Gauss’s Invitation

Selected correspondence received by Professor Hans Dorfenheimer during the “Martian Troubles” (1908-1909), compiled by Gary Cuba
Illustration by Justine McGreevy

Rev. Richard Gauss
Denver, Colorado, September 3, 1908

Professor Doctor Hans Dorfenheimer, Göttingen, Germany

Dear Prof. Dorfenheimer,

In reply to your recent letter, I’m very sorry that I cannot offer any substantial help with respect to your inquiry. If I understood it correctly, you are exploring a possible connection between the unusual seismological & meteorological events that affected Russian Siberia in June of this year, and a queer notion once proposed by my grandfather, Carl Friedrich Gauss, in or about 1820.

Gauss's Invitation

As you properly pointed out, an image of the Pythagorean design you described–namely, a right triangle with squares extending from each side–would of course be “incorrect” if rendered on a spherical surface.

To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Summer 2012 collection.

Few among us today fail to pay continuing homage to the memory of Professor Doctor Hans Dorfenheimer for his key role in overcoming the devastating 1908-9 Martian invasion, which came so very close to exterminating all human life on Earth. Born in Bonn, Germany in 1851, he became a respected Professor of Science History at the University of Göttingen, where he studied and taught until his forced emigration to the United States in early 1909. He married Wilhemina Gauss later that year in Sacramento, California, and resided there happily until his death in 1933. While he left no biological heirs, no man could ever claim to have had more friends than he.

Gary Cuba’s fiction has appeared in nearly fifty magazines and anthologies to date. He lives in South Carolina with his wife. For links to some of his other work, visit his website at “Gauss’s Invitation” was originally published in War of the Worlds: Frontlines, ed. by J. Schnarr (Northern Frights Publishing, 2010).

Justine McGreevy is a slowly recovering perfectionist, writer, and artist. She creates realities to make our own seem slightly less terrifying. Her work can be viewed at and you can follow her on Twitter @Fickle_Muse.

(Author’s note: Carl Friedrich Gauss’s 1820 proposal to create a huge arboreal Pythagorean diagram in Siberia as a means of communicating with extraterrestrial beings is factual.)

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