a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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The Pre-Persons (1974)
Philip K. Dick
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)
Highly Rated!

Contributed by "William E. Emba"

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 the ability to do simple algebra. The main protester--a former Stanford math major--demands to be taken to the abortion center, since he claims to have forgotten all his algebra.

Contributed by Sonja Dezman

Pre-person is an interesting story that talks about abortion. Legaly, children don't have a soul until they are 12 years old. When they are without a soul, their parents can call for the abortion truck and they get killed (some even get adopted). The interesting part is the role that mathematics has in this story. It is said that you get a soul when you can do algebra. Many children say that legaly they got a soul but nothing changed inside of them. Even some grown ups start thinking about how stupid it is to say that geting a soul is connected to mathematics. So, one adult protests, he claims that he forgot how to do algebra and that means that he has no soul. I won't tell you the end;-). I started thinking about mathematics. There are so many different areas of "knowledge". So why did the author choose mathematics to be so important? What does algebra has to do with our souls? I'm still thinking about that...

Contributed by KJ.Pappy

I first read this PRE-PERSONS story in a collection of Dick's works 10 years ago. It's insanely good piece of fiction; I had thought it was title "The Abortion Truck" and now stand corrected. KJP, Sept. 2008.

Contributed by Melanie Young

A brilliant and thought-provoking short story that should make us reexamine our beliefs about what it means to be human and to be worthy of protection.

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Works Similar to The Pre-Persons
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Galactic Pot-Healer by Philip K. Dick
  2. The Indefatigable Frog by Philip K. Dick
  3. The Book of Sand by Jorge Luis Borges
  4. The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges
  5. Solar Lottery by Philip K. Dick
  6. Symposium by R.A. Lafferty
  7. Solid Geometry by Ian McEwan
  8. Snow by Geoffrey A. Landis
  9. Love and a Triangle by Stanley Waterloo
  10. Proof by Induction by José Pablo Iriarte
Ratings for The Pre-Persons:
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 (3 votes)
Literary Quality:
4.25/5 (4 votes)

GenreScience Fiction,
MotifMath Education,
MediumShort Stories,

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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)