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fiction posts

The Topology of the Tower of Babylon

The story “The Tower of Babylon”, by Ted Chiang, is the first example of topological fiction I’ve come across that wasn’t obnoxiously about topology from the start. I’ve read fiction before, like Flatterland by Ian Stewart, that was styled after Edwin Abbot’s classic 1884 story, Flatland. Flatterland explores non-Euclidean geometry, fractal geometry, and topology, all using the classic Flatland tropes. I’m familiar with the genre. But Chiang’s “The Tower of Babylon” had the gravitas of a biblical story, with the subtlety of a proper piece of literature, and climaxed in the realization of a deep topological truth: that a world can be finite, but have no boundary.