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  • Writer's pictureMartyn Rhys Vaughan


Edwin A. Abbot (1838-1926) was an English mathematician, theologian and headmaster. He was educated in St. Johns, Cambridge, earning honours in the three disciplines quoted above.

He took Holy Orders in 1862 and became headmaster of the City of London School in 1865.

He wrote a number of scholarly books, including a biography of Francis Bacon, a

Shakespearean Grammar and a number of treatises on the Christian religion.

His importance to SF comes from his novella Flatland, published in 1884 under the pseudonym

"A. Square.

Flatland describes the narrator's adventures in Pointland, Lineland and, of course, the

eponymous Flatland. Flatland is inhabited by sentient geometrical figures, who have a rich history and culture of their own. The elite are Circles, who are philosopher-kings. Triangles are soldiers, due to their sharp points, which they use to puncture enemy shapes. Females are Straight Lines, and are greatly feared as they are sharp at both ends.

The history of Flatland is thoroughly explained, with especial reference to the great Colour War, which erupted when a group of radicals suggested that the various classes of inhabitants should no longer be differentiated by their shapes, but by colors which had been painted on them. The radicals went so far as to suggest that colours could be used to abolish all differences in social class-hence, the war. Eventually the radicals were defeated and it became a capital offence to even mention colour.

The narrator is a Square who has been imprisoned for believing in the third dimension. In his earlier travels he had visited Pointland (a mathematical point) and Lineland ( a straight line.) In each case, he discovered that the inhabitants of those realms did not believe in dimensions higher than their own.

However, eventually he found the tables turned when a being from 3-Dimensional Spaceland entered Flatland and showed him some of the wonders of the Third Dimension. (The 3D visitor tellingly does not believe in dimensions higher than his own.)

The Square refuses to confess to the authorities that his vision of a 3D world was a lie, hence his imprisonment.

Flatland marks the beginning of SF's fascination with "higher dimensions". "hyperspace",

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