a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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The Difference Engine (1991)
William Gibson / Bruce Sterling
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

Two of the innovators of the cyberpunk novel -- famous for showing how messed up the future will be because of technology -- turn everything around and show us instead how great the past would have been with computers. In this "alternate reality", mathematicians Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace succeed where their counterparts in our world failed: actually making a computer.

(quoted from The Difference Engine)

"Ada had an insight once that ranked with Descartes' discovery. No one has found a use for it as yet. It's what they call pure mathemaitcs." Mick laughed. "`Pure.' You know what that means, Sybil? It means they can't get it to run." He rubbed his hands together, grinning. "No one can get it to run."

Contributed by Frankie

I especially liked that Lady Ada's mathematical discovery is actually Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem.

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Works Similar to The Difference Engine
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua
  2. Georgia on My Mind by Charles Sheffield
  3. Conceiving Ada by Lynn Hershman-Leeson
  4. Lord Byron's Novel: The Evening Land by John Crowley
  5. Shooting the Sun by Max Byrd
  6. Eifelheim by Michael Flynn
  7. Oracle by Greg Egan
  8. Doing our Babbage by Ira Slobodien
  9. Heavy Weather by Bruce Sterling
  10. To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
Ratings for The Difference Engine:
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 (2 votes)
Literary Quality:
3.5/5 (2 votes)

GenreHistorical Fiction, Science Fiction,
MotifReal Mathematicians, Female Mathematicians,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)