“The Pi Man,” Alfred Bester, 1959

“The Pi Man,” Alfred Bester, 1959 — Bester’s pyrotechnic prose describes the agonized existence of the Pi Man, a man who must always find balance in numbers and patterns–and elude those who wish to use his abilities for their own fanatical ends.  Against his better instincts, he allows himself to feel something for his persistent assistant, Liz Chalmers, a woman undeterred by his intimation that his need for balance calls for a need to do violence to those he loves.

Comments: Read in The Future I.  Perhaps comparable to the television show, Touch, although from the point of view of a cynical adult.  Themes of probability, balance, patterns, statistics, love.  The narrator at first appears to be insane.  For a more detailed description of the plot, see Good Short Fiction to Read. An excerpt:

“He also stymies the FBI, who fail to classify him as a spy or a nut. He leaves them with the enigma of the burdensome gift that defines his life: he is a “pi man”: his awareness of reality is on the level of the mathematical figure of pi: the relation of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. In short, a cosmic truth impels him to act outside the normal behavior of less sensitive human beings, but his behavior can never obtain tranquility because that self-defining truth forms an insolvable paradox: the mathematical figure of pi, though it forms a stable proportion, goes into infinity.”

Author: Wikipedia: “Alfred Bester (December 18, 1913 – September 30, 1987) was an American science fiction author, TV and radio scriptwriter, magazine editor and scripter for comic strips and comic books. Though successful in all these fields, he is probably best remembered today for his work as a science fiction author, and as the winner of the first Hugo Award in 1953 for his novel The Demolished Man.”


About jennre

Lifelong sf fan, first-time blogger
This entry was posted in 1946-1959, love/family/children, mathematics, psych/mind/madness, senses/space, violence. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to “The Pi Man,” Alfred Bester, 1959

  1. Joachim Boaz says:

    Read this in The Dark Side of the Earth…. The collection’s cover is one of my all time favorite works of cover art.

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