a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Stranger than Fiction (2006)
Marc Forster (Director) / Zach Helm (Screenplay)

An employee of the IRS who is obsessed with counting and performing mental computations begins to hear the voice of a woman narrating his life. He soon learns that he is a character in a novel and that the narrator is a reclusive author famous for killing off her characters in interesting ways.

This is a very entertaining and artfully made film. In particular, even the animated overlay reflecting the computations (reminiscent of NUMB3RS and A Beautiful Mind) are fun. However, if it was only the character's interest in integers that was mathematical, I might not have decided to include it on this list.

Interestingly, there is another less obvious "mathematical" dimension to the film. Many of the names of characters and locations in the film are names of famous mathematicians!

Some reviews I have read claim all of the characters are named after mathematicians, but I guess it depends how you define "mathematician".

Personally, I would not consider Gustave Eiffel, Francis Crick or M.C. Escher to be mathematicians, even though the work for which they are most famous certainly depended to some degree upon mathematics. But, encountering the names Pascal, Hilbert, Cayley, and Mittag-Leffler all in one film is certainly a rare event. The literature professor named Hilbert is an obvious example, but if you watch closely you'll notice smaller things, like the bus route identified as "Kronecker" and the publisher named after Benjamin Banneker.

Finally, let me comment that it might also be interesting to mathematically analyze this film using the concept of "narrative distance" as developed by Hilbert Shenck in his short story The Geometry of Narrative . For instance, I wonder where the mathematical names lie in narrative space? Are they just names that Zach Helm chose for his movie, putting them at the standard narrative distance...or is the reason for these names that the author in the movie has chosen them for her character, putting them one step farther from the audience?

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 Stranger than Fiction
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Tracking the Random Variable by Marcos Donnelly
  2. What the Revolution Requires by Timons Esaias
  3. Art Thou Mathematics? by Charles Mobbs
  4. Arcadia by Iain Pears
  5. The Geometry of Narrative by Hilbert Schenck
  6. Slightly Perfect / Are you with it? by George Malcolm-Smith (Novel) / Sam Perrin (Script) / George Balzer (Script)
  7. Bread & Kisses by Katherine Fitzgerald (writer and director)
  8. The Geometry of Love by John Cheever
  9. The Better Mousetrap by Tom Holt
  10. Math Takes a Holiday by Paul Di Filippo
Ratings for Stranger than Fiction:
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:
5/5 (1 votes)

GenreHumorous, Fantasy,
MotifMath as Cold/Dry/Useless,

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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)