MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Motif=Aliens

88 matches found out of 1153 entries

(Note: This page not the entire list of works of Mathematical Fiction. To see the whole list, click here.)

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 math-free Sci-Fi 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 one-sided 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)
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 (2011)
Highly Rated!
Greg Egan
"The Clockwork Rocket" by Greg Egan is the first in his Orthogonal trilogy. As usual the author is very committed with the writing and goes the extra mile (or miles in this case) in order to achieve... (more)
Contact (1985)
Highly Rated!
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)
Conversations on Mathematics with a Visitor from Outer Space (1998)
David Ruelle
As the title implies, this is a description of (presumably fictional) discussions that the author had with an alien about mathematics and, in particular, the way that Earth mathematics differs 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)
Highly Rated!
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 all-consuming, universe-destroying frontier of “non-spacetime” 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 Xeelee-sequence 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 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 water-logged planet called “Hydros”, populated by artificial islands floating on a planet-spanning ocean. A few humans on one of the islands end up offending the local “Dwellers”... (more)
Factoring Humanity (1998)
Highly Rated!
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) pp112-115. (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)
Highly Rated!
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 tongue-in-cheek, believable flights of fancy. The present story is set on the single planet, Getawehi, of a rogue... (more)
Globión's Whimsical Shape (La Caprichosa Forma de Globión) (1999)
Alejandro Illanes Mejía
It is a tale about the quest of the inhabitants of Globión to find the true shape of their home planet. It also explains in a crystal-clear way some very abstract notions of topology of surfaces, and... (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)
Jack and the Aktuals, or, Physical Applications of Transfinite Set Theory (2008)
Rudy Rucker
As the title suggests, the seemingly completely abstract Continuum Hypothesis is found to be manifested in the physical universe in this bizarre short story. It is very similar in feel and content to... (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)
Highly Rated!
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)
The Lure (2007)
Bill Napier
Once again, a team seeking to decode Earth's first message from an alien species requires a mathematician. In this case, it is Tom Petrie, who has a reputation for being able to spot patterns: "I'm... (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)
Highly Rated!
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)
Highly Rated!
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 two-way 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)
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 hard-SF 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 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... (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. 96-112) 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)
Highly Rated!
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 Cida-2 (2008)
Clifton Cunningham
The human selected to communicate with the aquatic aliens of Cida-2 is surprised to learn that their number system differs from our own. In particular, although our communication with the extra-terrestrials... (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)
Highly Rated!
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 non-academic 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 teddybear-shaped six- fingered alien was trying to communicate with the koalas in the zoo until an open-minded 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)
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 4-dimensional 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 not-particularly-sound... (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 far-away 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 mish-mash 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)
Highly Rated!
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)
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)
Highly Rated!
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)

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Your Help Needed: Some site visitors remember reading works of mathematical fiction that neither they nor I can identify. It is time to crowdsource this problem and ask for your help! You would help a neighbor find a missing pet...can't you also help a fellow site visitor find some missing works of mathematical fiction? Please take a look and let us know if you have seen these missing stories anywhere!.

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)