a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Cantor’s Dragon (2014)
Craig DeLancy

Contributed by Vijay Fafat

An absolutely fabulous tale of a man outwitting the devil, reminiscent of “The Devil and Simon Flagg” and in a very creative way. George Cantor, who has been hospitalized with mental exhaustion from his acrimonious battles with Kronecker over the existence of a completed Infinity, is visited upon by a dragon who tells him that upon death, Cantor must choose to go to either heaven or hell. Hell is near, heaven infinitely far away. To reach heaven, one has to climb the infinitely long “Dragon’s Stair”. Each stair has a name carved on it. If the climber finds his name on a stair, he must wait there for all eternity, unable to climb any further. Ergo, Heaven has always been empty. Before going up the stairs, the climber must state his name. However, Cantor detects a loophole in this scheme and implements his Diagonal proof judiciously to not only outwit the Dragon, but also put a reverse condition on the Dragon which ensures that all of future climbers would find their way to heaven.

Such a gem of a story! I was reminded also of Kafka’s story, “The Law”, where the dying man finds no recourse to reach the doors of justice. In the present story, the situation seems just as hopeless, but the ending mathematically brilliant.

This story was published in Shimmer #22, November 2014.

More information about this work can be found at
(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 Cantor’s Dragon
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. I of Newton by Joe Haldeman
  2. The Devil and Simon Flagg by Arthur Porges
  3. Uncle Georg's Attic by Ben Schumacher
  4. Cantor Trilogy by Harun Šiljak
  5. Let's Consider Two Spherical Chickens by Tommaso Bolognesi
  6. The Rose Acacia by Ralph P. Boas, Jr.
  7. The Parrot's Theorem by Denis Guedj
  8. Quaternia by Tom Petsinis
  9. Prime Suspect: The Anatomy of Integers and Permutations by Andrew Granville / Jennifer Granville / Robert J. Lewis (Illustrator)
  10. The Gnome and the Pearl of Wisdom: A Fable by Richard Willmott
Ratings for Cantor’s Dragon:
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:
5/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
4/5 (1 votes)

MotifInsanity, Real Mathematicians,
TopicReal Mathematics, Logic/Set Theory,
MediumShort Stories, Available Free Online,

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Exciting News: The total number of works of mathematical fiction listed in this database recently reached a milestone. The 1,500th entry is The Man of Forty Crowns by Voltaire. Thanks to Vijay Fafat for writing the summary of that work (and so many others). I am also grateful to everyone who has contributed to this website. Heck, I'm grateful to everyone who visited the site. Thank you!

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)