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Aurora in Four Voices (1998)
Catherine Asaro
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

Contributed by Will Estes

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 herself involved in his problems. More of Asaro's great way of writing interesting characters living in a well-thought-out future-tech world. [from a summary I found via google.]

[my own comments] Mathematics forms a great deal of the scenery in this short story. Asaro does a great job at painting the obsession with mathematics of the inhabitants of Nightingale and she drops a large number of mathematical tidbits along the way.

(quoted from Aurora in Four Voices)

"Open," he said.

Nothing happened.

He tried again. "Open."

Swirling lines and speckles appeared on the door and a holo formed, an amber rod hanging in front of the door. A curve appeared by the rod and rotated around it, sweeping out a shape. When it finished, a vase hung in the air with the rod piercing its center. Soothing pastel patterns swirled on the image.

"Solid of revolution complete," the door said. "Commence integration."

"What?" Jato asked. No door had ever asked him to "commence integration" before.

"Shall I produce a different solid?" it asked.

"I want you to open."

Silver and black swirls suffused the vase. "You must calculate the volume of the solid."


"Set up integral. Choose limits. Integrate. Computer assistance will be required."

"I have no idea how to do that."

"Then I cannot unlock."

Jato scratched his chin. "I know the volume of a box."

The vase faded and a box appeared. "Commence integration."

"Its volume is width times height times length."

Box and rod disappeared.

"Open," Jato said.

Still no response.

Jato wondered if the Innkeeper had his door vex all visitors this way. Then again, Dreamers would probably enjoy the game.

Originally published in Analog, December 1998. Note that, at least at the time of this posting, the story is available for free online at Analog magazine's Website..

An essay by Asaro about her use of mathematics in fiction is posted here and also appears in the anthology Aurora in Four Voices.

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 Aurora in Four Voices
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. i by Paul Evanby
  2. The Spacetime Pool by Catherine Asaro
  3. The Simplest Equation by Nicky Drayden
  4. The Cubist and the Madman by Robert Metzger
  5. Reading by Numbers by Aidan Doyle
  6. Snow by Geoffrey A. Landis
  7. Axiom of Dreams by Arula Ratnakar
  8. Touch the Water, Touch the Wind by Amos Oz
  9. Catch the Lightning [Lightning Strikes Vols. I-II] by Catherine Asaro
  10. Calculating the Speed of Heartbreak by Wendy Nikel
Ratings for Aurora in Four Voices:
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:
4/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
4/5 (1 votes)

GenreScience Fiction,
MotifMusic, Romance,
TopicAnalysis/Calculus/Differential, Chaos/Fractals,
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)