a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)
|The Non-Statistical Man (1956) ||Raymond F. Jones |
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction
by the same author)
|In this short story, insurance adjuster Charles Bascomb comes up against his greatest enemy: intuition. The story presents mathematics (especially statistics and logic) as one way man can deal with reality. However, Bascomb encounters a proponent of an alternative and -- so he claims -- better way to make decisions that through statistics. This retired psychology professor offers courses that enhance one's intuitive abilities. Using terms like correlating affinities and cosmic mono-regression he sells little pills that seem to work wonders (for instance, the people taking them know to buy insurance right before something bad happens to them...which is not very good from the insurance company's point of view!)
The story is well written and compelling, but it has a 1950's sexism which does not age well. (Didn't readers in the 50's ever tire of that old stereotype of men being logical and scientific while women were almost magically intuitive?!?) Unfortunately, I do not know where to find this story in print. It was reprinted in a collection of stories by Jones with "The Non-Statistical Man" as the title, but this book is long out of print. If someone knows another source for this story, please write in.
Much thanks to Professor Bart Holland of the New Jersey Medical School for pointing this story out to me and for sending me a copy!
I found your review of this Raymond F. Jones story on your Mathematical Fiction website and just wanted to thank you for posting it. For your information, it was only ever reprinted once, in the short story collection The Non-Statistical Man (1964). Used copies of this paperback can be bought easily through www.abebooks.com, should you be interested in acquiring this book.
Mathematics does appear from time to time throughout Jones's large body of science fiction stories and novels. Jones was deeply interested in science (he had careers as a radio engineer and as a technical writer in the aeronautics industry), and this shows through particularly in his earlier work. I think though that maths is more important to the plot of "The Non-Statistical Man" than in any other of his stories.
Webmaster of the Raymond F. Jones Tribute Website: http://www.geocities.com/calmeacham
A really great short story!!!
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(Maintained by Alex Kasman,
College of Charleston)