Fantastic Fiction

Talking up the good stuff

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July 30, 2014

I’ve been going on a lot lately about Bound. It’s no surprise, really. I have a book out from a major publisher and it’s on shelves in bookstores and everything! I’m still finding it hard to believe, but I’m certainly enjoying it. However, now I want to spread the love – I’ve been going on so much lately about myself, it’s time I talked about other people a bit. Below are the books and stories I’ve been really enjoying lately and I highly recommend you check them out. Let’s go:

The Hunt for Pierre Jnr By David M. Henley (the sequel, Manifestations, is out now too.) As the blurb says, “He can make you forget, he can control you and he is only eight years old. Three months after his birth he escaped. An hour later he was lost to surveillance. No one knows where he has been for the last eight years … Now Pierre Jnr is about to return.” Sounds good, right? It is.

Home & Hearth by Angela Slatter. All you need to know about this one is covered perfectly in Andrew McKiernan’s review here. I agree with him completely.

Last Year, When We Were Young by Andrew McKiernan. I had the pleasure of MCing the launch of this excellent debut collection of short stories. It’s fantastic and Greg Chapman sums it up nicely in this review here.

Exile by Peter M Ball. Okay, I haven’t read this one yet as I’ve only just bought it, but Peter Ball’s stuff is always good and I expect this novella to be up there as well. So I’m including it here.

Perfections by Kirstyn McDermott. This is a great novel and I reviewed it myself at Thirteen O’Clock, so head over here to learn more.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. I mean, really, it’s enough that it’s by Gaiman, right? But this is a wonderful book and very British in style and setting. As an ex-pat Brit, that appealed to me a lot. But whether you’re British or not, it’s well worth your time.

SNAFU: An Anthology of Military Horror edited by Geoff Brown and A J Spedding. I had the honour of writing a foreword for this collection of military horror short stories. There’s fantastic variety here and it’s a tremendous collection. You’ll be surprised at the scope.

Trucksong by Andrew Macrae. A post-apocalyptic Australia with sentient trucks fighting and fucking and stuff. I know, right? It’s written in an incredibly well-developed Australian voice and is something quite different.

Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto. This is the guy who wrote True Detective, which is some of the best television I’ve seen in recent years. This is a southern crime noir kinda thing, fantasically written. I loved it.

North American Lake Monsters by Nathan Ballingrud. Possibly the best short story collection I’ve read in recent years. Again, I reviewed it for Thirteen O’Clock, so go here to read me gushing about it.

Lexicon by Max Barry. My book of the year last year and it won an Aurealis Award. A fantastic story about the power of words and language and modern magic rolled up with science and it’s a thriller and… and… Just read it.

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes. A superb supernatural serial killer, crime thriller thing. This book has had loads of attention and all of it well-deserved. A must read.

And next up on my list are Guardian by Jo Anderton (which will be great because it’s book three after Debris and Suited, which were great), Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes (after the awesomeness of The Shining Girls, I can’t wait for this one) and Dreaming of Zhou Gong by Traci Harding (which I only got yesterday, signed no less, and I’m looking forward to a lot). Very exciting reading ahead, I think.

A quick web search will reveal any of these to you, so off you go and get some good stuff. Let me know what you think. And if you’ve read something simply brilliant lately, drop a mention in the comments and we can keep this sharing of good stuff going.

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Obsidian, Alex Caine #2, out now in ebook in Aus and NZ!

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July 22, 2014

Obsidian cover 196x300 Obsidian, Alex Caine #2, out now in ebook in Aus and NZ!Hard to believe, I know, given that it seems like Bound has only just come out. Well, that’s because Bound has only just come out! But Harper Voyager are giving ebook readers that digital first binge read opportunity. Bound is still free until the end of July, and Obsidian, Alex Caine #2, is out already and only $4.99 across all Australian and New Zealand ebook stores.

