Flash Fiction: a complete story
in one thousand or fewer words.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

British Science Fiction and Fantasy Awards Short List

The British Science Fiction and Fantasy Association has announced their short list for the BSFA Award.

Novel

  • China Mieville - The City and the City, Macmillan

  • Stephen Baxter - Ark, Gollancz
  • 
Adam Roberts - Yellow Blue Tibia, Gollancz

  • Ursula Le Guin - Lavinia, Gollancz

Short Fiction

  • Ian Watson & Roberto Quaglia - "The Beloved Time of Their Lives" - The Beloved of My Beloved, Newcon Press

  • Eugie Foster - "Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast" - Interzone
  • 
Ian Whates - "The Assistant" - The Solaris Book of Science Fiction Volume 3
  • Ian McDonald - "Vishnu at the Cat Circus"

  • Kim Lakin-Smith - "Johnnie and Emmie-Lou Get Married" - Interzone
  • Dave Hutchinson - "The Push," Newcon Press

Go to the BSFA Award site for more, including the art and non-fiction awards and links to the authors' sites.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Radium Age Fiction

I stumbled upon this flash fiction contest for stories of 250 words or less, with the theme, troubled or troubling supermen, conducted by Hilobrow.com. Their contest is interesting, but I found their explanation of the theme, pre-golden-age supermen, or "Radium Age" fiction, as author Joshua Glenn called it, quite entertaining. Here is the contest theme:

Long before Alan Moore asked “Who will watch the Watchmen?” Radium-Age (1904-33) science fiction writers worried whether supermen would rescue us ordinary mortals — or try to dominate us.

The link in the quote above is to an earlier io9 article, which was the source of some of the Hilobrow article on pre-golden-age science fiction. The author provides ten SF novels published in the 1904-1933 period as examples, including some nicely retro book covers, including Poul Anderson's Brain Wave.

The Radium Age superman was superior in body and intellect, along several evolution-inspired lines of reasoning, including "greater capacity for action and freedom."

Aye, there’s the rub: for, as Nietzsche has Zarathustra predict, “Just as the ape to man is a laughingstock or a painful embarrassment, man shall be just that to [superman].”

Included in the article is a summary of the ten most influential novels of the Radium Age, with a synopsis of each, and the cover art. There is also a bibliography of related fiction from the period 1804 to 1937, under several sub-genre categories.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Apple iPad

iPad: finally, it's over. Apple has its new gadget. It's not a $120o Mac OSX tablet as many thought until recently (though one may still be in the works). It's basically a $500 tablet-sized iPod Touch, great for viewing books, photos and movies and web browsing. Some are touting it as a Kindle killer. Maybe. The Kindle will work well in bright light because it is an e-Ink device. On the other hand, e-Ink doesn't do well in the dark. Dan Costa at PC Magazine thinks Amazon won't mind being killed in the device market by Apple. Amazon has the Kindle so they can sell their eBooks. If people buy them for an iPad, that's just fine with Amazon.

One of the more amusing stumbles associated with the iPad was made when Harold McGraw of McGraw-Hill "prattled like teenage girl" when he upstaged Steve Jobs with an early announcement about the iPad. Before that faux pas, there were six publishers that were to be part of the later announcement and presentations. Now one missing.

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J.D. Salinger RIP

There is probably nothing written about J.D. Salinger the does not mention The Catcher in the Rye. Salinger has died at 91 of natural causes. His one book even gets top billing in this Washington Post obituary, entitled, 'Catcher' author J.D. Salinger dies.

Salinger has been in the news lately with his lawsuits to prevent the publication of a sequel to Catcher, and a biography. He also shunned some big-gun producers for movie rights to Catcher.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Science Fiction: Needed For Survival

Here is a thought-provoking article about thought-provoking science fiction: Science Fiction as a Tool for Human Survival. The generically named author, admin, of blog.netflowdevelopments.com postulates that the world is changing so rapidly now that science fiction is needed to help the populace understand the issues of change.

Interestingly, while the author lauds the classical science fiction of the 60s, 70s and 80s for its profundity, he does not see the present blockbuster "eye candy" movies like Avatar (FFO review) and Star Trek the enemy. They are our friends because they legitimize and popularize speculative fiction. In fact, the author claims that because of those blockbusters, we now have more frequent profound movies, like District 9, than in the classical age.

Go here for more on this well-visited topic, including the author's take on a new engineered human, homo evolutis.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Orson Scott Card Interview by David Steffen

David Steffen is a Flash Fiction Online staffer. He managed to snag Orson Scott Card's attention for an interview. You can read the interview of Orson Scott Card on David Steffen's blog, Diabolical Plots.

