MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Medium=Short Stories

457 matches found out of 1149 entries

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

1 to 999 (1981)
Isaac Asimov
When cryptologists try to break a simple code, one of the key clues is the frequency with which letters appear. In English, the letter "a" is one of the most frequently used letters. It is therefore... (more)
2+2=5 (2006)
Rudy Rucker / Terry Bisson
A retired insurance adjuster and a math professor who was fired for telling his students that there are "holes" in the number line pass the time by trying to break a world record for counting. To achieve... (more)
A. Botts and the Moebius Strip (1945)
William Hazlett Upson
William Hazlett Upson wrote a series of pieces for the Saturday Evening Post about a salesman for The Earthworm Tractor Company, written as a dialog of letters and memos between Alexander Botts and his... (more)
According to the Law (1996)
Solvej Balle
Four interconnected stories are told which wrap around onto themselves like a M¨bius strip. But, it is not only the structure of the story that is mathematical. In the first we meet a biochemist... (more)
Actuarial / The Paradox Paradox (2010)
Buzz Mauro
These two extremely short stories by Mauro, part of his thesis project which consisted entirely of original works of mathematical fiction, appeared in the December 2010 issue of Prime Number Magazine. Actuarial... (more)
Adventure of the Final Problem (1893)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
This first Sherlock Holmes story about Professor Moriarty (later to be viewed as Holmes' arch enemy) introduces him as a professor of mathematics who won fame as a young man for his extension of the binomial... (more)
The Adventure of the Russian Grave (1995)
William Barton / Michael Capobianco
Even in the old Arthur Conan Doyle stories, Sherlock Holmes' arch-nemesis was a mathematician. Moriarty was said to be a math professor who (when he wasn't being evil) worked on the binomial theorem and... (more)
The Adventures of the Parrot (2008)
Gary Brown
Gary I. Brown, chair of the math department at CSBSJU in St. Joseph MN, has written two detective stories in which "The Parrot" uses mathematics (specifically, non-zero sum games and fair division problems) to solve the mysteries. The stories appear together in a new book from North Star Press which is available from Amazon.com . (more)
The Adventures of Topology Man (2005)
Highly Rated!
Alex Kasman
Parody is easy....topology is hard! In this short story, I made use of (and made fun of) the classic superhero comic book genre to illustrate some ideas from topology. So, we end up seeing a battle... (more)
Against the Odds (2001)
Martin Gardner
Luther Washington, a young, African-American boy in Butterfield, KS must overcome several kinds of prejudice to become a mathematician. First, he must face the prejudices of his father that his interest... (more)
Aleph Sub One (1948)
Margaret St. Clair
This is a little known story by a well known author from the Golden Age of Science Fiction. The math content is high, and it's a good story, definitely belongs on your Mathematical Fiction page. From... (more)
Algorithms and Nasal Structures (1998)
Lois H. Gresh
This short story appears "in Aboriginal Science Fiction, Summer 1998. CS grad student is having trouble programming sheep odors. The story competently uses real programming terminology (stacks, queues, etc). Includes a wee bit of trigonometry. (more)
All on a Golden Afternoon (1956)
Robert Bloch
"The title alludes to Alice in Wonderland, and the story is indeed partly set in the two dream books. One Professor Laroc has extended some mathematical work of Charles Dodgson, and by ... (more)
Altogether Elsewhere, Vast Herds of Reindeer (2011)
Ken Liu
One advantage of the human race having been uploaded into a virtual existence, in this post-singularity story, is that it offers a wide variety of decorating choices not normally available to those of... (more)
And He Built a Crooked House (1940)
Highly Rated!
Robert A. Heinlein
A clever architect designs a house in the shape of the shadow of a tesseract, but it collapses (through the 4th dimension) when an earthquake shakes it into a more stable form (which takes up very... (more)
Another New Math (2005)
Alex Kasman
A mathematician and his young daughter try to convince a school board to consider teaching advanced mathematics to elementary school children in this short story that appeared in the collection Reality... (more)
Antibodies (2000)
Charles Stross
P vs NP is perhaps the greatest problem of theoretical computer science, and has attracted attention of a range of mathematicians, from logic to topology. It's one of the seven Clay Millennium Prize... (more)
Apartheid, Superstrings and Mordecai Thubana (1991)
Michael Bishop
I don't want to get into a debate here about whether superstrings are math or physics. I know mathematicians and physicists who would argue (with some good points on each side) that it is in their area... (more)
The Appendix and the Spectacles (1928)
Miles J. Breuer (M.D.)
There sometimes seems to be an unlimited supply of stories based on the idea that we may be unaware of extra dimensions around us (just like the inhabitants of Flatland). But, each one has its own special features. Here we see it from a medical perspective: what are the implications for surgery and malpractice? Appears in Mathematical Magpie. (more)
Applied Mathematical Theology (2006)
Gregory Benford
Benford, a physicist and science fiction author, wrote this piece about a message hidden in the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMB) for the journal Nature's "Futures" column. It cites (fictional)... (more)
Approaching Perimelasma (1998)
Geoffrey A. Landis
As part of a planned experiment, a man falls into a black hole and escapes through a wormhole. (Don't worry, it is only a backup copy of his mind on an artificial body specifically designed for this task.)... (more)
The Arnold Proof (2002)
Jessica Francis Kane
This short story begins with a quote from Philip E.B. Jourdain's essay "The Nature of Mathematics". In the quote, he explains how in the process of carrying out a complicated computation, one may want... (more)
Art Thou Mathematics? (1978)
Highly Rated!
Charles Mobbs
Short story (Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, October 1978 Vol. 98 No 10) concerning the very nature of mathematical discovery. It was later rewritten in the form of a play, which the author has... (more)
As Above, So Below (2009)
Rudy Rucker
An LSD of a story - in typical Rucker style - where a computer programmer working with the Mandelbrot set is visited upon by a living UFO in the form of the M-set; the UFO named Ma explains to him how... (more)
Aurora in Four Voices (1998)
Catherine Asaro
Jato is trapped in Nightingale, a city in permanent darkness, inhabited by mathematical artists who mostly ignore him. Soz arrives to repair her ship, meets Jato, and finds... (more)
The Axiom of Choice (2009)
David Corbett
An extremely well-crafted short story in which math professor coldly recounts for a detective how the bloody bodies of his wife and his student came to be in his house. It is not really a murder mystery,... (more)
The Axiom of Choice (2011)
David W. Goldman
A ``choose-your-own-adventure'' story about a guitarist who must face the consequences of his decision to take a plane ride that ended in disaster. A brief but very nice discussion of The Axiom of Choice... (more)
The Balloon Hoax (1844)
Edgar Allan Poe
This is Poe's account of an alleged balloon trip to the moon, in the spirit of the then infamous moon hoax. The balloon rider describes the Earth as appearing concave when 5 miles up. Later,... (more)
Batorsag and Szerelem [a.k.a. Beautiful Ohio] (2006)
Ethan Canin
A very sensitively written story about a child, William, who grows up in the shadow of his brother, Clive, who is a math prodigy. Clive, in addition to his strong mathematical skills, is also a very... (more)
Battle of the Frog and the Mouse (1984)
John Barrow
This succinct, well-writtten fable captures the polemics between Hilbert and Brouwer related to Hilbert's Formalist position and Brouwer's Constructivist position vis a vis the foundations of mathematics... (more)
Been a long, long time (1970)
R.A. Lafferty
It's a very well-written humorous tale (as expected if you're familiar with Lafferty). The mathematical content is a literal interpretation of the six typing monkeys. The angel Boshel, as a punishment,... (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)
Belonging to Karovsky (2002)
Kathryn Schwille
This short story, published in the literary magazine Crazyhorse concerns the boring and lonely Mr. Digby who was the downstairs neighbor of Karovsky, the brilliant (but of course, seriously insane) mathematician... (more)
The Bird with the Broken Wing (1930)
Agatha Christie
The Harley Quin stories (this collection, plus two later stories) are amongst the most peculiar mysteries ever written. (They certainly are Dame Agatha's most peculiar. They were also her personal... (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)
The Blind Geometer (1987)
Kim Stanley Robinson
This short novel lives up to its name: it really is about a blind geometer! Carlos Oleg Nevsky was born blind and ``since 2043'' has been a professor of mathematics at GWU. We get some interesting discussion... (more)
Blinding Shadows (1934)
Donald Wandrei
Story of a mathematics professor who theorizes that 4-dimensional objects should be casting 3-dimensional shadows and such shadows should be viewable by specially made mirrors. Dutifully, element number... (more)
BLIT (1988)
David Langford
Goedelian incompleteness is encoded in graphic images that kill viewers. A new kind of infoterrorism spreads. Originally published in INTERZONE #25 Sept/Oct 1988. See also a fake FAQ... (more)
Blowups Happen (1940)
Robert A. Heinlein
A mathematician discovers that his formulas predict that an important new power station poses an extremely grave risk to humanity, and he must convince others of the danger. reprinted in THE PAST... (more)
Blue Tigers (1977)
Jorge Luis Borges
The protagonist, a Scotsman, chases down reports of a blue species of tigers sighted in village in Punjab, Pakistan. He never finds a blue tiger but ends up obtaining some magical stones on a hillside... (more)
Boltzmann's Ghost (1998)
Ken Wharton
A physicist encounters an apparently crazy man who tries to convince him that some beings experience time backwards. His intriguing explanation of this phenomenon depends on theoretical physics, and... (more)
The Book of Irrational Numbers (1999)
Michael Marshall Smith
The protagonist of this short story views everything through the filter of numerology. His journal entries detail his considerations of digital roots, perfect numbers, irrational numbers, and even Wilson’s... (more)
The Book of Sand (1975)
Jorge Luis Borges
"The line is made up of an infinite number of points; the plane of an infinite number of lines; the volume of an infinite number of planes; the hypervolume of an infinite number of volumes. .... (more)
The Book of Worlds (1929)
Miles J. Breuer
Another story of 4-D from Miles Breuer, this time with Prof. Cosgrave who builds a "hyper-stereoscope" that can combine 3-dimensional views ("geometrical stereograms") from different angles into a 4-D... (more)
Border Guards (1999)
Greg Egan
In a virtual universe shaped like a 3-torus, free from disease and death, Jamil is easily depressed but enjoys playing a game of quantum soccer with his old friends, and one new friend. The new friend... (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)
The Brink of Infinity (1936)
Highly Rated!
Stanley G. Weinbaum
A mathematics professor is kidnapped by a madman with a grudge against mathematicians, who threatens dire consequences unless the prof can solve a math riddle he has concocted: by asking ten questions,... (more)
Buried Alive at the End of the World (2011)
Blair Bourrassa
A completely paralyzed mathematician receives congratulations from colleagues and other hospital visitors on the culmination of his research in a large scale physics experiment that is about to be conducted..but... (more)
The Call of Cthulhu (1928)
H.P. Lovecraft
This is the most famous story by Lovecraft, which spawned it's own sub-genre and RPG, called the Cthulhu Mythos. It concerns the investigations of Prof. Francis Wayland Thurston as he investigates... (more)
The Cambist and Lord Iron (2007)
Daniel Abraham
The story is set in a no-name kingdom, seemingly medieval but with certain modernisms. The cambist of the title is a minor worker, whose daily routine is interrupted by Lord Iron, who has come to... (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 Captured Cross-Section (1929)
Miles J. Breuer (M.D.)
