Archive for the ‘Books & Literature’ Category

I’m taking a break from the writing to do a little a lot of reading.  Although I fell behind earlier this year, what with the demands of production, I’m pleased to report I’m back on track to well exceed my goal of 100 books in 2016.  I read anything and everything – genre, graphic novels, non-fiction, bestsellers – and typically put together a “Best Of” list at year’s end.  2014, for instance, was a fantastic reading year –


with a slew of recommended reads.

2015, sadly, was not.

When selecting books, I try to cast wide net, relying on everything from book shop recommendations to impulse buys to award nominees.  This year, I’ve really tried to focus on 2016 releases, short fiction and novels, so that, when I offer up my list of the year’s best reads, I can honestly do so from a well-informed position.  Ultimately, I end up recommending works in various categories that, perhaps not surprisingly, fail to make the short lists for many of the big name awards.

Check out my 2015 favorites here:


There’s nothing better than a really great book.  And, quite frankly, I don’t even mind the occasional bad book.  It’s true and let me explain why.  Given the choice, I’d prefer a truly terrible book to a mediocre book because, in the case of the former, I can quickly identify it as a crap read and immediately set it aside.  Books in the latter category, however, are big unmemorable time-wasters.  And, unfortunately, the majority of the titles out there fall into this category – which is why good recommendations are so important.

Nothing makes me angrier than shitty reading recommendations.  I’m the guy who will walk into chain bookstores so that I can peruse the staff picks and subsequently track down the individual staff members to call them on their crap picks.  Once subjected to a little scrutiny, they invariably crack, often declaring they never actually read their picks but insisting the reviews were “great!”, or shamefully admitting they were simply following marching orders from head office.  It really depends on the bookstore I suppose.

Earlier this season, I walked onto set one morning to discover actress Melanie Liburd reading a book that had been nominated for a prestigious Canadian literary award.  I immediately recognized the book because, a month earlier, I’d been foolish enough to check it out based on the fact that it had been nominated for a prestigious Canadian literary award.

“How’re you enjoying the book?”I asked.

Not all that much as it turned out.  And I wasn’t surprised.  Apparently, she’d gone into one of Toronto’s local hipster douchebag bookshops and had someone there recommend it to her because, well, it had been nominated for a prestigious Canadian literary award.  I was so annoyed that I left set to go back to my office, retrieved my emergency copy of Jeanette Walls’ The Glass Castle (one of several titles I keep stocked for just such emergency situations.  Other “In Case of Shit Reading Break Glass” titles include: Camp Concentration, The First Law Series, The Empire of Ice Cream, Old Man’s War, Saga vol. 1, The Man Who Ate Everything, City of Thieves, Fool, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, The Rosie Project, The Princess Bride, Me Talk Pretty One Day, A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Speed of Dark, Afterlife with Archie, the first three books in the Ice and Fire series, The Player of Games, The Lies of Locke Lamorra, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, Misery, Flowers for Algernon, This is Where I Leave You, Stories of Your Life and Others, Childhood’s End, and The Psychopath Test) and gave it to her.  She loved it.  I don’t recall what happened to that other book.  I think I might have tossed it.

Just as bad as big box bookstore head office staff recommendations are “Best Of” picks that suspiciously include novels written by editors or fellow writers from the site hosting said “Best Of” article.  Sure.  Maybe they are deserving, but it looks sketchy as shit and, unfortunately, undermines the credibility of  your selections.

Instead, I’ve been increasingly relying on the following as proven sources of solid recommendations:

Rocket Stack Rank: This site offers up monthly aggregate ratings of stories (short, novelettes, and novellas) with short synopses and estimated reading times for each along with links to online reading copies.

Reddit is a great source for recommendations as well.  Subreddits I regularly check out include: science fiction, scifi, books, and comic books.

My favorite local bookshops: White Dwarf Books and The Book Warehouse.

So, how has YOUR summer reading been coming along?  Any books YOU’D recommend?

