Pixel Scroll 11/16/16 I’ve Filed Through The Desert On A Scroll With No Name

(1) THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD. Professor Hawking did not say it’s time for us to start looking for the next planet to ruin, but that would be one way of looking at his prediction – “Stephen Hawking Puts An Expiry Date On Humanity”.

Stephen Hawking believes that humanity has less than a thousand years on Earth before a mass extinction occurs, the leading theoretical physicist said during a speech Tuesday at Oxford University Union, U.K.

According to Hawking, the only way humans can avoid the possibility of extinction was to find another planet to inhabit. At the talk, Hawking gave a one-hour speech on man’s understanding of the origin of the universe from primordial creation myths to the most cutting-edge predictions made by “M-theory,” which presents an idea about the basic substance of the universe.

“We must also continue to go into space for the future of humanity,” he said. “I don’t think we will survive another 1000 without escaping beyond our fragile planet.”

Earlier this year, the 74-year-old predicted that technology would lead Earth to a virtually inevitable global cataclysm.

“We face a number of threats to our survival from nuclear war, catastrophic global warming, and genetically engineered viruses,” he said in January. “The number is likely to increase in the future, with the development of new technologies, and new ways things can go wrong. Although the chance of a disaster to planet Earth in a given year may be quite low, it adds up over time.”

(2) HEINLEIN IN DEVELOPMENT. Entertainment Weekly says Stranger in a Strange Land could become a TV series:

Valentine Michael Smith is heading to Earth — and now maybe to television.

Paramount TV and Universal Cable Productions are teaming up to develop Stranger in a Strange Land into a TV series on Syfy, the companies announced Tuesday. Robert Heinlein’s novel will be adapted by Mythology Entertainment, Scott Rudin Productions, and Vecchio Entertainment.

Ed Gross’ version of the news story includes this fascinating bit of Hollywood history:

A previous attempt at adapting Heinlein’s novel came in 1995, when Batman Returns’ Dan Waters penned a script designed for Tom Hanks and Sean Connery, which was for Paramount Pictures

The 1995 vintage Tom Hanks played Jim Lovell in Apollo 13 and seems to me too old for Valentine Michael Smith, though the Bosom Buddies Tom Hanks could have been a good pick. Connery, I assume, was destined to play Jubal Harshaw.

(3) GOING BI-BI. “Analog and Asimov’s Go Bimonthly” reports Locus Online.

SF magazines Analog and Asimov’s are switching to a bimonthly schedule beginning in January 2017. Both currently publish ten issues per year, with eight regular issues and two “double” issues.

Asimov’s editor Sheila Williams explains in a forthcoming editorial that the magazines will now publish “six 208-page double issues” per year, a 16-page increase over current double issues….

(4) LIGHTENING THE MOOD. John DeNardo recommends that we “Relieve Holiday Stress with One of These Lighter Science Fiction and Fantasy Reads”. Sure, Death and Hell – what could be jollier than that?

The Ferryman Institute by Colin Gigl

If you think your job is soul-sucking, don’t tell Charlie Dawson. He’s one of the ferrymen who’s been ushering dead people into the afterlife for hundreds of years in Colin Gigl’s supernatural adventure The Ferryman Institute. Let’s face it: centuries of drudge work tends to wear down one’s motivation. That’s certainly what happened to Charlie.  Despite his long history of success, he’s ready to hang up his robe. Charlie had given up all hope of escaping his boring existence until he did something unexpected: he saved Alice Spiegel from committing suicide. Let me tell you, something like that does not sit well with the department of Internal Affairs at The Ferryman Institute, and it especially does not make IA’s Inspector Javrouche happy at all. Charlie stands by his decision to save Alice and chooses to fight the system, even though that may put an end to the existence of mankind.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 16, 1984 — A comet wipes out most of life on Earth, leaving two Valley Girls to fight the evil types who survive in Night of the Comet, seen for the first time on this day in 1984. Joss Whedon has cited this film as a big influence for Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  • November 16, 2001 – First Harry Potter film opens.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY PENGUIN

  • Born November 16, 1907 – Burgess Meredith

(6) TODAY’S WRITER BIRTHDAYS

  • Born November 16, 1952 – Candas Jane Dorsey
  • Born November 16, 1976 — Lavie Tidhar

(7) TODAY’S GUEST APPERTAINER. Don’t blame Carl, it was my mistake. I was just trying for a cute post title. Fixed now….

