
After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall (2012) 
 Nancy Kress 

The last 26 humans alive resort to kidnapping children from the past in order to save themselves from the oppressive aliens who keep them in "The Shell". Mathematics enters in the form of Julie Kahn,... (more) 


Alex Detail's Revolution (2009) 
 Darren Campo 

A teenage genius uses (among other things) knowledge of the Golden Ratio to defeat an alien invasion. Campo handles the description of the math a bit better than some other authors ([cough]...Dan Brown...[cough]) but in the end it is nothing other than a bit of unbelievable mumbo jumbo in an otherwise mathfree SciFi adventure.
(more) 


The Algebraist (2005) 
 Iain M. Banks 

Fassin Taak is a human in the year 4034 who has the job of communicating with the alien species known as "the dwellers". Since the dweller culture is billions of years old, they have accumulated tremendous... (more) 


Artifact (1985) 
 Gregory Benford 

In this novel a team of scientists investigates a mysterious
archaeological find. It soon becomes apparent that more than just
archaelogy will be needed to understand it, and so a pair of physicists... (more) 


The Bees of Knowledge (1975) 
 Barrington J. Bayley 

It's a story about a traveller marooned on a planet, part of which is populated by giant bees which collect the "nectar of knowledge" and make "honey of experience" out of that nectar. The story has a... (more) 


The Black Mirror (1983) 
 Eric Simon 

This story (available in "The Black Mirror and Other Stories"
and first published in the anthology, "Ways to Impossibility", 1983) is an interesting twist on the idea of onesided surfaces. Based on... (more) 


Borzag and the Numerical Apocalypse (2006) 
 Jason Earls 

I must warn you that I am a trained mathematician, but NOT a trained expert on literature. Among other consequences, this means that I sometimes have trouble telling the difference between brilliant,... (more) 


By a Fluke (1955) 
 Arthur Porges 

A liver fluke describes its life (from hatching from an egg to its final moments) to an alien who is recording it. As it turns out, these trematatode parasites are not as dumb as we think. In fact, they... (more) 


Calculating God (2000) 
 Robert J. Sawyer 

Though it is considerably less mathematical than Factoring Humanity, it holds together a bit better as a novel. Here, we encounter aliens who view the existence of god (a creator of the universe) as a... (more) 


Cantor's War (1974) 
 Christopher Anvil 

In my opinion, this story is slanderous and the author should be ashamed.
The plot involves a science fiction scenario in which the human military is battling aliens in "tau space". Whenever we send... (more) 


The Clockwork Rocket [Orthogonal Book One] (2011) 
 Greg Egan 

Egan's "Orthogonal Trilogy" explains how the Peerless and its crew of scientists, mathematicians and engineers was launched in the hope if find a way to save their homeworld from destruction. A major... (more) 


Contact (1985) 
 Carl Sagan 

This is a fantastic novel; don't skip it just because you saw the
movie. Mathematics plays an important role in the book, much more so
than in the film. In both, Ellie Arroway detects a message from... (more) 



Count to a Trillion (2011) 
 John C. Wright 

A team of the world's top mathematicians is sent to examine an alien artifact which seems to have a tremendous amount of knowledge "written" on it. (I've put "written" in quotes because not only is the... (more) 


Dark as Day (2002) 
 Charles Sheffield 

Alex Ligon, though unbelievably rich, chooses to work voluntarily at a government
agency where his predictive models for the future of the human race (based,
he claims, on the principles of statistical... (more) 


Dark Integers (2007) 
 Greg Egan 

The ``cold war'' between this universe with our mathematical laws and a bordering universe with different ones (which began in "Luminous") heats up when the numerical experiments of a mathematical physicist... (more) 


The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) 
 Robert Wise (director) / Harry Bates (story) /
Edmund H. North 

One must wonder how aliens might communicate with humans when and if they arrive on Earth. In the 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still, the extraterrestrial Klaatu (Michael Rennie) introduces himself... (more) 


The Devil You Don't (1970) 
 Keith Laumer 

The devil (who is not such a bad guy after all) seeks help from a quantum physics expert to fight off some aliens (who are not so evil either) that happen to disrupt the "Randomness Field". This disruption... (more) 


The Devouring Tide (1944) 
 John Russell Fearn (under the pseudonym Polton Cross) 

Another horridly written story by JRF, this time about an allconsuming, universedestroying frontier of “nonspacetime” dubbed “Black Infinity”, a shock wave from the original big bang which... (more) 


