a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

Home All New Browse Search About

Chronicles of a Comer (1972)
K.M O\'Donnell (aka Barry N. Malzberg)

Contributed by Vijay Fafat

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% of college-educated housewives believe in stronger repressive measures against the drug-culture, 51% of working class males above the median salary believe television is a government plot"). Presumably, he's looking for spikes in certain types of correlations which could signal His arrival.. He gets so obsessed that his marriage suffers ("my wife says, 'you're just a cold-hearted statistician who only sees people as numbers and trends'") along with his professional life ("simple statistical errors, flaws of computation a child would not have made, misplacement of median and mode" and "today I missed an entire distribution curve").

His obsession leads him to suspect that He might show up as a regular character in his daily life and half-believes the crazed beggar into whom he runs during lunch hour one day might be Jesus. Turns out that the crazed beggar really was a lunatic; the beggar attacks him without reason, putting him out of commission for a few days. After that, the statistician starts leading a normal life but then has a new vision... he sees Christ in the statistical fact that 47% of Dayton, Ohio, does not believe in the teachings of any of the various Churches...

Originally published in the collection "And Walk Now Gently Through the Fire" (ed. Roger Elwood, Chilton 1972) and prominently reprinted in "Chronicles of a Comer and Other Religious Science Fiction Stories" (ed. Roger Elwood, John Knox Press 1974).

(Note: This is just one work of mathematical fiction from the list. To see the entire list or to see more works of mathematical fiction, return to the Homepage.)

Works Similar to Chronicles of a Comer
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Math Takes a Holiday by Paul Di Filippo
  2. Porter Piper by Anonymous
  3. A Matter of Geometry by Ared White
  4. Folk Music Festivals and Mathematics Conferences by Erik Talvila
  5. The Old Mathematician (from Maschalk Manor) by Anonymous
  6. Another Cock Tale by Chris Miller
  7. Arithmetic Town / Arithmetic by Todd McEwen
  8. The Wonderful Dog Suit by Donald Hall
  9. Say Wen by Ellis Parker Butler
  10. Probability Murder by Michael Flynn
Ratings for Chronicles of a Comer:
RatingsHave you seen/read this work of mathematical fiction? Then click here to enter your own votes on its mathematical content and literary quality or send me comments to post on this Webpage.


MotifAnti-social Mathematicians, Math as Cold/Dry/Useless, Religion,
MediumShort Stories,

Home All New Browse Search About

Exciting News: The 1,600th entry was recently added to this database of mathematical fiction! Also, for those of you interested in non-fictional math books let me (shamelessly) plug the recent release of the second edition of my soliton theory textbook.

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)