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I just finished reading the sci-fi anthology that Seth got me for my birthday. It was a bit uncomfortable to read for a while there, because it got infused with kerosene fumes from my fire-spinning equipment on the bus ride home from Justin's wedding. But in the end, it was well worth the occasional choking fit, and by now it hardly smells at all.

As I predicted, Ursula K. Le Guin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" was my favorite of the bunch: a heart-wrenching moral parable that doesn't preach in the slightest. C. J. Cherryh's "Pots", a story centered around archeology which is not only intellectually intriguing but actually has a little exciting action, was a close second. Karen Joy Fowler's "Face Value" was poignant and haunting in a way I loved. Equally heart-breaking was Theodore Sturgeon's "A Saucer of Loneliness." I loved the intense quirkiness of Harlan Ellison's "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman" and R. A. Lafferty's "Eurema's Dam" not just because they were cute, but because they did a great job of turning familiar preconceptions upside-down, using their absurdities as effective tools rather than mere gimmicks. "Bears Discover Fire" by Terry Bison was touching in a mild and slightly weird way. I'm surprised that I don't remember Ray Bradbury's "Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed" from The Martian Chronicles: either it's a martian story that wasn't included or my memory isn't as good as I'd like to think. Either way, it's classic Bradbury, of which you just can't get enough. Similarly, "Dogfight" was a wonderful reminder of everything I love about William Gibson, especially with Neuromancer still fresh in my mind. Although Michael Swanwick co-authored "Dogfight", it feels like pure Gibson, but maybe I just can't detect Swanwick's flavor because I'm less familiar with his work. It seemed like I had read Robert Heinlein's "All You Zombies--" before, but I think I had only read about it in an essay about science fiction which detailed its rather complicated gimmick of a time-travel paradox. I suppose I might as well have read it, because the story is basically nothing more than its gimmick, flavored with a hard-boiled-private-detective motif and more casual misogyny than I'd prefer to tolerate. (I expected better from a story about a transsexual.) Isaac Asimov's "Robot Dreams" was short and sweet and not a little bit chilling, but I would have enjoyed it more if it hadn't reminded me of that utter travesty involving Will Smith. And Frederick Pohl's "The Tunnel under the World" made me wonder yet again why so many people were so amazed by the ontological speculation of that silly Matrix movie. Although the idea of the whole world being an illusion is genuinely interesting and far from hackneyed, it had been explored several times already in both film and print by the time The Matrix came out, usually with better execution, although without the glitzy special effects.

Rebecca's passing on the latest Harry Potter to me, so that will occupy me for the next few days at least. I stopped reading George Orwell's 1984 a couple weeks ago because it was too depressing, but I intend to restart it sometime soonish. My old linear algebra textbook has been keeping me busy on the long summer Shabbos afternoons lately, and I'm close to half-way through. (Even though it's not a terribly long book, my brain tends to melt in extreme heat.)