Obsidian is another standalone Alex Caine book, but it’s the second in a series and effectively the middle book of the first trilogy. Could I make it any more complicated? Yes, I probably could, but it’s actually not so bad. Each Alex Caine book is a standalone novel. There are threads that continue throughout the series and several major parts of a bigger story arc are wrapped up the first three books. But there are still some small things left tantalisingly hanging that I’ll hopefully get the opportunity to address in future installments.

Here’s the blurb for Obsidian:

Alex Caine wishes he had a direction, but it pays to be careful what you wish for.

Alex Caine is looking for direction and trying to build a new life with his recently acquired magical talents, and Kin girlfriend, Silhouette. He is recruited by a secret organisation to head off an impending doom, foretold by Seers as already somehow linked to his destiny. Claude Darvill is desperately trying to get in touch with his father, Robert Hood. When the company, Black Diamond, reveals that Hood had gone missing after chasing Alex Caine, Darvill takes over control of Black Diamond and starts hunting Caine himself. Alex and his crew close in on three amateur mages in Britain’s north, who think they have uncovered ancient magic that will reveal great powers. But they are caught in a vortex and pulled through to a strange lost city, isolated in the void. Trapped in a place removed from everything they know, ruled by a hierarchy of monsters, Alex and his friends must find a way to escape Obsidian.

This is my great “lost city” novel that I’ve always wanted to write and I had a load of fun with the worldbuilding. It’s got the same great action, martial arts, monsters and twisted mythology that you found in Bound, only ramped up even more. You can learn more about it on the Obsidian page here, or just go and buy it from your favourite ebook store right now.

If you’re keen to see the print edition of Obsidian (and let’s be honest, who isn’t, right?) be sure to hassle your local book shop for it. The shop will tell their reps, the reps will tell the publisher and we’ll get everything moving along sooner rather than later.

I really hope you enjoy Obsidian. If you do enjoy Bound and Obsidian, please tell people about them. Nothing is of more value to an author than word of mouth, so even if you’re not the type to review or rate on Goodreads and the iBook Store, etc., just telling people about books you enjoy is absolutely gold. Mention it on Twitter or Facebook, tell your friends and colleagues and family. And not just about my books, but about all the books you enjoy. Signal boost the good stuff by telling people how good it is. It makes you a better person and every time you recommend a book, an orphan gets a new puppy. It’s true, it’s like magic, you wouldn’t believe it.

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Five Qs with Dr Angela Slatter

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July 21, 2014

Angela3 206x300 Five Qs with Dr Angela SlatterYou guys have heard me talk about Angela Slatter plenty before. She’s a good friend of mine, but more than that, she’s one of the best writers I know. Specialising in dark fantasy and horror, she’s the author of the Aurealis Award-winning The Girl with No Hands and Other Tales, the World Fantasy Award finalist Sourdough and Other Stories, and the Aurealis finalist Midnight and Moonshine (with Lisa L. Hannett). And that’s just a fraction of her bio. She’s the first Aussie to win a British Fantasy Award too. Check out all about her publications and awards here.

Angela has a new chapbook out from Spectral Press called Hearth and Home. It’s a great read and I’ve asked her five questions about it and about horror and her writing in general. The questions are below, but before you read them, go and get the chapbook, as it’s limited edition and there aren’t many left. You can send an email to spectralpress[AT]gmail[DOT]com or maybe get one of the last ones from Angela herself by emailing me[at]angelaslatter[dot]com

You won’t be sorry. So, on with the Qs:

1. What’s “Hearth and Home” all about and why did you write this story?

Well, it’s about a woman whose teenaged son has come home after a lengthy trial. He was found innocent but things are not as they should be, life doesn’t return to ‘normal’. Basically it’s the story of Caroline’s journey through figuring out just how far from normal things are. I wrote it because Simon Marshall-Jones from Spectral Press had said ‘Sooo, hey, how about a chapbook story?’ And I’d seen the work he’d done with other authors such as Gary McMahon in the chapbook series and thought ‘Yep, get me some of that!’

