Prognoscendi by Stanislaw Lem
  4. Tracking the Random Variable by Marcos Donnelly
  5. Stand-In by Tay Garnett
  6. Slightly Perfect / Are you with it? by George Malcolm-Smith (Novel) / Sam Perrin (Script) / George Balzer (Script)
  7. Been a long, long time by R.A. Lafferty
  8. Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
  9. Odds Against Tomorrow by Nathaniel Rich
  10. Erasmus with Freckles [aka Dear Brigitte] by John Haase
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Categories:
GenreHumorous,
MotifAnti-social Mathematicians, Math as Cold/Dry/Useless, Religion,
TopicProbability/Statistics,
MediumShort Stories,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)