The old adage goes that “you should not judge a book by its cover” and though it is a virtuous sentiment it is not one that is typically followed. Welcome to day Fourteen of my 31 Days of First Impressions Challenge! In this challenge I will be reading the first entry or chapter of a different serial (or web fiction) and then give my first impressions on them be they good or bad. In short: I will be judging a book by its cover.
Today’s serial in my challenge is Taylor’s Ploynomials by Mathtans.
Author’s note: I may have bias as I wrote for this author’s other serial, Time and Tied, for an April Fool’s Day swap. As such I was already familiar with the author’s style of writing.
Eight years ago I would have been very jealous of this website. It is exactly what I wanted to do for my webcomic, but could never find a way to do it that would look pleasing to the eye. The rough scrap paper look is an aesthetic that I would like to try to revisit someday. The site feels dated though, and lower resolutions for mobile devices seem to break it. At a full resolution on a desktop computer, the site is still functional and is pleasing to the eye.
“Lyn glanced around the room. She wasn’t sure what she’d expected to find in this bar, so recently opened. It looked to be a simple affair… a few stools, a couple tables of value with some chairs, generic lighting. Nothing really made it stand out. Except possibly the bartender.” –Taylor’s Polynomials, 01-Open Bar.
The hook is decent. This is something I would expect to read in an old noir. Mathtans wastes no time creating his setting, and does a good job adding an air of mystery to the bartender. This air of mystery, and noir tone, make the rest of the reading a little… strange.
So, Taylor’s Polynomials is about personified math. Personified. Math. Further, the “chapter” is only about 200 words. I-I don’t know what this is. There is absolutely nothing traditional about this serial.
The “chapter” is presented with an illustration of the two characters that are introduced. The illustrations themselves look a little rough. Whatever program the author used to draw them has a tough time filling in spaces between the lines. Personally, I could have done without the illustrations.
Due to the short nature of the “chapter” (it would probably be more accurate to call it a page) I did go on to read about four more to get a foot hold on what I was reading. Each character represents a function or an equation in math. As such, the writing is chock full of math puns, some of which are more obvious than others. The author is actually very witty in this way, and the writing had a certain charm that was hard to put my finger on. I did find myself chuckling at one or two math puns, but was honestly pretty flabbergasted for the brunt of it.
Mathtan’s prose is pretty straight forward, but sharp. The strongest feature of which being the conversation that takes place in it. The bulk of his writing is that of two characters having a conversation, and at no point did I find myself confused as to who was talking.
I don’t know who this is for. I write a Black Humor Dadist comic done when I am inebriated, I have no ground to stand on when claiming that something else is too obscure, but this is OBSCURE. If you enjoy puns, especially math puns, you will really enjoy this serial. Like I wrote earlier, this serial does have a charm to it. Would I continue to read it? Well, I did read past the first entry, so technically… yes? I am not sure if I would return, as I am still digesting this thing that could only exist on the internet. I get the feeling that this would work out much better as a webcomic. (Update: it is a webcomic)
- Further notes:
As stated before, I have actually read a good amount of Mathtans’ other Serial, Time and Tied. That serial is about a group of friends who have to deal with the messy nature of time travel, and it is one that I enjoyed. Though they share some of the same kind of illustrations (something I could do without) and the same sort of problems site design wise, Time and Tied is a very different animal. I am not sure what my reaction to Taylor’s Polynomials would have been if I had seen it first. I might actually be more befuddled because I saw his other serial first.
Taylor’s Polynomials can be found at https://sites.google.com/site/taylorspolynomials/ and you can vote for it on Top Web Fiction here.
Join me tomorrow for my impressions on safra’s serial Death’s Door, or check out my own serial:
This one’s on my to-read list, because I’m hoping reading about math in the form of a story, my favourite way to read something, will improve my ability to relate to numbers. What do you think?
I can definitely see this helping there! Though the serial comes off as being very anachronistic, it does make math charming. It’s a shame School House Rock is no more, this would fit right in.