2. What’s the real draw card for you with horror?

I don’t mind gore if it’s well used and cleverly placed for maximum effect, but I really, really hate explicit shock for the sake of shock. It has a numbing effect after a while and that is not the point of horror for me. Horror is about the creeping shiver that becomes a full-blooded scream … I enjoy the psychology of that journey, that’s what wraps me up in a good horror story.

Home Hearth Front Cover 211x300 Five Qs with Dr Angela Slatter3. Chapbooks are still cool. Why?

I think they’ve never really gone out of fashion in particular, i.e. genre, quarters, and they’re now riding the wave of small press resurgence. I think that’s because small presses are in a unique position to create books that aren’t your traditional trade paperback with the imperative to sell millions. That’s not to say they don’t want to make money, but there’s definitely a place for books are collectable artefacts that remains even in an age of e-books and the throwaway paperback.

I also like to think that you can see the craft in them, they don’t necessarily look like something that’s from a cookie cutter … there’s an individuality to them that feels very human and person-made.

4. If you could organise one of those haunted house murder mystery dinners, who would you invite? And who would be the killer?

Oooooh. I’m going to ask the living and the dead, the real and the imagined! Angela Carter and Tanith Lee, Tom Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch, Robert Shearman and Lisa Hannett, Mark Gatiss and Christopher Lee, Helen Marshall and Helen Mirren. And Neil Gaiman, who would be the killer and whom no one would suspect coz he always seems so nice.

5. What’s next for Doctor Slatter?

Dr Slatter has three books out this year: The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings (from Tartarus Press), Black-Winged Angels (from Ticonderoga Publications), and The Female Factory (written with Lisa Hannett and coming out from Twelfth Planet Press). No matter what anyone tells you, I am open to working with publishers that don’t start with the letter ‘T’.

I currently have a novel called Vigil doing the rounds; I am finishing my novella for Spectral Press, which is called The Witch’s Scale; and I’m finishing up my collection The Tallow-Wife and Other Tales, which is the result of my Queensland Writers Fellowship year; I’m working on another novel called Scandalous Lady Detective, and going back to an old novel called Well of Souls to finish it off.

In between I am occasionally offering an editing and story development service, but it’s starting to feel like a bit of a time-squeeze at this point!

Find out more about Angela here: www.angelaslatter.com/

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“Upon a Distant Shore” out now and free in Dimension6

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July 4, 2014

D6badge 300x256 Upon a Distant Shore out now and free in Dimension6I’ve been going on a lot lately about the release of Bound, but I’m a greedy little writer and have another release out today as well. This one is a short story called “Upon a Distant Shore”, available for free in Dimension6 magazine, issue 2.

Dimension6 is a great new project from editor, Keith Stevenson. Three new stories per issue, three issues a year, of great spec fic over 4,500 words. So that’s longform short stories, novelettes and novellas, in any ebook format you prefer, for free! You can’t ask for better than that.

My story is a short one at around 5,000 words. It’s about an astronaut on the ISS who really wants something to happen that’ll carve his name in the history books. And he gets it. Be careful what you wish for.

I share this issue with Dirk Strasser and Robert Stephenson – fine company indeed. While you’re grabbing this issue, you can snag issue 1 as well. All the details here. I hope you enjoy it!

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A timely repost of the article about authors dying (on the shelves)

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July 1, 2014

I originally posted this back in September 2010, but it seems very relevant to post it again now. After all, the first book in my new (so far) trilogy has just come out. (Yes, it’s all about me. I don’t have a new book come out very often, so give me this. Come on – hug?) I wrote the original post based on my observations as a reader, and now it’s something that applies directly to me as an author. While Bound is a standalone novel, it’s also the first in a series. There’s a big story that arches over the first three books (Bound, Obsidian and Abduction) with threads left for more books in the series, even though each one is a standalone novel too. So please, don’t wait for the others to come out before you buy Bound if you think the ideas interest you. I’ll explain why by reposting my 2010 article below. It was originally, and very sensationalistically (yeah, that’s a word!), called “While you wait for book three, authors die!” So even though Bound is a standalone novel as well as the start of a new series, the principle still applies. So here it is again:

The title of this post is slightly sensationalist, but in a literary sense it’s actually very true. I mentioned recently that I’ve finally started reading A Game Of Thrones, which is the first book in George R R Martin’s A Song Of Ice & Fire series. This comment lead to a few discussions in various places that has subsequently lead to this post.