Perhaps one of the more interesting topics of the interview was Mr. Card's description of a work in progress. Pathfinder is a world in which the first Earth time/space-jumping spacecraft divides into 19 copies, including the people. The civilizations are isolated and develop independently.

Says Mr. Card:

Technology is deliberately hidden so it has to be developed anew, and starting with the identical gene pool, every colony has eleven thousand years in which to develop their own civilizations – and their own genetic differences – before they catch up to the “present” of the ship’s original jump through spacetime.

Nice interview, David. Good luck with the blog.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Aurealis Awards and SAG Awards for 2009

SFWA reports the finalists of Australia's Aurealis Awards for 2009 for science fiction, fantasy and horror, including three SFWA members: Ian McHugh, best fantasy short story (tie), "Once a Month, On a Sunday," Andremeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine; Jonathan Strahan (editor), best anthology, Eclipse 3, Nightshade books; and Cat Sparks, best YA short story, "Seventeen," Masques.

Other winners include:

  • best science fiction novel, Andrew McGahan, Wonders of a Godless World
  • best fantasy novel, Trudi Canavan, Magician's Apprentice
  • best horror novel, Honey Brown, Red Queen
  • best science fiction short story, Peter M. Ball, "Clockwork, Patchwork and Ravens," Apex Magazine
  • best fantasy short story (tie), Christopher Green, "Father’s Kill," Beneath Ceaseless Skies
  • best horror short story (tie) Paul Haines, "Wives," X6; and Paul Haines, "Slice of Life - A Spot of Liver," Slice of Life

For the complete list of the finalists, go to the SFWA article or to the Aurealis Awards site article.

The Screen Actors Guild announced their awards for 2009. As SF Scope noted, the only speculative fiction notables were for stunt ensembles, in motion picture Star Trek and television series 24. Here is the SAG article on the Screen Actors Guild Awards nominees and recipients.



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Harper's inkpop Writing Site for Teens

The HarperTeen imprint of HarperCollins has launched a writing site for teens, inkpop. This site allows teen members to post their short fiction, novels, poetry and non-fiction for evaluation by the inkpop community. In theory, the creme that rises to the top is considered by HarperCollins spotters for publishing contracts. I saw a few older users participating, including a twenty-seven year old.

Users must log in to see submissions, so the authors' first publication rights are preserved, as one would expect from a major publisher. The inkpop site's right of passage is in its well-hidden explanation of the service. Look at their About Us link at the bottom of the web page.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Making an eBook--Part 2

We started a series on making an eBook, based on a writer's observance of his publisher's process. In Part 1 of the series, author and eBOOKNEWSER (GalleyCat) blogger Craig Morgan Teicher noted that traditional book publishers like his spend about the same effort on book design for eBooks as print books. They don't want their eBooks to have a lower aesthetic bar than print books. Part 2 and Part 2.5--he split the topic--will be combined here.

In Part 2 of Making an eBook, Mr. Teicher relates his correspondence with Smashwords, who had contacted him after his first post. Smashwords is an eBook publisher--used by many authors and publishers--that has a relatively simple process for producing an eBook in many formats from an MS Word doc file. Smashword's "meatgrinder" application gobbles the meat of your .doc file and grinds out the eBook. You can then publish the eBook on their web site (if you choose), for no cost. They take a royalty on sales. You'll want to read Mr. Teicher's comments about Smashwords. He was favorably impressed but noted that it would not work for him as he needed linked files in his eBook, which are not supported yet by Smashwords. That's a problem with monolithic applications like that; you get what you get. You can diddle your source file, but you can't affect how the application converts your file.

I had the same issue with an otherwise very nice application, Calibre, that's free and runs on Windows, Mac and Linux. The website is terse but has a decent style book. It has many input formats and output (eBook) formats. Smashwords is quite attractive considering its publishing option and support.

In Part 2.5 of Making an eBook, Mr. Teicher iterated his thoughts about his publishing company's eBook philosophy. They want a consistent look to all their eBooks and worry that they won't achieve that with applications like Smashwords' Meatgrinder. Unless they find an alternative, they'll hand code their Kindle eBooks. In that case, Mr. Teicher will report on that process as it happens.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Forget about Jet Packs

How many decades have you been waiting for jet packs? Where are the jet packs? Are they reserved for James Bond?