Another "extra dimensions" story, with the twist of our hero having to save his fiance (also a mathematician) from terrifying dangers. There is some nonsense at the beginning about rotations and a count of variables/equations that probably had its basis in a reasonable linear algebra class but just comes out sounding kind of silly here. (more)
Cardano and the Case of the Cubic (2005)
Jeff Adams
This parody of early 20th century "Hard Boiled Private Detective" novels is instead a short story about 16th century mathematician Gerolamo Cardano. Its opening paragraphs clearly set the tone: It... (more)
The Case of the Murdered Mathematician (2001)
Julia Barnes / Kathy Ivey
This story is actually a fictionalized account of the "Murder Mystery" game played by the MAA Student Mathematics Club at Western Carolina University. Clues provide insight into possible motivations... (more)
A Catastrophe Machine (2004)
Carter Scholz
A well-written, vaguely surrealistic story loosely based on the real mathematical field of catastrophe theory and set within the context of the Vietnam War. The title is taken from an invention of mathematician... (more)
The Center of the Universe (2005)
Alex Kasman
This short story was intended to serve two different purposes. On the one hand it is a glimpse into the lives and interactions of mathematics graduate students. And, on the other, it addresses the philosophical... (more)
The Central Tendency (2003)
Daniel Kaysen
In the first portion of this short story, a teenager and the aunt who took her in when her parents died enjoy doing math together. However, when the girl begins to get advanced training from Cambridge... (more)
The Chair of Philanthromathematics (1908)
O. Henry (William Sydney Porter)
Jeff Peters and Andy Tucker, con men in the O. Henry stories collected in this volume, are a bit uncomfortable after scoring a really big scam. So they ... (more)
Child's Play (1986)
Isaac Asimov
Young Griswold uses something he just learned in elementary school math class to solve a minor stumper. (Be warned: the problem has a minor bug. Change "mix" to "nix".) Published in the... (more)
Chronicles of a Comer (1972)
K.M O'Donnell (aka Barry N. Malzberg)
A short story about a statistician who believes in the second coming of Christ and looks for it in the statistical correlations between the events and people's reactions to those events (e.g. "14%... (more)
The Circle of Zero (1936)
Stanley G. Weinbaum
Thanks to Vijay Fafat for pointing out this story (with only a little math in it). A character speculates that the laws of probability predict that anything will happen in an infinite amount of time,... (more)
City of Infinite Bridges (2007)
Alex Rose
A very short, definitely fictional but delightful little tale about Katharina Gsell, Euler’s wife. In this fictional account, Katharina is supposed to have displayed a graph of the 7 Konigsberg bridges... (more)
Coconuts (1926)
Ben Ames Williams
The story is a very nicely written tale of one man, Wadlin, whose only passion in life is mathematics - numbers, puzzles, Diophantine equations ("indeterminates"), statistics. As the author describes... (more)
The Cold Equations (1954)
Tom Godwin
This classic science fiction story is a favorite of English teachers because, even after all of these years, it has the ability to get the attention of and provoke discussion amongst otherwise apathetic... (more)
Conjure Wife (Dark Ladies) (1953)
Fritz Leiber
Norman Saylor, a professor of anthropology/sociology, discovers his wife has been practicing magic for years, and that their house is loaded with charms. Annoyed at her secret superstitious bent, he... (more)
Conned Again, Watson! Cautionary Tales of Logic, Math and Probability (2000)
Highly Rated!
Colin Bruce
To follow-up on his clever popular physics book that explains modern physics using Sherlock Holmes as a guide, Oxford based writer Colin Bruce has written a book that teaches some important mathematical... (more)
Continuity (1999)
Buzz Mauro
This short story cleverly uses the δ-ε definition of continuity of a function to discuss the changing self-esteem of a character over time. After briefly recalling the rigorous definition, it introduces... (more)
Convergent Series (1979)
Larry Niven
According to the liner notes, Niven received an undergraduate degree in mathematics. Mostly the degree has only apparently inspired his titles (note also the book called "The Integral Trees") without noticeably... (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)
The Countable (2011)
Ken Liu
An autistic boy finds comfort in Cantor's discovery that the set of fractions is greatly outnumbered by the set of irrationals. (See, for example, Cantor's Diagonal Argument.) I did not much enjoy... (more)
The Crime of the Mathematics Professor (1960)
Clarice Lispector
There is very little mathematical content to this story of a math professor attempting to atone for having abandoned a pet dog. He is described (in the English translation) as having a "cold, mathematical... (more)
Crimes and Math Demeanors (2007)
Leith Hathout
The short mysteries in this book remind me of "Encyclopedia Brown". After a brief description of a sometimes contrived dilemma facing our young detective -- 14 year old Ravi -- you are given an opportunity... (more)
Crunch (2003)
John Gould
A short story in which a man tries to explain to his son, Barry, the relative sizes of things when the child happens to ask, “How small is in-fin-ite-ly small?”. So father and son start exploring... (more)
Cryptology (2003)
Leonard Michaels
You know how The New Yorker likes to publish vaguely bizarre short stories that happen to take place in New York City? You know how lots of authors who want to show a character who is afraid of "real... (more)
The Cube Root of Conquest (1948)
Rog Phillips
An evil dictator's plan to destroy and conquer the world is based on the work of one of his scientists, which allows travel into complex components of time. In order to do this, one is required to solve... (more)
The Dangerous Dimension (1938)
L. Ron Hubbard
"The Dangerous Dimension" is L. Ron Hubbard's first science fiction story, written at editor F Orlin Tremaine's request for something light, easy-reading, and humorous. In the story, Professor Henry... (more)
Dante Dreams (1998)
Stephen Baxter
There is an interpretation of Dante's "Divine Comedy" as a mystical description of the universe as a hypersphere (see "Dante and the 3-sphere" American Journal of Physics -- December 1979 -- Volume... (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)
De Impossibilitate Vitae and Prognoscendi (1971)
Highly Rated!
Stanislaw Lem
This is a philosophical discourse (intended as a parody, but I swear I've read serious papers that were very much like it) in which the author argues that probablity theory makes no sense since it is... (more)
Dead Ancients Trilogy (2008)
Peter Hobbs
Pythagoras explains in first person his celebrated theorem, complete with diagrams and shaded triangles. It is a source of substantial chagrin to him because it naturally leads to the irrational numbers.... (more)
A Deadly Medley of Smedley (2003)
Feargus Gwynplaine MacIntyre
Paradox Patrol officer Julie Anne Callender, with the help of her brother Gregorian and her uncle Newgate, track down yet again the timecrime master of evil Smedley Faversham (and atrocious punmeister)... (more)
Death and the Compass (La Muerte y La Brujula) (1968)
Highly Rated!
Jorge Luis Borges
This is considered one of Borges' greatest short stories, and was even made into a film by "RepoMan" director Alex Cox. The following review from Alejandro Satz explains the mathematical content, but... (more)
The Death of Archimedes (1923)
Karel Čapek
As history usually tells the story, Archimedes is killed by a Roman soldier who did not realize who he was. In this version, however, the centurion is well aware of who he is speaking with. While he... (more)
A Deprogrammer's Tale (2000)
Colin Adams
This spoof presents the attempts of math professors to convince students to become math majors and the subsequent interest of those students in math as if it were a religious cult. Told from the point... (more)
Der Tag ohne Abend (The Day without Evening) (1925)
Leo Perutz
Der Tag ohne Abend/The Day without Evening is a short story which alludes to the life of Evariste Galois and to Augustine's theology. Perutz' protagonist is called Georges Durval, he lives at the beginning... (more)
Description of a New World, Called The Blazing World (1666)
Margaret Cavendish
Although there is only a short discussion of mathematics, I had to include it because it is just too interesting that this is not only one of the oldest science-fiction stories but moreover the fact that... (more)
The Devil a Mathematician Would Be (1962)
A.J. Lohwater
This clever short story that captures the feeling of a math problem that "gets under your skin" was printed in The Mathematical Magpie and was said to have been "collected" by A.J. Lohwater. Well, I... (more)
The Devil and Simon Flagg (1954)
Highly Rated!
Arthur Porges
Mathematicians know the feeling of trying to prove something you really believe to be true, but has never been proven. There is pleasure in doing this, like solving a puzzle, but also frustration and... (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)
Disciple of the Masses (2008)
Xujun Eberlein
A pathos-filled short story set in rural China toward the end of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. It captures beautifully the sense of loss inherent in a centrally-directed and enforced revolution, with... (more)
Division by Zero (1991)
Highly Rated!
Ted Chiang
Answers the question: what would happen if we found out that mathematics is inconsistent? This is a great piece of mathematical fiction. (Thanks to Frank Chess who pointed it out to me.) Renee... (more)
The Dreams in the Witch-House (1933)
H.P. Lovecraft
In this story, Walter Gilman, a mathematics graduate student at Miskatonic University in Arkham, Mass, rents a room in the famed haunted "Witch House" of Keziah Mason, a witch who legend says escaped... (more)
Drode's Equations (1981)
Richard Grant
When this story takes place, the fictional "Drode's Equations" have been lost for so long that they have become practically mythological. And so the historian protagonist is surprised to find them in... (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)
The Einstein See-Saw (1932)
Miles J. Breuer
This is another of the hyperspace stories by Miles Breuer. This time, a mathematical physicist discovers that mattter can be tossed around in and out of space(-time) [see his papers, "A Preliminary Report... (more)
The Elusive Bullet (1931)
John Rhode (aka Cecil John Charles Street)
Dr. Priestly is a professor whose hobby is "the mathematical detection of crime". In this story, he must convince the police inspector that the man he plans to accuse of murder is, in fact, innocent. The... (more)
An Episode of Flatland (1907)
Charles H. Hinton
Hinton, whose biography is a little too weird for me to believe and whose essays on the fourth dimension (see for example A New Era of Thought) leave me wondering how much he really believed that the fourth... (more)
The Estimator (Georges) (2007)
Lynn Margulis
Georges Standon computes the probabilities of unlikely events for a living, especially those relating to outer space, but this does not prepare him for the complications in his personal life when an old... (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 Ethical Equations (1945)
Murray Leinster
Mathematics is invoked several times to formalize `what goes round, comes around' as if it were a law of nature. 100% hokey. The only thing worse than the bad math is the bad science. ... (more)
Euclid Alone (1975)
William F. Orr
An administrator in the math department of a major research institute has to decide how to handle a paper which proves the inconsistency of Euclidean geometry. Math is definitely central to this... (more)
Evariste and Heloise (2008)
Marco Abate
This contribution to the collection The Shape of Content is difficult to classify. Combining fiction and fact, essay and comic book, fantasy and philosophy, it essentially takes the form of a proposal... (more)
The Exception (2005)
Alex Kasman
Written in the form of a dialogue between a man in a nursing home and his grandchild, this short story describes an undergraduate research project that produces a surprising answer to one of the most famous... (more)
The Exploration of Space (1972)
Barrington J. Bayley
The author has used - as in some of his other stories like "The problem of Morley's Emission" - a story format to lay out some of his philosophical speculations, in this instance about the nature of... (more)
The Extraordinary Hotel or the Thousand and First Journey of Ion the Quiet (1968)
Highly Rated!
Stanislaw Lem
Here, the famous Polish author toys with the counter-intuitive nature of the countably-infinite by postulating the existence of an intergalactic hotel with rooms indexed by the positive integers. For instance,... (more)
Eye of the Beholder (2005)
Highly Rated!
Alex Kasman
Shortly after a stunning success in her research, personal tragedy forces a math professor to change careers and begin work at the NSA where her work on cryptography involves some difficult ethical decisions.... (more)
A Fable for Moderns (1955)
Lord Dunsany
A bank employee becomes bored with the restrictions of arithmetic and decides to let his mathematical computations enjoy the freedom of "modern" poets and artists. Although he loses his job at the bank,... (more)
The Fairytale of the Completely Symmetrical Butterfly (2003)
Dietmar Dath
I have long thought that Emmy Noether deserved to be the heroine of a work of mathematical fiction. I had even begun writing a story of my own to fill this gap. But, have no fear, since Dietmar Dath... (more)
Falling Umbrella (2002)
Julia Whitty
In this short story, an aging mathematician witnesses a woman with an umbrella jumping (falling?) off of the Golden Gate bridge. Mathematical terminology is tossed around reasonably well ("proofs by contradiction",... (more)
Fantasia Mathematica : Being a Set of Stories, Together With a Group of Oddments and Diversions, All Drawn from ... (1958)
Highly Rated!