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Here’s the thing about awards, awards shows, and awards organizations.  The best nominee doesn’t always win.  Hell, the “best” nominee rarely ever wins because, in spite of what people tell you or what camp you happen to fall into, the vast majority of people base their votes on friendships, familiarity, popularity,  ideas, or messages.  Those who do vote for “the best” tend to select from a fairly narrow range of possibilities – based on friendships, familiarity, popularity, ideas, or messages.  It’s somewhat bewildering, occasionally downright frustrating, to see awards go to certain works while other equally great (occasionally better) works go ignored, often not even making a preliminary list of nominees.

As a fairly voracious reader, I read a lot of books in 2015, many of them award nominees, just as many lesser-known works from lesser-known (to me) authors.  And, as I began to check out the 2016 releases, I looked back at the titles I enjoyed in 2015 and thought: “That deserved some sort of recognition.”.  And then: “Hell, I should just give out my own awards.”

I read a lot across a wide variety of genres.  I can make a well-informed decision.  I know what I like.  And, most importantly, I AM opinionated.  So, why the hell not?

At first, I thought I’d call my awards The Jovians (Get it?) but discovered the Jovian Awards (for Fantasy & Science Fiction) already exists.  My second choice would be the Saturn Awards but, alas, that too has been taken.  A quick google search turned up –

Mercury Awards – for music
Venus Awards – for local working women in business
Mars Awards – for designers (named after the chocolate bar, not the planet)
Neptune Awards – for marketing
Pluto Awards – for SciFi, fantasy and alternate history books
Kepler Awards – for European young scientists
Uranus Awards – surprisingly available!

In the end, I settled on something a little more in keeping with the wayward, independent spirit of these awards: Rogue Star (“a star that has escaped the gravitational pull of its home galaxy and is moving independently in or towards the intergalactic void” [wikipedia]).

Presenting awards in three categories (only because I didn’t read enough potential entries in any of the alternate categories.  Also, I need to get out there and watch more movies.).  Great reads all.  Check them out!




Bitch Planet, vol. 1 – Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro, Image
Divinity – Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine, Valiant
Jupiter’s Circle, vol. 1 – Mark Millar and Frank Quitely, Image
Saga, vol. 5 – Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, Image
The Walking Dead,vol. 23 Robert Kirkman and Stefano Guadiano, Image


Saga, vol. 5 – Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, Image




“A Murmuration” – Alastair Reynolds, Interzone
“Calved” – Sam J. Miller, Asimov’s
“Re: re: Microwave in the break room doing weird things to fabric of spacetime” – Charles Yu, Terraform
“So Much Cooking” – Naomi Kritzer, Clarkesworld
“Today I Am Paul” – Martin L. Shoemaker, Clarkesworld


“Today I Am Paul” – Martin L. Shoemaker, Clarkesworld




Beyond Redemption – Michael R. Fletcher, Harper Voyager
The Flicker Men – Ted Kosmatka, Henry Holt and Co.
Half A War – Joe Abercrombie, Harper Voyager
Touch – Claire North, Orbit Books
The Traitor Baru Cormorant – Seth Dickinson, Tor


Beyond Redemption – Michael R. Fletcher, Harper Voyager


Congratulations to the winners.  You can pick up your prize – in the form of a beer – should we ever cross paths!

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With the deadline for the 2016 Hugo Awards nominations fast approaching (Thursday, March 31st), I thought I’d help out prospective voters by generating a list of recommended reads to guide them through the myriad titles released in 2015.

In the past, I could have put together a rundown of potential Best Novels but, alas, the past year kept me very busy, much too busy for extensive reading, and I realized that the list I’d offer up would be woefully incomplete.

Being a voracious and fairly quick reader, I thought of tackling the Best Novella or Best Novelette categories but, again, my show running duties on Dark Matter made that impossible.  And so, after careful consideration, I decided instead to take on the Best Short Story category reasoning there was plenty of opportunity in the downtime between set-ups, scripts, and sleep.  As it turned out, I was right and, in the preceding month, I’ve read A LOT of shorts stories – more than I’ve read in any given month.

