a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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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 mathematicians and discovers a "universal equation", the story takes an interesting but decidedly nonlinear turn.

The math described in the story is never deep or interesting in itself, but there is a poetry to the author's descriptions of it that I like:

(quoted from The Central Tendency)

Sometimes I forgot what time it was, what day it was, because I was lost in numbers and how they all have different faces, depending on how you look at them. Sixteen is twice eight, or two to the power of four, or a ninth of twelve squared.

Then Lallie slowly showed me something better than numbers. She showed me tools and schemes. Matrices and transformations, laws, proofs, operations. Every number has a million faces, but the million faces all line up and you can cancel them all out and just be left with abstractions, blank-faced letters alone at the heart of everything.

In the same way, although I'm not sure I could describe for you what happens at the end -- to me it's sort of like a recursive definition that regresses infinitely -- there is still something emotionally satisfying about it.

This story was published in the July 2003 issue of Strange Horizons and fortunately is still available online.

More information about this work can be found at
(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 The Central Tendency
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Ah of Life by Banks Helfrich (Writer and Director)
  2. The Writing on the Wall by Steve Stanton
  3. A Subway Named Moebius by A.J. Deutsch
  4. Zilkowski's Theorem by Karl Iagnemma
  5. The 351 Books of Irma Arcuri by David Bajo
  6. Of Mystery There Is No End by Leonard Michaels
  7. Orpheus Lost: A Novel by Janette Turner Hospital
  8. Kavita Through Glass by Emily Ishem Raboteau
  9. 36 Arguments for the Existence of God by Rebecca Goldstein
  10. The Steep Approach to Garbadale by Iain Banks
Ratings for The Central Tendency:
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.
Mathematical Content:
3/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
5/5 (1 votes)

MotifGenius, Female Mathematicians, Time Travel, Romance,
MediumShort Stories, Available Free Online,

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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)