Clifton Fadiman (editor)
This is the first of the two wonderful, classic collections of mathematically flavored literature and such by Clifton Fadiman. (The second is "Mathematical Magpie".) Fortunately, it is now available... (more)
The Fatal Equation (1933)
Arthur Strangeland
This is a very well-crafted murder mystery executed quite ingeniously. A mathematical physicist - Jan Friede - sets up a system of 20+ equations which eliminate the time variable from Einstein's equations... (more)
Fear of Math (1985)
Peter Cameron
A feather-touch story about a young woman who comes to New York to do an MBA - and has to pass a Calculus course, a pre-requisite for an MBA. A brief description of how utterly lost she is after her... (more)
The Feeling of Power (1957)
Highly Rated!
Isaac Asimov
An advanced society rediscovers the joys of multipying numbers BY HAND, a forgotten art. It's a gem. The author probably did not realize how quickly the premise of this story (people so dependent... (more)
Feigenbaum Number (1995)
Nancy Kress
A postdoc who perceives reality different than other people (he sees something like the Platonic ideals people ought to be) works with a professor on combining chaos theory with particle physics. I'm... (more)
Fermat's Best Theorem (1995)
Janet Kagan
A student comes up with what appears to be a proof of Fermat's Last Theorem. So, she gives it to her professor hoping that he will find a mistake in it (see below). It turns out that the professor is... (more)
The Fifth-Dimension Catapult (1931)
Murray Leinster
This short novel, originally published in the January 1931 ASTOUNDING, and republished by Damon Knight in SCIENCE FICTION OF THE 30'S (1975), involves a mathematical physicist whose theories get applied... (more)
Fifty Million Monkeys (1943)
Raymond F. Jones
The story is set sometime around 12,000 AD. The use of interstellar rockets over 15 years creates a "polarization of space" which leads to a "Pioneer anomaly"-like deviations in flight paths of spacecraft.... (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 Finan-seer (1949)
Edward L. Locke
This is a story about a Mathematics and an Economics professor who use game theory to beat the stock market. The university's endowment fund, having lost significant amounts in the market, is desperate... (more)
Forbidden Knowledge (1987)
Kathryn Cramer
Mathematical statements can sound pretty strange, practically humorous, when you don't know the technical definitions of the terms. This somewhat frightening story has such a statement as its punchline. Specifically, it all builds up to a quote from Irving Kaplansky's (more)
Forgotten Milestones in Computing No. 7: The Quenderghast Bullian Algebraic Calculator (1990)
Alex Stewart
A very creative story about a mathematician which History has entirely forgotten - one "Thaddeus Q. Quenderghast III, of Nettlebend, Wyoming". Born around 1821, a contemporary of Charles Babbage and... (more)
The Four-Color Problem (1971)
Barrington J. Bayley
A story written in a psychedelic, stream-of-consciousness style a la William S. Burroughs concerning the discovery of previously unknown countries on the Earth whose existence provides a counter-example... (more)
The Fourth Dynasty (1936)
R.R. Winterbotham
A confused story of a couple (Victor and Georgiana) who go into cryogenic suspended animation for a million and a half years and wake up in the era of the Fourth Dynasty, the age of the Kora (first... (more)
The Fourth-Dimensional Demonstrator (1935)
Murray Leinster
Uses the fourth dimension as geewhiz terminology to explain a matter duplicator/unduplicator. Includes a tesseract. But if you ignore the story's explanation involving time as ... (more)
Fractions (2011)
Buzz Mauro
A math teacher realizes that the father of one of his students is a man with whom he has had an anonymous sexual relationship. There is some discussion of math education in general, and about hypothetical... (more)
The Franklin's Tale (in The Canterbury Tales) (1390)
Geoffrey Chaucer
Aurelius of Brittany greatly desires Dorigen, a married woman who has not seen her husband, the knight, for some years. Dorigen puts off Aurelius's advances by promising that she will yield when he... (more)
A Frayed Knot (2009)
Felix Culp
Culp takes a classic mystery by Poe and retells it with knotted ropes taking the place of people. For example: Tyler Trefoil was a Bowline knot....Salty-fibered seafaring knots such as Trefoil - as... (more)
Funes el Memorioso [Funes, His Memory] (1942)
Jorge Luis Borges
Borges’ short story piece, “Funes, His Memory’ (or in other translations, “Funes, The Memorious”) discusses the phenomenal memory of an acquaintance, Ireneo Funes. Funes, at age nineteen,... (more)
The Future Engine (1995)
Byron Tetrick
Charles Babbage's son calls on Sherlock Holmes to investigate the theft of the Analytic Engine from its warehouse. The son gives a description of its importance to mathematical calculations. But it's his mention of the role of the binomial theorem in its working that arouses Holmes's interest. Published in Mike Resnick and M H Greenberg (eds) SHERLOCK HOLMES IN ORBIT. (more)
FYI (1961)
James Blish
This story contains a brief explanation of the transfinite cardinals and their arithmetic as part of a scary bit of science fiction. Why, you may ask (and the character in the story does), do the transfinite cardinals... (more)
Gödel's Doom (1985)
George Zebrowski
What if Gödel was wrong? That is the question asked in this well written but very confused short story. The characters in this story decide to test Gödel's theorem by running a computer program... (more)
Galactic Pot-Healer (1969)
Philip K. Dick
Joe Fernwright, mender of broken pottery in some future Earth society, but bored out of his mind after months without any pots to fix, accepts a mysterious invitation to a far planet where... (more)
A Game of Consequences (1998)
David Langford
Two reckless researchers at "The Mathematics Institute" undertake dangerous "quantum" research based on mathematical mumbo-jumbo like "translating her mathematical intuitions into appropriate quasi-shapes... (more)
The Gangs of New Math (2005)
Robert W. Vallin
This humorous short story about a brawl in a pub of mathematicians appeared in the November 2005 issue of Math Horizons magazine. There is quite a bit of "mathematical name-dropping" in the form of quick... (more)
The Gate of the Flying Knives (1979)
Poul Anderson
For his contribution to the first "Thieves' World" collection, Poul Anderson contributed a fantasy story about an illustrated scroll which forms a gateway between dimensions. As the story progresses,... (more)
Gödel Numbers (1969)
J.W. Swanson
The story revolves around an ancient stone artifact found near Cairo which has engraved markings of slanted lines. In an incredible non-sequitor, one of the characters in the story guesses that the numbers... (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)
Genghis Khan and 888 (2005)
Jason Earls
As one might guess from the title of the literary journal in which it was published ("Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens #4"), this story is a bit strange. According to the author, it is absurdist... (more)
The Genius (1901)
Nikolai Georgievich Garin-Mikhailovskii
The Russian Engineer N.G. Mikhailovskii (1852-1906) was also an accomplished author using the pseudonym "N.G. Garin". His short story, "The Genius", tells about an Jewish man who fills his notebooks with... (more)
The Geometrics of Johnny Day (1941)
Nelson Bond
Old MacDonald had a firm, and in that firm he had a young mathematician who wanted to win his daughter's hand in marriage. MacDonald was skeptical: ""Ye want a job, eh? And just what is it that ye... (more)
Geometry in the South Pacific (1927)
Sylvia Warner
A chapter from Warner's novel (more)
The Geometry of Love (1966)
John Cheever
An engineer is inspired by a passing truck from "Euclid's Dry Cleaning" to apply geometric principles to his own marital problems. He finds that interpreting his family as a triangle has the advantage... (more)
The Geometry of Narrative (1983)
Hilbert Schenck
This story begins with a character who is a graduate student of English proposing to his professor a new geometric approach to literary analysis. As he points out, this has been used to some limited degree... (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)
Getting Rid of Fluff (1908)
Ellis Parker Butler
A humorous story in which two men formulate a mathematical "law of scared dogs" to help in frightening away an annoying dog named Fluff. "I bet if Sir Isaac Newon had had Fluff as long as you have had... (more)
Getting the Combination (1982)
Isaac Asimov
Griswold figures out a combination by correctly guessing the next number in a sequence. AKA "Playing the Numbers". Published originally in the June 1982 issue of Gallery. (more)
The Gigantic Fluctuation (1973)
Arkady Strugatsky / Boris Strugatsky
This is an oddly funny story about a man who becomes the "focus point of all miracles in the world", a "gigantic fluctuation". He somehow appears to attract extremely improbably but possible statistical... (more)
The Gimatria of Pi (2004)
Lavie Tidhar
More ``numerology'' than mathematics, this short story is based on the idea that the decimal expansion of π has predictive value. For example, it is portrayed as predicting the assassination of Yitzhak... (more)
The Girl with the Celestial Limb (1990)
Pauline Melville
Although recognized as mathematically talented in school, Jane Cole hid from all things intellectual after having a frightening epiphany regarding infinity. Math, however, seemingly exacts its revenge... (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)
The Gnome and the Pearl of Wisdom: A Fable (1977)
Highly Rated!
Richard Willmott
A greedy gnome with a countably infinite collection of marbles wants to trade it with Merlin the mathematician for his beautiful "pearl of wisdom". Merlin takes advantage of the gnomes unfamiliarity... (more)
Go, Little Book (1972)
Isaac Asimov
Combinatorics is used to break a "matchbook code". One of the "Black Widower" mysteries written for Ellery Queen magazine. See also these [2, 3] other BW stories. (more)
The God Equation (2007)
Michael A.R. Co
The angel Azrael is ordered to kill a Philippine mathematician who is using the Internet to create a mathematical proof of the existence of God. In this story, Azrael is presented as a hitman who kills... (more)
The Gold-Bug (1843)
Edgar Allan Poe
Not only does this very famous Poe story contain a (very little) bit of mathematics in the form of a probabilistic approach to cryptography and a geometric description of the treasure hunt on the ground... (more)
Goliijo (2007)
Alex Rose
A very cute, mind-tickling short tale about a place called “Goliijo”. References to Mandelbrot’s paper on British coastline and the Koch curve lead the reader to a description of Goliijo, which... (more)
Gomez (1954)
Cyril M. Kornbluth
this story is about a physics prodigy, but a mathematical equation appears in it -- the first time I read story the equation didn't make any sense to me, but eventually I realized that it was a... (more)
The Gostak and the Doshes (1930)
Highly Rated!
Miles J. Breuer (M.D.)
In this classic science fiction story, a mathematical physicist convinces his friend to try to travel into another dimension by merely altering the way he thinks about things. The friend finds himself... (more)
The Grass and Tree (2003)
Eliot Fintushel
The Banach-Tarski paradox is invoked repeatedly as the underlying explanation for shapeshifting. And higher-dimensional generalizations prove crucial to the plot. The author goes so far as to cite... (more)
Gulliver's Posthumous Travels to Riemann's Land and Lobachevskia (1947)
William Pepperell Montague
In this sequel to Swift's classic Gulliver's Travels (which is also mathematical), Barnard College philosopher Montague tells us of his dreams in which Gulliver shares with him the non-Euclidean geometry... (more)
Hamisch in Avalon (1995)
Eliot Fintushel
This story marks the return of the Yiddishe mystic Izzy and his daughter in-law (now a math professor) Hamisch previously encountered in Izzy at the Lucky Three. There isn't as much math in this story,... (more)
Harvey Plotter and the Circle of Irrationality (2011)
Nathan Carter / Dan Kalman
Harvey Plotter, who has a scar shaped like a radical sign on his forehead, must find all of the rational points on the circularum unititatus before the evil Lord Voldemorphism. The reader follows... (more)
Hell of a Fix (2009)
Matthew Hughes
When an actuary's exclamation upon hitting his thumb with a hammer summons a demon, he unwittingly causes a general strike of the workers in Hell. With the help of a theologian with a bizarre theory to... (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)
Herr Doctor's Wondrous Smile (1998)
Highly Rated!