Diamond Dogs (2001) 
 Alistair Reynolds 

This novella by a trained astrophysicist who has worked for the European Space Agency features an alien designed "death trap" that challenges people with difficult mathematical puzzles. In an interview,... (more) 


Distances (2008) 
 Vandana Singh 

Most members of Anasunya's species have "a gift". Since she has a gift of mathematics, she leaves her aquatic home and begins working at the
Temple of Mathematical Arts. She has a gift that allows... (more) 


Doctor Who: The Algebra of Ice (2004) 
 Lloyd Rose (pseudonym of Sarah Tonyn) 

Lloyd Rose (pen name for Sarah Tonyn) has a “Doctor Who” book called “The Algebra of Ice”. It describes the attempted invasion of our universe by mathematical beings from another dimension. These... (more) 


Dragon's Egg (1980) 
 Robert L. Forward 

[In this science fiction novel],
the crew of the first spaceship to ever visit a neutron star discover that the star is inhabited by a race  the Cheela  whose metabolism is based on nuclear reactions... (more) 


Dude, can you count? (2010) 
 Christian Constanda 

Utilizing the entertaining contrivance of an extraterrestrial who visits human math conferences to evaluate our intelligence, Constanda tells us what he thinks is wrong with math education today. Following... (more) 


The Eighth Room (1989) 
 Stephen Baxter 

The story forms part of the Xeeleesequence of stories and novels. In far distant future, the Xeelee decide to lock away the human race in a world hidden in hyperspace (as the pale, atavistic remnants... (more) 


Eon (1985) 
 Greg Bear 

Its been quite a while since I read this, but some info is better than none!
Its rather like "Rama"  a big asteroid appears over the earth in the near future.
It was obviously made to be inhabited... (more) 


The Eternal Flame [Orthogonal Book Two] (2012) 
 Greg Egan 

This second novel in Egan's "Orthogonal Trilogy" continues to follow the scientific and mathematical discoveries of creatures on a space ship hoping to find a way to save their home world. That plot and... (more) 


The Eternal Wanderer (1936) 
 Nathan Schachner 

A magnificently pulpy story of one man, Cliff Haven’s, struggle against the tyranny of a Martian who enslaves the inner planets of the solar system. As a punishment, Cliff is sentenced to become “the... (more) 


The Face of the Waters (1991) 
 Robert Silverberg 

The novel is set on a waterlogged planet called “Hydros”, populated by artificial islands floating on a planetspanning ocean. A few humans on one of the islands end up offending the local “Dwellers”... (more) 


Factoring Humanity (1998) 
 Robert J. Sawyer 

There is certainly a lot of deep mathematics discussed in this `first
contact' novel, as well as a good deal of controversial physics and
psychology. Still, in the end, I did not find it especially
satisfying.... (more) 


Fillet of Man (1995) 
 Eliot Fintushel 

A first contact short short. Prime numbers are the way humans
and the aliens recognize each other. And the alien spaceship
"looked like a topologist's diagram of an exploded torus".
Published in ASIMOV'S (Sept 95) pp112115.
(more) 


The Flight of the Dragonfly (aka Rocheworld) (1984) 
 Robert L. Forward 

A crew of humans travel to a distant planet to meet the intelligent
lifeform we have discovered there. They turn out to be a race largely
interested in mathematical problems (sounds very reasonable... (more) 


Gallactic Alliance  Translight! (2009) 
 Doug Farren 

A human scientist invents a new branch of mathematics, "continuum calculus", as the basis for a stardrive. At one point, he compares his mathematical constructions with those of an alien species who have... (more) 


The Gates of Heaven (1984) 
 Paul Preuss 

The plot concerns a mathematician whose career has been monotone decreasing. But he comes alive again when a SETI project finds a human message coming from 12 light years away. It seems somebody must have fallen into something like a black hole and our hero tries to understand what happened.
(more) 


Gödel's Sunflowers (1992) 
 Stephen Baxter 

Far in the future, a human explores a giant fractal construction which is a
physical realization of the total knowledge of the creatures which created
it long ago. In the process he learns about (more) 


Georgia on My Mind (1995) 
 Charles Sheffield 

The story has to do with Babbage's
Analytical Engine and a remote region of Antarctica (the "Georgia"
of the title). The mathematics bit, aside from Babbage, consists
of a nonlinear optimization... (more) 


Getaway from Getawehi (1969) 
 Colin Kapp 

Colin Kapp has written a few stories which have some good, hard SF mixed up with highly tongueincheek, believable flights of fancy. The present story is set on the single planet, Getawehi, of a rogue... (more) 



