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Counting the Shapes (2001)
Yoon Ha Lee
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(quoted from Counting the Shapes)

How many shapes of pain are there? Are any topologically equivalent? And is one of them death?

This is a fantasy story in which magic is achieved through mathematics, and hard work. For example,

(quoted from Counting the Shapes)

"Do you have any battle spells?" he asked gravely.

"Not many." She leaned over and tapped the nearest pile of paper. "I was in the middle of this proof when I discovered that I'd have to review one of Yverry's theorems. I fell asleep trying to find it."

A central idea seems to be a development in magical "theory" analogous to the development of fractal geometry.

Lee is a former math teacher who "hated math for the longest time" (see this interview). The story was originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, vol 100, no 6 (June 2001) and reprinted in Conservation of Shadows.

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Works Similar to Counting the Shapes
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Your Magic or Mine by Ann Macela
  2. Threshold by Sara Douglass
  3. Mathemagics by Margaret Ball
  4. Voyage of the Shadowmoon by Sean McMullen
  5. The Gate of the Flying Knives by Poul Anderson
  6. Phantom by Terry Goodkind
  7. Black Numbers by Dean Frank Lappi
  8. A Logical Magician by Robert Weinberg
  9. Calculated Magic by Robert Weinberg
  10. The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson
Ratings for Counting the Shapes:
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:
3/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
2/5 (1 votes)

TopicGeometry/Topology/Trigonometry, Chaos/Fractals,
MediumShort Stories,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)