MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Homage (1995)
Ross Kagan Marks (director) / Mark Medoff (screenplay)
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This film (and the 1994 play "The Homage that Follows" on which it was based) explores the mind of a murderer, who in this case happens to be a man with a Ph.D. in mathematics. He turns down a position at Princeton to work on the farm of the TV star with whom he is obsessed. The killer is hateful, violent, and immature.

Since his mathematical abilities have nothing to do with it otherwise, I suppose the author chose to make the character a mathematician because it fits a stereotype of a sociopath. In fact, in one particularly offensive line the killer says that his math degree is "useless except that it promotes schizophrenia". In my opinion, this offensive stereotype is abused in fiction and I fear that it may have negative consequences for the discipline. I have seen no evidence that schizophrenia occurs with any greater frequency among mathematicians than it does in the general population. For example, I can think of only one famous mathematician who had/has this disorder, and that is John Nash. Similarly, the only sociopathic mathematician I can think of is Ted Kaczynski. Note that these two form a very small subset of the set of all mathematicians in history, the vast majority of whom were perfectly sane. Yet, somehow it has become standard in fiction that some huge number of mathematicians are murderous schizophrenics.

This movie/play is not that bad in most ways. Some may complain that it is overly verbose, but that is because it is a thinking-person's movie and not a shoot-em-up adventure. However, I am sufficiently tired and annoyed by the "crazy killer mathematician" stereotype that I cannot bring myself to recommend that anyone watch or read it.

More information about this work can be found at www.imdb.com.
(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 Homage
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Axiom of Choice by David Corbett
  2. Twisted Seduction by Dominique Adams (writer and director)
  3. Tigor (aka The Snowflake Constant) by Peter Stephan Jungk
  4. According to the Law by Solvej Balle
  5. Nachman Burning by Leonard Michaels
  6. Brazzaville Beach by William Boyd
  7. The Discovery of Heaven by Harry Mulisch
  8. Three Days and a Child by Abraham B. Yehoshua
  9. Mefisto: A Novel by John Banville
  10. Sad Strains of a Gay Waltz by Irene Dische
Ratings for Homage:
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)
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Literary Quality:
3/5 (1 votes)
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Categories:
Genre
MotifEvil mathematicians, Insanity, Math as Cold/Dry/Useless,
Topic
MediumPlays, Films,

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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)