Vladimir Tasic
In this short story, a logician who really does not take the superstitions of numerology seriously is invited to a "fringe" conference where he delivers a talk on the mystical implications of Gregory... (more)
Hidden in Glass (1931)
Paul Ernst
A murder mystery involving a mathematical physicist. One Professor Brainard, who is claimed to have mastered "the secret of the fourth dimension" (haven't they all in the pulps?), has a serious professional... (more)
Hilbert's Hotel (1999)
Ian Stewart
Another take on the idea (attributed to lectures by David Hilbert) that the bizarre properties of the countably infinite can best be presented through the analogy of a hotel. Here, Mr. and Mrs. Smith... (more)
The Holmes-Ginsbook Device (1969)
Isaac Asimov
A scientist recounts how, stung by his former professor hogging all the credit for figuring out a way to safely light cigarettes and girlwatch at the same time, he and ... (more)
I of Newton (1970)
Joe Haldeman
In this short story a mathematics professor accidentally summons a demon by cursing while working on a problem involving integration. The devil brags that he is able to disprove Fermat's last theorem,... (more)
Ibn Hakkan al-Bokhari, Dead in his Labyrinth (1951)
Jorge Luis Borges
Two friends, a poet and a mathematician (who is described as the author of a study on "the theorem which Fermat did not write in the margin of a page of Diophantus") arrive at an abandoned house in the... (more)
The Ifth of Oofth (1957)
Walter Trevis
[This] is a short, zany, tall-tale reminiscent of Heinlein's "And He Built A Crooked House". Someone ends up making a 3-dimensional, unfolded projection of a 5-dimensional hypercube, a Penteract. The... (more)
The Image in the Mirror (1933)
Dorothy Leigh Sayers
Lord Peter Wimsey, while staying at an inn, finds a stranger is completely rapt in reading and rereading from a book of Wimsey's. It turns out to be H G Wells' story of a man inverted via the fourth... (more)
The Imaginary (1942)
Isaac Asimov
As Asimov notes in his afterword to it (in THE EARLY ASIMOV), it is mostly about the idea of applying mathematical formulae to psychology, which he later did with his psychohistory in the "Foundation"... (more)
The Imaginary Number (1956)
Yizhak Oren
In this peculiar and humorous story, a complete stranger shows up at physicist Benjamin's door, with an imaginary tale of their childhood friendship, marriage to twin sisters, and his deed to certain... (more)
Imaginary Numbers : An Anthology of Marvelous Mathematical Stories, Diversions, Poems, and Musings (1999)
Highly Rated!
William Frucht (editor)
Although it is nice to see a more recent collection of mathematical stories (published in 1999), I'm afraid that many of these works seem only tenuously connected to mathematics at best. Stories about... (more)
Immortal Bird (1961)
H. Russell Wakefield
Professor Brandley, a "young" man of 53, wants nothing more than to attain the position of Regius Professor of Pure Mathematics at the Metropolitan University in London so that he could train "disciples... (more)
Immune Dreams (1978)
Ian Watson
A creepy but interesting story that combines the genetics of cancer, the neurology of dreaming, immunology, and the mathematics of catastrophe theory (a precursor of what we now call "chaos theory"). ... (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)
Incomplete Proofs (2012)
John Chu
This unusual piece combines equal parts fashion industry and math research, with a dash of fantasy and just a pinch of homo-eroticism. Grant does a favor for his old partner, Duncan, by modeling his new... (more)
The Indefatigable Frog (1953)
Philip K. Dick
A parody of science utilizing the old "Zeno's Paradox". Originally appeared in Fantastic Story Magazine (July 1953) and republished recently in The Ascent of Wonder. (more)
The Infinite Assassin (1991)
Highly Rated!
Greg Egan
Originally published in `Interzone #48', June 1991. There are multiple realities. As the narrator puts it, `the number of parallel worlds is uncountably infinite - infinite like the real numbers, not... (more)
The Infinite Plane (1981)
Paul J. Nahin
As a student, Richard Mackley discussed some philosophical aspects of the mathematical abstraction of an infinite plane with his math professor. For instance, they noted that the plane would look the... (more)
Infinities (2010)
Vandana Singh
A nicely written story about Abdul Karim, a mathematics teacher at the local municipal school, set against the backdrop of the religious turmoil between Hindus and Muslims in India. I couldn’t quite... (more)
Inflexible Logic (1940)
Russell Maloney
There is a famous example of probability which (in one of its many forms) states that six chimpanzees randomly typing at six typewriters would eventually reproduce all of the books in the British museum.... (more)
The Ingenious Mr. Spinola (1924)
Ernest Bramah
Max Carrados is a blind amateur detective genius, quite popular in the early 20th century, but mostly forgotten since then. (Such is also the fate of E.B.'s Kai Lung fantasy stories.) ... (more)
Inside Out (1987)
Rudy Rucker
The story itself is quite disturbing IMO but has the usual zaniness of his other writings. Features quarks as "hypertoroidal vortex rings/loops of superstring", a "cumberquark", "hypertorii with fuzzy... (more)
The Integral: A Horror Story (2009)
Colin Adams
This story, which he claims is an attempt to emulate Stephen King, is different from many of Adams' others. This may explain why it was published for the first time in his 2009 collections Riot at the... (more)
Into Darkness (1992)
Greg Egan
Creepy story about a man who volunteers to rescue people from a worm-hole that randomly appears in cities, killing anyone who is not able to make it to the center of the spacetime-distortion before it disappears.... (more)
Into the Comet (1960)
Arthur C. Clarke
When a computer malfunction prevents the crew of a spaceship from being able to determine a trajectory back to Earth, they are forced to resort to using an abacus to aid in the computation. [Note that... (more)
Into Thin Air (2000)
Colin Adams
This was the first of Colin Adams' ``Mathematically Bent'' columns for the Mathematical Intelligencer, published back in Vol.22, No. 1, 2000. It combines many of the analogies between mountain climbing... (more)
Intoxicating Heights (Höhenrausch. Die Mathematik des XX. Jahrhunderts in zwanzig Gehirnen) (2003)
Dietmar Dath
Word by word I would translate Dath's "Höhenrausch" as "High-altitude Euphoria. Mathematics of the 20th century in 20 brains". It is a collection of short stories and fictional portraits of (I copy... (more)
The Island of Five Colors (1952)
Highly Rated!
Martin Gardner
In this sequel to The No-sided Professor, our heroes tackle the Four Color Theorem, which was unproved at the time. (See here for a brief summary of a recent proof.) Included are some historically... (more)
Izzy at the Lucky Three (1996)
Eliot Fintushel
There are two kinds of weird: good weird and bad weird. This story is the third kind. I mean, what can you say about a story in which the Yiddishe mystic Izzy encounters the demon spirit who created... (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 Jester and the Mathematician (2000)
Alan R. Gordon
A short historical fiction piece involving Leonardo of Pisa ("Fibonacci"). Interesting story which features Fibonacci talking briefly about his rabbit-series/sequence, his abacus-duel with Pisa's foremost... (more)
John Jones's Dollar (1915)
Harry Stephen Keeler
The main mathematical content of this science fiction story is an illustration of the potential of exponential growth in the form of considering how a single dollar invested in a bank would grow in value... (more)
Journey into a Dark Heart (1998)
Peter Hoeg
This story appears in the collection Tales of the Night made up of stories by Hoeg that are all set on the evening of March 19, 1929. In this one, a depressed young Danish mathematician takes a train... (more)
Journey to the Center of Mathematics (2006)
Colin Adams
A parody of the classic Jules Verne tale, which reads like what Woody Allen would have written if he had taken math instead of philosophy at NYU: The next day, we booked travel on a steamer across the... (more)
The Judge's House (1914)
Bram Stoker
A math student seeks a quiet place to study for his exams but winds up battling an angry ghost. Stoker certainly knew mathematical words to throw around (e.g. quaternions and conic sections), but this... (more)
Kavanagh (1849)
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
In the fourth chapter of this novel by the famous poet, the school teacher of the title tries to convince his skeptical wife that mathematics can be poetic by reading to her from Lilavati. (This one chapter was published separately as Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine, 3 (1855), pages 257–62, and so I will consider it both as a short story and as an excerpt from a novel.) (more)
Kavita Through Glass (2002)
Emily Ishem Raboteau
A loosely practicing Muslim graduate student in mathematics has great difficulty understanding his Hindu wife. He tries to understand her, love, and life in general via mathematics, regarding which... (more)
Ker-Plop (1979)
Ted Reynolds
Two branches of humanity meet after 300,000 years without contact. At one point, comparison is made between their different modes of existence via explicit... (more)
A Killer Theorem (2007)
Colin Adams
Mangum, P.I. returns in this mystery in which the unproven Gauss' Last Lemma is wielded as a murder weapon. Apparently, a certain approach to proving it is so enticing that merely showing it to mathematicians... (more)
The Killion (1982)
Ian Frazier
Fans of Monty Python will recall the joke so funny that anyone who reads it dies laughing. Frazier brings us the mathematical analogue: a number so big that it kills anyone who tries to think about it.... (more)
The Kissing Number (1992)
Ian Stewart
Published as part of his "Mathematical Recreations" column in Scientific American (February 1992), this story concerns human colonists on Mars who are trying to figure out how many non-overlapping "circular"... (more)
The Land of No Shadow (1931)
Carl H Claudy
Claudy's regular characters, the brilliant Alan Kane and the brawny Ted Dolliver, journey into the fourth dimension in this pulpy SciFi story. The tennis balls that journey into this trans-dimensional... (more)
The Last Answer (1980)
Isaac Asimov
Physicist Murray Templeton dies and is then surprised to find that he somehow still exists. Murray engages in a conversation with his Creator (who is bemused at being called `God'),... (more)
The Last Magician (1952)
Bruce Elliott
Science-fiction story about a magician performing for aliens using a Klein bottle as a prop. (more)
The Last Theorem (2008)
Buzz Mauro
A depressed music professor ponders Fermat's Last Theorem and the implications of its proof by Andrew Wiles. Like many of Mauro's other stories, this one is very well written, focusing not so much on... (more)
The Law (1947)
Robert M. Coates
In this story, the "law of averages" ceases to apply (so that, for instance, everyone in Manhattan decides to drive across the Triborough Bridge on the same evening). As a result, it is necessary for... (more)
Left or Right (1951)
Martin Gardner
Originally published in Esquire magazine in 1951, this story about a space ship "flipping" through the fourth dimension has rarely been seen because Gardner later worried that it was physically inaccurate.... (more)
The Legend of Howard Thrush (2005)
Alex Kasman
I always have enjoyed the American folk tale, a medium in which one pretends to be speaking earnestly and in all sincerity about a history so ridiculous that it it simply cannot be taken seriously. There... (more)
The Library of Babel (1941)
Highly Rated!
