Ask me Anything

December 6th, 2012

I’m participating once again in an Ask Me Anything over on Reddit’s fantasy sub-forum. I’ll be answering questions live there from 11pm GMT tonight for a couple of hours (I think that’s 5pm central), and will try to pop back a couple of times during the following day to pick up on any further questions or follow-ups.  The thread is live as of now, so you can leave questions and I’ll hopefully get to them tonight.  Unless I decide I don’t like a given question and refuse to answer it.  Or just ignore it from pure rattle-snake meanness.  But by all means stop by and, er, ask me anything…

In other news, writers Greg Wilson and Brad Beaulieu are doing a triptych of shows about my stuff over on their Speculate! podcast.  They’re starting with an in-depth review of Red Country, then next week they’re airing an interview we did a few weeks back, and finally getting into the nitty-gritty of the writing…

Posted in interviews, reviews by Joe Abercrombie on December 6th, 2012.

74 comments so far

  • Sziuku says:

    I hope, questions can be asked here as well.

    It looks like, you carry very much about book ratings on different sites. Do you think that they is good measurement of book quality?

    Perhaps it will be interesting for you, that on russian site you are 4-th after Tolkien, Martin and Sapkowski. With best rating 8.75/10 (1716 votes) for Before They Are Hanged [].

  • Dan says:


    You’ve said you will take a break before starting the next book. Any rough idea when you will start the trilogy?

    After the trilogy will you move on to a “new” world, universe, realm, whatever you want to call it? Something different from the circle of the world?

    Are there any “serious” talks of tv or movies yet??

    Thanks joe.

  • Frank Fitz says:

    Being the good stalker that I am, I have signed up to ask two of my own.

    Look forward to reading your replies.

  • Sidney Harbour-Bridge says:

    Love Joe, hate Reddit. Jesus I *hate* Reddit.

    Question: Your multi-character narrative – how do you plot it and get away with it? Did you ever find editors / publishers have problems with it? Do you see it as a core part of your style forever more or would you write from first-person?



  • Cara(Eli) says:

    Thank you for taking time to do this and thank you for answering my question 🙂 I now think you’re absolutely awesomesauce!

  • Samuel says:

    Dear Joe, When will ferro return??

  • Frank Fitz says:

    Thanks for answering my question, you sexy bastard.

    I’m not gay, but I would, Joe. Bare that in mind. I would…

  • Dogman'sBladder says:

    After reading that comment I think Frank’s name might be an innuendo.

  • Frank Fitz says:


    Ever noticed how the very word ‘innuendo’ is actually an innuendo?

    But seriously, Joe. I would.

    Think about it.

  • Pavel says:

    Sziuku, there was time when Joe was first (no so long ago btw) in the rating of foreign authors on
    Much to the disgust of haters.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    I find ratings interesting, but fundamentally they’re nonsense.

    I will start the trilogy after the break…

    After that, dunno. No serious TV talk.

    Nothing’s forever, but the multi-character approach is really what’s developed from what always seemed to me the natural way to tell a story. Perhaps some of that derives from my experience as a TV editor, I tend to think of the different characters as different cameras you can cut between, different angles on the action.

    I am awesomesauce, that is known.

    Couldn’t say for certain.

    It’s the instruction to ‘bare that’ in mind that really makes it work…

  • Giasone says:

    I know it’s “Ask me Anything”, but I won’t, because I think my questions would all be inappropriate… 😉

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    When you say ‘anything’, you really have to accept the consequences…

  • Mus says:

    Joe, are you happy where you are? career wise I mean and is being a successful writer everything you were expecting it to be? Cheers!

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    On one level, I’m delighted, on another level, I’m always looking at the next step up. That is what being a venomously ambitious sociopath is all about.

  • Dogman'sBladder says:

    I fear for other fantasy writers that Joe might *ahem* eliminate the competition. Destroy the rest of the staircase and suddenly you’re at the top of it..

    In all seriousness though you and Lynch are are on top right now in my opinion.

  • bobthebuilder says:

    Since you create such likable and funny sociopaths/killers, i would recommend you to read “Blackburn” by “Bradley Denton” . Almost like your work, but written in america.

