MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Mortal Immortal (1833)
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
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This fantasy story by the author of Frankenstein, about a man who drinks a half dose of a potion that bestows immortality, is only borderline mathematical fiction. The only arguably mathematical part comes at the end, sort of the punchline, when the question is asked: if the whole dose makes you live forever, what would half of the dose do? In other words, what is "half the infinite"?

The suggestion for including this story comes from R. Nesvet, who also offers a compelling argument for including it in my database of mathematical fiction:

Contributed by R. Nesvet

One also must consider the publication context -- a late-1820s Christmas annual whose target audience was very sheltered middle-class girls and whose usual subject matter was sentimental rubbish. So that one line about 'numbering half the infinite' may have been the *only* math puzzle that many of its readers encountered and were expected to get excited about.

More information about this work can be found at www.rc.umd.edu.
(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 Mortal Immortal
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
  2. Kavanagh by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  3. The Devil and the Lady by Alfred Tennyson
  4. The Gold-Bug by Edgar Allan Poe
  5. Back to Methuselah by George Bernard Shaw
  6. Blue Tigers by Jorge Luis Borges
  7. The Power of Words by Edgar Allan Poe
  8. The Balloon Hoax by Edgar Allan Poe
  9. The Franklin's Tale (in The Canterbury Tales) by Geoffrey Chaucer
  10. Micromegas by Fran├žois Marie Arouet de Voltaire
Ratings for Mortal Immortal:
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:
1.2/5 (5 votes)
..
Literary Quality:
3.8/5 (5 votes)
..

Categories:
GenreFantasy,
Motif
TopicInfinity,
MediumShort Stories, Available Free Online,

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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 Amazon.com 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)