Forget jet packs. NASA has leapfrogged the jet pack with a personal aircraft, the Electric Icarus, they call it, unofficially, and the Puffin, officially. It has electric motors, stands on its tail with four legs. It does a vertical take-off, hovers, and flies horizontally (of course, or what would be the point?). It's powered by rechargeable lithium phosphate batteries. The pilot lies prone during flight. It has no height ceiling since the engines aren't gasoline and so aren't affected by low oxygen. (The pilot might find a lack of oxygen inconvenient.)

It's a right handsome craft. To see a picture of it and learn more about it, see this Scientific American article on NASA's personal aircraft, the Puffin.

No mention of the estimated cost was given. If you have to ask...forget it. But you can write about it, no charge. You'd make quite a splash arriving in a Puffin to receive your Hugo award.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Robert B. Parker, RIP

Robert B. Parker, prolific American crime writer, has died at the age of 77. He has published about 60 books and has two in the pipeline with publishers. He is perhaps most notable for this Spenser-series of books which inspired a television crime/detective series. Here is Robert B. Parker's personal web site.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Making an eBook

We can all save a file as a PDF and declare it an eBook, but for book publishers, it's a different matter. They still have book design issues, such as fonts, page design, illustrations, cover art...like a printed book. For an eBook that's being poised for sale at a cost in the neighborhood of a print book, the main differences from print publishing are the cost of production and distribution. The other headaches remain.

Here is the first post of a series on the making of an eBook. The subject matter of the book happens to be poetry because the author of the blog post on eBOOKNEWSER (GalleyCat), Craig Morgan Teicher, is also the author of the poetry volume. He'll watch each stage of his publisher's process and report them on his blog. I'll try to keep up with it and post notices when there's a new article in the series.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Bruce Holland Rogers Kudos

Flash Fiction Online likes its monthly columnist, Bruce Holland Rogers. See the Short-Short Sighted column in each issue of FFO.

Realms of Fantasy likes Bruce, too. According to SF Scope, the editor of RoF went off their story-purchasing cycle to purchase Bruce's "Fallen" story to accommodate his upcoming travel plans. Nice.

Bruce, could you ask them to reject my stories by saying "it's not horrible," rather than, "it's not right for us at this time?"

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Friday, January 15, 2010

NASA: Life on Mars? Maybe.

Spaceflight Now has an interesting article about NASA making a gutsy prediction. Based on Martian meteorites found in Antarctica, NASA scientists in Houston are close to declaring--as early as 2010--that there was (and perhaps is) life on Mars. They're basing these claims on the merits of newer equipment, high resolution electron microscopy tools and an ion microprobe analysis system, not available when research first began in 1994.

What is being scrutinized is fossil evidence of microorganism found in the Martian meteorites, which have trapped Noble gas compositions similar to those measured on Mars by Viking landers in the 1970s. A long-term challenge to this idea--that the fossil-like features in the meteorites (see image) were created by the impact explosions that sent the meteorites to Earth--has been proven false, according to NASA.

An interesting science gamesmanship sidebar: according to the article, the British could have beat the Americans to the claim if they had examined meteorites that have been in the British Museum of Natural History for over a century.

Go here for the rest of the NASA close to declaring life on Mars article.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

75 Books for Writers (and Readers)

My theory is that if a book is useful to a writer, then it is useful to an avid reader. Most of them anyway. Here is a blog post at OnlineUniversities.com with a compiled list of 75 books of particular interest to writers. The blogger arranged the books into 9 categories which, of course, overlap somewhat: writing basics, advice from authors, improving your writing, grammar, references, writing as a career, genre or format specific, classics, and creativity and motivation.

It seems to be a good list. All of my spot-check selections were in the list: Stephen King, Orson Scott Card, Strunk & White (woe be it if that weren't there) and a couple others.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Speculative Films, January-March, 2010

Here is a speculative film synopsis of the Wikipedia general round-up of movies to be released January-March 2010. See the Wikipedia article on films for 2010 for more details about the films noted here as well as the non-speculative films opening in the same time frame. Note that if a release week is not mentioned below, there were no speculative releases for that week.

Jan. 8:

  • Daybreakers is a vampire thriller film written and directed by Peter and Michael Spierig, and starring Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe and Sam Neill.

Jan 15:

  • The Book of Eli is a 2010 American post-apocalyptic film directed by the Hughes brothers and starring Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman and Mila Kunis.

