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The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury

Second paragraph of third story ("The Other Foot")
In her kitchen Hattie Johnson covered the boiling soup, wiped her fingers on a cloth, and walked carefully to the back porch.
The mid-point of the century was an extraordinary moment of creativity for Ray Bradbury. One of these stories was published in 1947, another in 1948 and the rest in 1949, 1950 and 1951. You can see his genius in applying the writing style of the mainstream to sf tropes - the end of the world, Mars, alien contact. He was ahead of his time as well: the very first story is about parents worrying that their children are spending too much time in virtual reality (first published in the Saturday Evening Post); the third story is set on a Mars settled by African Americans who are then begged for forgiveness by the white men who have screwed up the Earth (first published here).

The stories don't have the same continuity of theme that The Martian Chronicles do, so it makes sense for them to be linked by a narrative of moving tattoos on the ever-flexing skin of the Illustrated Man. And a lot of them are allegories on mid-century America, dressed up as SF tropes, and perhaps a little odd in the pulps where most of them were first published. I did once meet someone who wondered if Ray Bradbury could really be counted as an sf writer because he is so literary in approach. Bradbury hinmself, however, had no doubt.

This was the top sf book recommended by you in my poll at the end of last year. Next on that list is Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold, which I will read but not review online until its fate in this year's Hugos has become clear.

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