MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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A Subway Named Moebius (1950)
A.J. Deutsch
Highly Rated!

When the MBTA (Boston's Public Transportation authority) introduces a new line, the topology of the network become so complex that a train vanishes...lost in some fourth dimensional properties of the network. The mathematics in this story is not always accurate. In particular, I disagree with the statment that a Möbius strip always has one singularity and a Klein bottle has two. (In fact, the standard versions of these topological curiosities are non-singular manifolds.) Maybe the author is confusing the "twisting" required to make these objects from two-sided 2-dimensional objects with singularity.
Apparently, this story was made into a movie!
Reprinted in Fantasia Mathematica.

Contributed by walter leight

"I read this story when it first came out -- more than a half century ago -- and recalled it in a conversation today, leading me to this web site and an opportunity to vote. Clearly, it was memorable!"

Contributed by Dan Jensen

"It has been many years since the one and only time I read "Subway". I can't recall any particular details of the story, except the main plot. That is why I only gave it a "3" on your scale. I do remember that when I read it as a young teen (I'm now in my mid 40s) I thought it was a very good story, and it introduced me to the unusual world of topology. Whenever I see an M.C. Escher print, I am reminded of this story. I'd like to re-read it from an adult point of view, if I could find it again."

Contributed by Patrick T. Ayers

I read this story once accidentally (I don't recall how I found it) and was intrigued by it greatly.

Contributed by Jack Gjovaag

Suspend belief and ignore the mathematical flubs and it is an interesting science fiction story, about as good as most in this typically mediocre genre.

Contributed by Anonymous

Read this story a long ago, but just the fact I still remember it means that it really can leave an impression.. Math is not at all accurate, but the idea is intriguing enough to let you think about it a while, which is what counts.

Contributed by Anonymous

This is a good story that makes crucial and proper use of math in a way that does not require much expertise from the reader.

Contributed by Maurizio Dagradi

I've read this [story] in the 70's, when I was a boy, and I loved it. Although the story stays vague on how a subway network, even if grown extremely complex, could trigger multidimensional behaviours, the atmosphere you breath while reading the novel is very intriguing and fascinating. It led me to learn some topology, and I was amazed.

Contributed by Rich

I keep re-discovering this story in anthologies every 15 or 20 years. I love it! My very first exposure to it, though, was actually as a story in one of the Marvel Comic anthologies in the 60's. I was delighted the first time I discovered the original story.

Contributed by Anonymous

The math may not be accurate, but the story couldn't exist without the math in question, so I gave it a 4 on that. 5 for literary quality-- I read it in an old anthology I found at a yard sale and loved it.

Contributed by Fred W

Read this as a kid and loved it at the time. Opens a child's mind to many possibilities. Would like to read it again and see how I relate to it these many years later.

Contributed by Anonymous

I read this soon after it was published in the 50's, and I've just got back from the 4th dimension.

Contributed by J Judson

I probably still have the original magazine in the attic. Since I am arithmetically challenged I have no right to judge its accuracy, but it certainly was memorable--for more than fifty years. And it can be found in various anthologies. As for that lofty smart aleck who finds the s-f field mediocre, he should really get to know it better--Asimov, Clarke, le Guin, Ellison, Sturgeon, Russ, Delaney, Dick, Heinlein, etc etc etc? Come on, wise guy!

Contributed by Jim "Suldog" Sullivan

My Father owned some collections of science fiction, published in the 1950's, and I devoured them when I was a child in the 1960's. Being from Dorchester (a neighborhood of Boston mentioned prominently in the story), and also a frequent rider of the MBTA, I was particularly intrigued by this. I have re-read it perhaps 10 or 12 times since the initial reading. I am not well-versed enough in mathematics to pass serious judgement on that aspect of the tale, but it DID introduce me to topology and I've found what little study I've made of it fascinating, so I've always been thankful to the author for that!

Contributed by John Mitchell

Very much my favourite sci-fi short story ever.

Contributed by Zoran Stanojevic

The No-sided Professor by Martin Gardner and The Library of Babel (Borges) are a must read for all who like this story

More information about this work can be found at another page on this Website.
(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 A Subway Named Moebius
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Wall of Darkness by Arthur C. Clarke
  2. Moebius by Gustavo Daniel Mosquera~R.
  3. The Adventures of Topology Man by Alex Kasman
  4. Star, Bright by Mark Clifton
  5. The Central Tendency by Daniel Kaysen
  6. The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges
  7. Schild's Ladder by Greg Egan
  8. No-Sided Professor by Martin Gardner
  9. The Land of No Shadow by Carl H Claudy
  10. Factoring Humanity by Robert J. Sawyer
Ratings for A Subway Named Moebius:
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:
3.45/5 (25 votes)
..
Literary Quality:
3.86/5 (26 votes)
..

Categories:
GenreScience Fiction,
MotifMobius Strip/Nonorientability,
TopicGeometry/Topology/Trigonometry,
MediumShort Stories,

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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)