a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Schwarzschild Radius (1987)
Connie Willis
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Connie Willis' short-story ``Schwarzschild Radius'' is based on events in the life of Karl Schwarzschild, who gave the first exact solutions to the equations of general relativity. The historical aspects of the story here are enhanced by cleverly self-referential fictional details. Told in ``flashback form'', the events are recalled by a soldier who happened to intercept a letter from Einstein to Lieutenant Schwarzschild at the front line during World War I. As the story develops, haunting analogies are made between the situation of the soldiers in the trenches and the scientific theories being discussed. For example, the discussion of the red shift of light from distant stars is echoed in the soldier's treatment with an eye ointment that adds a red tint to everything he sees. The inability of information to leave from within the Schwarzschild radius of a black hole seems somehow to explain the fact that the soldiers' families are not receiving the letters and requests they write from the front line. In the end, we are left with the impression that even the disease which eventually claimed Schwarzschild's life was a consequence of the singular solutions he found to Einstein's equations.
This story can be found in the collection Imaginary Numbers.

Contributed by Rachel Barkley

The author utilizes both the past and the present tense in order to write about two different time periods, however, she switches them. The scenes from the past are written in the present while the scenes from the present are written in the past. The author draws parallels between war, disease and black holes, all of which cave in on themselves. I would love to read this story as a longer novel. This might be a way to incorporate more mathematics into the story. Nevertheless, this is a must-read for any war buff!

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Works Similar to Schwarzschild Radius
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Girl with the Celestial Limb by Pauline Melville
  2. Incandescence by Greg Egan
  3. The Object by Alex Kasman
  4. Approaching Perimelasma by Geoffrey A. Landis
  5. Lines of Longitude by Stephen Baxter
  6. Q.E.D. by Jack Eric Morpurgo
  7. A Catastrophe Machine by Carter Scholz
  8. Mandelbrot the Magnificent by Liz Ziemska
  9. When We Cease to Understand the World [Un Verdor Terrible] by Benjamin Labatut
  10. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
Ratings for Schwarzschild Radius:
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:
2.76/5 (8 votes)
Literary Quality:
4.11/5 (9 votes)

GenreScience Fiction, Horror,
MotifReal Mathematicians, War,
TopicMathematical Physics,
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)