Pixel Scroll 10/4 Second pixel to the right, and straight on ’til scrolling

(1) Steve Davidson’s ears were burning when he read Neil Clarke’s latest Clarkesworld editorial.

Despite how much I admire what Neil has managed to do over the course of nine years with Clarkesworld, I think his take on the current and developing situation in the genre short fiction market comes from a decidedly glass-half-empty point of view.

I have to be up-front about my reaction to reading that editorial.  My initial summation of the points Neil makes is:  the market is contracting, those of us who have managed to get somewhere need all the help we can get, so please, don’t try to start a new short fiction magazine.

Were it not for the completion of our first writing contest (for which we offered the minimum professional payment), I’d have been able to largely dismiss the doom and gloom, but the fact that Amazing Stories is now firmly on the path to becoming a regular paying market makes me feel as if I and Amazing Stories are part of the “problem” Neil was addressing.

(2) J. K. Rowling sets her fans straight again.

https://twitter.com/HEIROFSLYTHERlN/status/649915885704970240

(3) The Martian is making a killing at the box office.

Late night receipts showed 20th Century Fox’s The Martian grossing an estimated $56M over three days, putting it on course to be the highest opening film ever in October. However, this morning, some bean counters are scaling back those projections. 20th Century Fox is calling the weekend for the Ridley Scott film at $55M, while others see it busting past the $55.8M made by Warner Bros.’ Gravity two years ago. As the old line goes: It all boils down to Sunday’s hold. Currently, Martian is the second best debut for October, Scott, and Matt Damon.

(4) Abigail Nussbaum commented on The Martian.

When coming to write about The Martian, Ridley Scott’s space/disaster/survival movie about an astronaut stranded on Mars, it’s hard to resist the impulse to draw comparisons.  The Martian is perhaps best-described as a cross between Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity and Robert Zemeckis’s Cast Away.  Its focus on the engineering challenges that survival on Mars poses for hero Mark Watney, and on the equally thorny problem of retrieving him before his meager food supply runs out, is reminiscent of Ron Howard’s Apollo 13.  The fact that Watney is played by Matt Damon (and that the commander of his Mars mission is played by Jessica Chastain) immediately brings to mind Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar.  The problem with all these comparisons is not so much that they show up The Martian‘s flaws, as that they throw into sharper relief the very narrow limits of what it’s trying to be.

(5) Gary Westfahl gushed about the Martian in “’A Huge Moment for NASA’ … and Novelists: A Review of The Martian at Locus Online.

Let me immediately say that Ridley Scott’s The Martian is the best film I’ve seen in a long, long time, and it can be enthusiastically recommended as involving and uplifting entertainment.

(6) Frank Ochieng’s review of The Martian is posted at SF Crowsnest.

As with other Scott-helmed productions, ‘The Martian’ settles nicely in its majestic scope that taps into visual wonderment, humanistic curiosities, technical impishness and the surreal spryness of the SF experience.

(7) “’The Martian’ Author Andy Weir Asks: Why Send Humans to Mars?” at Omnivoracious.

Robots don’t need life support during their trip to the Red Planet, and they don’t need to return at all. They don’t need abort options. If there’s a mission failure, all we lose is money and effort, not human life. So why would we go to the extra hassle, expense, and risk of sending humans to do a robot’s job?

Because scientific study is not the end goal. It’s one step along a path that ends with human colonization of Mars.

(8) And exploring Pluto is proving to be profitable for New Horizons’ lead scientist.

Alan Stern, principal investigator of the New Horizons mission, has a deal with Picador for a “behind the scenes” account of July’s flyby.

The publisher announced Thursday that the book is called “Chasing New Horizons: Inside Humankind’s First Mission to Pluto.” It’s scheduled for publication in spring 2017. David Grinspoon, a planetary scientist and award-winning science writer, will co-write the book.

(9) Did someone say, “Don’t you think he looks tired?” There are rumors Doctor Who is facing cancellation.

The alleged BBC insider said that “drastic action may be needed” to correct the falling figures. Although a spin-off series has just been announced targeted towards teenagers, the unnamed source said that Doctor Who’s falling ratings are worrying. “At this stage all options are being ­considered,” explained the source.