Glory (2007) 
 Greg Egan 

The story talks about a xenomathematician's quest to understand hieroglyphic tablets on an alien planet containing the mathematical knowledge of an extinct civilization. The extinct aliens had apparently... (more) 


Herbrand's Conjecture and the White Sox Scandal (1993) 
 Eliot Fintushel 

Hi, I'm Eliot Fintushel, the author of HERBRAND'S CONJECTURE AND THE WHITE
SOX SCANDAL. The idea is that the mathematical logician Jacques Herbrand
who actually did die in a mountaineering accident... (more) 


His Master's Voice (1968) 
 Stanislaw Lem 

In this book, we follow the investigations of a team of scientists and mathematicians trying to figure out the meaning of an apparent "message" being sent through space. The novel is written with "tongue... (more) 


Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979) 
 Douglas Adams 

Everyone ought to read this trilogy of four (or is it five now?) books that brilliantly combine science fiction with the drollest of British humor. Despite my high regard for it, I've not added it to... (more) 


The Humans: A Novel (2013) 
 Matt Haig 

After Cambridge mathematician Andrew Martin proves the Riemann Hypothesis, he is replaced by an alien whose job it is to prevent news of the discovery from spreading as it is their belief that humans are... (more) 


I Sin Every Number (2007) 
 Jason Earls 

This is another work of experimental fiction from Jason Earls that combines some real computational number theory, some mathematical terminology used within nonsense for poetic effect, and a science fiction... (more) 


In Fading Suns and Dying Moons (2003) 
 John Varley 

There is an explicit reference not only to mathematics, but to mathematical fiction in this scary short story. When strange creatures with an unusual interest in butterflies begin appearing on the Earth, it takes a mathematician and familiarity with Abbott's Flatland to understanding what is going on. (more) 


In the River (2006) 
 Justin Stanchfield 

A female mathematics professor undergoes a surgical procedure to enable her to live and communicate with aquatic aliens. Her goal is to learn to understand their mathematics well enough to reproduce their... (more) 


Incandescence (2008) 
 Greg Egan 

This "hard SF" novel focuses on the scientific progress of aliens living on a planet near the galactic center. Presumably because the curvature of space was obvious to them from the start (while it took... (more) 


Inherit the Stars (1977) 
 James P. Hogan 

50,000 old human remains are found on the moon, along with lots of
documentation. The entry point to deciphering the totally unknown
language is mathematical tables and formulae."
(more) 


It was the Monster from the Fourth Dimension (1951) 
 Al Feldstein 

I found a story from a Weird Science issue of 1951 (i believe it's # 7) titled It Was the Monster From the Fourth Dimension. It's written and drawn by Al Feldstein.
It is about a farmer whose farm... (more) 



The Last Theorem (2008) 
 Arthur C. Clarke / Frederik Pohl 

Ranjit Subramanian, the protagonist in this science fiction novel, is a young Sri Lankan man who (re)discovers a short and elementary proof of Fermat's Last Theorem while enduring torture during an unjust... (more) 


Luminous (1995) 
 Greg Egan 

A truly wonderful story in which two math grad students discover that the things we consider to be "truths" in number theory are actually part of a dynamical system, subject to change over time and in... (more) 


The Lure (2007) 
 Bill Napier 

Irish mathematician Tom Petrie is called in as an expert to analyze a mysterious stream of particles that appears to be a message from aliens. The math never gets very deep. Petrie is supposed to be... (more) 


Macroscope (1969) 
 Piers Anthony 

A "hard SF" novel by Piers Anthony, who usually writes fantasy, in which mathematics forms a basis of communication between humans and intelligent aliens. In addition, the topological game "sprouts" is... (more) 


Mathematica (1936) 
 John Russell Fearn 

Using a strange metal which gives them the power to change reality with their thoughts, two humans either summon or create an alien who explains to them that reality is mathematics. Together, they seek... (more) 


Mathematica Plus (1936) 
 John Russell Fearn 

In this sequel to Mathematica, the humans, now knowing that everything is mathematics and having been made immortal by the ultimate mathematician, encounter a race of beings somewhere between material... (more) 


Mathematicians in Love (2006) 
 Rudy Rucker 

Together, two math grad students who are both in love with the same girl prove a theorem which characterizes all dynamical systems (from the stock market to the motion of particles) in terms of objects... (more) 


A Matter of Mathematics (1999) 
 Brian Wilson Aldiss 

A space/time shortcut is found connecting the earth to the moon. Its use
provokes an alien response, consisting of a device encoding within it some
very strange mathematics.
(For those interested, the title story of the Aldiss collection was the
original inspiration for Kubrick/Spielberg's AI.)
Also published as "The Apollo Asteroid". In Crowther and Greenberg (eds)
"Moon Shots". (more) 


