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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Arthur C. Clarke Award Winner

FFO reported the short list for the Arthur C. Clarke Award nominees. Science Fiction Awards Watch has made an unconfirmed report (received by Twitter) that the winner is Ian R MacLeod for Song of Time (PS Publishing). Here is the website for the award. At the time of this posting they had not posted the official result. By their reckoning they have "...the most prestigious award for science fiction in Britain."

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Locus Awards Finalists

Here are novel and short story Locus Awards finalists. The rest may be found at the Locus S&F News site. The other categories include first novel, young adult novel, novela, novelette, magazine, publisher, anthology, collection, editor, artist, non-fiction/art book. The fantasy novelists seem wordier in their titles. I'm just sayin'....

Science Fiction Novel

  • Matter, Iain M. Banks (Orbit UK)
  • City at the End of Time, Greg Bear (Gollancz, Del Rey)
  • Marsbound, Joe Haldeman (Ace)
  • Anathem, Neal Stephenson (Atlantic UK, Morrow)
  • Saturn's Children, Charles Stross (Orbit, Ace)


Fantasy Novel

  • The Shadow Year, Jeffrey Ford (Morrow)
  • Lavinia, Ursula K. Le Guin (Harcourt)
  • The Bell at Sealey Head, Patricia A. McKillip (Ace)
  • The Dragons of Babel, Michael Swanwick (Tor)
  • An Evil Guest, Gene Wolfe (Tor)


Short Story

  • "King Pelles the Sure", Peter S. Beagle (Strange Roads)
  • "Boojum", Elizabeth Bear & Sarah Monette (Fast Ships, Black Sails)
  • "Exhalation", Ted Chiang (Eclipse Two)
  • "The Kindness of Strangers", Nancy Kress (Fast Forward 2)
  • "After the Coup", John Scalzi (Tor.com 7/08)

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Syfy Sysified Sci Fi? President of Sci Fi Channel Answers

Over at Sci Fi Wire, the story about the name change of the Sci Fi Channel to SyFy generated about 1000 comments (mostly negative). I only wrote 850 of them...no, nary a one did I write. Sci Fi Wire questioned Sci Fi Channel president Dave Howe. The main motivation seemed to be branding and expansion to other markets. You can't brand "Sci Fi" anywhere, he says. You may find the rest of the conversation interesting. The rest of the logo "Imagine Greater" seems to follow a recent trend of catchy but ungrammatical phrases.

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Battle Star Galactica Invades the United Nations!

Since we're dangerously close to April 1, I was tempted to say this is a story hoax, but, no, March Madness (U.S. college basketball frenzy), isn't even over. Apparently, the United Nations hosted the Battle Star Galactica cast and discussed matters of universal scope. Says Whoopi Goldberg: "The UN is more than a building with fantastic curtains..."

The point of the conversation, according to the article, was that BSG (as the cool kids call it) often dealt with moral topics that the UN mismanages...um...faces head on, like military incursions, race relations (even if interplanetary), the full meaning of human, abortion and religion (the later two according to an online comment to the article), and so on.

Last Friday was the series-finale after a four-year run.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Hugo Award Nominees Finalized for 2009

The nominees for the 2009 Hugo Awards have been finalized. The nominees for the best novel are:

  • Anathem by Neal Stephenson (Morrow; Atlantic UK)
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins; Bloomsbury UK)
  • Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (Tor Teen; HarperVoyager UK)
  • Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross (Ace; Orbit UK)
  • Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi (Tor)
The best short story:

  • “26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss” by Kij Johnson (Asimov’s Jul 2008)
  • “Article of Faith” by Mike Resnick (Baen’s Universe Oct 2008)
  • “Evil Robot Monkey” by Mary Robinette Kowal (The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, Volume Two)
  • “Exhalation” by Ted Chiang (Eclipse Two)
  • “From Babel’s Fall’n Glory We Fled” by Michael Swanwick (Asimov’s Feb 2008)
The other categories: Best Novella; Best Novelette; Best Related Book; Best Graphic Story; Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form; Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form; Best Editor, long form; Best Editor, Short Form; Best Professional Artist; Best Semiprozine; Best Fanzine; Fan Writer; Best Fan Artist; and Best New Writer.

