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Silent Cruise (2002)
Timothy Taylor

In an open forum on mathematics at the BIRS Website, Canadian author Taylor does a great job of explaining why I am listing this short story here:

Contributed by Timothy Taylor

[In this story] I introduce [the characters] Dett and Sheedy. Sheedy is a businessman and thinks only in those terms. Dett is a young man who is consumed by his own way of calculating probabilities (he does this, in part, because he likes betting at the racetrack). In order to put words into Dett's mouth that make sense given his very peculiar obsessions, I had to re-acquaint myself with a language I hadn't thought about in some time: mathematics. I should emphasize that Dett's way of making calculations is not rigourous. A math student reading the story would see this right away. But the point is that he thinks not in a literate language (like Sheedy), but in a numerate one. And Dett's way of expressing himself, to a large extent, defines who he is, how well he communicates with Sheedy, and what kinds of problems he is able or unable to solve. As I wrote the story, I enjoyed trying to “think” through Dett in his numerate way, even though I had a hard time doing so at school. In the process, I came to think that of all the languages I had researched for characters over the years, mathematics is very special. I would even go so far as to say that it is a precious language. It's difficult to learn and, as a result, it is rare and valuable. But it is also very powerful, and perhaps this interests me more. As I wrote Dett's story— even though he applied his numeracy in an unconventional way—he had the tools to solve many, many problems that Sheedy did not. And that fact, boiled right down, was the essence of my story.

(Thanks to Florin Diacu for bringing this story, which appeared in a collection of the same name, to my attention.)

More information about this work can be found at
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Works Similar to Silent Cruise
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Nachman at the Races by Leonard Michaels
  2. 21 by Robert Luketic (Director)
  3. San by Lan Samantha Chang
  4. Zilkowski's Theorem by Karl Iagnemma
  5. The Arnold Proof by Jessica Francis Kane
  6. Towel Season by Ron Carlson
  7. The Ore Miner's Wife by Karl Iagnemma
  8. Probabilities by Michael Stein
  9. Of Mystery There Is No End by Leonard Michaels
  10. Kavita Through Glass by Emily Ishem Raboteau
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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)