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New Title Spotlight: Flatland

Q: When is a new title not a new title?

A: When it was first published almost 130 years ago!

We are delighted to present an SF Gateway edition of Edwin A. Abbott‘s Flatland, the 1884 classic tale of life in a two-dimensional realm.

Flatland follows the journeys of A. Square, a mathematician and resident of the two-dimensional Flatland, where women – thin, straight lines – are the lowliest of shapes, and where men may have any number of sides, depending on their social status.

Through strange occurrences that bring him into contact with a host of geometric forms, Square has adventures in Spaceland (three dimensions), Lineland (one dimension) and Pointland (no dimensions) and ultimately entertains thoughts of visiting a land of four dimensions-a revolutionary idea for which he is returned to his two-dimensional world.

While perhaps of limited value as a stright narrative, Flatland is invaluable as thought experiment. Not because we need help to understand the two-dimensional world, but because, by stepping down into that state and appreciating that our taken-for-granted three-dimensional world would seem uncanny to the two-dimensional beings therein, we can start to envisage the otherwise-unimaginable fourth dimension.

One of SF’s greatest explainers of scientific concepts, Sir Arthur C. Clarke uses the example of Abbott’s Flatland in just such a manner in his fascinating Profiles of the Future.