Comments:

  • Mike Resnick is one of the nominees for Best Short Story. We re-published his "The Fallen Angel" here on Flash Fiction Online in January of this year.
  • Cory Doctorow is on a roll. We noted yesterday his nomination for the prestigious Man Booker International Prize.
  • "Evil Monkey Robots" by one of our friends at Liberty Hall, Mary Robinette Kowal, was nominated for a Best Short Story. She also just sold a book to Tor.
  • Where's the Flash Fiction category?

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Doctorow among Man Booker International Prize

Cory Doctorow is among the nominees for the Man Booker International Prize for fiction. Speculative fiction writers might take heart at this inclusion, regardless of the final outcome, which occurs around May. According to the prize's web site:

The Man Booker International Prize is significantly different from the annual Man Booker Prize for Fiction in that it highlights one writer's overall contribution to fiction on the world stage. In seeking out literary excellence the judges consider a writer's body of work rather than a single novel.

The selections for this prize are made by a small, international group of panelists. Publishers do not make recommendations. The nominees are:


The judges are quite interesting, too: Jane Smiley (chair), Amit Chaudhuri and Andrey Kurkov. Their bios are here.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sci Fi Channel to become SyFy? Bleech.

The Sci Fi channel is changing their name to Syfy. Bleech. They believe this will shed their geeky image.

“The name Sci Fi has been associated with geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements with video games and stuff like that, as opposed to the general public and the female audience in particular,” said TV historian Tim Brooks, who helped launch Sci Fi Channel when he worked at USA Network.

Mr. Brooks said that when people who say they don’t like science fiction enjoy a film like “Star Wars,” they don’t think it’s science fiction; they think it’s a good movie.

One of the comments posted suggested that the Sci Fi Channel was doing so well because of the women who were watching Dr. Who (before the name change). I think it is a bit of a slight to women to suggest that they will flock to science fiction because of a blingy new name rather than the content.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Science Fiction Research Awards

Something new every day. I saw on the Locus magazine an award for science fiction research. The Science Fiction Research Association (SFRA) was founded in 1970 "...for the study of science fiction and fantasy literature and film."

They bestow five awards for scholarship in science fiction: The Pilgrim Award for lifetime contributions to SF and fantasy scholarship; Pioneer Award for the best critical essay-length work; The Clareson Award for Distinguished Service to SF and fantasy scholarship; The Mary Kay Bray Award for the best essay, interview, or extended review to appear in the SFRA Review in the past year; and The Graduate Student Paper Award for the best essay presented at the 2008 SFRA conference. Past awards are here.

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

2009 Rhysling SF Poetry Award Nominees

The Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA) has announced the award nominees for the 2009 Rhysling Award. Categories include short and long form poetry. The SFPA also publishes an anthology of speculative poetry (SF/F/H) through its Dwarf Stars award and an anthology associated with its annual poetry contest.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Americans Weak on Science--That's Good!

Oh, I'm getting annoyed at reports like this that say Americans are weak in science education. They're saying that as if it were a bad thing, but it's not. Here is my reasoning: something that is false is a fiction, right? So Americans who are weak in science and easily write science fiction. The dumber they are, the better the science fiction. See? Where were these journalists educated, anyway?

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Malware as a Service

Flash Fiction Online gets a fair amount of comment spam on its fledgling users' Flash Forum. You wouldn't know it though, since it is swept away immediately. It is disheartening to note that malware and spam technology has become so advanced that it is now offered as a service. You can buy a host computer all mal-ed up and ready to infect the world.

On the positive side, it should be possible to create countermeasures. I expect there will be a lot more attention paid to cyberwars and cybercrime by science fiction writers.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Review of March Short Fiction

The Internet Review of Science Fiction has a treasure trove of short fiction review for March. Depending on the publications' schedules, the current edition may be reckoned Feb. or April-May. They review F&SF, Asimov's, Realms of Fantasy, Jim Baen's Universe, Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, Fantasy Magazine, Lone Star Stories, Apex & Abyss, Apex Magazine, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Octavia E. Butler's Kindred in Graphic Novel Form

According to SF Scope, one of Octavia E. Butler's novels, Kindred, will be re-published as a graphic novel. This is the story of a modern black woman who is transported back in time periodically to the antebellum South. Here is a more complete plot synopsis of the novel. Butler is a double Hugo and Nebula award winner.

