MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Plane People (1933)
Wallace West
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Contributed by Vijay Fafat

A space-operatic story which implements Edwin Abbott's world of Flatland. A perfectly flat comet strikes earth at a glancing angle and sheers off a very small part, including a few people, who discover that the comet is inhabited by two-dimensional, centipede-like creatures. Standard mathematical explanations of the third dimension as extrapolation of two dimensions along a third perpendicular direction follow:

(quoted from Plane People)

Dr. Adolph Strauss, Astronomer: "In fact, I am not a plane figure but a solid, made up of an infinite number of circles, squares and other geometric figures placed on top of one another. I am a creature called Man")

Before long, an internecine war is triggered in the 2-D kingdom by the appearance of the 3-D entities. The creatures learn to appreciate and build into the third dimension because they have a slight extension in that direction. After considerable melodrama, the halcyon state of affairs is restored and the humans hope to be able to build rockets to head back to earth. Presumably, the comet carried some part of our atmosphere as well for the poeple to breathe but how the comet has any gravity or life is unexplained; there is a brief mention of "the centrifugal" force due to the comet's rotation, which the author apparently believes can hold people on to the surface. A very standard pulp affair.

First published: Astounding Stories, Nov 1933
Also available in: Famous Science Fiction #5, Winter 1968

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Works Similar to Plane People
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin Abbott Abbott
  2. Space Bender by Edward Rementer
  3. The Planiverse: computer contact with a two-dimensional world by A.K. Dewdney
  4. Message Found in a Copy of Flatland by Rudy Rucker
  5. In Fading Suns and Dying Moons by John Varley
  6. Sphereland: A Fantasy About Curved Spaces and an Expanding Universe by Dionys Burger
  7. The Appendix and the Spectacles by Miles J. Breuer (M.D.)
  8. The Land of No Shadow by Carl H Claudy
  9. Technical Error by Arthur C. Clarke
  10. And He Built a Crooked House by Robert A. Heinlein
Ratings for Plane People:
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:
1/5 (1 votes)
..
Literary Quality:
1/5 (1 votes)
..

Categories:
GenreScience Fiction,
MotifAliens, Higher/Lower Dimensions,
TopicGeometry/Topology/Trigonometry,
MediumShort Stories,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)