Yes, even though I read a lot, I’m well aware that I covered but a tiny fraction of all of the eligible short stories out there.  I tried to be as sweeping as possible, selecting titles from varied publications, drawing on suggestions from all over, choosing writers irrespective of politics or personality.

What follows is a list of MY Favorite Genre Short Stories of 2015.  If any of these make the short list for the Hugos, I’ll be giving them a re-read and ranking.  I’ll do the same for any other nominees I may have missed.  And then, I’ll vote for what I consider the Best Short Story of 2015.  If the best short story I read is among the five nominees, then I’ll vote for that.  If what I consider the Best Short story doesn’t make the list, I’ll be voting No Award.  Fair?  I think so.

Well, here you go, for those interested.  My Top 13 Short Stories of 2015:


“A Murmuration” by Alastair Reynolds (Interzone)

An isolated scientist’s research into the flocking behavior of birds yields surprising results.


“Calved” by Sam J. Miller (Asimov’s)

Amidst the backdrop of a world altered by ecological disaster, a father makes a desperate bid to reconnect with his son.

Read it here: http://samjmiller.com/publications/calved/


“Dialed-Up” by Tom Maughan (Terraform)

In the near, performance-enhancing drugs give office workers the edge they need to compete.

Read it here: http://motherboard.vice.com/read/dialed-up


“Re-Homing” by Debbie Urbanski (Terraform)

A couple looking to adopt find the perfect match in a remaindered child.

Read it here: http://motherboard.vice.com/read/re-homing


“Re: re: Microwave in the break room doing weird things to fabric of spacetime” by Charles Yu (Terraform)

An unattended burrito instigates a cosmological crisis.

Read it here: http://motherboard.vice.com/read/re-re-microwave-in-the-break-room-doing-weird-things-to-fabric-of-spacetime


“Some Gods of El-Paso” by Maria Dahvana Headley (Tor)

In future Texas, two outlaws deal in the currencies of sex and emotions.

Read it here: http://www.tor.com/2015/10/28/some-gods-of-el-paso-maria-dahvana-headley/


“The Ninth Seduction” by Sean Mcmullen (Lightspeed)

A goblin crafts weapons and other technological marvels in advance of a coming battle.

Read it here: http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/the-ninth-seduction/


“The Sixth Day” by Sylvia Anna Hivén (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

A young girl, gifted with the ability to grow corn, receives a dire prediction from her older sister, gifted with the ability of prophecy.

Read it here: http://www.beneath-ceaseless-skies.com/stories/the-sixth-day/


“So Much Cooking” by Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld)

The bird flu apocalypse as related through perky Natalie’s food blog.

Read it here: http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/kritzer_11_15/


“The Ticket Taker of Cenote Zaci” by Benjamin Parzybok (Strange Horizons)

Eduardo, a ticket taker at a popular tourist attraction, begins to suspect that the Cenote Zaci may be claiming some of its visitors.

Read it here: http://www.strangehorizons.com/2015/20150202/cenote-f.shtml


“The Way Home” by Linda Nagata (Lightspeed)

A squad of U.S. Soldiers must fight their way out of Hell.

Read it here: http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/the-way-home/


“Things You Can Buy For A Penny” by Will Kaufman (Lightspeed Magazine)

According to legend, the wet gentleman that resides at the bottom of a mysterious well will grant you a wish for a penny…

Read it here: http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/things-can-buy-penny/


“Today I Am Paul” by Martin L. Shoemaker (Clarkesworld)

An android caregiver to an Alzheimer’s patient mimics the personalities of her prospective visiting relatives.

Read it here: http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/shoemaker_08_15/

If you have time, give them a read – and then report back.  Would love to hear your thoughts.

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During my first year on Stargate, I put on fifteen pounds (The Freshman Fifteen!). I blame mostly the fantastic catering – Steve’s terrific cooking and Anthea’s extraordinary desserts.  At one point, we were producing two shows (SG-1 and Atlantis) and that meant TWO catering options.  Then script coordinator Lawren Bancroft-Wilson would scout out the trucks and report back so that we could make informed dining decisions.  The SG-1 truck has schnitzel!  Or The Atlantis truck has hazelnut torte!  It wouldn’t be uncommon for us to walk from one end of the lot to the other to put together our ideal plates.  Between the fine food and the sitting around all day in the production offices, chatting with my fellow writer-producers (and, occasionally, writing) I tipped the scales at 180 lbs!