(8) WHEN YOU FIND YOURSELF LIVING A TROPE. Saladin Ahmed hoped this would work:

(9) AN EXCEPTION TO EVERY RULE. In the end, Black Gate managing editor Howard Andrew Jones couldn’t help himself — “Seeking Solace”.

When assembling the first round of Black Gate bloggers one of the few rules I laid down was that we keep our personal politics and religion out of our posts. John and I both wanted to create a safe and welcoming space where people of all stripes could come together to discuss the genres we love.

Over the last week I’ve never found that admonition more of a challenge. You see, I’ve been grieving. Not for any one person’s loss, or even because the side I backed lost, but because it feels to me that an ideal has vanished. That ideal may not have been flawless, but I shudder at the manner in which the leading proponent of a replacement movement conducts himself. And for the first time in my life I’m not just disheartened by an election result contrary to my own wishes, I’m a little frightened….

(10) I HEARD THE NEWS TODAY. Auston Habershaw was inspired by events to write a primer on “Empires and Rebellions”.

(Looks out window) Whoah. Looking pretty ugly out there in the real world. Politics just got a bit scary, and a lot of people are pretty convinced a lot of bad things are about to happen. In this time of fear and anxiety, what is a person to do if they are expected to maintain their sanity in the face of catastrophe?

Well, that’s what fiction is for! Curl up with a good book or throw on the TV and try to escape for a few hours.

Of course, then you’re probably going to see or read something about empires. Or rebellions. Or both. …

…Now, opposed to [the Empire] you have the Rebellion. The Rebellion is the out-group – those bereft of power or wealth or (frequently) culture. They exist on the fringes or between the cracks of the Empire. If Empire is a force for stability and stasis, the Rebellion is a force for change. Their goal is to upset or subvert the social order. They are your outlaws, your ne’er do-wells, your poor, your vagabonds and wanderers. Your freaks and weirdos. The instinct, in the case of Rebellion, is one of sympathy. We have all felt marginalized in one sense or another in our lives, and our frequent desire is to see those who are harmed by the in-group find a way to subvert the power structure and have justice be served. This, of course, is not always the case: we revile rebels as often as we laud them. Take, by way of real-life example, global terrorism or ISIS. They are, by all measures, the out-group. We are not inspired by their underdog struggle to subvert the power of Empire (i.e. us) because we do not share their goals or morals. They are the barbarous hordes, not the inspiring resistance (even though, by the account of at least one CIA interrogator, they view themselves in this way).

Stories told with the Rebellion as heroic tend to emphasize the overthrow of dictatorial regimes through noble struggle and self-sacrifice. They value the individuality of their followers, they emphasize freedom and self-reliance over safety and wealth. When Han Solo tells his commanding officer on Hoth that he has to leave, the general gives him a handshake and a pat on the back, but when Captain Needa apologizes to Lord Vader, he is strangled to death for his efforts. Such is the narrative of the heroic Rebellion: we will save you from your oppressors. Look at any list of quotable lines from Firefly and you’ll see this sentiment played out in exhaustive detail. They might be filthy and rowdy and quirky and poor, but the crew of Serenity are the plucky underdogs we love and the Alliance are the soulless Imperial types we loathe.

(11) USING CLARKE’S LAW TO WRITE FANTASY. Bishop O’Connell has a guest post at Serious Reading  — “Quantum Magic”.

To me, this was an open door to a new kind of magic. I knew very early on that I wanted my main character, Wraith [in The Forgotten], to be a homeless teenager. After learning about the double-slit experiment, I decided to also make her a mathematical genius, and use that genius to perform her magic. But how? Well, the aforementioned experiment shows that observing can change the outcome. What if it was the observer, rather than just the act of observing, that caused this? That would mean that we’re actually, unconsciously, altering reality. The next logical question was: could someone do so consciously, and to what extent? And if they could, how would this be distinguishable from magic? After all, can’t every magical effect be explained scientifically? Teleportation? There is already teleportation on the quantum level, and on the macro level Einstein-Rosen Bridges (worm holes) are becoming increasingly common in science fiction. Throwing fireballs? Well fire is just an effect that happens when particles reach an energy level that generates sufficient heat to combust a fuel. Moving things with magic (telekinesis)? Electromagnetism is used all over the world to move trains without any physical contact. It’s all theoretically possible, or rather not theoretically impossible. Sure, some of those effects require vast amounts of energy, more than we can dream of generating. But there are unimaginable amounts of energy all around us; the gravitational force of dark matter, and dark energy for example. We just don’t know how to utilize them…yet.