Jan 22:

  • Legion is an apocalyptic fantasy film directed by Scott Stewart and starring an ensemble cast headed by Paul Bettany.
  • Tooth Fairy is a comedy-fantasy film directed by Michael Lembeck and starring Dwayne Johnson and Julie Andrews.
  • Edge of Darkness is a crime/drama film adaptation of the 1985 BBC television series of he same name, directed by Martin Campbell and starring Mel Gibson and Ray Winstone.

Feb. 12:

  • Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is a fantasy-adventure film directed by Chris Columbus and starring Logan Lerman alongside an ensemble cast. The film is an adaptation of the novel, The Lightning Thief.
  • The Wolfman is a 2010 remake of the 1941 classic horror film The Wolf Man, directed by Joe Johnston and starring Benicio del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving and Art Malik.

Feb. 19:

  • Shutter Island is a horror thriller directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The film is based on the 2003 novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane.

Feb. 26:

  • The Crazies is a horror film that is a remake of George A. Romero's 1973 film of the same name, directed by Breck and starring Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Joe Anderson and Danielle Panabake.

Mar. 5:

  • Alice in Wonderland is a fantasy-adventure film directed by Tim Burton and starring Mia Wasikowska as Alice, alongside Johnny Depp as The Mad Hatter, Helena Bonham Carter as The Red Queen, Anne Hathaway as The White Queen, and Crispin Glover as The Knave of Hearts. The film is an extension to the Lewis Carroll novels Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Edge: The Question of 2010

Background, Edge Foundation: "the mandate of Edge Foundation is to promote inquiry into and discussion of intellectual, philosophical, artistic, and literary issues, as well as to work for the intellectual and social achievement of society."

This organization felt that in the early 20th century, literary intellectuals effectively started calling themselves the intellectuals, thereby booting others out of the club, including the likes of John von Neumann, Albert Einstein, and Werner Heinsenberg. Edge wishes to reverse that trend and is taken quite seriously by luminaries. Among other activities, Edge proposes the "question of the year" and invites intellectuals to respond.

The Edge annual question for 2010 is: how is the Internet changing the way you think? Already they have 167 responses (scroll down) from notables, including palenotologists, physicists, evolutionary biologists (yeah, Dawkins), Facebook "platform managers", the president of the Royal Society, various artists, the co-founder of wikipedia...and Alan Alda.



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Friday, January 8, 2010

Story Openings

Writers are (or should be) obsessed with the opening of a story, whether long or short fiction. There are websites devoted to the discussion and review of the opening 13 lines or so to make sure it has a hook to snag the reader, or more importantly, an editor or agent, reeling them in to the second page. Why is an editor or agent more important than the reader? Legend has it that the reader will never see the work if an editor or agent with a stack of "slush" to the ceiling does not turn that first page of a manuscript, which traditionally has 13 lines. Hatrack River Writers Forum (associated with Orson Scott Card) is devoted to the opening, where no syllable goes unnoticed, and Evil Editor's Blog has an opening review feature where he and his evil minions pour over your innocent work.

Have you been rejected by Jeff Vandermeer?

Um, yes. More than once. Why do you ask?

Well, then, you'll want to go here to exact your revenge on the man: he's exposed the opening of his novel, Finch, to public scrutiny.

You needn't say more. Later.

But I will. He's doing a series on the writers' craft, the story-opening post being the second of that series.




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Thursday, January 7, 2010

eBook Market Analysis

Here is an interesting analysis of the fledgling eBook market and its relationship to the traditional book market. The analysis was done by TBI Research, a new market newsletter that will eventually be a subscription-only publication. I found this by way of agent Kristen Nelson's Pub Rants blog (highly recommended). Adding to the interest of the article are the comments that round out the coverage, including one by Tim O'Reilly, the publisher of the "O'Reilly zoo" software/Internet-related books found profusely in a bookstore near you.

One of the main points of the article is that Amazon is nearly alone, at present, flexing its muscles trying to bring down the cost of eBooks, while losing $2 per sale. It seems logical that eBooks should be cheaper to produce, and they are to a degree, but the degree is not as flexible as one might expect. There are many analogs between the newspaper print/online shakeouts that are happening now and the eBook/online/print book industry. It will be bloody.

One commenter mentioned that eBooks can be sold as iPhone apps. I think the iPhone app market is telling. Presently, many game and utility apps sell for $0.99. The reasoning is that people will pay 99-cents for anything on a lark, even apps that merely make rude noises...and sell 20,000 copies nearly instantly. I'm not suggesting that the book market can sell new books at that price level (and pay the authors a reasonable amount!), but part of the struggle is to find the what-the-heck level for eBooks. There is a point where print copy buyers eyes will arch at a bargain and past non-readers will say, what-the-heck.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Review of Flash Fiction Online

Sam Tomaino at SF Revu has a review of recent short fiction, including a review of the December 2009 issue of Flash Fiction Online. That FFO issue is here. Thanks, Sam.