Jorge Luis Borges
Years ago, I read The Library of Babel in a volume of collected short stories by [Argentinian] Jorge Luis Borges, published under the title, Labyrinths and translated from the [Spanish]. Like many... (more)
life.exe (2006)
Jason Rogers
This work of fiction is not strictly narrative. It is hard to say what is happening since the characters live in the world of "the matrix". Not like the Wachowski Bros.'s epic trilogy of films (though... (more)
The Limit of Delta Y Over Delta X (1994)
Richard Cumyn
Here is a calculus example from a book with a title that can not be more mathematical. I printed this one in a calculus book that I wrote for my business/economics calculus class. I also read it out... (more)
Lines of Longitude (1997)
Stephen Baxter
The story tries to delve into Hawking's idea of imaginary time - how it may occur that at the beginning of the universe, time and space were ambiguously defined, smeared out into each other as a flattened... (more)
The Lions in the Desert (1993)
David Langford
Two men are hired to guard a mysterious treasure. One of them is a math grad student, and so their discussions to pass the time take on a mathematical flavor. Of particular interest are the references... (more)
The Living Equation (1934)
Nathan Schachner
A mathematician invents a machine that provides abstract mathematical objects ("vectors" and "tensors") a certain reality. His goal is to allow them not to solve equations but to create new ones. However,... (more)
The Logic Pool (1997)
Stephen Baxter
The Logic Pool deals with an intelligence that is similar to the meme-minds in Gregory Benford's Foundations Fear. Meme-mind -- I think this means some sort of intelligence whose existence arises... (more)
The Long Chalkboard (2006)
Jenny Allen / Jules Feiffer (Illustrator)
Allen's book is a collection of three short-short stories spread out over book length with illustrations on every page, in the usual style of children's literature, complete with charmingly simple... (more)
Long Division (2003)
Michael Redhill
The title of this short story refers both to arithmetic, a beloved subject of the school age child at its center, and the separation that his mother feels from him and his father due to the child's extraordinary... (more)
Long Division (2010)
Buzz Mauro
A very short story in which a hypochondriacal boy confuses the long division which he is learning in school with the cell division in the cancer that killed his grandmother. The boy's mother responds... (more)
Lord Darcy (1966)
Randall Garrett
The stories in this collection of fantastical murder mysteries take place in an alternate universe where magic rather than science has become the primary human tool for manipulating the world. Frequent... (more)
Los relatos de Gudor Ben Jusá: Cuentos y consejas con algo de matemáticas más son pocas y de las viejas (1994)
Juan de Burgos Román
A compilation of 40 short stories of mathematical fiction by Juan de Burgos, including those from his calculus books and his 1994 commencement address. Published by Fundación General de la Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, 1994. (more)
Lost (2011)
Tamora Pierce
A mathematically talented little girl from a mystical medieval realm is abused by her anti-intellectual father and unappreciated by a mean math teacher who insists that she show all of her work. However,... (more)
Lost in the Funhouse (1968)
John Barth
According to the "foreward to the Anchor Books Edition", this collection of short stories is "strung together on a few echoed and developed themes and [circles] back upon itself; not to close a simple... (more)
Luck be a Lady (2009)
Dean Wesley Smith
A seriously bizarre story about how Laverne, the Goddess of Luck, has gone missing, and superheroes Poker Boy, Front Desk Lady, and Screamer go looking for her, only to discover that the Bookkeeper... (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)
Mad Destroyer (1930)
Fletcher Pratt
The story is about a mathematician/astronomer who has discovered an exact solution to the multi-body problem in gravitation i.e. a formula which can easily calculate the positions and velocities of N... (more)
The Magic Staircase (1946)
Nelson Slade Bond
A Mathematics professor develops a theory of "intra-dimensional" spaces, hypothesizing that the vast, empty spaces in atoms form a parallel dimension in which alternative histories of "what might have... (more)
Mailman (2000)
J. Robert Lennon
The title character, called Mailman, is a mentally ill mailman with criminal and deviant behavior with respect to the mail that he handles. It turns out that Mailman had once been a mathematics graduate... (more)
The Man Who Counted : A Collection of Mathematical Adventures (1949)
Highly Rated!
Malba Tahan
The Man who counted: delightful adventures of a medieval arabic mathematician. It is aimed at young readers (10+) but can be enjoyed by all. The mathematics is elementary but is all correct and nicely... (more)
Mangum, P.I. (2004)
Colin Adams
A parody of the hard-boiled private detective genre in which ``P.I.'' stands for ``Principal Investigator'', a phrase familiar to anyone who has applied for a research grant. In this hilarious story,... (more)
The Math Code (2005)
Highly Rated!
Alex Kasman
A friend of mine once told me that he believes that mathematicians invented intentionally confusing notations to keep others from understanding what they were saying. I'm sure this is not true. We mathematicians... (more)
Math Takes a Holiday (2001)
Paul Di Filippo
Saint Hubert and Saint Barbara, the two patron saints of mathematics, pay a visit to a devout Catholic mathematics professor who has been praying for a mathematical miracle to silence his mockers.... (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)
Mathematical R & D (1979)
Paul J. Nahin
This short short story, published in the professional journal IEEE Transactions on Aerospace and Electronic Systems describes a talk by the (fictional) famous mathematician Professor Osgood. Greatly limited... (more)
Mathematically Bent (2000)
Colin Adams
Geometer and knot-theorist Colin Adams (Williams College, MA) has been writing this short, mathematically-wise and bitingly funny column in the quarterly issues of The Mathematical Intelligencer since... (more)
The Mathematician (1997)
George Weinberg
“Peter K was the first person on earth ever to invert a skew symmetric matrix by pressing a button”. So begins the story, set in the years where computers had just started making a foray into the... (more)
Mathematician Proof (1920)
Ralph Ellison de Castro
An utterly trite story about a genius of a mathematician (aren’t they all? To wit, “he had the binomial theorem for breakfast, lunched on integral calculus and for his evening meal considered attempts... (more)
The Mathematician Repents (2004)
Estep Nagy
A short story (?) in which Paul Erdős wakes up in the home of a Parisian mathematician, seems a bit confused, wanders around, and says some strange things. No real math is discussed in the story, but... (more)
The Mathematician’s Nightmare: The Vision of Professor Squarepunt (1954)
Bertrand Russell
This short story by [renowned philosopher and mathematician Bertrand] Russell is a mild satire on numerology, taking [Sir Arthur] Eddington’s obsession with it and spinning it as a “nightmare”... (more)
The Mathematicians of Grizzly Drive (1988)
Josef Skvorecky
A detective story, in the "hard boiled" genre, featuring Eve Adam, a sexy nightclub performer who solves crimes in her free time. In this story, she visits a house where mathematicians gather to entertain... (more)
The Mathematics of Magic (1940)
L. Sprague de Camp / Fletcher Pratt
The "Enchanter Stories" by de Camp and Pratt are a very popular series of SF/fantasy stories whose protagonist, Harold Shea, is able to travel to other universes using symbolic logic. "The Mathematics... (more)
The Mathenauts (1964)
Highly Rated!
Norman Kagan
A hilarious story that plays with the mind-blowing idea that it may not be that mathematics describes reality, but instead that reality is mathematics. In the future presented by this story, only those... (more)
Mathenauts: Tales of Mathematical Wonder (1987)
Highly Rated!
Rudy Rucker (editor)
This collection contains a wonderful assortment of mathematically oriented SF written between 1962 (when Mathematical Magpie appeared) and 1987 when this volume was published. Editor Rudy Rucker is... (more)
Maths on a Plane (2008)
Phil Trinh
This story, about a student flirting with the attractive woman in the seat next to him on a plane, won the student category of the 2008 New Writers Award from Cambridge University's ``Plus+ Magazine''.... (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)
A Matter of Mathematics (2005)
Tony Ballantyne
A story about the attempt by the British to change the tilt of Earth's axis to create a more suitable environment for themselves and how the Americans foil it. The British have been launching incessant... (more)
The Maxwell Equations (1969)
Highly Rated!
Anatoly Dnieprov
The math in this story seems very real, though the specifics of it are inconsequential to the plot. A mathematical physicist in an isolated city needs help finding a solution to a linearized version... (more)
Maxwell's Equations (2005)
Alex Kasman
James Clerk Maxwell was the 19th century theoretician who discovered electro-magnetic waves. He is often described as a "physicist", but I would argue that he was a mathematician. Certainly some of his... (more)
The Measure of Eternity (2006)
Sean McMullen
The beautiful servant of an even more beautiful courtesan leaves the palace in an ancient city and finds a beggar proudly shouting "I have nothing" in many different languages. Yet, this beggar seems... (more)
Mersenne's Mistake (2008)
Jason Earls
This is a nice piece of mathematical fiction in which the mathematician/monk Marin Mersenne encounters a demon with amazing mathematical skills. Like the other stories by Earls, this seems to be designed to showcase the interesting numbers which he has found using computer algebra tools. (more)
Message Found in a Copy of Flatland (1983)
Rudy Rucker
This is the story that answers the age old question: "What if Flatland was in the basement of a Pakistani restaurant in London?". The answer is scarier than you might think, especially when you realize... (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)
Milo and Sylvie (2000)
Eliot Fintushel
"Shapeshifting is treated as a form of Banach-Tarski equidecomposition. And part of a Zorn's Lemma proof is given explicitly." This story appeared in the March 2000... (more)
Mimsy Were the Borogoves (1943)
Highly Rated!
Lewis Padgett (aka Henry Kuttner and Catherine L. Moore)
Far in the future, humans have not only improved their digestive tracts (eliminating the appendix and shortening their large intestine) and invented a time machine, but they have also invented educational toys... (more)
Mirror Image (1972)
Isaac Asimov
A robot volunteers the aid of his human, Earthling friend to settle a dispute between a pair of feuding "spacer" mathematicians. It seems that an old mathematician (over 270 years old in fact) and a... (more)
Misfit (1939)
Robert A. Heinlein
A crew of misfits ships out to the asteroid belt. One member turns out to be a misfit among the misfits: he's a mathematical prodigy. His skills prove to be very valuable. reprinted in THE PAST... (more)
Mobius Strip (1978)
Cho-Se Hui
A very short Korean tale, where the author has tried to give a parallel between a situation in real life and the Möbius strip. The story begins with a Math professor’s lecture, where he explains... (more)
Moebius Trip (2006)
Janny Wurts
Featuring an aging mirror-maker who is asked to create a mirror which acts like a moebius strip and shows a reflection of the past and the future. Frankly, I did not think it was done well at all and... (more)
The Monopole Affair (2003)
Ken Wharton
This short story in the May 2003 issue of Analog by physicist Wharton includes references to the role of higher dimensions in string theory. References to string theory, but much more about physics than math (which gets a passing mention). (more)
Monster (2005)
Alex Kasman
A story about group theory, plagiarism, the untapped potential of a collaboration between mathematics and marketing, the bleak financial future of academia, and the Monster. This story talks about... (more)
Moriarty by Modem (1995)
Jack Nimersheim
A cyberversion of Sherlock Holmes is created to track down an accidently released cyberversion of Moriarty. The big clue involves both the binomial theorem and binomial variables. Published in... (more)
Mortal Immortal (1833)
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
This fantasy story by the author of Frankenstein, about a man who drinks a half dose of a potion that bestows immortality, is only borderline mathematical fiction. The only arguably mathematical part... (more)
Mozart on Morphine (1989)
Gregory Benford
A mathematician nearly loses his life to appendicitis. While sedated in the hospital, he describes the loony stuff that flits through his head, and how it relates to the subjective and personal processes... (more)
Ms Fnd in a Lbry (1961)
Hal Draper
Hal Draper took a break from his life's work of promoting Marxism, and wrote one science fiction story. The information explosion, and associated storage and retrieval problems, is humorously examined in... (more)
Multi-Colored Dome (1987)
Martin Gardner
A light-hearted, short story about a shy but precocious Math student working on symbolic logic (“he had read “Principia Mathematica” when he was in high school, and understood it, too”). Thesis... (more)
Murder, She Conjectured (2005)
Alex Kasman
A police psychologist attending a conference in Cambridge, England is pulled into an unsolved murder mystery by her mathematician boyfriend. An important theme of the story is the oppresive sexism that... (more)
Musgrave Ritual (1893)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
A tiny bit of mathematics is used by Sherlock Holmes to solve this mystery. In it, he ties together the disappearance of a housemaid, the discovery of the dead body of the chief butler and a strange poem... (more)
Music of the Spheres (2011)
Ken Liu
The short stories in the anthology Mirror Shards all focus on augmented reality (AR), the idea that our perception of the world around us will be fundamentally changed by the use of advanced technology.... (more)
N Day (1943)
Philip Latham
An astronomer's observations of the sun lead him to predict the sun will go nova in just a few days. The formula that he used for his prediction is included explicitly. "Philip Latham" is the pseudonym of Robert Shirley Richardson. (more)
The N-Plus-1th-Degree (1968)
Stephen Barr
A mathematician is accused of murdering a man who flirted with his wife. Her faith in him (which is so strong, she describes it as being to the n-plus-1th degree) allows her to figure out how and by... (more)
Nachman (1998)
Leonard Michaels
An American mathematician attends a conference in Poland, the country in which his grandparents were killed in a Nazi concentration camp. This is during the Cold War, and the American consul warns him... (more)
Nachman at the Races (1999)
Leonard Michaels
In Michaels' third Nachman story, we learn that the UCLA mathematician enjoys attending horse races -- apparently his only emotional outlet besides his mathematics research. There is discussion of the... (more)
Nachman Burning (1998)
Leonard Michaels
In this story, the reclusive UCLA mathematician Nachman, a recurring character in stories by Leonard Michaels, gets a haircut. He chooses a barber he knows to be terrible at cutting hair, but he goes... (more)
Nachman from Los Angeles (2002)
Leonard Michaels
This second "Nachman" story by Leonard Michaels is a flashback to a time when the UCLA mathematician was a graduate student and hired by a rich Arabian prince to ghostwrite a philosophy paper for him.... (more)
Nanunculus (1997)
Ian Watson
A mathematician wishes to commit suicide, but is pestered by an automated visitor from the future programmed to make certain that the mathematician discovers the key to time travel before he does. Appears in the collection The Great Escape and first published in Interzone January 1997. (more)
Narrow Valley (1966)
R.A. Lafferty
This is a madcap story about a tract of land which is topologically folded through a shamanic incantation. Contains descriptions of some physical effects but explicitly states that the topological defect... (more)
Naturally (Double Whammy) (1954)
Fredric Brown
Fredric Brown, a prolific and acclaimed writer of mystery and science fiction stories and novels, was an extraordinary master of the short-short. "Naturally" is a one-pager about Henry... (more)
The Needle in a Haystack (2002)
Tom DeMarco
A pretty funny, silly story about a tailor with a mathematical bent who loses a needle in a haystack. Quite despondent about his chances of finding it, he decides to be mathematically rigorous in his... (more)
A New Golden Age (1981)
Rudy Rucker
In this story, and in our world as well, mathematicians lament the fact that legislators cannot sufficiently appreciate mathematics and that this adversely affects the funding of their science. To address this... (more)
The New Reality (1950)
Charles Leonard Harness
The theme of this story concerns the idea that observation determines reality, and takes it to a more profound level than is usual in quantum mechanics. Along the way, the history of π and of... (more)
Newton's Gift (1979)
Paul J. Nahin
Time traveller Wallace John Steinhope believes that he will be able to help his hero, Isaac Newton, avoid the tedium of computation by bringing him an electronic calculator that can do simple arithmetic.... (more)
The Next Dimension (1947)
Vladimir Karapetoff
"A Mathematical Play in Five Dialogs". Once again, we are treated to the Flatland notion of two-dimensional creatures pondering a "hypothetical" three dimensional existence. Many of the usual concerns... (more)
Nice Girl with Five Husbands (1951)
Fritz Leiber
A man is unwittingly swept by a time wind 100 years into the future. He and the people he meets in the future--including the nice girl of the title--talk at cross purposes, but no one realizes... (more)
The Nine Billion Names of God (1953)
Arthur C. Clarke
As much about computers as it is about mathematics, we join two programmers hired by a Buddhist sect seeking to find all true names of God by exhausting a combinatorial library of possibilities. Appears... (more)
No-Sided Professor (1946)
Highly Rated!