I decided Wraith would see the waves of probability all around us in the form of equations and symbols (the quantum information of reality).

(12) CHARACTERIZATION. Sarah A. Hoyt tells why you should “Hang A Lantern on It — More Real Than Real” in a helpful column at Mad Genius Club.

This can also be used for stuff that you know is true, but which the reader will think is otherwise, because of books or — shudder — movies that portrayed the event wrong.  Or, of course, when you’re writing in someone else’s world and about to kick their world in the nadders.  I had to do this with Dumas, because in a picaresque adventure it’s perfectly fine to have a stupid character, but in mysteries I couldn’t have Porthos be dumb.  So I made him like my younger kid at the time, a visual/tactile thinker, who had issues with words.  To sell it, I hung a lantern on it.  I explained something like “Many people thought Porthos was a simpleton, but his friends knew better.  Indeed, none of them would be friends with an idiot.  The problem was that Porthos thought through his eyes and through his hands, and words often came lagging and contradictory to his lips.”  I did this at least once per book, but mostly when I was in his head.  Because people “know” Porthos is dumb.

(13) FILMATION’S ONE GOOD SERIES. Forbes writer Luke Y.Thompson falls in love — Star Trek: The Animated Series Beams Down To Blu-ray, Worth Any Sci-Fi Fan’s Time”.

If you’re familiar at all with TV animation, especially in the ’70s and ’80s, you probably know Filmation as the producers of He-Man, She-Ra, Flash Gordon, Tarzan, and any number of other slightly goofy-looking Saturday morning cartoons known for “limited” animating techniques that involve lots of re-use of cels and work-arounds to keep from having to draw and paint more than was affordable. It’s a bit like the way old horror movies kept the monster hidden in shadows because they didn’t have the special effects to create a good creature, except that those movies frequently won praise for leaving much to the imagination, while Filmation gets mocked for being sub-Hanna Barbera technical quality. As a kid raised on Disney, I frequently rejected shows that evinced such obvious cheats and workarounds, and often, it’s true, the writing isn’t great either (I love He-Man more than most, primarily for the toys, but I cannot defend it as any kind of masterpiece)….

Star Trek wound up being the only Filmation show to air for two consecutive, full seasons on NBC, and won the first Emmy for both Filmation and the Star Trek franchise, which bought it six extra episodes, though NBC ultimately decided it wasn’t kid-oriented enough, and passed on an additional year. They’re right: as seen in the new Blu-ray boxed set, these episodes may be crudely animated, but the stories are true, cerebral sci-fi. Mostly (there are Tribbles). And airing almost exactly halfway between the end of the original live-action series and the first movie, the animated episodes kept the property alive–yet because of the stigma of Filmation cartoons being formulaic and cheesy, there are a whole lot of fans today who haven’t seen them.

The new Blu-ray set, released today, is remastered in 1080p high definition with a 5.1 DTS-HD audio, which is arguably both a blessing and a curse. Yes, it’s the best version of every element available, but it’s so restored, and from cheap elements, that you can blatantly spot cels being pulled across the screen, see scratches and dust on the original material, and hear that the voice cast often sound like they’re in different rooms. A documentary featurette mentions the whole cast recording in the same studio for the first time, but it seems possible, if not likely, that this was not the case on many of the subsequent episodes. And if the limited animation weren’t already limited enough, one of Filmation’s directors was color blind, which is why the Tribbles are now pink. But it’s not like Trek fans are necessarily put off by such things–the original series, after all, is full of bad make-up jobs and obvious soundstages, but it doesn’t really affect our affection for them. Story-wise, they hold up, favoring clever reversals and moral dilemmas rather than the typical Saturday morning adventure schlock.

(14) DREAM A LITTLE DREAM. John Scalzi is not one to settle for success in just one field.