  • bobthebuilder says:

    Since i couldnt join the AMA at reddit, a few questions :

    1. Was Logen’s character always supposed to be so Ridiculously Friendly ?

    2. Which is your favorite scene from the Trilogy ? From the standalones ?

    3.Which is your favorite character ?( not necessarily who you identify with the most)

    4. Any particular scene which you had to write-and-rewrite a lot before thinking it OK ?

  • Joe Abercrombie says:


    1. Logen was always supposed to be likeable, that was the point.

    2. Ooh, impossible. So many magnificent pieces of writing. I’ve a soft spot for the first appearance of the Bloody Nine. For the scene in which Cosca and Shivers audition entertainers in Best Served Cold. For the ‘casualties’ chapter from the Heroes. But those are just what’s popping into my head right now.

    3. Oh, I like them all.

    4. Usually it’s the starts that need the most rewriting, but it doesn’t tend to be over and over so much as left to simmer, then heavily rewritten.

  • Hi Joe. If you aren’t too tired of questions yet:

    1. What was the first book you ever loved?

    2. The comedy in your books is a huge selling point to me. It’s great how you can have me feeling all depressed that everything has gone wrong for all the characters, then laughing hysterically at a one liner. Are there are comedians/writers who particularly influenced the way you use humour?

    3. When you started writing fantasy, we’re you ever tempted to stick some elves and goblins in there?

    4. Can I have your email address so I can send you a word document with my next 7000 questions?

  • Chris says:

    Hello, new fan here. If you’re still answering questions, I’m curious about two things. OK, in fact more but those are the ones that bug me most at the moment.

    In “The Heroes” Craw wonders, when Black Dow asked him to be his second, if Dow just put a soft mask on or let his hard mask slip. So, what is it for you?

    And secondly, since I read the trilogy I wonder how on earth did Logan win Threetrees and the rest of the gang over. I know you wrote small gestures and such but they fought a duel to death against each other. Small gestures seem a little bit… small compared to that. (You are not considering writing a book about that time, are you? Personally, I would find that very awesome.)

  • Thaddeus says:

    The Questions of Thaddeus:

    Do you have an entire (not necessarily detailed) history/lore worked out regarding Juvens, Kanedias, the Magi et al., or do you have a record of what you’ve already included and add to/amend it as you go along?

    Do you have an end in mind for the Bayaz/Khalul conflict?

    And which is your favourite book (of your own)?

  • Defenestrate says:

    Late to the party.

    About a month after suffering a debilitating spinal injury, I encountered a certain Inquisitor’s inner monologue on stairs. You’ve been tied with GRRM as my favorite author ever since.

    Do you have any advice for a beginning fantasy writer?

  • Giasone says:

    Okay Joe. Question 1:
    Do any of the characters in your stories also appear in your sexual fantasies? Because some of them are starting to appear in mine, and it’s disturbing me… 🙂

  • MajusGajus says:

    Hey Joe,

    Fan from Germany here.
    Skipping the obligatory praises :-p you saved my creatinal/creative life… just you know. I’m serious. You did in a way.

    Yet, and maybe you’d be interested in this:
    In Germany recorded your First Law Trilogy and the Reader is a German Synchronizer (however you call those people in UK) who does an incredible job in giving a particular interpretation of Glockta.
    Thus, I wanna say:

    “Thank’s for destroying all the later characters, and books, and movies and anything else of literature that ever crossed mine and a friend’s way…Glockta deserves a monument and since years there’s no beating HIM for us!”
    Today I tell people not to start with your books, since anything else will be boring afterwards.

    QUESTION: (there finally is one) “Will there be any kind of MOVIES?” Any gossip about Abercrombie’s Stories being put to FILM?

    Whenver you come to Germany, near Cologne/Bonn – send a mail, I’ll show you around 😉

    Keep it up!

  • O'Dooley says:

    Joe, I would like to say that I have never enjoyed any books or characters as much I have enjoyed yours. I tell everyone about you. Your books are amazing!!!! I wish I could pull a “misery” on you and have you write books for me for the rest of my days–but I talked it over with my wife and kids and they thought it would be a little weird to have you locked in the basement–crippled writing books for me, so I guess I am not allowed.