Martin Gardner
We all know that among the surprising things you learn when you first make a Mobius strip is the fact that out of a two sided piece of paper you can make an object with only one side. Why should this... (more)
The Non-Statistical Man (1956)
Raymond F. Jones
In this short story, insurance adjuster Charles Bascomb comes up against his greatest enemy: intuition. The story presents mathematics (especially statistics and logic) as one way man can deal with reality.... (more)
Not a Chance (2009)
Peter Haff
A student harangues his physics professor about the possibility that all mathematical proofs are incorrect. His argument is based on the supposed uncertainty about the validity of proofs of the Four Color... (more)
Null-P (1951)
William Tenn
The story extrapolates to great lengths (including a complete overthrow of humanity by smartly evolved canines) a simple principle: what might happen if we found a perfectly average man who had quantitative... (more)
Numbers Don't Lie (2005)
Terry Bisson
This novel is actually just a compilation of three Wilson Wu short stories ("The Hole in the Hole", "The Edge of the Universe" and "Get Me to the Church on Time") which were previously published in Asimov's... (more)
Numbers in the Dark (La notte dei numeri) (1990)
Italo Calvino
A boy looking around the huge office building where his mother works meets an old accountant who now works with computers but reveals to him an undiscovered arithmetic error made back in one of the company's... (more)
Nuremberg Joys (2000)
Charles Sheffield
A mathematician is on trial for war crimes, regarding his role in developing an absolutely horrendous killing weapon based on sophisticated new physics. Guilt or ... (more)
The Object (2005)
Alex Kasman
This is a mathematical horror story, written by someone who doesn't like horror stories. Since I'm the author, I can honestly (and humbly) admit that the result is kind of weird. The plot concerns... (more)
Of Mystery There Is No End (2002)
Leonard Michaels
Leonard Michaels' recurring character of UCLA mathematician Nachman faces questions of infidelity when he learns of the extra-marital affairs of his friend Norbert and Norbert's wife. It is somewhat... (more)
An Old Arithmetician (1885)
Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman
The title character of this short story, which appeared in the September 1885 issue of Harper's Weekly, is an old, uneducated woman who loves computing (with chalk and slate): You have always been very... (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)
Old Fillikin (1982)
Joan Aiken
A farm boy who hates his math class seemingly calls upon his grandmother's "familiar" to get revenge on his teacher. This reads like an old fashioned ghost story, but it is the kind where you can imagine... (more)
On the Nature of Human Romantic Interaction (2003)
Karl Iagnemma
The title of the story was the title of a chapter in the Ph.D. thesis that Joseph, the main character, was working on...but never finished. Instead, he wound up living with his advisor's daughter, working... (more)
On the Quantum Theoretic Implications of Newton's Alchemy (2007)
Highly Rated!
Alex Kasman
A postdoc at the mysterious "Institute for Mathematical Analysis and Quantum Chemistry" is surprised to learn that his work on Riemann-Hilbert Problems is being used as part of his employer's crazy alchemy... (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 One Best Bet (1911)
Samuel Hopkins Adams
The story is about an amateur detective who uses some elementary geometric triangulation to foil an assassination. The last paragraph is a great touch, “Why, Governor, you’re giving me too much credit.... (more)
Operation Chaos / Operation Changeling (1969)
Poul Anderson
Part of a series of stories about detectives who use magic and religion published in Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine in the 1960s, Operation Changeling (later published in novelized form in Operation... (more)
Oracle (2000)
Greg Egan
The protagonist, Robert Stoney is a british mathematician who worked on German codes during WW II, was greatly affected by the death of a close friend, and was later persecuted for his homosexuality. ... (more)
The Ore Miner's Wife (2003)
Karl Iagnemma
A miner who spends his spare time secretly working on geometry problems arouses the suspicions of his God fearing wife when she comes upon his cryptic writings and follows him to a meeting with a visiting... (more)
Our Feynman Who Art in Heaven... (2007)
Paul Di Filippo
A religious cult based on the Standard Model (of high energy physics) has its headquarters in a tesseract. This story, which is certainly more physical than mathematical, appears in the "Plumage from Pegasus" column in the February 2007 issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction and is available for free at their website. (more)
Ouroboros (1997)
Geoffrey A. Landis
The question of whether what we call "reality" could be nothing other than a simulation run on a computer gets a mathematically sophisticated treatment in this story. In addition to a vague reference... (more)
The Pacific Mystery (2006)
Stephen Baxter
This starts as an alternate history short story, in which Lord Halifax became Prime Minister of England in 1940 and reaches an accommodation with Germany; Germany holds sway over Europe and Russia, Japan... (more)
The Pacifist (1966)
Arthur C. Clarke
Clarke, one of the all-time biggest names in serious science fiction, took time to write a series of humorous science fiction tall tales. The stories are narrated by one Harry ... (more)
Palimpsest (2007)
Howard V. Hendrix
A very short story with strong shades of Clarke's "Nine billion Names of God" and "Genesis", coupled with the general idea that our reality is a Turing machine in danger of being subverted by the Great... (more)
The Papers of A.J. Wentworth, B.A. (1949)
Humphry Francis Ellis
This is a humorous book about A J Wentworth, school master at a British school, who teaches Algebra to 11-13 year old children. The entire novel has a touch of Wodehouse to it as it follows the bumbling... (more)
Papos (2007)
Alex Rose
A short piece which mixes up historical facts/pseudo-facts from Greek history with rich imagination to discuss the discovery of irrational numbers (Pythagoras, Hippasus), the vanishing point in perspective... (more)
Paul Bunyan versus the Conveyor Belt (1949)
William Hazlett Upson
A clever "twist" on the usual Mobius band story. Answers the age old question: How can you win lots of money betting against poor saps who don't understand topology? I use this story with children... (more)
The Penultimate Conjecture (1999)
Leonard Michaels
This is the most mathematical of Leonard Michaels' seven stories about the brilliant but anti-social UCLA mathematician, Nachman. In it, Nachman attends a conference in San Francisco at which a Swedish... (more)
Perelman's Song (2008)
Highly Rated!
Tina Chang
This story by Tina Chang appears in the February 2008 issue of Math Horizons magazine (see also JSTOR). It uses a conversation between gods manipulating universes in their hands to poetically inform... (more)
The Phantom of Kansas (1976)
John Varley
A sublunar meteorological artist wakens from her memory recording to learn that a serial killer has been murdering her repeatedly, and is presumably still... (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)
The Pi Man (1959)
Alfred Bester
I found this work in an anthology of Alfred Bester short stories "The Dark Side of the Earth". It is an ironic story of a man that calls himself the Pi Man (irrational) that tries to set a pattern... (more)
Pieces of Pi (2006)
David Bartell
A socially inept cubicle worker becomes obsessed with making sense of the controversial Biblical passage (I Kings 7:23-26) which many interpret as claiming that the value of π is exactly three (therefore... (more)
The Pikestaffe Case (1924)
Algernon Blackwood
This quite unsatisfying yarn hangs its hat on the old idea of finding a way into a mirror to discover a new reality. The author waves his hands quite a bit to build an aura of mystery (by appealing... (more)
The Planck Dive (1998)
Greg Egan
This short story describes a bizarre experiment in which researchers are cloned (quantum cloning, not the genetic kind; these researchers aren't "fleshers") and sent into a black hole. Their goal is to... (more)
Planck Time (2004)
Michael Iwoleit
The setting is 2036 to 2038. A 140-km long linear collider ("Super Large Hadron Collider") has been installed at one of the L5 points in earth orbit. Some unknown technology must have been discovered... (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)
The Plattner Story (1896)
Herbert George Wells
Gottfrieb Plattner disappears after an explosion for nine days. Upon return, he recounts a strange tale of a parallel world. More mathematically interesting, he discovers that he is now left-handed,... (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)
Post-Bombum [aka Post-Boomboom] (1967)
Alberto Vanasco
Argentinian author and math professor Alberto Vanasco wrote this short story about post-apocalyptic survivors trying to record keys to civilization, and failing miserably. (Thanks to Vijay Fafat for bringing... (more)
The Power of Words (1845)
Edgar Allan Poe
A very short work (two-pages long!) in which two angels discuss the divine implications of our ability to mathematically determine the future consequences of an action, especially wave propagation.... (more)
The Pre-Persons (1974)
Philip K. Dick
His nastiest story, a deeply felt response to Roe vs Wade. Dick imagines a future where Congress has decided that abortion is legal until the soul enters the body, which is specified as ... (more)
PreVision (1936)
John Pierce
The story hangs its hat on a clever observation made long ago by many physicists, including Einstein, about the nature of solutions of Maxwell's equations. Since the equations are time-symmetric, they... (more)
Probability Storm (1977)
Julian Reid
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... (more)
The Problem of Cell 13 (1907)
Jacques Futrelle
"The story which introduces Professor S. F. X. van Dusen, professional scientific supergenius, who lends his talents to solving baffling mysteries. He is described as primarily ... (more)
Problems (1979)
John Updike
What might otherwise be a standard short story about a man who regrets leaving his wife for his lover is recast by this famous author as a list of math homework problems. In one problem, where the man... (more)
Problems for Self-Study (2002)
Charles Yu
The life of a mathematical physicist -- from earning his PhD, through marriage, fatherhood and into a midlife crisis -- presented in the form of homework exercises from a math book. We first meet... (more)
Professor and Colonel (1987)
Ruth Berman
In this unusual story, we get to see another side to Sherlock Holmes' arch enemy, the brilliant but evil mathematician Professor Moriarty. Here, rather than perpetrating a crime, Moriarty is merely visiting with his brother, discussing the significance of his research into asteroid dynamics. (See also Asimov's take on this same subject.) (more)
Professor Morgan's Moon (1899)
Stanley Waterloo
A young mathematician asks for the hand of a senior mathematician's beautiful (and clever) daughter, but is refused on the grounds that his inability to support her financially was a mathematical certainty.... (more)
Progress (2005)
Alex Kasman
The mathematics of ancient Egypt can look very strange to us today. For example, although they did not have many fractions, they did know about the number 2/3. Strangely, however, it took a page of computation... (more)
A Proof of God (2004)
Colin Adams
A mathematician is approached by a seemingly crazy old man who claims to have a proof of the existence of God, but later it seems that he might not be so crazy after all in this hilarious spoof from Adams'... (more)
The Purloined Letter (1845)
Edgar Allan Poe
"This is the third and last C. Auguste Dupin mystery. The Prefect of Paris police explains a very delicate situation to Dupin, involving a royal letter whose possession grants its bearer great... (more)
The Push of a Finger (1942)
Alfred Bester
Story set in 2909. A Prognostication Machine which can look into the future beyond 50 years (but no earlier) predicts the destruction of the entire universe in about 1000 years. Evidently, a new movement... (more)
Pythagoras's Darkest Hour (2007)
Colin Adams
A humorous short story from the author of Mathematically Bent which tells the true story of the discovery of the Pythagorean Theorem. Well, actually, perhaps it isn't exactly true...but it is so good,... (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)
Quanto scommettiamo ("How much do you want to bet?") (1965)
Italo Calvino
The story is about two beings, living since the beginning of the universe (one of them, the protagonist of the book, is "old Qfwfq" - it's not a misprint -, a mysterious being that claims to have witnessed... (more)
Quarantine (1977)
Arthur C. Clarke
For safety's sake, all organic life on the planet Earth has been wiped out by automatic defenses. The investigator looking into this regrettable turn of affairs in an otherwise promising species discovers... (more)
The Rapture of the Nerds (2004)
Cory Doctorow / Charles Stross
This story is set in Stross's "Accelerando" series, due for publication in novel form in 2005, offering a worm's eye view of the "Vinge singularity", the supposed moment in the coming decades... (more)
Reading by Numbers (2009)
Highly Rated!