(10) But before he goes, the sonic screwdriver may be back

Doctor Who’s Peter Capaldi has been sans Sonic Screwdriver since he threw Davros a bone in the two-part series 9 opener but will the iconic Who accessory be making a comeback?

Speaking in a video for Doctor Who’s official YouTube channel, Moffat hinted that we might not have seen the last of Twelve’s trusty tool. “I’m sure the screwdriver will show up again some day” he teased.

(11) Short review of “City of Ash” by Paolo Baciagalupi on Rocket Stack Rank.

In a near-future, water-starved Phoenix, AZ, Maria hides from the smoke of distant forest fires and thinks about everything that went wrong.

(12) “A Sunday Review” by Laura “Tegan” Gjovaag at Bloggity-Blog-Blog-Blog.

The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton. First up: the completely non-spoiler review. Starting almost 20 years after an infamous debate ended the experimental Just City (an attempt to create Plato’s Republic in the distant past), this book shows how the fractured populace gets on without help from Athena and the robot workers she provided. This book is not nearly as unsettling as the first in some ways, but in other ways… whew. It’s a wild ride.

Much more follows in Rot13.

(13) Nick Mamatas reviews A Country of Ghosts by Margaret Killjoy on Bull Spec.

Subtitled a book of The Anarchist Imagination, Margaret Killjoy’s A Country of Ghosts is more appropriately a work of anarchist speculation. Structurally a Utopian novel—someone from a society very similar to the statist systems we’re all familiar with travels to a Utopia and is told how things work—we can count this book as a “hard” utopia. There’s no quantum computing or frictionless engine that makes the economy go, and the people living in the anarchist confederation of Hron have found themselves in the crosshairs of the Borolian Empire.

(14) Today’s birthday girl:

Anne Rice was born on Saturday, October 4, 1941.

(15) This Day in History –

  • Sunday, October 4, 1931: The comic strip Dick Tracy, created by Chester Gould, made its debut. (Apple Watch was just fiction back then.)
  • In 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first man-made space satellite, Sputnik 1. The Soviet’s successful launch caught America by surprise and was the spark which ignited the Space Race.

(16) “Pokemon demands $4000 from broker superfan who organized Pokemon party” reports Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing.

Larkin Jones is a hardcore Pokemon fan who loses money every year on his annual Pokemon PAX party; he makes up the shortfall from his wages managing a cafe. This year, Pokémon Company International sued him and told him that even though he’d cancelled this year’s party, they’d take everything he had unless he paid them $5,400 in a lump sum (they wouldn’t let him pay it in installments).

Jones charges $2 a head to come to his party, and spends the $500 he grosses from tickets on a DJ, gift cards, decorations, cash prizes, and a Kindle Fire door-prize. He’s lost money on the party every year since he started throwing them in 2011.

He took up a collection on GoFundMe to pay the shakedown:

The day before the PAX party, Pokemon sued me. Without even a  cease and desist.Totally didn’t expect that. I cancelled the party, refunded everyone the 2 dollars I charged to help cover all the prizes I bought for the cosplay contest and smash bros tournament. Pokemon wants $4000 that I just don’t have. I told them I would pay it over a year and they denied that. They want it now with in the next 45 days.

(17) What people in 1900 France thought the year 2000 would like like, from the Washington Post.

There are few things as fascinating as seeing what people in the past dreamed about the future.

“France in the Year 2000” is one example. The series of paintings, made by Jean-Marc Côté and other French artists in 1899, 1900, 1901 and 1910, shows artist depictions of what life might look like in the year 2000. The first series of images were printed and enclosed in cigarette and cigar boxes around the time of the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris, according to the Public Domain Review, then later turned into postcards.

school COMP

(18) Late night TV guests of interest to fans this week.

[Thanks to SF Signal, Rogers Cadenhead, John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day IanP.]

92 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 10/4 Second pixel to the right, and straight on ’til scrolling

  1. While I read The Martian some time ago, I seem to remember at least one point where there’s a log entry that mentions that he hasn’t made a log entry for three days because he didn’t want to tape himself having a nervous breakdown, or some such thing. So the despair is there, but the character is deliberately trying not to show it to us.

