A Life Of fiction LXXIX

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work before purchasing it on the Kindle store; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.

 

Numbers: This is my seventy-ninth post to gaslampfantasy.wordpress.com. when I began this site I had no idea how many posts I was going to write, or whether I would be able to keep finding subjects to talk about, week after week. After all, I might be reasonably prolific as a writer, but not even I can produce a new work every week.

I have decided that this post will be about numbers, anyway: numbers in my work, and numbers in writing, in general. After all, in my opinion, mathematics is the architecture of the universe.

I am not into numerology, or anything like that. I don’t believe that there are such things as lucky numbers. I think that numbers are just numbers, and that none of them have any magic powers. Seven is no luckier than three or eight or one hundred and eighty-eight.

I like mathematics, though, even though I am not that great at the subject. I only possess O level mathematics. But I enjoy reading the odd book on maths, such as Simon Singh’s book on Fermat’s last theorem, and The Poincaré Conjecture by Donal O’Shea. I enjoy reading about certain concepts, as long as I can actually understand what that concept is about. There are some things which remain beyond my understanding, in relation to mathematics. Beyond my understanding they must remain.

I tried writing a short story, once, which was written with formulaic symbols and numbers. But I must admit that it was not an unqualified success. I have often experimented with such things, in the past.

Then there is the fragment of a story I never developed in the appendices of Unbegun Tales V: Hello Goodbye, which mentions Fibonacci:

 

It made the news that morning. It made the news all over the planet. SETI, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial intelligence, had been successful. They had found extra-terrestrial life.

People did not go to work that day. They stayed glued to their television sets, hanging on to every morsel of information.

The radio waves that SETI had picked up had been so faint that they could hardly detect them. They had spent weeks checking their data before announcing their discovery to the world.

The radio waves were being sent in a pattern. One, then one, then two, then three, then five, then eight. It was the Fibonacci sequence. It had to be an intelligent mind behind the transmission.

 

That’s all I wrote for that one. Perhaps I should have developed it further.

Fibonacci, and numbers in general, make an appearance in my longest novel, Go Back To Start, when the protagonist considers such things as Fibonacci numbers and emirps (primes which can have the digits reversed and still be a prime number). It is not really because the protagonist is all that interested in numbers and number series. But his tale-teller is.

Again, in Shadows And Ghosts, I mention Fibonacci. Here is the extract:

 

Zero. There were zero people in Paradise before Sanders and the other three came along. 616 – 616 = 0.

The number zero had been given birth to by Indian mathematicians, mainly Mahaviral.

Zero was brought to Europe by the great mathematician Fibonacci (who also discovered the Golden Ratio: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, etc), who learned of the concept from Muhammed ibn Khwarizmi. Zero. In Indian and Persian notation, had been represented as a dot. But on translation to the west it was represented a hole: 0.

Zero, therefore, is not only a number, but also the Void. It is the Nirvana of the Buddhists.

There was no Year Zero (or, as the Indians might have put it, Year Dot).

 

Those were just the examples which I can recall of having used numbers in my work. There are probably others. But I think those examples are enough (for somebody who never ventured beyond O Level Maths).

 

There are certain formulae which appeal to me, just because they seem to be so perfect. My all time favourite formula is something called Euler’s Equation (or identity). I think that it is a thing of beauty. The formula is:

 

e+1 = 0

 

This unites five different constants: e, i, pi, one and zero. e is sometimes called Euler’s number. I won’t go into exactly what it represents just here.

i, for those unfamiliar with it, is an imaginary number (in that it cannot exist in the real world). It is the square root of minus one.

I think that everybody knows what pi is.

I think that I would like a T-shirt with that equation on the front. You can keep E = mc2, I’ll take Euler’s Identity any day.

 

Numbers are important. I find myself attracted to film and book and TV shows which try to use numbers in interesting ways, from the television detective show Numb3rs to the Necroscope novels by the great Brian Lumley.

In that series of books the young Necroscope, able to speak to the dead, receives new formulae from dead mathematicians. They become very important to him, and the plot, especially after he gets to meet Mobius. But I won’t go further than saying that, as I don’t want to give away too much of the plot of the books.

 

For those interested in maths for the sake of maths I have already mentioned the Donal O’Shea book; and Simon Singh’s (Fermat’s Last Theorem). One last book which people might want to check out, which delves into the history of maths, is The Mathematical Experience, by Philip J Davis and Reuben Hersh.

That’s enough numbers for now.

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