And then, over the course of a vacation, I lost a whopping 15 lbs on what I like to call The Snake Soup Diet.  Many of you may remember (if not, just do a blog search) that it basically consists of ordering the snake soup at the Hong Kong airport, then flying into Tokyo and being violently ill for a week.  The pounds just melt away!  Then, when you return home, you just start working out and keep the weight off.

Eventually, between eating right and exercising (at one point, I was doing a cardio workout in the morning and weights at night), I got down to my ideal weight of 165!

And then, last year, I moved to Toronto to work on Dark Matter.  No longer able to access my treadmill and weights, I was suddenly reliant on the condo’s health center and it’s weirdly inconvenient hours.   The demands of the production didn’t help either. There were times when I had to get up as early as 5:30 a.m.,  and got home as late as 10:00 p.m. – and the last thing I wanted to do was wake up even earlier to work out, or hit the gym after an exhausting day on set.

Toronto catering is, thankfully, nowhere near as good as in Vancouver.  However, our crafts service team (with the ever affable John Schieder at the helm) is very good – and very accommodating.  If you don’t like the breakfast options laid out for you on the crafts service table, just head over to John’s truck and he’ll whip you up a breakfast burrito.  Between breakfast and lunch, and then again between lunch and dinner, John’s crew serve up subs (aka “substantials”) to tide over the hardworking crew.  Options vary and range from homemade clam chowder to chicken burgers.  If we go late, the production will spring for dinner.  Eggplant parm sandwiches and pizza were popular offerings last year.  And, between that, are the catered lunches.

Staying in shape – and avoiding temptation – is hard when you’re working on a show.  But I’m determined to make this year different.

Forget the gym on weekdays.  I’ll kick off every morning with a 30 minute work out that will consist of stairs, lunges, calf raises, squats, burpees, tricep dips, push-ups, incline push-ups, decline push-ups, and crunches – 30 reps each.

Breakfast will consist of a protein shake (banana, whey protein, all-natural peanut butter, almond milk, berries, and steel cut oatmeal).  I’ll stick to lean options for lunch, have a healthy afternoon snack, and stick with a healthy dinner option.  The plan is to do three pescetarian days, two meat days, and two vegetarian days.

We’ll see if this game plan lasts past January.

They usually don’t.

So, that was my New Year’s resolution: To get back down to my fighting weight.

And yours?

Back in 2014, I read a whopping 180 books!  In 2015, distracted by scripts and work, I barely cracked 85.  As a result, my list of Recommended Reads isn’t quite as lengthy as last year’s Top 35 –


But there were nevertheless some real gems in both the ongoing comic series and book categories…



10. This Damned Band by Paul Cornell and Tony Parker

9. Ant-Man by Nick Spencer, Ramon Rosanas, and Jordan Boyd.

8. We Can Never Go Home by Matthew Rosenberg, Patrick Kindlon, and Josh Hood

7. Monstress by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda

6. Squadron Sinister by Marc Guggenheim and Carlos Pacheco

5. Jupiter’s Circle, vol. 1, by Mark Millar and Chris Sprouse

4. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina by Robert Aguirre-Sacasa and Robert Hack

3. Descender by Jeff Lemire

2. Arcadia by Alex Paknadel and Eric Scott Pfeiffer

1. Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples.


MY TOP 10 BOOK READS OF 2015 (hardly any of which were actually published in 2015).