I think it’s possible, but I’m biased, being the author! Seriously though, if you do check it out, let me know if it does or does not help you with relating. Because one of my goals with this was to make math fun. (FYI, the comments open up once it migrates to the blog, around Entry #100.)
I will say there aren’t tons of references to actual numbers, but I play around with math concepts… for instance, after some meandering in the Absolute Value bar, Parabola gets kidnapped away from the Polynomials by the Conics. Because a parabola fits into both those categories depending on how you define her and look at her equation. But then, I also play around with internet memes. ^_^ Anyway. Glad you took the time to comment here, and thanks again to Rev. Fitz for making that possible.
Thanks Rev. Fitz, that’s a great writeup. I’m kind of glad you’re not sure who my audience is either. It makes me feel better about the fact that I can’t seem to target my marketing. My early thoughts were that it could be for educators (I have since found that the majority of them are not interested) or for high school students (except I can’t really market to them, being a teacher myself). Possibly some fans of the anime “Hetalia”, which personifies countries, would enjoy it… the success of that show is what pushed me to give this a try. I doubt they know I exist.
A couple added clarifications:
-“Whatever program the author used to draw them” … hand drawn. All of it, by hand. Then scanned in. As the series went on, I added colour fills. The main problem, of course, is that *I am not an artist*. The secondary problem is that the art was necessary here, because *the hairstyles are the graphs*. Parabola has parabolic bunny ears. Sine has a sine wave fringe. Dr. Weierstrass has a fractal hairstyle much later in the story’s run. The writing was secondary to the character concepts, the plots very much made up as I went along to showcase the mathematics. (Contrast “Time & Tied”, where the art wasn’t a necessity, but I thought a visual shared better on social media than all text. Plus that gave me an extra chance to practice my drawing.) I totally get how you could have done without the art, but at least that explains that.
-“The site feels dated though” … you’re not wrong. I’m going to bet I’m the only Google Sites serial you have this month. At the time (2011) I didn’t even have a website. I finally migrated the whole thing to Blogger in 2012, but never bothered to re-run those early entries. So there they sit, basically untouched by the passage of time (except for adding navigation links). I’ve never had the incentive to update. I dunno – how easy is it to optimize for modern devices on Google Sites?
I’m glad you spotted the fact that it’s become a webcomic! (I finally decided I might have improved my art skill enough to do that. ^.^) The comic itself is a Soft Reboot (a franchise reboot that takes place in the same continuity as the original serial). It occurred after shelving the whole thing for over a year, which is it’s own story that I won’t get into.
Anyway, thanks again for including this in your series. I’m glad you decided to look past the short Entry 1, and found the puns somewhat witty and charming. 🙂 The idea is obscure, or at the least, probably an acquired taste. But I wouldn’t want you to get bored. 😉
What you have done with the hair styles is very clever! I did not notice them until you mentioned it, but it does add a certain charm.
I honestly do not know much on google sites, but if you switch to WordPress there is a number of plugins and themes I can suggest that make running webcomics (and serials) a breeze and have an added bonus of being mobile friendly and responsive. I know you have stated somewhere in the past that webdesign is not your strongest suit, but these things are pretty intuitive.
Thank you for volunteering your work, I appreciate it! I look forward to doing a write up on Time & Tied 😀
I would think the audience would be math geeks! For many of us non-math plebes I fear the brilliant puns and concepts are over our heads (kudos to revfritz for recognizing them) ***IDEA*** Maybe you could get the comic version into a college newspaper?
One might think so about the audience, but I never gained much traction in the math geek community (though to be fair, with me it’s largely the ones who are educators). I also suspect half of the wordplay stuff is too cryptic for anyone (even me at times), hence the need for actual plots and stuff beyond Series 1.
Fun fact! I used to edit for a math publication when I was in university. Over 15 years ago. So yeah, I feel like I’m a bit out of the loop on such things these days – pity it never occurred to me back then. I’ll likely just keep posting the comic version on a more-or-less weekly basis, in hopes that a small pocket of the internet will like it. Most of my efforts these days are geared towards my other writing. Still, I do wonder what people might get out of it, hence the request.