As SF Scope noted, Publishers Week gave more details of publisher Beacon's general plans for expansion into comics.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Saturn Awards Nominations: Best SF, Fantasy, Horror Films

Nominations for the 35th Annual Saturn Awards are in for the best science fiction, fantasy, horror and action/adventure/thriller films. They also honor the associated actors, writers, musicians, etc. (My apologies to the etc.) They also similarly honor television, television series and DVD editions.


Best SF

  • THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (20th Century Fox)
  • EAGLE EYE (Paramount / DreamWorks)
  • THE INCREDIBLE HULK (Universal / Marvel)
  • INDIANA JONES & THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (Paramount / Lucasfilm)
  • IRON MAN (Paramount / Marvel)
  • JUMPER (20th Century Fox)

Best Fantasy

  • THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN (Walt Disney Studios)
  • THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON (Paramount)
  • HANCOCK (Sony)
  • THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES (Paramount)
  • TWILIGHT (Summit Entertainment)
  • WANTED (Universal)

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Niffenegger: $5M Advance

Wow, that is a decent advance for a second novel. Audrey Niffenegger reportedly will receive $5 million for "Her Fearful Symmetry." That's a great title. I wonder if there are other Wm Blake-ish aspects to the story other than the title.

I loved her first book, "The Time Traveler's Wife." Its light-handed approach to the sci-fi was: okay, I time-travel because of my chromosomes or something; just get over it. The readers did get over it and read the novel in great quantities. I will read the second novel.

Perspective: here is a story about IBM's Chief Executive Officer, making $21M/year. This isn't grousing or hand-wringing. It is just interesting to see how the market values someone who runs a huge corporation successfully in a difficult market, and an individual who produces a hugely popular novel.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Realms of Fantasy--It's Alive!

Flash Fiction Online has been following the saga [Feb Jan] of Realms of Fantasy. Quite a few of the FFO staffers greatly admire this publication, both as readers and writers, and were disheartened to see it die. They were a profitable publication, but in the current climate, the owners wanted to focus on their core interests.

Fortunately, they've closed a deal with one of their potential buyers. Here is SF Scope's article on this new development. Here is their fledgling website. Thanks to Inarticulate Babbler for the tip.

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Movies: Predicting the Future

In this earlier analytical post, Gary Westfahl tried to predict why Sci-fi writers (of all media) missed the boat on predicting the future.

Now we have a more internal, gut-feel view about which movies are predicting the future. It is a bit gloomy, the mood laden with angst about the present economic crisis. But you might find the dark humor enjoyable, from this Guardian UK film blogger, Danny Leigh:

Is what looms ahead for us all relief or apocalypse? And what movies can give us a sneak preview? Here are some of my choice cuts.

Here are some movies that didn't predict the future.

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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Little Mr. Conservative

Here is a NYT story about a 14-year-old conservative pundit with radio talk show leanings.

Wouldn't it be great if his sister were named Valentine. They could have anonymous blogs as Locke and Demosthenes and dichotomize the world to their advantage. What would they do at night? What they always do: plan to take over the world. What if they were mice-folk, too? Gosh, there must be some sort of novel or cartoon I could get out of this.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Grist for the Speculative Fiction Mill--Unsolved Scientific Puzzles

This fine Times Online (UK) article summarizes and provides article links for some of the unsolved scientific puzzles. These puzzles might provide you some mortar for your SF or fantasy world-building. Some of the questions involve dark matter, the ignorance of certain spacecraft that refuse to follow known physical laws, constants that aren't constant enough, what's the deal with cold fusion?, What's the deal with life?, what's the deal with sex?...and more.

As Spock would say, "Fascinating." But I have my own questions:

  • Why didn't we let Pluto vote on whether it wanted to be in the United Planets?
  • Why don't we send Geraldo to the moon to find out, once and for all, whether the moon landing was a hoax?
  • Seriously: how many angels can you fit on the head of a pin? Related: if the number is large, what is the composition of an angel? Are dark angels composed of dark matter?