Aidan Doyle
Elementary number theory and some superstitious numerology underlie this story, which appeared in the November 11, 2009 issue of the online Fantasy Magazine (though I would never describe this story as... (more)
Reality Conditions (2005)
Highly Rated!
Alex Kasman
The title story in the collection of the same name, this short story follows a mathematics grad student to a workshop at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute. Although the story contains no supernatural... (more)
Reality Conditions: short mathematical fiction (2005)
Highly Rated!
Alex Kasman
The stories in this collection of 16 original short works of mathematical fiction are different from each other in many ways: some are serious and some funny, some are realistic and some fantastical,... (more)
The Remarkable Case of Davidson's Eyes (1895)
Herbert George Wells
Rather than seeing what is actually around him in England, Davidson sees events occurring on a rock off of the Antipodes Island. The explanation offered includes the notion of non-flat geometries for... (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)
Ripples in the Dirac Sea (1988)
Highly Rated!
Geoffrey A. Landis
A time machine story based on a combination of Hilbert's Hotel analogy and the "Fermi Sea". We read of the travels of the main character to the ancient past, to the San Francisco earthquake and to the... (more)
Risqueman (2009)
Mike Wood
A brilliant (and beautiful) French mathematician is distressed by governmental misuse of her algorithm which accurately predicts accidents and disasters that previously were only determined probabilistically.... (more)
A Rite of Spring (1977)
Fritz Leiber
Leiber has stretched out a very flimsy story line into a 50-page trivia-fest on the number seven. A genius of a mathematician yearns for his childhood ability to visualize and play with mathematics as... (more)
Robbins v. New York (2008)
Colin Adams
The author of the Mathematical Intelligencer's "Mathematically Bent" column has a talent for making me laugh, and this piece which has the US Supreme Court justices debating higher math and modern physics... (more)
The Rose Acacia (1995)
Ralph P. Boas, Jr.
"A computer makes a deal with the devil, with the usual escape clause: if it can ask a question the devil cannot answer, the computer gets the information for free. As the devil puts it, no logical paradoxes,... (more)
Rumpled Stiltskin (2004)
Colin Adams
Do you remember the old Fractured Fairy Tales segment on Rocky and Bullwinkle in which classic stories were updated with a twist? This is just like those. The old Grimm's Brother tale is retold, but... (more)
San (2000)
Lan Samantha Chang
A short story in the collection "Hunger" about a girl who becomes interested in mathematics (especially probability) when her gambler father deserts his family. She does not succeed as a college student and learns in the end that in both math and life, it is the mysteries (and not their solutions) which are of real interest. (more)
Satisfactory Proof (2005)
Cynthia Morrison Phoel
A Master's degree student pouts and complains about the people around him as he earns his Master's degree in mathematics at a Bulgarian university. Although the titular phrase "satisfactory proof" appears... (more)
Schwarzschild Radius (1987)
Connie Willis
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... (more)
The Secret Integration (1964)
Thomas Pynchon
The title is a pun relating the operation from calculus (the definite integral of a function) to the controversial attempt to solve many of the problems of race relations in America (the integration... (more)
The Secret Number (2000)
Highly Rated!
Igor Teper
In this very cute story, a mathematician who believes that there is an integer between 3 and 4 tries to convince his psychiatrist that he is not crazy. The idea is not very deep, but it is well handled... (more)
Security (1953)
Poul Anderson
A top secret project uses some mathematical physics to create a new material. As the title makes clear, the secrecy (and what the head of the project is willing to do to achieve it) is really the point... (more)
Shaffery Among the Immortals (1972)
Frederik Pohl
A funny yarn about one Jeremy Shaffery, an astronomer who idolizes Einstein and his methods and who wants to achieve immortal fame by doing something just as famous. The problem is that he is not built... (more)
Shakespeare Predicted it All (2003)
Dietmar Dath
An artistically composed piece about Georg Cantor, inventor of the theory of transfinite cardinals, in the form of a dialogue between the characters "1" and "2", both of whom are either Cantor or Hamlet.... (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)
Sidewise in Time (1934)
Murray Leinster
"The protagonist is a frustrated mathematician, whose genius (which Leinster makes some attempt to convey) is not recognized by his teachers and peers. So when reality goes... (more)
Silas P. Cornu's Dry Calculator (1898)
Henry Hering
A very hilarious short story about a man who wants to build a mechanical calculator to evaluate logarithms but has success building a machine that can do only addition and multiplication. On the other... (more)
Silence Please (1954)
Arthur C. Clarke
In this "White Hart" story, Purvis tells about an experimental physicist who invents a highly successful antinoise generator. The Fourier analysis underpinning of antinoise is explicitly ... (more)
Silent Cruise (2002)
Timothy Taylor
In an open forum on mathematics at the BIRS Website, Canadian author Taylor does a great job of explaining why I am listing this short story here: [In this story] I introduce [the characters] Dett... (more)
Silicon Muse (1984)
Hilbert Schenck
Schenck's other Analog story would provide a geometric means of analyzing this one, but that is not why it is listed here. The story is about a computer that can write fiction about a computer that can... (more)
Sine of the Magus [aka The Magicians] (1954)
James Gunn
A private detective is hired to track a magician who turns out not to be an expert at "tricks", but a real and powerful wizard. This is one of those works (see the "similars" list below) in which magic... (more)
Singleton (2002)
Greg Egan
This story involves a physicist and a mathematician who have a child -- well, sort of -- that they have specially designed to remain in a "classical" state (as opposed to a quantum superposition of states)... (more)
The Sinister Researches of C.P. Ransom (1951)
Homer C. Nearing Jr.
"[D]escribed on the cover as a science fiction novel, which is two mistakes in three words...it is [mathematical fiction], and it is a collection of short stories that originally appeared in The Magazine of... (more)
The Sirdar's Chess-Board (1885)
Elizabeth Wormeley Latimer
A military bride travelling in Afghanistan is surprised when a mystic is able to cut up a chess board ("with three snips of my scissors") and put it back together so that the number of squares has increased... (more)
Six Thought Experiments Concerning the Nature of Computation (2005)
Rudy Rucker
These are six very short stories, a few of which have mathematical themes. In the first story, Lucky Number, a game programmer spots some "lucky numbers" spray painted on a train. On a whim, he uses... (more)
Sixty Million Trillion Combinations (1980)
Isaac Asimov
Tom Trumbull, one of Asimov's regular "Black Widower" mystery characters, wants to convince an eccentric mathematician (working on Goldbach's conjecture) that his secret password is not safe. Combinatorics... (more)
A Slight Miscalculation (1971)
Ben Bova
This is a story of a mathematician who found a way to predict earthquakes. He finds out that there will be a major earthquake in California (where he lives). After checking this prediction using CalTech's... (more)
Snow (1998)
Geoffrey A. Landis
An apparently schizophrenic, homeless woman sells her body to get herself and her infant off the street on a cold night. Only at the end of this extremely short story do we realize that the imaginary... (more)
Solid Geometry (1976)
Ian McEwan
This short story from McEwan's award winning first collection is about a man who learns some topology from his grandfather's journals...but not your average topology. He learns how to fold surfaces (like... (more)
Somnium (1634)
Johannes Kepler
"Published posthumously, it is a short story about a dream of life on the moon. There is no mathematical content in the actual story, but Kepler included voluminous notes, plus ... (more)
The Song of the Geometry Instructor (1985)
Ralph M. Berry
While snowed in at his home, a geometer writes to his former lover about his students, his discoveries and how much he misses her. This is one of those literary art pieces by an author for whom mathematics... (more)
Space (1911)
John Buchan
This mystical story, as recounted by a lawyer, is about a brilliant mathematician ("an erratic genius who had written some articles in Mind on that dreary subject, the mathematical conception of infinity",... (more)
Space Bender (1928)
Edward Rementer
This is another story which uses the convenient device of the fourth dimension for rapid spatial transport. This time, Prof. Jason Livermore is the one who disappears entirely from the face of the earth... (more)
The Spacetime Pool (2008)
Catherine Asaro
Janelle, recently graduated from MIT with a degree in math, is pulled through the "branch cut" between two universes to an alternate Earth where two sword wielding brothers rule half the world. There,... (more)
The Square Root of Pythagoras (1999)
Paul Di Filippo/Rudy Rucker
Pythagoras has been granted the magical power of five numbers. Along the way he discusses his theorem, the five Platonic solids, and his general philosophy about numbers and the universe. But he... (more)
The Star (1897)
Herbert George Wells
Although some of the science is a bit off -- for example, the idea that the rotation of planets has something to do with their ability to orbit the sun or that the "star" formed by the collision of Neptune... (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)
Star, Bright (1952)
Highly Rated!
Mark Clifton
How would you feel if your daughter could make deep mathematical discoveries, even when she was a toddler? If you were the parent of little Star in this story, you'd feel a combination of pride and... (more)
Statistician's Day (1970)
James Blish
An aging novelist and Nobel Prize winner gives what he knows is his last interview. But rather than take questions, he has rather pointed ones of his own, based on his twenty years of statistical analyses... (more)
The Statistomat Pitch (1958)
Chandler Davis
This pulp science fiction story by "Chan Davis" features a discussion of the use of mathematics and a computer for the purposes of stock trading. As Vijay Fafat explains below in his post, while this... (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)
The Story of Yung Chang (1900)
Ernest Bramah (Ernest Bramah Smith)
Before the invention of multiplication tables, a Chinese idol merchant must sell his wares individually, even if someone wishes to purchase a large amount, since he has no way to determine how much money... (more)
Strange Attractors (1993)
Highly Rated!