Sam also has reviews of Apex Magazine, the Thoughtcrime Experiments anthology (in which Yours Truly has a story), Jim Baen's Universe (one of the final issues of that great magazine), Shimmer, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

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Banned Phrases from 2009

By way of my friend, Kathy, is a Time Magazine (online) list of banned words and phrases from 2009 that you should consider not using. In literature, we call tired old plots tropes. This list has ten words or phrases that are the conversational tropes of 2009. The Times list comes from Lake Superior State University's list, where trope-masters give more background on the selections.

In the list, of course, is the use of Obama as a prefix, such as in obamanomics. My favorite (meaning, I desperately hope it goes away soon), is the use of friend as a verb. That's just wrong. Sad to say, it won't go away until Facebook goes away.

The most obnoxious one that I've never heard in my deep forest cabin is chillaxin', a combination of chillin' and relaxin'. I hope that goes away before I hear it in the wild.

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Monday, January 4, 2010

What to Say to Writer Friends

If your friend is Stephen King, this post is not for you. This post is for friends of a fledgling writer (whose first book was not a best seller), especially those working on their first book. Best sellers add a shield of invulnerability to the writer.

If you made it through that maze of hurdles, get a life. (Just kidding.) Here is a humorous blog post for friends of writers with two or fewer non-fiction or fiction works under their belt. The bloggist, Michael Melcher, offers advice about what to say and what not to say to a fledgling writer friend. He is a lawyer, so I won't copy much of his work here.

Okay, I'll risk a little bit of his advice:

  • It's okay to say: “I just ordered my copy and can’t wait to read it.”
  • It's not okay to say: "You should try to be an Oprah pick!"

I'll add a few things not to say:

  • How much did you make? Truthful answer: if unsold, a net loss of $75.00 for expenses. If sold, $0.15/hour, not including time stalking agents.
  • Is that character me? Truthful answer: you're too boring to be in any book. Or, yes, that's why I haven't sold it, yet.
  • Who did you sleep with to get it published? Truthful answer: Ouch. No dignified comeback possible for that one.
  • When is the movie coming out? Truthful answer: When Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard end their bidding war for it [begin mumbling] which will happen soon after they begin it.

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Saturday, January 2, 2010

Odd News and End-of-Year Reviews

Here is a collection of odd news and year-end and decade-end reviews, mostly by way of Slash Dot.

IBM patents 'net abbreviation interpretation: IBM has always had an active patent portfolio. OMG, now they've patented interpretation of 'net abbreviations. ROTFL. Here is the Slash Dot article and the patent filing (USPTO).

Graphic novelist wants 'better violence' in video games: Landry Walker, a comic artist who has worked on several Disney-related publications, thinks video game violence is too unrealistic. He's annoyed that gamers are so unmoved by a machine gun blast to the head, since a few minutes on a healing pod will such minor injuries.

Top scientific discoveries of 2009 according to Wired Science: these discoveries include a successful re-visit to a failed attempt to validate a stable heavy element 114, progress towards a dengue fever vaccine, and a breathalyzer-type test for lung cancer, and others.

Ten gadgets that defined the decade according to the Engadget blog: you can probably guess some of these, the iPhone and iPod ('what's playing on my iPod?' is required on editors' and agents' blogs). There were two other precedent-setting phones and a controversial selection of the XBox 360 game machine (which had many commentors asking, 'what about the PS 2?'). Others include Windows XP & Max OSX (not a gadget IMHO) and the Tivo.

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Publishing News and Speculative Knights

SFWA reports that the Internet Review of Science Fiction will cease publication. This was a very active source of speculative fiction reviews and will be missed. It was one source of industry news relied on for this blog.

The editor of another important speculative fiction news source, Ian Randal Strock of SFScope, will become a publishing editor for Fantastic Books. SFScope will continue operating as usual.

SFScope and others report upcoming honorary knighthoods for several actors and writers associated with speculative fiction works, including actor Patrick Steward (OBE, Knight Bachelor), actress Margaret Maud Tyzack (OBE), writer/translator Anthea Bell (OBE), and children's writer Ronald Gordon (Dick) King-Smith (OBE). In addition New Zealand filmmaker Peter Jackson will receive an honorary knighthood.

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