10. The Deep by Nick Cutter (Horror)

9. 419 by Will Ferguson (Fiction)

8. The Candlemass Road by George MacDonald Fraser (Historical Fiction)

7. The Time Traveler’s Almanac edited by Anne VanderMeer and Jeff VanderMeer (Science Fiction)

6. The Reader by Bernhard Schlink (Fiction)

5. Cutter and Bone by Newton Thornburg (Crime Fiction)

4. Get Carter by Ted Lewis (Crime Fiction)

3. Lexicon by Max Barry (Science Fiction)

2. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson (Non-Fiction)

1. Sharpe’s Tiger by Bernard Cornwell (Historical Fiction)

Honorable Mentions:

Half A War by Joe Abercrombie

Nightborn by Lou Anders

The Serpent’s Tale by Ariana Franklin

Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds (Science Fiction)

The End of All Things by John Scalzi (Science Fiction)

The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley


What were your top reads of 2015?

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One more day to San Diego Comic Con!  I’m packing light so I can come back heavy.

If you’re in the SDCC neighborhood, come see us: Jodelle Ferland, Melissa O’Neil, Roger Cross, Anthony Lemke, and Executive Producer’s Jay Firestone and Vanessa Piazza for autograph signings at the Dark Horse Comics booth (2615) on Thursday at 5 p.m. and again on Friday at 3 p.m., and our Dark Matter panel on Thursday night (7:15 p.m. to 8:15 p.m., Room 6BCF.  Secret will be spilled; no prisoners will be taken!


If you’re a fan of science fiction and aren’t reading Alastair Reynolds – WHY THE HECK NOT?!!  He is one of a handful of contemporary SF authors who should be required reading.  His books are narratively rich, wondrously engaging hard scifi epics possessed of astounding scope and creative depth.  Sound familiar?  Yes, if you love the works of Iain M. Banks (his Culture books in particular), then you’ll love Alastair Reyolds – and vice versa.

Slow Bullets, his latest release, tells the tale of Scur, a conscripted soldier who, left for dead following a vicious post-armistice ambush, awakens on a prisoner transport vessel.  Something has happened to ship, an accident that has claimed the lives of many in their stasis chambers, but released many more, allies and enemies, who must broker an uneasy truce if they are to survive and find out exactly what happened to them.

At a modest 192 pages, Slow Bullets is a great introduction to Reynolds’ masterful storytelling, and the perfect gateway book for those looking to discover their new favorite SF author.


Speaking of gateway books, I described Frostborn, the first instalment in author Lou Anders’ Throne & Bones series, as a terrific introduction to the fantasy genre for young readers – or older readers looking to raise future Tokien enthusiasts. The second book, Nightborn, does a great job of building on what has come before, expanding the world and its characters in a bold, dynamic adventure. Familiar faces, Karn the gamer and Thianna the giantess, are joined by (or “run afoul of” to be more precise) two new additions to the series, dark elves Tanthal and Deestra (aspiring elite agent of the Underhand!).  A deeper world, increasingly more complex characters, and a twisty-turny quest for the Horn of Osius make for a highly enjoyable, fast-paced read.

Speaking of books, my very favorite children’s book series is about to be getting the small screen treatment compliments of Netflix.  A Series of Unfortunate Events is a devilishly dark and wickedly humorous series focusing on the treks and travails of the Baudelaire children, three hard-luck but incredibly resourceful orphans.

Here’s hoping this version will allow us to forget the hugely disappointing big screen adaptation hated by fans of the book series and considered non-objectionable by those who didn’t know any better.

No word on a release date.

While you’re here, may I direct your attention to a few Dark Matter-related links:

A first look at Ruby Rose as the android, Wendy, in Dark Matter Episode 7:


Pretty badass looking, no?


U.K. scifi fans love us!


“Pulling off a rare feat, the space opera series actually grew its audience in its second week, drawing a consolidated audience of 393K viewers. All told, Dark Matter posted gains of around 17K viewers or just under 5% on the series premiere’s 376K viewers.

The (albeit marginal) ratings growth is significant, as it makes Dark Matter the first new series launch on Syfy UK in the past year to actually grow its audience from the premiere.”

Big things happening on the Dark Horse Comics front, publishers of the Dark Matter comic:


“In a deal a year in the making, comic book powerhouse Dark Horse (The Mask, Hellboy) is getting into the television business with Universal Cable Productions.”

Today’s entry is dedicated to blog regular Das.  Happy Birthday, Birthday Gal!