    Have you ever though about books or possible trilogies of:

    1. The days when Logan was at his “prime” and helped/forced Beathard to become the king of the North.

    2. The time period when Bayaz and Khalul started their rift and death of the Maker or anything from Khalul’s point of view

    3. Will we ever see Glokta or Ferro again

    I’ll safe the other 37,000 questions for a later date. But keep up the good work. Red Country exceeded my expectations, and created a hundred more books I would love to see you read.

    Good luck, and thanks for the great material and unbelievable characters.

  • Brendan says:

    Hey Joe

    Good work on all the books so far, have enjoyed immensely, especially the initial trilogy.

    Just wanted to say – I’ve always been a huge fan of David Gemmell and have missed his brand of fantasy since his sad demise. Reading your books though I feel you are as easy and enjoyable to read and that you are his natural successor as the supremo of UK heroic fantasy.

    Do you welcome such comparisons? and would be interested to know if Gemmell was a big influence on your writing in this genre?


  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    1. The very hungry caterpillar.
    2. Tough question to answer. Influences are very wide, and I think from a humour standpoint I may be more influenced by people than reading.
    3. Not particularly, though some might say Shanka aren’t a million miles from orcs.
    4. The address you want is

    A bit of both, maybe.
    Logen’s group fought duels, but from being on opposite sides rather than having any personal grudge, in particular. Northmen are pretty pragmatic about this kind of thing, and in the end they’ve got a lot in common, right?

    I don’t have an exhaustive written account of the history, no. I rely on rereading a fair bit and keeping it in mind. But then different people will have different takes on the past anyway, so accuracy is not paramount. ‘History is a set of lies agreed upon,’ as Napoleon had it.

    Do I have an end in mind? I see the conflict between Bayaz and Khalul as to some extent a constant of the world, so don’t necessarily expect to see that imminently resolved.

    Glokta arises partly from my own experiences with back trouble. Very best of luck with it. Best writing advice I’ve had is from my mum – always be truthful. When you write a metaphor, or a description, or a line of dialogue, ask yourself first, is this true? Is this honest? Do eyes really look like stars or is that the easy cliche. If you’re always reaching for something that’s true, you can’t go too far wrong. Well, you can, but hopefully less wrong.

    If you’re trying to get me to tell you that your sexual fantasies about Fenris the Feared are normal and healthy, I’m afraid I can’t do that for you.

    Some interest, but it’s a very long road to actually seeing anything on screen. Don’t hold your breath. If there’s anything significant to be said, I’ll say it here.

    You probably won’t see full-length prequels. Some short stories, maybe, but I tend to like to go forwards. Hard to surprise the reader if they generally know what’s coming, and I like the past being vague, and only known through rumour and point of view (see above). On seeing characters again, you never know who’ll come up…

    It is, of course, fantastic to be compared to such a well loved author. Gemmell was really carrying the flag for British fantasy at a time when the epic and heroic had largely been given over to American writers. Got to say he wasn’t a direct influence on me, though. He came to prominence at around the time I largely stopped reading fantasy in my early twenties, so it wasn’t until well after being published that I read some of his work.

  • Frank Fitz says:

    Seeing as you have answered a considerable amount of questions, I have some more for you, not for fear of under working your brain, but merely out of love. That’s just how I roll, Joe.

    1) Do you dedicate a day, or a certain amount of hours for fan mail? Have you seen an consistent increase of said fan mail with each new book?

    2) I consider the song, ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?’ by Rod Stewart to be indicative of my personality (and my strutting soundtrack), so what is yours?

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    1. Yes, there is a lot more mail from readers, particularly around the time a new books comes out, not to mention a lot more professional mail of one kind or another. I’m sorry to admit that I’ve just stopped responding to some of it. Don’t have the time.

    2. ‘Comfortably Numb’ by Pink Floyd. Alas, I am neither numb nor comfortable.

  • Giasone says:

    Geez mate, I was really counting on you about that one.


    Oh well, Inappropriate Question #2:

    Your stories usually feature assertive, aggressive, perhaps even dominant heterosexual women: Ferro, Monzcarro, Vitari, et cetera…

    Does that indicate anything about your own … ummm… more personal interests?