  2. I wish people would pay more attention:

    First up: the completely non-spoiler review

    which starts off with a spoiler for the end of the previous book. Really.

  3. SF : “And Rick And Morty was an evolution of a cartoon parody of Back To The Future titled “The Real Animated Adventures of Doc and Mharti” It’s on YouTube / Vimeo, but be aware: Calling it crass or vulgar is kind of an understatement.”

    However, it is wildly inventive, laugh out loud funny, and really dark and deep in places. There’s a couple of spots where you actually see a cartoon character wind up traumatized psychologically by what he goes through.

  4. Jim H. has a pretty good description of why agriculture in particular and rural in general would be the likely winners in any battle for scarce resources.

    To state it from another direction – have you noticed something about US written SFF, and a great deal of its disaster movies in general? Ever noticed just how often it’s the cities wiped out by some apocalypse, and the author’s disaster occurs in such a way that is the rural folk left to rebuild? And you ever noticed, whether it’s Niven-Redacted or S. M. Stirling or whomever, that people will pause and just note how much spiritually richer live is now that the cities have just gone away?

    There’s been a strong urban-rural divide running through American life for a century and a half now. Ethnic shifts means its especially pronounced right now. The idea that rural areas would face a critical water shortage and decide to let “those” people dehydrate is one of the more believable set-ups I’ve seen form Bacigalupi.

  5. Greg Hullender on October 5, 2015 at 8:50 am said:
    But the biggest factor is that people in cities vote. Very few people live on farms (and most of the farms are agribusinesses anyway). In a crisis affecting actual city dwellers–a crisis far, far smaller than what Bacigalupi describes–Congress would pay off the farmers and vaporize the entire water-rights system. Otherwise, they’d be replaced by people who ran on a “no more water-rights” platform.

    Sure, money can influence politicians, but only up to a point. On something the public really cares about, money is helpless. Bacigalupi, in effects, asks the reader of The Water Knife to believe that ultimately the public just didn’t care. In City of Ash, we don’t learn how it happened, so we can accept it as part of the what-if. But The Water Knife asks too much.

    Other folks have made excellent comments on this issue, but I also would like to refer everyone to the ongoing push to privatize things like public water systems and the impact that has. Exhibit A is Detroit, where thousands of people have had their water shut off for non-payment of bills.

    Before people get all huffy about ‘moochers’, realize that many of the problems of Detroit were brought on by the rapacious activities of the financial sector leading up to the 2008 destruction of the world economy by the banksters, not one of who has spent a day in a jail cell.

    So, yeah, I really believe that big business agriculture would cause a city like Phoenix to die for lack of water, which is why I keep telling friends of mine who live in Las Vegas and the LA basin to go find someplace that has fresh water available.

    http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/6/detroit-public-watershutoffsunitednationsprivatization.html

    And as a parting shot, you all realize that the Keystone Pipeline is planned to be routed through the middle of the country, right smack on the Ollagala Aquifer, don’t you? You know, the place where most of the midwest agriculture gets its water from?

    We’re pretty much in a “one dollar, one vote” kinda world right now.

  6. And now that I’ve gone and read the story, it is totally believable as an extrapolation of current trends. All of it. Yikes.

  7. The third Doctor was exiled to Earth so it’s possible to do Doctor Who without time travel. (Even then there were stories with time travel that didn’t involve the TARDIS.) I’m not sure how it would sit with the modern audience.

  8. RDF:

    There’s a couple of spots where you actually see a cartoon character wind up traumatized psychologically by what he goes through.

    That describes most of my favourite anime 🙂

  9. @TechGrrl1972, if the water were privatized, then agriculture would lose out to the cities because the cities pay 10 to 20 times more per gallon for the water.

    @Dex agriculture is only 2% of California’s gross state product, so, no, its loss wouldn’t directly impact the state economy that much.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_California#International_trade_and_tourism

    Also, most of the water is used by low-value crops. California agriculture could shed a lot of water use (more than the total water used by its cities) without shedding a whole lot of value.

    Finally, you don’t have to wait for the future. California is already taking away senior water rights from agriculture.

    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/05/21/3661578/california-agriculture-water-cuts/

    And that’s what they did when city people were merely inconvenienced. Imagine what would happen if people were faced with a fraction of what’s described in The Water Knife.

