a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)
|Ghost Days (2013) ||Ken Liu |
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction
by the same author)
|This short story begins with a very short computer program that computes the Fibonacci numbers which a young student is learning in school. The teacher is one of the human crew of a space ship and the student is a genetically engineered child that the humans created to be able to survive on the planet where they were marooned. When the child asks why she has to learn about ancient Earth computer languages like LISP, the teacher again refers to the Fibonacci sequence to explain why the child would need to know her own past:
|(quoted from Ghost Days)|
"To compute the n-th term, the recessive function calls itself to compute the (n-1)th term and the (n-2)th term, so that they could be added together, each time going back earlier in the sequence, solving earlier versions of the same problem...
"The past," Ms. Coron continued, "thus accumulating bit by bit through recursion, becomes the future."
This metaphor is the only mathematical content of this work of mathematical fiction, but it is of fundamental importance as the rest of the story goes on to trace back the history of a small metal object that the child possesses and the reader sees its previous owners "solving earlier versions of the same problem" as they question their lives as Asian-Americans.
This story originally appeared in Lightspeed in October 2013 and more recently republished in the Ken Liu anthology The Hidden Girl and Other Stories.
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(Maintained by Alex Kasman,
College of Charleston)