When I mentioned that I was finally getting around to reading A Game Of Thrones a lot of people assumed that also meant that I’d only just bought it. Especially when, in answer to the question, “Why has it taken you this long?” I replied, “I was waiting for the complete story before I started.”

A lot of people do this, and fair enough. When you notice a big old fantasy series that you think catches your interest, it’s reasonable to assume there’s going to be a whole story told. Often these days a writer will sell a trilogy (or bigger series) to a publisher and that publisher will set a publication schedule to release those books over a relatively short period of time, maybe even inside a year.

However, if no one buys the first book, it’s very possible that books two and three will never see the light of day. An author survives on their sales figures. If they perform poorly at the checkout, the publisher will discard them like a greasy burger wrapper and think nothing of it. That’s business. It’s fucked, but it’s business.

Going back to Martin’s series, when people started telling me how awesome it was, I started buying the books. They’ve sat on my shelf for ages. I wasn’t going to read them until there was a whole finished set, but I bought them to ensure that Martin showed solid sales figures and stayed in favour with his publisher. (I ended up starting to read recently because of the forthcoming TV series, and I wanted to have read the books first).

Obviously someone like George R R Martin doesn’t need my help, but the same thing applies across the board. For example, I was on a panel recently with Paul Cornell and he talked about one of his comic series being cancelled. There was conjecture that the series was cancelled because so many people these days wait for the trade, rather than collect the individual comic books. If no one buys the comic books, the story is considered a failure and there’ll be no trade.

The same applies to big series of novels. If no one buys the first book, the author/story will be considered a failure and there’ll be no release of the rest of the books. The people who read the first one are denied closure, the people who were waiting for a whole series have missed the opportunity and, most importantly, the author is dropped and never has the chance to expand their career. This is a very sad result of market forces and it’s actually a false result.

So if you see the first book of a series that you think you might like, buy it! You don’t have to read it right away – consider it an investment in your reading future. Buy the subsequent volumes as they come out and you’ll end up with a solid reading experience once the whole series is finished. And you’ve done your bit to ensure the success of an author and their literary vision. Hopefully you’ve had a good read too.

EDIT: And you know what’s even more powerful? Early sales figures. The more books an author sells in the first few weeks after publication, the better for that author’s career. So if you think you like the idea of Bound, please buy it sooner rather than later, even if you’re not likely to read it for ages. I’ll be forever in your debt – and I promise you  great read! Learn all about Bound and sample the first three chapters for free here.

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Alex Caine series covers reveal

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June 10, 2014

As the ad in the Continuum X program revealed all three Alex Caine covers, I thought it was time to share them here too. Bound is out in print and ebook in three weeks, on July 1st! Ebooks of Obsidian and Abduction to follow in August and September, with print editions hopefully not far behind them.

Please do pick up Bound as soon as you can, as early sales really count in publishing. And remember, all three books are standalone novels, so you get a whole story in Bound – no need to wait for the series to be published. If your bookstore doesn’t have it in stock, please ask them to get it for you. Or even ask them now, just to be certain. You can also click on the Bound cover in the sidebar on the left to find links to all the online stockists for print and ebook editions. And if you’re in Sydney and going to Supanova this weekend, don’t forget to come and find me – we’ll have early copies of Bound for you to buy there and I’ll sign them for you too.

Here are all three covers – click for a bigger resolution file:

three covers small 300x167 Alex Caine series covers reveal

Alex Caine covers.

Bound launch evite and the first 3 chapters free online!