    A separate problem is that the book describes all sorts of mitigating high tech. Really good desalination, for example. (Look at that clearsac that even poor people have.) California shouldn’t even need the Colorado river water by that point. It should be able to get all it needs from the sea. (And Phoenix ought to be able to recycle a lot of its waste water too.)

    Again, it’s a good read, but a lot of the elements don’t really seem to add up when you think about them later.

  10. Ouch. I’ve seen a few people here talk smack about eg. The Wind-Up Girl but I like his world-building and his writing. I need to re-read the criticized novels with world-building in mind, though. I tend to just accept basic premises and go along for the ride.

  11. Greg –

    A separate problem is that the book describes all sorts of mitigating high tech. Really good desalination, for example. (Look at that clearsac that even poor people have.)

    The clearsacs are what tripped me up as well. Not enough that I didn’t enjoy the book but it knocked me out of the story for a minute.

  12. Jack Lint on October 5, 2015 at 12:16 pm said:
    The third Doctor was exiled to Earth so it’s possible to do Doctor Who without time travel.

    I’d say it was even the norm for Doctor Who stories to not be time travel stories per-se. Time travel gets the characters were they need to be but then typically diesn’t play a role in the story itself.
    A Moffat innovation is to include more actual time-travel elements in the plot of a story and more of the implications of tine travel on the characters lives (cf. River & The Doctor’s asynchronous relationship).

  13. Kathodus on October 5, 2015 at 12:54 pm said:
    Ouch. I’ve seen a few people here talk smack about eg. The Wind-Up Girl but I like his world-building and his writing

    I liked the world building in The WindUp Girl – I just dudn’t like the characters.

  14. About The Martian:

    I have not read the book (it’s on my coffee table, part of my informal TBR queue) but I loved the movie. And I would say that the movie is not shallow, it is focused. And I really, really appreciate that. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a story that didn’t revolve around people’s Big Emotions. A long time since I’ve seen on the screen the way my people frequently react to the Big Emotions, which is deflection, denigration, and working the problem. It’s not that we don’t have Big Emotions. It’s that, a lot of times, talking about them is not useful. A lot of times, what we need is the next thing.

    I suspect that someone prone to serious introspection about the loneliness of space would make a crap astronaut. Not that astronauts have no higher, finer, philosophical moments, because they absolutely do. But given a choice between working the problem or fretting about being the only guy on a planet, they’re more likely to declare themselves the finest botanist on the entire planet. We do see some vulnerable moments, but not very many. Too many of those moments makes a dead man.

    I actually thought that the relationships of the crew were really good. There’s obviously deep feeling there, which they don’t discuss. But there’s no real hesitation when it comes to trust or altruism. They care about each other a lot. I’ve been in relationships with serious geeks, and I learned very early that if what I wanted was protestations of affection, I was in the wrong relationship. If what I wanted was the actual acts of affection and caring, I was in the right relationship.

    I was also very happy that the scuzzy bureaucrat was not, in fact, the cartoon penny-pincher who doesn’t care about the space program. He’s a pragmatic bastard, but what he wants is to keep the program flying. He’s making choices that he thinks maximize that goal.

    This wasn’t a movie about The Big Emotions. But to say it didn’t delve into what makes us human seems, to me, to be a narrow view of what makes us human. Being human is not just about those very tight ties we have, the ones with blood kin and sex partners. It is also about the somewhat looser ties, the ones we build with our co-workers and our casual acquaintances, the broader social network which is more dependent upon acknowledgement of our common humanity, rather than personally liking someone. We also hugely underestimate the ways in which we move through the world are part of our humanity. The ways in which we solve the problems of continued survival are absolutely part of being human. The choice to go to work, every day, the ways that affects us, these are things we tend to ignore as part of the human experience, and yet there are ways in which they are even more profound than those few, tight emotional bonds that we build over our lives.

  15. @Kathodus Oh I love Bacigalupi’s writing. I preorder anything he writes. I even bought and read “Cadillac Desert” at his suggestion.

    That doesn’t mean I think he’s perfect, but I also don’t think a few flaws ruin a story. I worry when the flaws seem to involve making a political statment–even if I agree with the politics.