  • bobthebuilder says:

    Joe, do you incorporate reader feedback in your books ?
    For example, if lots of reader feedback is that they expected X in book Y, and were disappointed its not there. Would you consider adding X in book Y+1 ? Would your publisher/agent ‘ask’ you to ‘consider’ adding X into Y+1 ?

  • Thursday Week says:

    Hello, I have 3 things to say:

    1. I loved Red Country (sod those who didn’t).
    2. Enjoy your break, but don’t be away too long!!!
    3. Merry Christmas!!!

    p.s – please keep Stephen Pacey as you audiobook narrator


  • TheShrike says:

    What are your favorite bands?

  • Chris says:

    Thank you for answering the questions, Joe!

  • Roger says:


    I’m trying to keep track of the events and dates of your world and I’m having trouble referencing everything, because in your books we’ve never seen hints of any functioning calendar. Have you devised a system of how the Union keeps track of the years? If so, could you please say at which year are we now?

    Another small one: in BTAH it is said that the Old Empire reached to “Anconus” in the North. But we don’t see any Anconus in RC. What’s Anconus and what is it?

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Probably tells you something about my preferences in female characters…

    I think you inevitably incorporate things people have said about the books and that you’ve found telling into your general system of thinking about how to write – that’s inevitable, but reader feedback is rarely coherent or consistent enough to actually adhere to in any meaningful way, even if you wanted to, and I don’t.

    Yeah, I’ve got a calendar. The Union measure years after the formation of the Union by Harod. According to my notes The First Law covers 575-577, Best Served Cold 579-580, The Heroes takes place in Autumn 584, Red Country in 590.

    Was it not Anconum? In either case, it’s a fair bit north of Crease, but on the eastern side of the continent, so North of Starikland, a fair bit up the coast from New Keln. But it would have been a small settlement at the very northernmost extent of the Empire. There ain’t much there now.

  • Giasone says:

    Final question:
    Yoru Sulfur disguises himself as a Palace guard in order to assassinate Prince Raynault in the prince’s bedroom. Was this just a matter of convenience for Sulfur, or did he shag the prince before he killed him? Is Sulfur partial to something else that Bayaz wouldn’t do besides being “partial to a bite or two”?

  • bobthebuilder says:

    Since you are in a generous mood :

    1.Was Tolomei trapped in the House of Maker before the events of The Blade Itself ? If no, where was she hiding/living ?

    2. In her current form, is Tolomei an Eater ?

  • Jackson says:

    Is Ardee West based on Lady Brett Ashley from Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises”? Because I saw a lot of similarities between the two, and they are great characters.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    The total lack of evidence for that theory makes me even more worried for your mental health than I already was.

    1. She was buried outside the House of the Maker. How long she was in the earth, we don’t know. We’re not sure what she’s been doing since she escaped, but she’s been looking for the Seed.
    2. She does eat people, for sure, but she’s not reliant on eating in the way that Khalul’s children are.

    Not familiar with the character, haven’t read the book, so I guess I’d say no. This Hemingway person probably just totally copied me and shit.

  • bobthebuilder says:

    1.Is there any Third Law ? I ask, because such things usually go in threes -trilogies, three laws, three wishes -and so on.

    2. Any particular reason Tolomei visits Glokta so much ? (apart from the fact that he is in-charge of the investigation)

    3. In the Duel between Logen and Grim (and Tul, Black Dow, Rudd), how come the Bloody-Nine left Grim(and others) alive ?

    4. If you read the Trilogy as a third person, would you say Glokta had honour ?

    5.Can we have some steamy girl-girl sex in the next books ? ? Terez with Shalere, Carlot with Monza, Ferro with Tolomei, etc would be nice 🙂

    6. Was there incest/sexual abuse between Ardee and Collem ? Between Ardee and her father ?

  • Troy says:

    Will the new trilogy finally have that long awaited epic full scaled map since it will be placed around 20 years after the first law trilogy and i assume after all this time u have some idea now how u picture the whole world looking instead of just certain areas?