[Thanks to Daniel Dern, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

57 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 11/16/16 I’ve Filed Through The Desert On A Scroll With No Name

  1. (13) FILMATION’S ONE GOOD SERIES – I need to give this a shot. By the time I watched TOS (after all of DS9, and most of TNG), it had….aged poorly.

    My best memories of the TOS era are probably Voyage Home, and the Interplay games from the 90s (25th Anniversary and Judgement Rites). Those were awesome.

  2. Lead off with the Good News why don’t you?

    “That’s Appertainment”

    And a ticky in a pear tree.

    ETA: Sacrificial Fourth. Again.

  3. Filmation’s one good series?

    Wait, what about Flash Gordon? It had a great season.

    Season two, of course, never occurred. There are most definitely no dragons named Gremlin on Mongo.

  4. A Dunne! You know, when I heard Worldcon was going to be in Helsinki, I realized I would be Finnish if I weren’t already Dunn. Anyway, I done bought me a copy of her book. Even though she’s DunneWriting and I’ve barely started reading.

  5. The animated Trek is currently being shown on Sunday afternoons, two episodes a week, on the Heroes & Icons “network”; it’s on my cable, and seems to be a common to many local stations digital subchannel. H&I is also notable for currently showing five hours of Trek almost every day…with said five hours being one episode of each of the five series.

  6. The Audible versions of the Heinlein juveniles have been very good. Thus far I’ve listened to Farmer in the Sky, Space Cadet, Orphans in the Sky (I’d avoid that one), Citizen of the Galaxy and Have Spacesuit Will Travel.

    The only negative is how the narrator says “huh?”

  7. (5) TODAY IN HISTORY

    November 16, 1984 — A comet wipes out most of life on Earth, leaving two Valley Girls to fight the evil types who survive in Night of the Comet, seen for the first time on this day in 1984.

    I…think I need to see this movie. Thank you.

    (13) FILMATION’S ONE GOOD SERIES.

    The Filmation Run makes me laugh every time.

  8. I liked TAS when it aired and I still like it now, despite being barely animated. Since the BR is out, the DVD prices have dropped, as the article says, and it’s not like you need or want high quality picture on this anyway.

  9. Dawn Incognito: I…think I need to see this movie. Thank you.

    It’s bad. Really, really bad. And IMO, not in a “so bad it’s good” way.

    On the other hand, it’s got a young Chakotay in it. So ya got that going for ya. 😉

  10. Hey, Scroll-Title-Holder! (*) Glad to see, my guitar lessons finally are paying off!

    (*) Something akin to “Swordholder”, but with less responsibility.

  11. Click on the Box where you File
    Now face Scroll
    Think about pixels
    Wonder why you haven’t before

    Click on the box while you work
    Now face fifth
    Think about Scrolls
    Wonder why you havent before

  12. I quite enjoyed Night of the Comet last time I saw it. That was more than twenty years ago, though.

    In others news, Amazon recommended one of Larry Correia’s books to me – again. I really wish they would finally get that his work is not to my taste. Of course, they also keep recommending every single novel in a series of mysteries set in East Friesia to me (and while I sometimes buy German language crime fiction as gifts for other people, I have never bought a single novel by that author), so their recommendation algorithm is really off on occasion.

  13. (3) GOING BI-BI and (6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY PENGUIN

    You’re really rocking it with the subtitles today, Mike.

  14. (5) TODAY IN HISTORY. I loved “Night of the Comet”! I have or had the VHS tape of it.

    @Dawn Incognito: Be warned, it is a little cheesey, but it’s surprisingly good. Uh, IMHO. Or I’m just a pushover. 😉

    @JJ: When I rewatched it at some point after “Star Trek: Voyager,” I was like WTF, Chakotay?! Totally taken off guard.

    (6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY PENGUIN. LOL.

    (8) WHEN YOU FIND YOURSELF LIVING A TROPE. ROFLMAO!

  15. Kendall on November 17, 2016 at 1:26 am said:

    (5) TODAY IN HISTORY. I loved “Night of the Comet”! I have or had the VHS tape of it.

