The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox – Barry Hughart, Kaja Foglio

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When I got out of Andover in the 1950s I suffered from fairly severe depression, but this was back when the only such term recognized by the medical profession was ‘depressive’ following ‘manic’ which was one bad gig until some genius renamed it ‘bipolar disorder’ and after that it couldn’t harm a fly. Since I wasn’t lucky enough to qualify for manic and clinical depression didn’t exist they diagnosed schizophrenia and packed me off to a booby hatch. (Which was not entirely a bad thing. Man, the scene at Kings Count Psychotic Ward was like awesome!) Then I was promoted to a slightly less odorous asylum where Doctor Oscar Diethelm expounded upon the delights of going snickety-snick on my frontal lobes, and while it would take too long to explain I managed to escape to Columbia University. There I found myself groping through weird landscapes obscured by clouds of pot behind which pimpled prophets of the Beat Generation shrieked, ‘Our minds destroyed by madness, starving, hysterical, naked, dragging through black streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, or what the f*ck, something like that. Yo, daddy-o!’ and I said to myself, ‘Barry, you have found a home.’

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The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate – Ted Chiang

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Fuwaad ibn Abbas, a fabric merchant, tells this story to the Caliph of Baghdad, perhaps in the classic “Arabian Nights” period of the Caliphate, as “a warning to those who would be warned and a lesson to those who would learn.”

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