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SFWA: Mea Culpa on Final Nebula Ballot

The SFWA posted a notice that the final Nebula ballot tally was a bit speculative and suffered a tally error. A novelette and short story were omitted:

  • the novelette "The Ray Gun: A Love Story" - James Alan Gardner(Asimov's, Feb08) and
  • the short story "Mars: A Traveler's Guide" - Ruth Nestvold (F&SF, Jan08)
I updated the earlier post to correct my own tally of which speculative fiction magazines rule the roost this year. F&SF still rules. Through extensive numerical analysis not even attempted by other blogs, my updated tally of ballot nominees is:

  • Fantasy & Science Fiction: 6
  • Asimov's: 4
  • Norilana: 2
  • Analog: 1

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Transhumanism: Point & Counterpoint

This post spans two issues of the Global Spiral, the online magazine associated with the Metanexus Institute, a group of scholars who study the “human meaning and purpose,” using transdisciplinary approach to science and religion. I thought this would be of interest to many writers since these topics span so much of literature.

The current issue of Global Spiral is an internal retort to their previous special issue on transhumanism, in which their guest authors expressed concerns about transhumanism, the idea that humans can transform themselves to superhuman (the guest editor would say posthuman) status through accelerated cultural evolution and technical means, such as bioengineering, medicine, cognitive studies and other disciplines.

Here is the guest editor's introduction to the first special issue on transhumanism, and here is the issue.

This is the stuff of many science fiction and fantasy novels about modified humans, described with certain level of angst by serious scholars in science and theology...cybernetics, genetics, nanotechnology.... (It is worth going there if only to see the incredible Tiffany stained glass piece.)

“If one accepts that transhumanism is more than an ideology, indeed a philosophy, one must look carefully at its understanding of the human, of biology, and of the relationship between technology and culture.”
Here is the guest editor's introduction to the current issue, which, as stated, is an internal retort to the first. Here is the issue. (This is the February issue if you go there after the next issue is published.)

“Transhumanists counter that nature’s gifts are sometimes poisoned and should not always be accepted. Cancer, malaria, dementia, aging, starvation, unnecessary suffering, cognitive shortcomings are all among the presents we wisely refuse.”

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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Nebula Awards® 2008 Final Ballot

The SFWA's final ballot for the 2008 Nebula Awards® is in. The nominees for best novel are:

Note: this post updated 4 Mar 09 to reflect the SFWA's balloting error.

  • Little Brother - Doctorow, Cory (Tor, Apr08)
  • Powers - Le Guin, Ursula K. (Harcourt, Sep07)
  • Cauldron - McDevitt, Jack (Ace, Nov07)
  • Brasyl - McDonald, Ian (Pyr, May07)
  • Making Money - Pratchett, Terry (Harper, Sep07)
  • Superpowers - Schwartz, David J. (Three Rivers Press, Jun08)
See the article for the nominees for the shorter works.

I was curious about what short fiction publications ruled. The combined totals for short stories, novellas and novelettes, the publishers having the most nominees are:

  • Fantasy & Science Fiction: 6
  • Asimov's: 4
  • Norilana: 2
  • Analog: 1

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Gary Westfahl on the Sci-Fi's Pitfalls of Prophesy

Here is a terrific discussion by Gary Westfahl about why SF fails to predict the future. He framed his thoughts with seven fallacies, each with examples and explanations:
  1. The Fallacy of Universal Wealth: all governments and individuals in the future will be wealthy....
  2. The Fallacy of Replacement: once we develop an advanced scientific method to do something, we will immediately abandon all the old methods....
  3. The Fallacy of Inevitable Technology: if there emerges a new, technological way to do something, it will inevitably be adopted....
  4. The Fallacy of Extrapolation: an identified trend will always continue in the same manner, indefinitely into the future....
  5. The Fallacy of Analogy: a new technology will be adopted and employed in the same manner as a related form of previous technology.
  6. The Fallacy of Universal Stupidity: people in the future will be capable of making incredibly stupid mistakes....
  7. The Fallacy of Drama: major changes will occur in a quick and noticeable fashion, as a result of a single major event or of the actions of a single individual....

