Imaginary Numbers

The LimitI believe that an artist, fashioning his imaginary worlds out of his own agony and ecstasy, is a benefactor to us all, but that the worst error we can commit is to mistake his imaginary worlds for the real one.

H. L. Mencken ~ What I Believe

In the beginning was the real world, and the world was with us, and the world was us. Then a clever storyteller created an unreal world, and all hell broke loose.

S. M. Hart ~ The Book of Rhino

You just gotta love mathematicians. When they discover something that does not fit the known properties of numbers, they create a new one. They needed something to handle the square root of two so they created irrational numbers. They needed something to deal with the square root of a negative number, so they created imaginary numbers.

What is so interesting about these new creations that they follow so many of the established rules for real numbers. They obediently submit to addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. They respect real numbers’ properties and don’t trespass on their lawns or trample the flowerbeds. They even do well at parties and never tell off-color jokes. In essence, the imaginary numbers behave as if they were real; that is what we love about them.

I think it’s the same way with writing. If a storyteller discovers a situation that does not fit the real world, he or she creates an imaginary one. You want a dragon terrorizing the countryside? Voilà! You’ve got your dragon. You want your dragon to be nice? Hey, presto! Your dragon is dripping with kindness. There are virtually no limits to a writer’s imagination—except one. We want our imaginary world to behave as if it is real.

If readers do not have some link to what they know, the most imaginative writing in any world will not make sense to them. It’s all “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra.” And we would never mistake that for the real world.

Daily Prompt: Imaginary

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3 thoughts on “Imaginary Numbers

  1. Numbers allow us to keep track of things and complex numbers follow the same rules as real numbers. However when a number contains an imaginary number, it is called a complex number. Math is really great as even when there is no solution to a problem we can still solve it.

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  2. Pingback: Author Interview – Charley Daveler – Stories of the Wyrd (Sci-Fi/Fantasy) | toofulltowrite (I've started so I'll finish)

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