a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Axiom of Dreams (2023)
Arula Ratnakar
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

An aspiring mathematician gets a brain implant designed to aid her research on Gödel Incompleteness in the hopes that it will help her get accepted into a PhD program. But, against the advice of the researchers who created the implant, she also takes a lot of recreational drugs. This allows her to enter the virtual world that the "brain chip" has created to process her mathematical thoughts and to interact with that world's inhabitants.

This (long) short story by Arula Ratnakar is very nice piece of mathematical fiction, and an ambitious story to have written. It has many different layers and themes. Among these are:

  • A variety of different mathematical ideas which are mentioned including: fractals and Julia sets, relatively recent results about paths on a dodecahedron, Nash equilibrium, and of course Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem. Moreover, the virtual world in the story takes the form of a dodecahedron so as to be able to incorporate ideas from relatively recent work about edge paths on that Platonic solid.
  • The theft of some data in Boston neuroscience labs and the ulterior motives of the researchers who gave her the "brain chip" in the first place.
  • Psychology, neuroscience, and psychoactive drugs.
  • The city of Boston.
  • The unfairness (in the opinion of the characters in the story, and presumably also the author) of who gets accepted into PhD programs. (It is suggested that grades and personal connections are weighed too heavily.)
In regards to the last few bullets, it should be noted that the author is a neuroscience research assistant at Boston University.

This story makes me think of some other works of mathematical fiction:

  • Like Rudy Rucker's White Light, it is a trippy story in which mathematical ideas are reified, giving a sort of "real existence" to otherwise abstract concepts. In fact, A.C. Wise in her review of "Axiom of Dreams" says:

    Contributed by A.C. Wise Reviews Short Fiction (Locus, November 2023)

    The novella effectively explores the question of what counts as ‘‘real’’ as Alvira begins to lose the distinction between her waking life and her dreams, as well as what counts as ‘‘real’’ in terms of her mathematical discoveries.”

  • The protagonist in this story meets the inhabitants of a virtual world whose names are things like "Lemma" and "Axiom". They view her as their creator, who plays an essential role in their religious worldview. But, until they met her, they were unaware that they had been created simply to help her with a math problem. This all reminds me of the short story Mathematical Revelations.
  • Like Division by Zero and Eye of the Beholder, this story is about a female mathematician whose boyfriend/husband is a biologist. (In this story, the boyfriend is a neuroscientist.)
  • "Axiom of Dreams" actually mentions the seminal mathematical fiction novel Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture.
This novella was published in Clarkesworld Issue 204. Both the author and frequent site contributor Gregory Cherlin wrote to me at about the same time to let me know that it should be added to the database. And, it certainly should. (I apologize to both of them that it took me so long to get around to reading it and creating this post.) Ratnakar has written other works of fiction with mathematical themes. I intend to look at those soon and will either give them their own entries on this site or say more about them here.

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 Axiom of Dreams
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Mathematical Revelations by Helen De Cruz
  2. 3-adica by Greg Egan
  3. Eye of the Beholder by Alex Kasman
  4. White Light, or What is Cantor's Continuum Problem? by Rudy Rucker
  5. Babirusa by Arula Ratnakar
  6. Dark Integers by Greg Egan
  7. Luminous by Greg Egan
  8. Perturbation - For Nature Computes On A Straight Line (In Seven Balancing Acts) by Vijay Fafat
  9. Proof by Induction by José Pablo Iriarte
  10. Music of the Spheres by Ken Liu
Ratings for Axiom of Dreams:
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:
5/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
4/5 (1 votes)

GenreScience Fiction,
MotifAcademia, Proving Theorems, Female Mathematicians, Religion, Kurt Gödel,
TopicGeometry/Topology/Trigonometry, Real Mathematics, Chaos/Fractals, Logic/Set 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)