The fallacies thus outlined, Westfahl goes on to describe "current science fiction predictions about humanity's future and debunk them on the basis of the detectable fallacies that have engendered them." The predictions involve: the conquest of space, human cloning, asteroid impacts, a world controlled by multinational corporations, the depletion of all natural resources, the decline of marriage, and the tuned-in, virtual citizenry.

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Philip José Farmer, 1918-2009 RIP

Triple Hugo winner Philip José Farmer has died at 91. He also claimed the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America's Grand Master Award and the World Fantasy Award's Lifetime Achievement Award.

On Farmer's web site, you can see through web links a large outpouring of sentiment for the writer.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Laws of Science Fiction

From BoingBoing by way of SF Signal, the laws of science fiction. This isn't just a list. There is thoughtful corollaries and commentary about why the law should be obeyed by writers (and why a reader might shrug and put the book down if the laws are abused). For example:

Law No. 4 Given Something an Alien Name Doesn't Make it Alien.

Raktajino is coffee. By giving it a Klingon name it sort of appears alien, but everyone drinks it like coffee. It looks like coffee. It is coffee. Don't think that by making cows into Dvigids and Horses into Pytkos that you are not writing a western....

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Nancy Kress on Being a Writer

From Nancy Kress's Blog, six personality traits that one must have, in addition to talent, to be an SF writer. "Talent and desire are not enough. The rest must be there, or must be acquired, in order to become a writer."

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Best SF/Fantasy Books in 2008

SF Site's Neil Walsh gives his picks here for the best Sci-Fi and fantasy books of 2008. I noticed that Neil Gaiman made the list with The Graveyard Book. He's been on a roll. We wrote about the movie rendition of Coraline. I watched Beowulf on DVD recently and noticed that Gaiman had written the original screenplay for that movie.

Let me check to see if Gaiman wrote the original novel....Nope. It was an epic poem of unknown authorship written in the 8-11th centuries. Let me check my calculator to see if Gaiman could have been the author....Nope, that would make him between 1000 and 1200 years old. There is no modern explanation for such an extended life. (It would explain a lot if he were, though.)

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Changes in the Nebula Awards Mechanics

In this interesting IROSF review of the Nebula Award process, the author summarizes the positive changes and improvements made to the process to counter the machinations and failings of the system. One recent failing was that no YA novel received the needed 10 votes, so there was no Norton Award this year.

Some of the changes explained included: eligibility rules (changed), preliminary ballots (gone), preferential ballots (gone) and internal changes. The author also explained some of the common misperceptions of the processes.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Nominees: British Science Fiction Association Awards

Nominees have been announced for this year's British Science Fiction Association Awards science fiction art and literature. See more here via Sci Fi Wire. Winners include Neal Stephenson, Stephen Baxter, Nick Harkaway and Ken Macleod (novels); Greg Egan, M. Rickert, Ted Chiang and Paul McAuley (short fiction); and Adam Roberts and Ian Whates (cover art).

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Columbia Pictures Wins Rights to Asimov's Foundation

From Variety, Columbia Pictures wins the rights to Isaac Asimov's trilogy, Foundation, to be directed by Roland Emmerich. I'll go.

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Science of DeLorean in "Back to the Future"

Just how good was the DeLorean in Back to the Future? Here is a snippet of a look at the science of the time and space travel of the slightly modified car:

"A major issue of freely traveling within time while limiting one’s self to a local reference frame–say, a California mall parking lot–is that the reference frame itself isn’t stationary. As an illustration...."

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Robert J. Sawyer: Writer-in-Residence at Canadian Synchotron

Canadian sci-fi author Robert J. Sawyer will be the first writer-in-residence at Saskatoon's Canadian Light Source synchrotron. According to the Nebula and Hugo Award winner, he'll learn the "day-to-day grind of the work" rather than getting the normal VIP tour. Says the CBC article, "Budding writers will be able to book one-hour consultations with the sci-fi legend."

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sci-Fi Writers and Technology's Future

"Science fiction isn't (as a rule) about predicting the future, and science fiction writers aren't trying to predict it," according to Frederick Pohl, Larry Niven, Nancy Kress, Robert J. Sawyer and Charles Stross in an interview by CIO. So, what is it about?

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