a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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One (1995)
George Alec Effinger

Contributed by "William E. Emba"

Two interstellar searchers for alien life, after endless failures, must confront what went wrong in their understanding of Drake's equation, the famed formula that allegedly estimates the odds of interstellar life. The mathematical aspects are explicit.

Published in Greg Bear and M H Greenberg (eds) NEW LEGENDS, reprinted in Orson Scott Card (ed) MASTERPIECES: THE BEST SCIENCE FICTION OF THE CENTURY.

Contributed by Anonymous

This book is more of an emotional trip than anything else. While Drake's equation is used in explaining the background (essentially -- how order of magnitude analysis can be completely wrong), the book's main draw is man's realization that he is completely alone in the universe.

Contributed by Michael J. Owens

One was perhaps the most disturbing story I have ever read. I can handle the idea of creepy, abducting aliens, but the thought that the universe is some kind of vast desert is extremely frightening. I guess the enormity of our galaxy makes the plot of One possible; the Drake Equation posits only numbers of intelligent life, not spatial distribution. Thanks for the info.. It's a nice thought-experiment. Take care.

Contributed by Marty Halpern

This story is indeed very disturbing, which was why it took 20 years for Effinger to find a publisher. No magazine editor wanted to touch it because the theme of the story -- that we are entirely alone in the universe -- was the antithesis to what every SF fan wanted to read. Gratefully Greg Bear acquired it for his New Legends anthology. The story has since been reprinted twice: in Orson Scott Card's anthology Masterpieces: The Best Science Fiction of the 20th Century, and more recently in the George Alec Effinger collection Live! From Planet Earth (Golden Gryphon Press, 2005). "One" is indeed one of the best SF stories of the 20th century! [Note: a bit of disclosure: I acquired all three Effinger collections for Golden Gryphon Press, including Live!]

(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 One
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Ripples in the Dirac Sea by Geoffrey A. Landis
  2. Into Darkness by Greg Egan
  3. Fillet of Man by Eliot Fintushel
  4. Herbrand's Conjecture and the White Sox Scandal by Eliot Fintushel
  5. Singleton by Greg Egan
  6. Imaginary Numbers : An Anthology of Marvelous Mathematical Stories, Diversions, Poems, and Musings by William Frucht (editor)
  7. Hamisch in Avalon by Eliot Fintushel
  8. The Blind Geometer by Kim Stanley Robinson
  9. Gödel's Sunflowers by Stephen Baxter
  10. Luminous by Greg Egan
Ratings for One:
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:
1.67/5 (3 votes)
Literary Quality:
4.33/5 (3 votes)

GenreScience Fiction,
TopicReal Mathematics,
MediumShort Stories,

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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)