Rebecca Goldstein
"Strange attractors: Collection of short stories, some of which have mathematical content. Two stories (the geometry of soap bubbles and impossible love and strange attractors) figure the same main... (more)
The Strange Case of Mr. Jean D. (1983)
Joao Filipe Queiro
Published in the Mathematical Intelligencer magazine (Math.Intell. 5, 3 78-90 (1983)) this is the story of a mathematician who has a nightmare: Pi is rational! (Thanks to Nuno Crato for the suggestion.) (more)
A Subway Named Moebius (1950)
Highly Rated!
A.J. Deutsch
When the MBTA (Boston's Public Transportation authority) introduces a new line, the topology of the network become so complex that a train vanishes...lost in some fourth dimensional properties of the... (more)
Summa Mathematica (2002)
Sean Doolittle
Not really a mystery, but more of a "crime drama" in which a former math professor gets two offers he can't refuse: one from a crime boss who wants to hire him as his accountant and another from the police... (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)
Sword Game (1968)
H.H. Hollis
A topologist manages to create a time-smeared tesseract whose interior moves extremely slowly through time (from our perspecctive) while the exterior moves at the normal pace. He uses the tesseract to... (more)
The Symbolic Logic of Murder (1960)
John Reese
Through a combination of biblical mnemonics and Boolean algebra, our heroes are able to solve a mysterious murder. Appears in Mathematical Magpie. (more)
The Tachypomp (1873)
Edward Page Mitchell
I can't believe this story is as old as it is! First published in Scribner's Magazine in 1873, it is only dated by its sexism and its contradition of Einstein. In order to win the hand of the beautiful Abscissa... (more)
The Tale of the Big Computer (aka The End of Man?) (1966)
Hannes Alfven (writing as Olof Johannesson)
"Alfven, the Swedish physicist and astrophysicist who was awarded the Nobel prize for his development of plasma physics and magnetohydrodynamics (but is perhaps better remembered ... (more)
Tangents (1986)
Greg Bear
There are far too many mathematical stories about finding a way to travel into "other dimensions". Still, this one is one of my favorites. Not only do we see a clever approach to this "old" storyline,... (more)
A Tangled Tale (1886)
Highly Rated!
Lewis Carroll
A collection of ten mathematical puzzles in story form by the famous author/mathematician Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll). "The reason I answered 3 for "Mathematical Content" is that all the math... (more)
Technical Error (1946)
Arthur C. Clarke
During the last phases of construction, a huge supercooled superconducting generator is accidentally given a surge of current. At that moment, an engineer is at the center of its field and is somehow... (more)
Ten (1986)
Isaac Asimov
We might argue that the particular words and symbols we use to express mathematical concepts are not as important as the concepts themselves...and mathematically that may well be the case. However,... (more)
The Siege Of The "Lancashire Queen" (1906)
Jack London
Describes how the capture of illegal shrimp-poachers becomes a problem of triangular geometry and relative speeds of chase. In particular, the pirates, trapped on a ship, the chasing posse and the point... (more)
The Third Party (2004)
David Moles
Two conflicting groups of humans make contact with a forgotten human world. One of the natives turns out to be a brilliant mathematician, independently discovering Cantor's diagonalization argument, and is confused that a colleague considers it obvious. This short story appeared in the September 2004 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. (more)
Those Who Can, Do (1965)
Bob Kurosaka
In this short-short classic, a mathematics professor ends the first day of a Differential Equations class asking for questions. One student is irksome, even peculiar, in his wish to know what practical... (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)
Three Days and a Child (1970)
Abraham B. Yehoshua
Dov, an Israeli mathematics graduate student, watches the young child of a woman he knew at a kibbutz. He alternates between loving the child as he still loves the woman and intentionally endangering... (more)
Through the Gates of the Silver Key (1934)
H.P. Lovecraft / E. Hoffmann Price
"We read of the fantastic travels of the dreamer and mystic Randolph Carter as he arrives at the Ultimate Gate separating the parallel dimensions and alternate realities of the Universe. The Gate... (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)
The Tolman Trick (2006)
Manil Suri
Professor Tolman attends a conference at the Mathematics Institute at Oberwolfach, but a young colleague suspects that the result he is presenting may not be correct. Published in the first issue of Subtropics,... (more)
Too Much Happiness (2009)
Alice Munro
The penultimate collection of short stories from Nobel laureate Alice Munro features a title story about the final days of Sonia Kovalevskaya. The main source of tension in the story is her love affair... (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)
Towel Season (1998)
Highly Rated!
Ron Carlson
A mathematician and his wife try to fit in with their suburban neighbors. Perhaps the best description of the feel of what doing mathematical research is really like. Much of the tension of the... (more)
The Tower of Babylon (2002)
Ted Chiang
There really is almost no mathematics in this bizarre story that hauntingly combines religion with science fiction. However, the "punchline" is entirely topological in nature. This story can be... (more)
Tracking the Random Variable (1991)
Highly Rated!
Marcos Donnelly
Ronald Barr is a statistician with a knack for identifying hidden variables. For example, it was he who recognized that by offering chicken soup and hot chocolate in the automatic coffee machine, his... (more)
Transition Dreams (1993)
Greg Egan
Transition dreams, an old man learns in this story, are dreams that your new, robotic brain has as it is being "filled up" with the patterns copied from your old, organic brain. There is a good deal of... (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)
Turjan of Miir (The Dying Earth) (1950)
Jack Vance
The classic fantasy novel "The Dying Earth" is actually more like a collection of short stories, separate vignettes that share some common features but stand entirely alone. The first of these stories... (more)
Turnabout (1955)
Gordon R. Dickson
It's a story about a physics professor who is investigating a device that creates planar force-fields. In its first run, an explosion destroys the device and the physicist is trying to obtain an answer... (more)
Twenty-seven Uses for Imaginary Numbers (2009)
Buzz Mauro
A teenage boy's discovery of the joys of Euler's formula coincides with the awakening of his homosexual desires. The author's mathematical understanding is very good, and the story reminded me of young... (more)
Twisters (1988)
Paul J. Nahin
A medical doctor stumbles onto a dangerous trap in this short story which was published in Analog (Vol CVIII No 6, May 1988). The twisted donuts sold by the new shop he passes on the way to work turn out to be Klein bottles (a topological oddity like the Mobius strip). (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)
The Ultimate Crime (1976)
Isaac Asimov
We all know that Sherlock Holmes' arch enemy was a mathematician, right? (If not, check out Sherlock Holmes.) In fact, his second famous paper was on the dynamics of an asteroid. Now, you may ask,... (more)
Uncle Georg's Attic (2002)
Ben Schumacher
This short story appeared in the September 2002 issue of "Math Horizons", published by the Mathematical Association of America. In it, some kids look through an attic containing lots of stuff belonging... (more)
Understand (1991)
Ted Chiang
"An experimental treatment for a drowning victim turns him into an incredible supergenius. Mathematics is mentioned several times in passing, and twice the supergenius explicitly uses it ... (more)
The Universal Library [Die Universalbibliothek] (1901)
Kurd Lasswitz
This early "science fiction" story explores the notion of a library containing every possible five hundred page book and an English translation appears in the classic mathematical fiction collection Fantasia... (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)
Unstable Orbits in the Space of Lies (1992)
Greg Egan
"Originally published in Interzone #61, July 1992. Because of an accident, people's values and beliefs, and convictions, became completely permeable to one another. So people start clumping according... (more)
Vanishing Point (1959)
C.C. Beck
The short story is another take on the true nature of reality and one man's quest to unmask it. It is more an idea piece than a full-fledged development. An artist, Carter, who is a trained mathematician... (more)
Vault of the Beast (1940)
Alfred Elton van Vogt
"A creature of vast powers is locked up inside a vault made up of ultimate metal. The key to freeing it turns out to be 'factoring the ultimate prime number', which procedure is given an extended pseudomathematical... (more)
A Very Good Year (1984)
Jack C. Haldeman (II)
A very short fantasy-like story about Statistics. A senior statistician for Dept of Acccident Prevention describes how the law of averages appears to have failed when applied to mortality rates. In particular,... (more)
A Victim of Higher Space (1917)
Algernon Blackwood
This is another of the John Silence tall-tales, this time involving a man who learns to visualize 4-dimensional space and then starts slipping in and out of the hyperspace. As he describes it, "This... (more)
Waiting for Citizen Gödel (2005)
Howard V. Hendrix
Short story revolving around Godel's application for US citizenship. There is a well-known episode from Godel's life, where Einstein and Oscar Morgenstern took Godel for his citizenship oath. Godel,... (more)
The Wall of Darkness (1946)
Highly Rated!
Arthur C. Clarke
In a universe consisting of one star and one planet, there is a mysterious impenetrable wall surrounding the entire planet in the deep freezing southlands. Two men, one with money, the other... (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)
What Dead Men Tell (1949)
Theodore Sturgeon
A supergenius discovers a secret society amongst us that is guarding the secret of immortality. He elects to take their entry examination, which has immediate death as the price... (more)
What Happened at Cambridge IV (1990)
David Langford
This is another BLIT story by David Langford; this time, a brilliant mathematician working on a neuro-mathematical model of the brain finds a type of visual input that doesn't just slow it down but causes... (more)
Who Killed the Duke of Densmore? (1994)
Highly Rated!
Claude Berge
The murder mystery in the title took place many years ago and the only witnesses are a group of women who each visited the crime scene for a single stretch of time. They each remember whom they met... (more)
The Wizard (1989)
C.S. Godshalk
A mathematically talented youth in a bad neighborhood becomes a drug dealer and may not be able to take advantage of his genius by attending the private school which has offered him a scholarship. In... (more)
The Woman in Schrödinger's Wave Equations (2005)
Eugene Mirabelli
The artist girlfriend of a grad student working in theoretical physics becomes interested in determining something about the mysterious woman with whom Erwin Schrödinger supposedly had an extra-marital... (more)
The Wonderful Visit (1895)
Herbert George Wells
"An angel, who normally inhabits a fourth dimensional world (with curvature instead of gravitation!) falls into our three dimensional world." (more)
The Writing on the Wall (2005)
Steve Stanton
When he was eight years old, David was visited by an image of his future self, causing him to write mathematical formulas on the wall. (Unfortunately, his parents paint over it before he has a chance... (more)
The Year of the Jackpot (1952)
Robert A. Heinlein
A statistician notices trends in everything from war and famine to women unexpectedly stripping off their clothes in public. He concludes that the year 1954 is going to be an exceptionally bad year. ... (more)
Year of the Rat (2009)
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
A story of two brothers who use mathematics, one to prove, one to disprove God, and fortunately have their big sister to resolve things. One of two mathematical stories in Denise Little's anthology Intelligent Design. (See also Luck be a Lady). (more)
Ylem (1994)
Eliot Fintushel
Another Fintushel Big-Bang-And-Back Totally-Weird adventure, the plot concerns a business conflict in the helium market. Somebody dickered with the primordial nucleosynthesis, and ... (more)
Young Archimedes (1924)
Aldous Huxley
A couple vacationing in Italy meet a peasant boy with strong mathematical abilities. The most mathematical portion of the text is a discussion of a proof of the Pythagorean theorem which the boy develops.... (more)
Zero (2009)
Buzz Mauro
An awkward, middle-aged math teacher life stumbles (quite literally) into a sexual relationship with an unusual young woman. The character occasionally thinks in mathematical term. Towards the beginning,... (more)
The Zero Clue (1952)
Rex Stout
Nero Wolfe can't stand Leo Heller, a mathematician who uses operations research to solve mysteries and seems to be superseding Wolfe's own reputation. But then Heller is murdered by one of his clients.... (more)
Zilkowski's Theorem (2003)
Highly Rated!
Karl Iagnemma
This is a story of a love triangle with a definite mathematical twist. Henderson's roommate, Czogloz, steals away his girlfriend, Milla, when all three were math graduate students. Years later, seeking... (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)