  • Frank Fitz says:

    Bloody hell, you must be gutted that you opened the flood gates now… Anyway, to test your generosity:

    1) Do you prefer a sausage and egg butty, or a bacon and egg butty?

    2) You and Patrick Rothfuss seem close, does he bow down to your superiority?

    3) Between George R. R. Martin and Patrick Rothfuss, who has the best beard?

    Am I strange? I think I might be, but I don’t care…

  • Sean Fear says:

    I first discovered your books in January, and loved them. My questions:-

    1. Do all Eaters feel remorse, like Shickel and Mamun?

    2. Why did Sulfur precipitate the war with the Gurkish, by framing the ambassador, when Bayaz wanted more time to prepare?

    3. Why did Glokta spare Carlot?

  • Roger says:

    Thanks a lot for answering, Joe. You are just the best.

    Please, keep doing this kind of posts now and then. Being able to put our doubts to rest is great.

  • Thaddeus says:

    Fitz, why no bacon butty option? You heretic!

    Now I want a bacon butty, with tomato sauce…

    Ahem. Roger is quite right. This is a good thread, and its like every now and then would be a good idea.

  • Beth says:

    Who is the Mayor?? Her identity has been driving me crazy! Cosca knows her but doesn’t expose her.

  • Dan says:

    Beth. I am certain that the mayor is Carlot Dan Eider.

  • Marcus says:

    Your take on so many traditional roles in fantasy has been great. I’m wondering if you plan to treat the rogue/assassin. I know there have been some assassinations, but I’m thinking of a dedicated sort of character. Seems strange that Baez doesn’t have one working for him. I guess it just seem like someone of that ilk would thrive in the world you’ve created.

    Anyway, I loved “Red Country.” Glad to see the Bloody Nine again.

  • Marcus says:

    Can’t believe I misspelled Bayaz’s name. Also, I can’t believe that my favorite character is Bremer dan Gorst. It is very strange to me how you’ve made me like a crippled torturer and a sociopath scumbag.

  • AntMac says:

    Here is a serious question.

    Is Euz dead?.

  • AntMac says:

    Beth, I second Dans thought on the Mayor.

    It is pretty clear to me that it is Carlot. If only because of how amused Cosca was in finding her in yet another destroyed town she was “running” and then his amused refusal to name her or talk about where they met. And her distress on seeing him.

  • Giasone says:

    No need to worry, Joe. What I’m really trying to do is get a sense of how far you are prepared to plumb the sordid depths in furthering this darker, morally ambiguous sub-genre of fantasy. Where are the boundaries? I take it from your response that while sex, cannibalism and multiple different forms of violence are tenable, sex-with-cannibalism is still beyond the pale?

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Bloody Hell. A little surprised how many specific and almost technical questions there are. A lot of these I’m not going to answer, cos I think they’re better left unanswered, honestly, or hinted at in the text.

    1. Bayaz suggests there should be a third law against taking forms, but there isn’t one.
    4. That’s a question for the reader to answer, really.
    6. No particular evidence of that.

    I already have maps, I always have had, it’s whether I give them to you that’s the question. It might have a largish scaled map.

    Yes I am gutted.
    1. Bacon.
    2. Not that close. I feel my superiority may have come between us.
    3. Rothfuss’ beard is pretty sensational, especially for a man of his relatively younger years.

    1. I guess that depends on the Eater.
    2. Because war suited him better than peace.
    3. Well, why do you think? a) he has a weakness for beautiful women. b) he admires what she did, even if he cannot do it himself. c) he wants to do something good to balance against all the evil he’s done. d) he’s pretty sure he’s going to die soon, so why not? e) he has a big contrary streak. And so on…

    Yes, I am the best.

    The others have answered, but there are plenty of clues.

    Lots of rogues and assassins in Best Served Cold, no?

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    That says more about you than me.

    Is god dead?

    Yulwei tells us that the Hundred Words are having a big eating orgy outside the walls of Adua in Last Argument of Kings so, no, sex+cannibalism has always been a strong combination.

  • Frank Fitz says:

    Annnnnddddd relax.

    Thanks for taking the time to answer all of our questions. You da man, as some are likened to say.