Micromegas (1752) 
 François Marie Arouet de Voltaire 

"Micromegas" is a Voltaire short story, obviously inspired by Swift's
Gulliver's Travels. The title character comes from a planet
orbiting Sirius, and stands 120,000 feet tall. Before spelling out
Micromegas'... (more) 


Mother's Milk (2005) 
 Andrew Thomas Breslin 

Lawyer Cindy Kichlklug takes on the dairy industry (with the aid of a quirky mathematician) in this witty SF satire.
The "conspiracy theory" in the book is well put together. It tightly combines so... (more) 


Old Faithful (1934) 
 Raymond Z. Gallun 

An extended discussion of the use of arithmetic in setting up a twoway communication code comprises the mathematical content of this forgotten classic SF short story.
Gallun (rhymes with balloon)... (more) 


One (1995) 
 George Alec Effinger 

Two interstellar searchers for alien life, after endless failures, must
confront what went wrong in their understanding of Drake's equation, the
famed formula that allegedly estimates the odds of interstellar... (more) 


The Outer Limits (Episode: Behold, Eck!) (1964) 
 John Mantley (screenplay) / William R. Cox (story) 

In this episode of the classic science fiction series Outer Limits, a 2dimensional being trapped in our world is aided by Dr. Stone, an engineer described as being an expert in "optical geometry" and... (more) 


Phase IV (1974) 
 Mayo Simon (writer) / Saul Bass (director) 

A mathematician who `applied game theory to the language of killer whales' is brought in to help fight an attack by intelligent ants. (more) 


Pi in the Sky (1983) 
 Rudy Rucker 

The story is about a family which finds an alien artifact on a beach while on vacation: a smooth cone with patterns of stripes on its surface and which produces sound in the same pattern. It turns out... (more) 


Planck Zero (1992) 
 Stephen Baxter 

Baxter's hardSF ideas are often quite stunning in their scope and creativity. "Planck Zero" is no exception to this. An advanced species of aliens  the Ghosts  have started conducting experiments... (more) 


Plane People (1933) 
 Wallace West 

A spaceoperatic 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... (more) 


Pop Quiz (2005) 
 Alex Kasman 

An algebraic geometer is called in when messages from an alien spacecraft appear to be asking questions about projective varieties. Though it may at first appear to be another "mathematics as a common... (more) 


Q.E.D. (1984) 
 Bruce Stanley Burdick 

The "Q.E.D." from the title of this short story published in Analog
(volume 104 #12, December 1984, pp. 96112) is the latin expression "quod
erat demonstratum" that is meant to conclude a proof and... (more) 


The Ragged Astronauts (1987) 
 Bob Shaw 

The novel is set in an alternate universe where two planets orbit each other in close proximity, with a common atmosphere. The civilization on one of the planets is shown to be similar to the western... (more) 


Rama II (1989) 
 Arthur C. Clarke /Gentry Lee 

This is the sequel to the novel Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C. Clarke.
Short Summary:
The huge cylindrical Rama spaceship has returned 70 years after it
arrived near Earth for the first time.... (more) 


Ratner's Star (1976) 
 Don DeLillo 

Billy Terwilliger (aka Twillig) is not your typical 14 year old boy.
True, he is beginning to get interested in sex and thinks that the
word "fart" is entertaining, but he is also a number theorist and... (more) 


Report from the Ambassador to Cida2 (2008) 
 Clifton Cunningham 

The human selected to communicate with the aquatic aliens of Cida2 is surprised to learn that their number system differs from our own. In particular, although our communication with the extraterrestrials... (more) 


Resistance is Futile (2015) 
 Jenny T. Colgan 

This novel begins as a familiar farce in which mathematicians are gathered by the government to decipher a message from space. However, in this case, the story soon turns into a romance between a human... (more) 


Riding the Crocodile (2005) 
 Greg Egan 

A couple from the race of “Amalgam” wanted to carry out one project before choosing to die after a life spanning tens of thousands of years: Establishing contact with the elusive race called “Aloof”.... (more) 


Shell (1987) 
 Stephen Baxter 

Humanity, trapped and quarantined by the Xeelee in hyperspace (see "Stephen Baxter  The Eighth Room"), live on a spherical world apparently surrounded by a huge shell. The Shell harbors life and a group... (more) 