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May 30, 2014

I apologise in advance. My new book, Bound, the first Alex Caine book, comes out in almost exactly one month, on the 1st July. So my apology is because I’m going to be crapping on a lot about this book over the next month or so. I really hope I don’t bore you, and I’ll try to be interesting on other subjects too, but the reality is, I have a fucking book coming out!I’m equal parts excited, nervous and panicking. But yes, if I go on about this a lot, please forgive me. It’s not something that happens often.

So, with that in mind, here’s some more Bound news. As I’ve already blogged, there will be pre-release copies available at Supanova Sydney and a few ARCs up for grabs at Continuum in Melbourne. The book will be available in shops from July 1st or so. But the first official launch of Bound is on July 10th in Sydney and you’re all invited. Margo Lanagan is launching the book. Margo Frickin’ Lanagan who writes with a frickin’ pen! (She does, you know – writes everything longhand first. Mad.) I mean it, all of you are invited. Please come if you can, it would wonderful to see you there. It’s at Kinokuniya Bookshop, as I’ve mentioned before, but now there’s a proper electronic invite with an RSVP email address so Kino can get an idea of numbers. That’s below – click on it for a larger image.

Meanwhile, to whet your appetites (cos I know you all have voracious appetites) I’ve put a PDF of the first three chapters of Bound on the official Bound webpage here. So, go and have a read and I hope you like it. I hope you like it enough to buy the book. Nothing would make me happier. Well, world peace would make me happier. As would a cure for all cancers. And so on. But, in context, you know what I mean.

Here’s the invite – I really look forward to seeing people there.

Bound evite 300x150 Bound launch evite and the first 3 chapters free online!

EDIT: And now there’s a Facebook event for the Kinokinuya launch that can sign up to for updates. Click here!

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Bound official Sydney launch at Kinokuniya, plus Continuum and Supanova news!

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May 16, 2014

This writing life sure has its ups and downs, often to great extremes. There has been one huge downer recently, but I’ll keep that to myself – I don’t want to bring you guys down and, after all, the nature of a down is that it can only go up again, right? Thankfully there have been some real highs too, so I’ll share those. These really are Good Things!

9bc96de8 8acc 4faa aef7 3edfc849e6fe Bound official Sydney launch at Kinokuniya, plus Continuum and Supanova news!Firstly, Bound, Alex Caine #1, is now on Goodreads. You can add it to your shelves and list it among the books you want to read – click here to find it. It would be great if you could add it and give the book some early exposure among your pals.

And talking of exposure, I’ll be on the promotional tour soon, starting with Continuum X, this year’s National Science Fiction convention in Melbourne, over the first weekend in June (7th – 9th). Bound is officially out on July 1st, so I don’t think we’ll have copies for Continuum, but there will be Bound-related stuff going on, and maybe a few ARCs up for grabs. If you can get along to Continuum, come and say hi and we’ll have a drink at the bar. I’ll be on a few panels and doing a couple of signings and a reading too, so plenty happening. Signings will most likely be previous things, as Bound won’t be out yet, but I’ll definitely do a reading from Bound, so if you want an early sneak peek, come and have a listen then.

Talking of sneak peeks, over the next weekend in June (13th-15th), I’m very excited to say I’ll be an author guest at Supanova in Sydney. It’ll be my first Supanova. And here I can reveal that we’ll have the first official pre-release launch of Bound during the Supanova weekend and there will be copies of the book available. If you get to Supanova, you can get the book three weeks before it’s officially out and available in shops. And I’ll be there to sign it for you. Here’s the list of author guests – I’m honoured to be in this kind of company.

But, if you can’t make Continuum or Supanova (or even if you can) and you’re in or near Sydney, here’s the skinny on the:

Official public launch of Bound

Thursday, July 10th at Kinokuniya Bookshop
Level 2, The Galeries, 500 George Street (opposite QVB) Sydney NSW 2000

From 6.00pm for  6.30pm start.

