The Pi Man

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"The Pi Man" is a science fiction short story by American writer Alfred Bester. It was first published in Fantasy and Science Fiction, in 1959. Bester subsequently revised it extensively for his 1976 collection Star Light, Star Bright, changing the characters' names, "develop(ing) minor scenes", modifying the typographical "word pictures", and deleting several "stale references to beatnik culture".[1]


Peter Marko's superhuman abilities of pattern recognition have allowed him to make a fortune in forex arbitrage; however, they also compel him to balance out the behaviors of the rest of the world by constantly performing seemingly-random acts of good and evil. This draws him into conflict, first with his secretary, and then with the FBI.


"The Pi Man" was a finalist for the 1960 Hugo Award for Best Short Story.[2]

Kirkus Reviews considered it to be a "chilling masterpiece",[3] and John Hertz has lauded it as "coruscating, gripping, (and) strange".[4]

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction has posited that Marko's abilities were the basis for the similar abilities of the protagonist in Bester's 1981 novel The Deceivers,[5] while James Nicoll has noted that the story would work just as well if one assumes that Marko's "justifications for atrocity are insane delusions".[6]

David N. Samuelson, writing in Science Fiction Studies, analyzed the story as hard science fiction, and observed that it is based on "mathematical oddities" and "lacks a clear empirical base".[7]


  1. ^ Alfred Bester by Jad Smith, published December 1 2016 by University of Illinois Press
  2. ^ 1960 Hugo Awards, at; retrieved May 6, 2018
  3. ^ VIRTUAL UNREALITIES: THE SHORT FICTION OF ALFRED BESTER, reviewed at Kirkus Reviews; published November 14, 1997; retrieved May 6, 2018
  4. ^ Hertz: Time for Tea, by John Hertz, at File 770; published December 20, 2013; retrieved May 6, 2018
  5. ^ BESTER, ALFRED, by Peter Nicholls; at The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (edited by John Clute, David Langford, Peter Nicholls, and Graham Sleight. London: Gollancz, updated 16 January 2018; retrieved 6 May 2018
  6. ^ Before he was a Psi-cop - Starlight: The Great Short Fiction of Alfred Bester, reviewed by James Nicoll, at James Nicoll Reviews; published April 6, 2015; retrieved May 8, 2018
  7. ^ A Softening of the Hard-Sf Concept , by David N. Samuelson, published in Science Fiction Studies #64 = Volume 21, Part 3 = November 1994; archived at DePauw University

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