a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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The Tower of Babylon (2002)
Ted Chiang
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

There really is almost no mathematics in this bizarre story that hauntingly combines religion with science fiction. However, the "punchline" is entirely topological in nature.

This story can be found in the collection Stories of Your Life and Others which contains other Chiang stories orbiting the central themes of mathematics, religion and science.

Contributed by Victor Jiminez Lopez

While re-reading [Tower of Babylon] I recalled a story, somewhat reminiscent of its ending trick, which I read as a teenager and impressed me a lot: "He Who Shrank" by Henry Hassel. Its main character is damned to shrink forever, regressing thorough levels of universes, each an atom of the previous one, and at a moment he reaches ours again. The story is collected in "Before the Golden Age" (edited by Isaac Asimov in 1974, and easily available in the second hand market). It also impressed Asimov himself, who refers to it as a source of inspiration for his favorite story , "The Last Question" (not to confuse with "The Last Answer", one of the entries of your list). By the way, while checking the Internet to get more information about the story I was surprised to discover a web on recursive SF ( Maybe it is of interest to you.

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Works Similar to The Tower of Babylon
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Galactic Circle by Jack Williamson
  2. The Gate of the Flying Knives by Poul Anderson
  3. Spacetime Donuts by Rudy Rucker
  4. When the Devil Took the Professor [Wie der Teufel den Professor holte] by Kurd Lasswitz
  5. The Wall of Darkness by Arthur C. Clarke
  6. Plane and Fancy by P. Schuyler Miller
  7. El Troiacord by Miquel de Palol
  8. The Gift of Numbers by Alan Nourse
  9. Merlin Planet by E.G. Von Wald
  10. The Cambist and Lord Iron by Daniel Abraham
Ratings for The Tower of Babylon:
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:
1/5 (3 votes)
Literary Quality:
4.4/5 (5 votes)

GenreScience Fiction, Fantasy,
MediumShort Stories,

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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)