a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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The Fairy Chessmen (1951)
Henry Kuttner
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

A mathematician whose research involves a type of chess played with variable rules ("fairy chess") is the only one able to solve an "equation from the future" in which the constants are treated as variables that the "bad guys" are going to use to win World War III. Apparently, the fact that the equation involves lots of variables is supposed to be able to drive most mathematicians crazy. Sounds pretty unrealistic to me, but I must admit that I have not seen nor read this novel. If you have, please write in with more information!

Contributed by Charles A. Crayne

Although I rated this work as "Math is definitely a main theme", no knowledge of math is assumed, or required, on the part of the reader. The reason that the equation drives the attempted solvers insane is NOT its complexity, but rather because of the conflict between the absolute necessity of finding the solution, and the fact that the equation is, in fact, unsolvable -- both because it is incomplete, and because attempts to guess at the missing elements lead to results which demonstrably contradict the known laws of science. -- Chuck

(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 The Fairy Chessmen
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Time Axis by Henry Kuttner
  2. The Last Starship from Earth by John Boyd
  3. The Ghost from the Grand Banks by Arthur C. Clarke
  4. Mathematicians in Love by Rudy Rucker
  5. The Hollow Man by Dan Simmons
  6. River of Gods by Ian McDonald
  7. Ratner's Star by Don DeLillo
  8. Eifelheim by Michael Flynn
  9. Diaspora by Greg Egan
  10. The Ah of Life by Banks Helfrich (Writer and Director)
Ratings for The Fairy Chessmen:
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:
3.5/5 (2 votes)
Literary Quality:
5/5 (1 votes)

GenreScience Fiction,
MotifInsanity, War, Time Travel,
TopicFictional Mathematics,

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May 2016: I am experimenting with a new feature which will print a picture of the cover and a link to the page for a work of mathematical fiction when it is available. I hope you find this useful and convenient. In any case, please write to let me know if it is because I would be happy to either get rid of it or improve it if that would be better for you. Thanks! -Alex

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)