And I’m very chuffed and more than a little honoured to announce that the wonderful Margo Lanagan will be there to launch the book.

Margo is a good friend and a tremendous writer. Honestly, you need to seek out and read her stuff. This launch should be a good party, with reading, signing, nibbles, booze and great people. Of course, if you just can’t wait and you buy the book on release day, that’s absolutely fine – You’re more than welcome to bring it along to the launch if you want to get it signed and join in the festivities.

Please tell everyone who you think might be interested and help me spread the word about these events. I can’t wait to share the story of Alex Caine with you.

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Suspended in Dusk anthology, ToC revealed

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May 13, 2014

My story, “Shadows of the Lonely Dead”, is coming out in the Suspended in Dusk anthology (Books of the Dead Press, due mid-late 2014) and the editor, Simon Dewar, has just released the full list of contributing authors and their stories. It’s a stellar bunch:

Alan Baxter – Shadows of the Lonely Dead
Angela Slatter – The Way of All Flesh
Anna Reith – Taming the Stars
Armand Rosamilia – At Dusk They Come
Benjamin Knox – The Keeper of Secrets
Brett Rex Bruton – Outside In
Chris Limb – Ministry of Outrage
Icy Sedgwick – A Woman of Disrepute
J C Michael – Reasons to Kill
John Everson - Spirits Having Flown (Reprint)
Karen Runge – Hope is Here
Ramsey Campbell – Digging Deep  (Reprint)
Rayne Hall – Burning (Reprint)
Sarah Read – Quarter Turn to Dawn
Shane McKenzie – Fit Camp (Reprint)
S. G. Larner – Shades of Memory
Tom Dullemond - Would to God That We Were There
Toby Bennett – Maid of Bone
Wendy Hammer – Negatives

That’s alphabetical, of course. The final order of stories and a cover reveal are apparently coming soon. I think this is going to be a great book. A few of those stories are reprints, but the majority are original, and all follow the theme of “suspended in dusk” to some degree. Should be well worth a read. And can I just point out that I’m going to be in a book with Ramsey Campbell. Achievement Unlocked!

More news as it comes to hand.

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SQ Mag 14 out now including my story, The Darkness in Clara

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April 30, 2014

sq may 2014 cover with text1 200x300 SQ Mag 14 out now including my story, The Darkness in ClaraIssue 14 of SQ Mag is out. It’s the Australiana Special Edition and includes loads of great stuff like new stories from Kaaron Warren and Sean Williams, lots of other top stories and features, and my novelette, The Darkness in Clara.

I’m really proud of this story and I hope other people like it too. I was honoured to learn that it inspired the cover for this issue.

The best thing about SQ Mag, apart from the stellar content obviously, is that it’s all free to read online. Here’s the opening to my story:

The Darkness in Clara
by Alan Baxter

Michelle saw Clara’s feet first, absurdly suspended a meter above the ground, toes pointing to the carpet, ghostly pale and twisting in a lazy spiral. The rest of the scene burst into her mind in one electric shock a fraction of a second later; Clara’s wiry nakedness, limp arms, head tilted chaotically to one side. Her tattoos seemed faded against ashen skin. Her so familiar face grotesque and wrong, tongue swelling from her mouth like an escaping slug. And her bulging eyes, staring glassy and cold as Michelle began to scream. Light from the bedside lamp cast Clara’s shadow across the wall like a puppet play, glinted off the metal legs of the upturned chair beneath.

I bought her that belt, Michelle thought, as she stared at the worn black leather biting deep into the blue-tinged flesh of Clara’s neck, and she drew breath to scream again.

Read the rest here.

And be sure to explore the rest of the issue too. I’d love to hear what you think.

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Welcome

The website of author Alan Baxter

Alan Baxter, Author

Author of horror, dark fantasy & sci-fi. Kung Fu instructor. Personal Trainer. Motorcyclist. Dog lover. Gamer. Heavy metal fan. Britstralian. Misanthrope. Learn more about me and my work by clicking About Alan just below the header.

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