    I have only seen it the once,
    also, I was drunk and missed the start
    loved it but didn’t know what it was or what it was called
    and this comment is accidentally a poem

  16. Camestros Felapton: also I was drunk and missed the start

    You should have had a couple more drinks. You could have missed the middle and the end, too! 😉

  17. JJ on November 17, 2016 at 1:32 am said:

    Camestros Felapton: also I was drunk and missed the start

    You should have had a couple more drinks. You could have missed the middle and the end, too! ?

    One would have done it. I’m very good at falling asleep. Sadly, although excelling in this skill it is not something I’ve been able to make a living out of.

  18. (3) GOING BI-BI.

    Oh, wow. That’s a major sea change in the field.

    F&SF has been bimonthly since 2009, and I think it was a really excellent shift for them. Analog and Asimov’s following suit, though, means it’s all of the Big Three. For, well, however relevant the “Big Three” moniker remains.

    Which is… fascinating, in a way. It makes a lot of sense, with so much free and cheap short fiction online, to consolidate and maybe put more focus on novellas and novelettes.

    I hope this is a good change, and not a sign of a struggling market. I might resubscribe to Asimov’s; I’m curious to see how this goes…

  19. One of the reasons that ST:TAS was good was because they could do things in animation (alien environments, giant spaceships, nonhumanoid aliens) that were impossible, or at least impractical, in a 1960s/1970s live-action TV series.

    Yes, there was only one season of Flash Gordon.

    Did Filmation also do the Tarzan: Lord of the Jungle cartoon? Which would be my candidate for possibly the best Tarzan adaption out there.

  20. @Standback

    Agreed that a focus on longer shorts (ahem) might a positive way forward. I think those are the lengths I prefer seeing in Asimovs/F&SF and that they do their best work for. I often don’t rate the actual short-shorts they publish very highly.

  21. (3) Is this why Asimov’s has been so woefully behind on responding to submissions? Per Submission Grinder’s Submission Timeline for Asimov’s, there have been only a handful of responses since Memorial Day. Before then the response time averaged around two weeks.

  22. 3: I was very skeptical of F&SF’s change to bi-monthly: historically, when one of the leading titles went that route it was shortly followed by an “irregular” schedule, which itself was shortly followed by announcement of cessation (or simply just no more issues).

    van Gelder seemed to be confident that he’d found a working formula, so I didn’t say much other than to express my concern.

    Analog & Asimovs though may be a different story. They’re not independently owned and I’m sure (with no evidence mind you) that they are beholden to some internal minimal return. The fewer issues, more pages formula is definitely related to production costs, and this means the current arrangement no longer meets that internal minimal return.

    So, I’m more worried about this than I was about F&SF, and wondering if we’ll soon be seeing something like “Asimovs combined with Analog”.

    BTW, the longest such combined title was “STARTLING STORIES Combined with THRILLING WONDER and FANTASTIC STORY”. Two quarterly issues later, all 3 (?) titles were out of publication.

  23. Stupid tangential question: Does anyone remember why ‘Analog’ ever sounded futuristic?

  24. Stupid tangential question: Does anyone remember why ‘Analog’ ever sounded futuristic?

    I’m too young to speak from first-hand knowledge, but it might have helped that it predated the rise of personal computers and computing devices, and their strong association with the term ‘digital’ as against ‘analogue’.

    Just did a search on ISFDB for the word ‘digital’ — barely used in titles there before the 80s, then it really takes off.

  25. According to Analog’s website, John Campbell chose the name “in part because he thought of each story as an ‘analog simulation’ of a possible future, and in part because of the close analogy he saw between the imagined science in the stories he was publishing and the real science being done in laboratories around the world.”

    https://www.analogsf.com/information/what_is_asf.shtml

  26. 3: @steve davidson

    The fewer issues, more pages formula is definitely related to production costs

    It’s actually fewer issues, fewer pages. Current single issues are 112 pages, so they’re going from 1504 pages per year to 1248…nearly a 20% cut in content.

  27. I just got back from the grocery store. There in the checkout line, next to the National Enquirer and the soap opera magazines, was F&SF!! So I bought it, as much to encourage the distributor as anything else. I have no idea if this was just a fluke (it was the only copy on the shelf), or if they’ve detected something special about my neighborhood. Admittedly, it’s an independent grocery store, not part of a chain, and not in a mall–so often walked to by both public and private high school students.