    For the Wind-up Girl universe, I think the biggest belief-buster was the resurrected mastodons used to provide muscle power to charge up those windup “batteries.” Talk about super-high tech used to get low-tech results!

  16. One of the things I like about the movie is that Watney is on Mars because it his job. He’s not there by accident as a stowaway, he’s not some rich guy who can go there because he wants to, he’s not some radioactive blue guy who can go wherever he likes…

    It’s his job. And when he thinks he may die, he dictates a message saying tell my parents I died doing my job, I like my job, it’s important and I am really good at it.

    There are not enough movies about working an important job that you like doing.

  17. @Niall: Yes, I know. So much of our art surrounds the Big Deal stuff, and yet, honestly, most of our actual, daily lives don’t. And I wonder, sometimes, what we lose by concentrating on these Big Deal Emotions and Events, and failing to notice the ways in which there is poetry and power in daily life. I love the fact that The Martian manages to have conflict and energy and suspense and interest without evoking the usual big deal stuff. The fact that it revolves around work and problem solving and survival. I wonder, very vaguely, if by concentrating on the tight bonds of life, we denigrate the looser ties. And I worry, too, that by denigrating our looser ties, we degrade our understanding of our lives and environments. Honest truth, the complex network of acquaintances that we engage in, our barista and the guy driving the car next to us and the co-worker we don’t like much and don’t talk to, this network is at least as vital to our on-going survival as our spouse or lover or parent. The individuals, not so much, as individuals. But that’s part of the problem. Because the network is vital, and we are trained to see individuals rather than networks. I suspect this is a problematic worldview.

  18. @Greg Hullender

    For the Wind-up Girl universe, I think the biggest belief-buster was the resurrected mastodons used to provide muscle power to charge up those windup “batteries.” Talk about super-high tech used to get low-tech results!

    Haha, you just made me realize that when I said “I tend to just accept basic premises and go along for the ride” I really meant it. Because, yeah, that hadn’t occurred to me before.

  19. Good news: it’s officially just become the 6th of October here, and so Ancillary Mercy just automagically arrived on my kindle and is daring me to start it.

    Bad news: “just become the 6th October” is a clever way of saying “it’s after midnight”, and I am supposed to say clever and insightful things in a room of people tomorrow.

    Worst news: this house is almost out of caffeine.

  20. Mark on October 5, 2015 at 4:16 pm said: Worst news: this house is almost out of caffeine.

    And I was just a month from retirement!

  21. Mark on October 5, 2015 at 4:16 pm said:
    Good news: it’s officially just become the 6th of October here, and so Ancillary Mercy just automagically arrived on my kindle and is daring me to start it.

    Damn time travelers and their access to stuff I don’t have yet.
    (On the other hand, I just made a coffee run and so am well-prepared for tomorrow.)

  22. Should I admit I’ve had the book since Saturday? The Indigo on Bay in Toronto had them early. I had to double check to make sure I wasn’t confused about the title…

  23. @Mark
    “Good news: it’s officially just become the 6th of October here, and so Ancillary Mercy just automagically arrived on my kindle and is daring me to start it.”

    I won’t say I’m glad you probably won’t have time to read the book tonight, but since I have just over 6 hours to wait for my download (and I’ve been checking every hour to see if they release it early!), I will say that I’m not as close to disliking you as I was when I first learned you had the download.

    And since I don’t have to worry about jobs, meetings, presentations, etc. I can stay up all night to read it!!!! Ogd, I sure hope Leckie sticks the landing on this, I’m actually nervous that I’ll be disappointed.

  24. Michael Eochaidh on October 5, 2015 at 4:53 pm said:
    Should I admit I’ve had the book since Saturday? The Indigo on Bay in Toronto had them early. I had to double check to make sure I wasn’t confused about the title…

    No, cause I might have to hunt you down. Don’t you dare say anything about the book!

    ::walks away grumbling about stupid release rules and stupid booksellers who don’t follow them and stupid websites that do…gribitz, gribitz, grumble::

  25. @TheYoungPretender:

    There’s been a strong urban-rural divide running through American life for a century and a half now.

    Heck it’s not just American life. The very first section of Gilgamesh is about how the emperor’s been corrupted by city life. That’s why they sic the pure-hearted country boy, Enkidu, on him.

