a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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BLIT (1988)
David Langford
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

Contributed by "William E. Emba"

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 on BLIT's which was published in the science journal Nature (still available online at and Asimov's Magazine September 2000.

Finally, you can read more about BLITs in "Different Kinds of Darkness"...yet another story by Langford published in Fantasy and Science Fiction's January 2000 issue.

Contributed by Vijay Fafat

There is a 2-page story from 1935 by Derwin Lesser called "The Fatal Glance" (Wonder Stories Feb 1935). While not mathematical, it is an early example of a BLIT-type story, where the mind gets frozen by a simple look at something that is utterly alien to the human mind (I suppose the story of Medusa falls in the same category). The author posits in the story that something beyond comprehension exists on the surface of Mars and a look at it through a powerful telescope (420-inch reflector) at close range causes two astronomers to die of petrification. He captures the basic idea of a BLIT in his final paragraphs:

"It has been said that anything imaginable by the human mind is possible. We can imagine only things and combinations of things that we have known, and therefore the most fantastic conception is not in the least bit alien in its essence. But a thing that is entirely outside our realm of experience and existence may not find a clear passage into our minds. It may have to fight its way through to our realisation, destroying as it penetrates!"

Contributed by Vijay Fafat

Another BLIT-like story:

Victor Contoski - "Von Goom's Gambit"

Chess Review Apr 1966

available in the anthology "Pawn to Infinity" by Fred Saberhagen

This short story describes a chess move discovered by Von Goom, a mediocre chess player who happens to stumble into it. After exploring its variations, he realises that it is an unbeatable chess combination. Rather than defeating the opponent with tactical superiority, the Gambit actually ends up maiming of killing the onlooker; in one instance, all the spectators of a tournament match are petrified and the opponent goes insane. The author explains the rationale of the move thus:

[A player's response to chess moves generates patterns] "From such patterns, you can tell much not only about the game and the players but also about man in general, and perhaps about the order of the universe. Now suppose someone discovers by accident or design a pattern on the chessboard that is more than displeasing, an alien pattern that tells unspeakable things about the mind of a player, about man in general and about the order of the universe. Suppose no man can look at such a pattern and remain normal. Surely such a pattern must have been formed by Von Goom's Gambit.

Contributed by Roy Gray

Other Blit like ideas include 'The Joke that won the War' from Monty Python and 'Rump-Titty-Titty-Tum-TAH-Tee' a (1958) shortstory by Fritz Leiber

Thanks, Rob. Note that the "deadly idea" concept also appears (in a more mathematical guise) in The Killion and A Killer Theorem.

More information about this work can be found at
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Works Similar to BLIT
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. What Happened at Cambridge IV by David Langford
  2. The Riddle of the Universe & Its Solution by Christopher Cherniak
  3. The Killion by Ian Frazier
  4. The Difference Engine by William Gibson / Bruce Sterling
  5. Gödel's Sunflowers by Stephen Baxter
  6. A Killer Theorem by Colin Adams
  7. Gödel geht [Gödel's Exit] by Andreas Findig
  8. The Logic Pool by Stephen Baxter
  9. Gödel Numbers by J.W. Swanson
  10. The Devious Weapon by M. C. Pease
Ratings for BLIT:
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:
2.75/5 (4 votes)
Literary Quality:
2.75/5 (4 votes)

GenreScience Fiction,
TopicComputers/Cryptography, Logic/Set Theory,
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)