MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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The Cambist and Lord Iron (2007)
Daniel Abraham
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Contributed by "William E. Emba"

The story is set in a no-name kingdom, seemingly medieval but with certain modernisms. The cambist of the title is a minor worker, whose daily routine is interrupted by Lord Iron, who has come to play a cruel prank on him, as he was known to do. Lord Iron demands that the cambist make an exchange for him, presenting him with the most obscure currency possible. The cambist daringly, almost impossibly, succeeds, and as he explains his reasoning, rather surprisingly earns Lord Iron's respect.

Later, Lord Iron comes up with a more demanding and seemingly impossible exchange request, one with consequences. The cambist again succeeds, and again his reasoning, despite its counterintuitiveness, carries the day. And then comes one more request.

The mathematical content is limited to the explanations of the chain of equalities that led the cambist to his conclusions. Curiously, this is actually the most interesting part of the story!

It was published in the unusual anthology Logorrhea (online here), a collection of stories, each one keyed to a winning word from the annual National Spelling Bee. Abraham's story was based on "cambist", the 1977 winning word. (A cambist is a banker, especially one who specializes in currency exchange.)

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Works Similar to The Cambist and Lord Iron
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Bank by Robert Connolly
  2. The Measure of Eternity by Sean McMullen
  3. A Fable for Moderns by Lord Dunsany
  4. The Story of Yung Chang by Ernest Bramah (Ernest Bramah Smith)
  5. The Tower of Babylon by Ted Chiang
  6. Souls in the Great Machine by Sean McMullen
  7. Turjan of Miir (The Dying Earth) by Jack Vance
  8. The Man Who Counted : A Collection of Mathematical Adventures by Malba Tahan
  9. The Embalmer's Book of Recipes by Ann Lingard
  10. Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby
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Categories:
Genre
Motif
TopicMathematical Finance,
MediumShort Stories, Available Free Online,

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