a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Ghost Days (2013)
Ken Liu
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

This short story begins with a very short computer program that computes the Fibonacci numbers which a young student is learning in school. The teacher is one of the human crew of a space ship and the student is a genetically engineered child that the humans created to be able to survive on the planet where they were marooned. When the child asks why she has to learn about ancient Earth computer languages like LISP, the teacher again refers to the Fibonacci sequence to explain why the child would need to know her own past:

(quoted from Ghost Days)

"To compute the n-th term, the recessive function calls itself to compute the (n-1)th term and the (n-2)th term, so that they could be added together, each time going back earlier in the sequence, solving earlier versions of the same problem...

"The past," Ms. Coron continued, "thus accumulating bit by bit through recursion, becomes the future."

This metaphor is the only mathematical content of this work of mathematical fiction, but it is of fundamental importance as the rest of the story goes on to trace back the history of a small metal object that the child possesses and the reader sees its previous owners "solving earlier versions of the same problem" as they question their lives as Asian-Americans.

This story originally appeared in Lightspeed in October 2013 and more recently republished in the Ken Liu anthology The Hidden Girl and Other Stories.

More information about this work can be found at
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Works Similar to Ghost Days
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Hidden Girl by Ken Liu
  2. The Tenth Muse by Catherine Chung
  3. The Story of Yung Chang by Ernest Bramah (Ernest Bramah Smith)
  4. Singer Distance by Ethan Chatagnier
  5. The Difference Engine by William Gibson / Bruce Sterling
  6. Oracle by Greg Egan
  7. Doctor Who: The Turing Test by Paul Leonard
  8. Gentzen oder: Betrunken aufräumen [Gentzen or Cleaning Up Drunk] by Dietmar Dath
  9. They'll Say It Was the Communists by Sarah Lazarz
  10. The Pacific Mystery by Stephen Baxter
Ratings for Ghost Days:
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:
1/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
4/5 (1 votes)

GenreHistorical Fiction, Science Fiction,
TopicComputers/Cryptography, Algebra/Arithmetic/Number 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)