a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Star, Bright (1952)
Mark Clifton
Highly Rated!
Note: This work of mathematical fiction is recommended by Alex for young adults and hardcore fans of science fiction.

How would you feel if your daughter could make deep mathematical discoveries, even when she was a toddler? If you were the parent of little Star in this story, you'd feel a combination of pride and fear. Star and her equally smart little friend not only discover the interesting properties of the Mobius strip on their own, they also discover higher dimensional generalizations which allow them to travel to other points in time. ("Do they travel to the future or the past?" you ask. Oh, you clearly do not understand the topology of spacetime. Let Star explain to you why this question does not make sense.)

The only places I have seen this story reprinted are the collections Mathematical Magpie and Time Machines, but it is currently available online at

Contributed by david rickel

"I first saw this in "Tomorrow's Children", edited by Isaac Asimov. If you look at the review of Tomorrow's Children at Amazon, you will see that this story is memorable enough that it is mentioned in some of the reviews. I'm torn between 2 and 3 as far as the math is concerned. Math (well, geometry) isn't as central to this as, for instance, "He Built a Crooked House", by Heinlein. It's probably more important than the stange, hyperspatial geometries that appear in some of Lovecraft's stories."

Contributed by Anonymous

Note that this story was transcribed for radio's "X minus 1." It aired in April of 1956. Also note that Star Bright is very similar L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in TIme." Instead of father hunting down children lost in time/spave, children hunt down lost father. Same vehicle, the t esseract is used in both.

Contributed by Anonymous

A teacher read Star Bright to my class years and years ago. I still find it as amazing as ever, it's rather depressing (not literally) to believe that their is a perfect circle of life. Yet in its context, the book seems to be explanatory, not a tale. I've been looking for another copy of it everywhere ever since.

Contributed by Anonymous

As a gifted teen, I've noticed a classification like the one in the story fits well. Though Star would call me a tween, I classify folks in 3 main categories - bright/gifted/"smart" like myself, "stupid", and everyone in between. Wonderful story.

Contributed by Bruce Cutright

Great Story. My sister and I read this together, shortly after it was published. We now read it to our grandchildren, while we struggle with how to ease the way of exceptionally bright children. Our educational system focuses on the lowest common denominator, how can we find and free the minds of children like Star?

Contributed by Jim Napolitano

It's available as an eBook at for $4.99. Be sure to first buy $5.00 in "Micropay" dollars, and then order the eBook, thereby saving 10%.

Contributed by Garry

I first read "Star Bright" when I was in Jr. High, in the collection "Tomorrow's Children". This story really struck a chord with my young self (I'm 52 now). I was already interested in sci-fi, but this story helped to cement the love into place permanently. Although there isn't all that much math in the story, nevertheless, it helped stimulate my interest in math by the mention of the Moebius strip and it's higher dimensional analogs.

Contributed by Sarah Schaidle

I really enjoyed this story because it depicts the struggles that exceptionally bright kids encounter as they try to fit in to the mold of the general population. It also gives insight about how a parent deals with having a genius child. Along with mathematics, the time-traveling aspect adds another dimension to the plot.

Contributed by Bob Dvorak

Star, Bright is probably my all time favorite short story, possibly because of the age at which I read it. It was published ca. 1955 in a compilation called The Mathematical Magpie, Clifton Fadiman, ed. This book (MM) was reprinted ca. 2005. At that time I purchased a copy, although I since lent it to someone and it was, resultantly, lost. I'll pick it up again one of these days.

The MM compilation consists of short stories and poetry, all with a mathematics theme of some sort, without requiring a deep knowledge of any particular branch of mathematics. Star, Bright can be understood by a typical teen but will likely not be of great interest to the typical teen.

I withdrew MM from my local public library in, perhaps, 1960. It is indicative of both the literary quality and the magical content of the story that, at age 62, I'm wistful to re-acquire the book and re-read the story. Other notable stories: The Pacifist, The Tachypomp. It's indicative of how often I withdrew that book from the library that, fifty years later, I remember the story titles. As well as one of its poems that I memorized at the time. ("I think that I shall never see a calculator made like me... A me that likes martinis dry, and on the rocks, a little rye... A me that looks at girls and such, but mostly girls, and very much... They make computers for a fee but only moms can make a me." I don't remember the author or title, and there are a few couplets missing.)

To anyone who has a really bright kid of age 10-12 who's into more than the latest phone app, MM is a must-get. I hope Star, Bright strikes some child's imagination with the impact with which it struck mine.

Contributed by Chuck the Nerd Barbarian

I Loved this story! I remember reading as boy of 9 or 10. My favourite line from the story? "I must somehow cube the cube..."

Contributed by Anonymous

I have been looking for this short story for decades........thank you for this!!

Contributed by Ben Wong

By far my favorite story of Math Fiction is Clifton's "Star, Bright". When I googled for the story recently, the first hit I got was your page which talked about it, but did not have a way people can read it.

Fortunately, there's a solution. The copyright has expired, so you can legally host the story on your page. Or, if you're unsure about the legalities, you can just link to it at



P.S. The Gutenberg Project ( has, after extensive research, determined that the copyright for "Star, Bright" was not renewed. (See here.)

P.P.S. Non-renewal of copyright is actually the case with a lot of stories published in scifi pulp magazines of the 1950's. This has been a huge blessing for people like me who were born too late and would like to be able to peruse the early SciFi and speculative fiction. (See here.)

More information about this work can be found at another page on this Website.
(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 Star, Bright
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Tangents by Greg Bear
  2. Mimsy Were the Borogoves by Lewis Padgett (aka Henry Kuttner and Catherine L. Moore)
  3. Time, Like an Ever Rolling Stream by Judith Moffett
  4. Project Flatty by Irving Cox Jr.
  5. Young Beaker by J.T. Lamberty, Jr.
  6. Another New Math by Alex Kasman
  7. Problem Child by Arthur Porges
  8. Plane and Fancy by P. Schuyler Miller
  9. Long Division by Michael Redhill
  10. The Curve of the Snowflake by William Grey Walter
Ratings for Star, Bright:
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:
3.32/5 (19 votes)
Literary Quality:
4.37/5 (19 votes)

GenreScience Fiction,
MotifGenius, Prodigies, Higher/Lower Dimensions, Time Travel, Mobius Strip/Nonorientability,
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)