posted by Graham Sleight at Sunday 3 October 2010 @ 8:58 am BST
Mathematical sf isn’t very common, but it can be very good indeed – as I was reminded when I recently read Vandana Singh’s “Infinities” in the Hartwell/Cramer Year’s Best SF 15. There are a couple of theme anthologies on the subject – Rudy Rucker’s Mathenauts (1987) and Clifton Fadiman’s Fantasia Mathematica (1958) and The Mathematical Magpie (1962). Since the Rucker book, several writers have emerged who write around mathematical themes a lot – Greg Egan and Ted Chiang are the obvious names – but unless I’ve missed something, there hasn’t been a dedicated anthology on the subject since 1987.
So this is a first attempt to put together a current bibliography of mathematical sf. Additions are welcomed in the comments. Let me try, though, to suggest a couple of guidelines: 1) Don’t duplicate the stories carried in the three anthologies mentioned above (follow the links for full contents); 2) Stories must be clearly sf (so no, eg, math puzzles with sf elements); 3) Stories must be professionally published; 4) If you can give a book publication, that’s better (because more accessible) than a magazine publication; 5) I’m really looking for stories with mathematics as a central element rather than just a part – so no stories about, say, the Singularity unless they have a specific mathematical extra element. And if they’re good stories, all the better.
- Abbott, Edwin, A. (1884) Flatland
- Chiang, Ted (2002) Stories of Your Life and Others
- Egan, Greg – just about everything, esp Axiomatic (1995) Luminous (1998), Schild’s Ladder (2002), Incandescence (2008).
- Fadiman, Clifton – Fantasia Mathematica (1958) and The Mathematical Magpie (1962).
- Heinlein, Robert A (1941) “And He Built a Crooked House” (Astounding)
- Kingsbury, Donald (2002) Psychohistorical Crisis
- Langford, David (1987) “BLIT” (Interzone, collected in Different Kinds of Darkness)
- Le Guin, Ursula (1974) The Dispossessed
- Priest, Christopher (1974) Inverted World
- Robinson, Kim Stanley (1987) “The Blind Geometer” (Asimov’s, later published as a Tor Double)
- Rucker, Rudy – just about everything, but especially White Light (1980), Mathematicians in Love (2006), and Mathenauts (ed) (1987).
- Singh, Vandana (2009), “Infinities” (The Woman Who Thought She Was a Planet)
- Stephenson, Neal (1999) Cryptonomicon
- Stross, Charles – many stories, such as “Antibodies” (2001)
- Zindell, David (1988) Neverness [and sequels]
By the way, the three contents lists linked to above are part of a much larger site called Mathfiction. It’s a very useful resource, but takes a somewhat broader view of the field than I have above – including non-sf works like The 39 Steps and sf works like Harrison’s Bill the Galactic Hero which reference maths only in passing.