  28. ST:TAS: I have the complete series downloaded from a torrent long ago and occasionally watch an episode when I happen to notice them on my HD. I can excuse the low quality of the animation for budget reasons, but the voice acting? Almost everyone really, really phoned it in.

    Hawking: Within 1000 years sounds like a pretty sure bet for the fall of our technological civilization, but extinction? Weeds are pretty tough to stamp out, and we are one of the weediest of weed species. I’m sure a few bands of neo-hunter-gatherers will be able to eek out a living somewhere. You would have to fuck things up pretty damn bad to make the Earth less habitable than some other planet in the solar system. A day after the K-T impact, the Earth was vastly more hospitable than every other planet in the solar system. During the hellscape end of the Permian when more than 90 percent of species on Earth were driven to extinction, the Earth was vastly more hospitable than every other planet in the solar system. During the snowball Earth that predated the Cambrian explosion, the Earth was vastly more hospitable than every other planet in the solar system. You would likely have to go back at least 3 billion years or so before you reached a point where maybe Earth and Mars or Venus were at a similar level of hospitability.

  29. @El Pistolero: but what content are they cutting? IIRC, F&SF had the same number of pages for reviews, science, and oddities per issue after the cut as it had before; if the Dell titles do the same, the total fiction wordage won’t drop nearly as much as the total pages.

    NPR says The Chinese successor to Arecibo is running — although (as seems ~usual with projects in China) there are people saying they got steamrolled and undercompensated. I was especially interested that the site was chosen to be protected by surrounding hills instead of completely remote; that also works for the antenna that actually brought back “one small step for a man” (not the one described in the film), which is close to Canberra.

  30. November 16, 1984 — A comet wipes out most of life on Earth, leaving two Valley Girls to fight the evil types who survive in Night of the Comet, seen for the first time on this day in 1984.

    I…think I need to see this movie. Thank you.

    Ooops, I see that OGH has already posted it. (Deleted youtube link)

  31. The digests currently have ten issues out, with two of them being double-issues. So that is 112pp x 8 and 192pp x 2. Or 1280 pages. Now they will be doing six issues at 208pp. Or 1248 pages. If they drop other content then Sheila is right, there is no net loss or gain in this equation, apart from saving printing costs on the four issues they didn’t print and distribute, while making it possible to increase the price point on the physical print copies. I would say it is a win-win, honestly, especially with upcoming postage increases, the increasing shift to digital subscriptions, and perhaps a need to rein in the subscription prices down the road.

  32. @El Pistolero: There are only 8 single issues in a year, not 10, so the current page count is 1280, not 1504. So the switch to 6 double issues of 208 pages is only a 2.5% drop in pages, not 20% – and part of that loss will be pages that weren’t fiction anyway.
    If this leads to Asimov’s publishing more novellas, which has always been where much of their best work has appeared, I’ll call it good.
    @Steve Davidson: But F&SF went bi-monthly for the same reason (lower production costs). Sure, van Gelder owns it, but its circulation is much smaller than Asimov’s or Analog.
    ETA: Ninja’d by Sean Wallace.

  33. The appertainment will start after 5 ticked boxes

    Only the true Pixel denies His divinity.

  34. @Doctor Science:

    There in the checkout line, next to the National Enquirer and the soap opera magazines, was F&SF!! So I bought it, as much to encourage the distributor as anything else.

    Oh, that’s awesome! 🙂

    Go back next month and ask if there’s a new issue yet 😛

    (Don’t skip the nonfiction! Chris Moriarty is an outstanding reviewer; she only does one column a year, but it’s usually a doozy – entertaining, thought provoking, with something to say about the state of the field.
    And yours truly happened to place in the 50-word humor contest. Which, more than anything, is an indication of how ripe the competition is for competition, so y’all should really go enter the current one 😛 )

  35. (1) Its funny how Hawking is just now saying that which “religious nuts” have been saying for a while now. The End is Near”

  36. Topical, given last week and 1) above:

    The Pixels Scroll Up

    (Brunner wrote apocalyptic fiction as a warning, not as manuals.)

  37. So SpaceX has applied for permission to launch eleventy-bazillion satellites.

    (Musk continues to be in the running for “least reality based billionaire in the US”, and considering our new president, that’s saying a lot.)

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