Signal to Noise (1999) 
 Eric S. Nylund 

The protagonist in this science fiction novel, Jack Potter, is a tenure track math professor in a future where San Francisco has sunk under the ocean, all nonacademic employment in the United States... (more) 


The Star Dummy (1952) 
 Anthony Boucher 

I learned duodecimal (and the whole
concept of number bases) from "The Star Dummy," by Boucher, in
Conklin's Omnibus of Science Fiction. The teddybearshaped six
fingered alien was trying to communicate with the koalas in the zoo
until an openminded human showed up and the two traded written
numbers.
Originally published in Fantastic in 1952.
(more) 


Story of Your Life (1998) 
 Ted Chiang 

What sort of mathematics would Vonnegut's Tralfamadorean's like to do? Or,
alternatively, what sort of worldview would a sentient species have if their idea of simple mathematics was the calculus of... (more) 


Summer Solstice (1985) 
 Charles Leonard Harness 

I did enjoy reading this short story (nominated for a Nebula award in 1985)
in which the famous Greek mathematician Eratosthenes determines the Earth's
circumference and meets a shipwrecked alien, but... (more) 


Three Cornered Wheel (1963) 
 Poul Anderson 

Sometimes a surprising mathematical fact will inspire a science fiction story to illustrate it. I suspect that is what happened with this story that comes up with a contrived circumstance in which the... (more) 


The ThreeBody Problem (2006) 
 Cixim Liu (author) / Ken Liu (translator) 

This creative "first contact" novel by a famous Chinese science fiction author won many awards, including the Hugo award.
Like much "hard SF", it is a work of fiction in which the ideas are at least... (more) 


Threshold (2006) 
 Bragi F. Schut/ Brannon Braga / David S. Goyer / Dan O'Shannon 

This science fiction TV series featured a sarcastic dwarf mathematician character. According to Mathematics Goes to the Movies, mathematical highlights included a 4dimensional alien object intersecting our world in the first episode, references to "isomorphic group therapy [sic]", "monotonic null sequences" and "quadratic reciprocity" in the second, and a strange statistical study in the 11th.
(more) 


Tiger by the Tail (1951) 
 A.G. Nourse 

A pocketbook contains a gateway to another universe, and a group of unlikely heroes tries to save ours from the aliens there by reaching in and grabbing it.
This is a cute short story, with a notparticularlysound... (more) 


Time, Like an Ever Rolling Stream (1992) 
 Judith Moffett 

The aliens have come to save us from ourselves (which they do by passing environmental laws and sterilizing all humans to prevent overpopulation). One of the aliens, as a pet project, recruits eight young... (more) 


Touching Centauri (2003) 
 Stephen Baxter 

A mathematician solves Fermi's paradox, and then actually
*does* something about it, with immense consequences.
Originally appeared in Asimov's Science Fiction August 2003. Republished in the Baxter compilation "Phase Space". (more) 


Turing's Apples (2008) 
 Stephen Baxter 

Story about a faraway civilization transmitting a complex message in all directions, containing a software program (“Turing machine”) which ends up creating von Neumann machines with one specific... (more) 


The Ultimate Analysis (1944) 
 John Russell Fearn 

This one is a hurriedly thrown together mishmash of mathematical statements which make no sense when examined individually but taken together, form a breathless pulp story about a mathematician who... (more) 


Unreasonable Effectiveness (2003) 
 Alex Kasman 

"Unreasonable Effectiveness" reminds me of a classic Arthur C. Clarke style
short story. It has exactly enough mathematics done correctly and a twist that
boggles the mind at the end. To be fair... (more) 


The Unwilling Professor (1954) 
 Arthur Porges 

Two college students who are failing their math class kidnap an alien they encounter and force it to do homework for everyone in their fraternity.
There are some cute mathematical passages. For example,... (more) 


Vampire World (Trilogy) (1993) 
 Brian Lumley 

In these sequels to Necroscope, the twin sons of Harry Keogh living in the remains of a black hole continue to fight vampires. One of the sons has visions of a "vortex of numbers". He seeks the assistance... (more) 


Wang's Carpets (1995) 
 Greg Egan 

This short story about a life form based on Wang Tiles first appeared in 1995 in Greg Bear's New Legends collection but was later expanded into an entire novel. For more information, see my entry on the... (more) 


White Light, or What is Cantor's Continuum Problem? (1980) 
 Rudy Rucker 

I think the best description of this book is Naked Lunch
meets The Wild Numbers, with a cameo appearance by
Donald Duck's nephews. Happily, this book has recently been rereleased
(2001) in a new format... (more) 
