MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Probability Storm (1977)
Julian Reid
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Contributed by Vijay Fafat

Julian Reid takes the concept of statistical anomalies to a fantastic extreme in a slapstick fantasy comedy written in a very witty and conversational style, replete with puns and smart-cracks. A tavern located at the “statistical antipole”, a common playground for unruly gremlins, becomes the focus of a strong “anti-statistical chaos” in the “statistical fields” – you see, “there are statistical fields just like magnetic ones, and they too have poles, and Rafferty’s happened to be smack dab on top of one of those poles. The [Brouwer] still point of the turning world.” The cause is the entrance into the bar of the mean, no-good, Fat Man (“The Fat Man was a Disturbing Influence himself, a kind of statistical Typhoid Mary”), inside whom is a thin man crying to get out (hah!). The narrator, who is a “deontologized”, disembodied field of waves himself, along with the Gremlins and the Storm, rescue the Thin Man and all ends well.

The charm of the story is in its lovely language and construction, the incidents in the bar during the storm and a few characters (including James Clerk Maxwell, the cat). A sample:

(quoted from Probability Storm)

[The Probability Storm consisted of] great waves of statistical anomaly roaring in to smash and spatter against the frame of Objective Reality like breakers along a rocky coast. […] The chaos threatening us fell short of being primordial, not like the storm Tobin kicked up, when all but one or two of the Eternal Verities were temporarily knocked for a loop and the entire Orderly Frame of Things was teetering on the edge of collapse – this time, maybe a galaxy or two would blink out of existence, or a few dozen stars go supernova, or a planet shatter and dissolve; maybe that was what this tempest was all about. […] But after a while, the forces of Natural Law and Order would slowly but surely assert themselves.”

“So I gathered my energies together, concentrating myself, so to speak, gave myself a Moebius twist, reversing parity, and all at once, I’d slipped over and was on The Other Side.”

“The Probability Waves were rolling in on me from all directions at once. Don’t try to figure the Geometry of it – you can’t because geometry on the Other Side is different from anything you could conceive.”

Appears in Universe 7 edited by Terry Carr (Doubleday 1977).

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Works Similar to Probability Storm
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. A Very Good Year by Jack C. Haldeman (II)
  2. The Devil You Don't by Keith Laumer
  3. The Gigantic Fluctuation by Arkady Strugatsky / Boris Strugatsky
  4. The Law by Robert M. Coates
  5. To The Power Against by Carrie Smith (writer) / Stephanie Lantry (Artist)
  6. Math Takes a Holiday by Paul Di Filippo
  7. Been a long, long time by R.A. Lafferty
  8. The Princess Hoppy or the Tale of Labrador by Jacques Roubaud
  9. Naturally (Double Whammy) by Fredric Brown
  10. The Devil a Mathematician Would Be by A.J. Lohwater
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Categories:
GenreHumorous, Fantasy,
Motif
TopicProbability/Statistics,
MediumShort Stories,

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