  26. Rural life may be more spiritual than urban life, but that’s because there’s nothing to do but think when you’ve finished your chores. No convenient bookstores, no theaters, no fast internet – cities are more fun.
    (Also: cities are more efficient because of the population density. You don’t have a quarter-mile or more between houses where you have to run electricity, gas, phone, and whatever passes for water and sewer, if they exist.)

  27. When it comes to the virtue of the country vs the city, I rather agree with Sherlock Holmes:

    “Do you know, Watson,” said he, “that it is one of the curses of a mind with a turn like mine that I must look at everything with reference to my own special subject. You look at these scattered houses, and you are impressed by their beauty. I look at them, and the only thought which comes to me is a feeling of their isolation and of the impunity with which crime may be committed there.”

    “Good heavens!” I cried. “Who would associate crime with these dear old homesteads?”

    “They always fill me with a certain horror. It is my belief, Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside.”

    “You horrify me!”

    “But the reason is very obvious. The pressure of public opinion can do in the town what the law cannot accomplish. There is no lane so vile that the scream of a tortured child, or the thud of a drunkard’s blow, does not beget sympathy and indignation among the neighbours, and then the whole machinery of justice is ever so close that a word of complaint can set it going, and there is but a step between the crime and the dock. But look at these lonely houses, each in its own fields, filled for the most part with poor ignorant folk who know little of the law. Think of the deeds of hellish cruelty, the hidden wickedness which may go on, year in, year out, in such places, and none the wiser.

  28. For the Wind-up Girl universe, I think the biggest belief-buster was the resurrected mastodons used to provide muscle power to charge up those windup “batteries.”

    Those springs hold enough energy that you could use them to power a single stage to orbit rocket, if you could work out how to use the energy in them to power a reaction mass stream.

    But lets talk cost of shipping, so high it makes economic sense to abandon expensive property like a trained human rather than transport them.

  29. I agree with Camestros Felapton about The Windup Girl. I thought the world-building was interesting and well done, but I had trouble following the plot, and I couldn’t make myself care about what happened to any of the characters. I haven’t yet read any of Bacigalupi’s other novels, but they’re somewhere in my TBR list.

  30. Morris Keesan: I agree with Camestros Felapton about The Windup Girl.

    I did not like that book, either — chiefly because I thought the nonconsensual sex was gratuitous, rather than a meaningful part of the book. But yes, parts of the worldbuilding were dubious as well.

  31. Kendall: Oh all right, I cave

    MWAHAHAHAHAHAHA… noooooo one escapes The Gvpxl-Obk!

    Its chief weapon is surprise… no, its two chief weapons are a mouse and surprise… no, its three chief weapons are a mouse, surprise, and an almost fanatical devotion to File770… Its four… no… Amongst its weapons… Amongst its weaponry

    Oh hell, you know the drill. 😉

  32. TV Industry nerd time: Re: Who:
    I’m very dubious about the source of the “Dr. Who might be cancelled!” story–no names, no quotes, no dissatisfaction with Moffatt, no stories about going over budget or over schedule… while I have issues with Moffatt’s *writing* as it pertains to female characters and serialized stories, his management of the show seems to be in excellent shape. He’s now officially served as long as Russell Davies (4.5 seasons). The casting of Capaldi and removal of any romantic tension between the Doctor and Clara have been huge boons for the show.

    The writing flaws could be solved if they’d switch to an American-style writer’s room and hire some damn women writers–currently, there’s no room, the showrunner just emails back and forth with whoever’s writing that week’s episode. Tracking multi-episode serialization becomes a lot easier when you see the whole thing laid out in front of you and aren’t the only one doing it.

    Given the massive financial and critical success that Dr. Who’s been for the BBC both in the UK and America–don’t forget about the long tail of DVD sales and sales on iTunes, plus streaming revenue– there’d have to be a series of catastrophes directly impacting production of the show and its long-term profitability before they’d ever want to cancel it.

    If Moffatt does decide to step down, I nominate the sci-fi friendly and Davies alum Jane Espenson, who wrote and produced for Torchwood, and has also written for BSG and Firefly, and ran Caprica.

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