Conservation of Probability

Brook West | published May, 1994

added May 17, 2024
cover Image
First Date of Publication
May, 1994
Original Source
Galaxy Science Fiction
Original Source Type
Magazine - Pulp
Short Story
Original Language
Kasman Review
Summary: A woman becomes a central figure in the disruption of the laws of probability, with some cosmic consequences.

Story Tag Line: On Wednesday, the sunrise was spectacular. Kendra rolled eighty seven threes in a row. There was no Thursday.


  • Vijay Fafat
    Published on

    The story, “Null-P” by William Tenn, speaks of the perfectly average man, right at the center of the population bell-curve. In “Conservation of Probability”, Brook West explores the other end, creating a short magic realism story where one woman, Kendra, inexplicably becomes the axis mundi of black-swan events. Kendra believes it is because she has mastered some form of telekinesis, concentrating the power of her mind to bend the laws of probability and chance. Practicing on dice, she first achieves success in her kitchen rolling 23 elevens in a row. From there, she tries her mind at executing tougher and tougher improbabilities, on the way bankrupting 13 casinos in Las Vegas. She does not realize that every time she performs such statistical flukes, other very unlikely events also take place - multi-plane collisions, meteor and lightning strikes, misers becoming generous, “teachers’ union settling without strike”, children “doing dishes without being asked” and most comically, “the chairman of the university mathematics department refused to compute the odds”. By the end of it,

    “On Wednesday, the sunrise was spectacular. Kendra rolled eighty seven threes in a row. There was no Thursday.”

    It is not clear why the author calls all this a “conservation of probability”, except to think that she somehow is thinking of “left-tail events” and “right-tail events” on the normal curve (which would still leave the question of why her events are on one side of the probability distribution and the rest on the other). But anyway, there it is…