a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

Home All New Browse Search About

The Cambist and Lord Iron (2007)
Daniel Abraham

Contributed by "William E. Emba"

The story is set in a no-name kingdom, seemingly medieval but with certain modernisms. The cambist of the title is a minor worker, whose daily routine is interrupted by Lord Iron, who has come to play a cruel prank on him, as he was known to do. Lord Iron demands that the cambist make an exchange for him, presenting him with the most obscure currency possible. The cambist daringly, almost impossibly, succeeds, and as he explains his reasoning, rather surprisingly earns Lord Iron's respect.

Later, Lord Iron comes up with a more demanding and seemingly impossible exchange request, one with consequences. The cambist again succeeds, and again his reasoning, despite its counterintuitiveness, carries the day. And then comes one more request.

The mathematical content is limited to the explanations of the chain of equalities that led the cambist to his conclusions. Curiously, this is actually the most interesting part of the story!

It was published in the unusual anthology Logorrhea (online here), a collection of stories, each one keyed to a winning word from the annual National Spelling Bee. Abraham's story was based on "cambist", the 1977 winning word. (A cambist is a banker, especially one who specializes in currency exchange.)

Contributed by Anonymous

This is a work commonly cited as "rational fiction", probably for the ingenuity and calm the main character shows when faced with extremely powerful enemies.

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 The Cambist and Lord Iron
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Measure of Eternity by Sean McMullen
  2. The Bank by Robert Connolly
  3. A Fable for Moderns by Lord Dunsany
  4. Souls in the Great Machine by Sean McMullen
  5. The Tower of Babylon by Ted Chiang
  6. The Story of Yung Chang by Ernest Bramah (Ernest Bramah Smith)
  7. Turjan of Miir (The Dying Earth) by Jack Vance
  8. The Man Who Counted : A Collection of Mathematical Adventures by Malba Tahan
  9. A Doubter's Almanac by Ethan Canin
  10. My Heart Belongs to Bertie by Helen DeWitt
Ratings for The Cambist and Lord Iron:
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:
3.5/5 (2 votes)
Literary Quality:
4.5/5 (2 votes)

TopicMathematical Finance,
MediumShort Stories, Available Free Online,

Home All New Browse Search About

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)