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“Carnibal is eat the same species.”

– Akemi on cannibalism.

“Hello Kitty’s pet is cat so not carnibal but don’t you find strange?”

– Akemi elucidating on the topic of cannibalism.

“My stomach and back is touching.”

– Akemi’s way of letting me know she’s hungry.

“Wow. So depressing Facebook account ever.”

– Akemi passing judgement on my Facebook activity which is entirely comprised of me sharing missing pet and adopt-a-dog posts.

Hey, Germany, look out!  Dark Matter is headed your way:

Space.ca offers up 5 reasons to count down the days until the Dark Matter debut:


Dark Matter makes TV.com’s list of 11 Most Anticipated New Series for summer 2015:


Get your Dark Matter t-shirts!

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On a non-Dark Matter-related – but no less awesome – here is the trailer for my friend, Lou Anders’ first book, Frostborn:

And a review of his second book, Nightborn:


Another prolific friend has a book forthcoming:


While another friend seems to be doing alright:


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I was actually developing Dark Matter as far back as 2007.  That year comes to mind because, in 2007, we were producing Stargate: Atlantis’s fourth season and I remember walking the corridors of the ship we constructed for episode #405, Travelers, and saying to Paul: “We’ve got to find a way to keep these sets. They’d be perfect for Dark Matter!”  In retrospect, it was probably a good thing we didn’t hold on to those sets.  The storage costs over seven years would have no doubt eclipsed the price tag of our spanking new sets.

The nice thing about waiting seven years for your show to get green lit is that it gives you plenty of time to develop the hell out of it.  Characters, their journeys, seasonal and series arcs – you’d be surprised how much you can flesh out over the course of 84+ months.

With a more than fully fleshed out show on our hands,  the plan was to roll right into Dark Matter if and when Stargate ever ended.  I’d been preparing myself for Stargate’s eventual end since Stargate: SG-1’s fifth season, back in early 2000, so I’d grown inured to the dread of cancellation.  As a result, when the end did come, and Stargate: Universe was cancelled in 2011, I was taken by surprise.  I wasn’t ready!

This business is funny sometimes.  Given the fact that Brad Wright and Robert Cooper had effectively established MGM’s t.v. division and made the studio TONS of money with Stargate, I imagined they be set.  A studio deal.  A couple of blind pilots.  Offers to use their years of experience to help shepherd or run whatever other productions the studio had in the pipeline.  No?  A letter of reference?   A hearty handshake?  A “Thanks for multi millions?” scribbled on a post-it?

If they weren’t exactly rolling out the welcome mat for the guys that had earned them enough cash to purchase a tiny country (something modest with a lot of beachfront property), I figured my chances were…slimmer…

“I’m sorry.  What department did you say you used to work in?”

“Uh, television.  A t.v. show actually.  We ran for seventeen seasons, produced over three hundred episodes and two movies?   Stargate?  STARGATE?!”

“Could you spell that?”

Even with a writing/producing background on one of the most successful franchises in television history, the chances of selling a pitch are slim.  People love great ideas.  They love great scripts.  But, usually, not enough to buy them.  Established properties on the other hand…well, that’s a different story.  And that’s something I was well aware of from my days working development.

And so, rather than roll the dice on a pitch tour, I made a single call – to Keith Goldberg at Dark Horse Comics and presented him my idea for Dark Matter.  He loved it and, in no time, we were in business with publisher Mike Richardson on a four-issue SF comic book series.  That would eventually be collected into a trade paperback.  Which would be used as a visual aid and sales document to help Prodigy Pictures President Jay Firestone sell the show.

So, much respect for Mike Richardson, Keith Goldberg, artist Garry Brown, colorist Ryan Hill, editor Patrick Thorpe and the rest of the gang at Dark Horse Comics (Kari Yadro, Aub Driver, Spencer Cushing et al.)

And much respect for Executive Producers Jay Firestone and Vanessa Piazza for getting the show to air.

And much respect for my terrific cast, crew, VFX, and post personnel helped me produce one hell of an awesome SF series.  And a ship-based SF series no less!

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