    Crispy bacon and runny egg sandwich is what my wet dreams are usually about. It’s making me hungry just thinking about it…

  • bobthebuilder says:

    ” A little surprised how many specific and almost technical questions there are”

    Thats what you get for

    1. Leaving lots of gaps in the history of teh characters, and only giving extremely tantalizing hints. This would have been OK if the characters themselves had been one-dimensional. But since every char is so 3D, the reader is ever curious.

    2. Keeping an AMA open for so long. 🙂

    PS : Realized that “specific and almost technical” isnt your style at all. Your style is vague, just as real life is.

    PPS :This keen interest in details should make you feel good, that you have the readers completely hooked, no ?

  • Graham says:

    Hi Joe

    Bit annoyed I missed this.

    I have a question about Shivers. When did you make the decisions to take him from a background character in the first Law into a central POV in the blade itself, then a pivotal non POV character in the Heroes and then have an awesome cameo in Red Country.

    Much as I liked him in Red Country I did have the feeling that someone new to your work, reading it as a standalone, might find his presence a bit disjointed to the rest of the story.

    And I guess Shivers is one of the most likely characters to show up in future?

    Thank you


  • the Emilsen says:

    First I’d like to say your books are great. Now are you aware of the similarities between the scene were Bethod and Logan where talking at the end of LAoK and where Monza and Duke Orso spoke at the end of BSC? I felt they had the same type of twist.

  • Giasone says:

    Oh. Sorry. I think I interpreted Yulwei’s words a bit metaphorically, like a ‘food orgy’.

    Thanks for responding to questions, one way or another. Like the lady said, you truly are applesauce.

    PS: There’s method in my madness… though sometimes it gets undermined by the madness in my method…

  • AntMac says:

    Something almost as interesting as Joes answers, is everyones questions. Thanks everyone.

    Just goes to show that things I think are obvious, are not, and things I never even thought about, bear a LOT of thinking about.

    Cosca sure was contrary. I do think he was enjoying himself a lot there in his final march, just waiting for the axe to fall, daring it to fall, rolling the dice . . . no, wait, that is Sargent Friendlys metaphor.

  • Fantasist says:

    How is the Dogman faring? Especially with being a lord and member of the Open Council? Is he called Lord Dogman…or has he got a wife who made him change it.

  • bobthebuilder says:

    How many page hits do you get on this website ?

  • scully says:

    Red country was amazing Joe.
    I loved seeing the bloody nine from another perspective and when his eyes glazed over during his fight with GG i couldn’t help but grin knowing what was coming.

    quick question: did Shivers pussy out of the fight at the end after seeing ‘Lamb’ was as much a badass as ever?

  • Gary says:

    Hi Joe,

    Will you be doing a video games of 2012 write up? I enjoyed reading the one you did last year where you briefly went through what you played before picking your top three.

    I’ve started reading Red Country and am really enjoying it so far. Great stuff, thanks for yet again writing something awesome! 🙂

  • bobthebuilder says:

    Joe, would it be possible to do a 3-4 page re-write of the fight between GG and Lamb, *without* any interruptions in between? It could have the PoV’s of Lamb, GG, Bloody-nine and an observer.

  • Nathan says:

    Hello Mr. Abercrombie,
    Outstanding effort in Red Country. Thanks for bringing one of my favorite characters in fiction back. I’m hoping the next trilogy is his continued failed efforts at redemption.

    One thing I noticed that perked my interest concerned the technological advancement that was happening off screen. Can you provide some insight into what this may mean in future novels? Are the rumors of potential steampunk (started by me right here) true?

  • Thomas says:

    Hi Scully

    I don’t think Shivers would ever p…. out of anything. It is more a question of him being realistic about a situation like that.

  • Thomas says:

    I think that fight is excellently written. It stays with you and makes you wanna fill out the gaps not described.

  • AntMac says:

    LOL @ Nathan. Very nice rumour starting mate, a rumour and yet, you can claim the credit any time you like with time-stamp and everything.
    When I read the part where Curnsbicks’ new manufactory is “The biggest building within a hundred miles. She hardly even knew what the place was for, except it had something to do with coal” I thought “Steam engines !”.

    Hey Joe, went into the main book shop in Auckland this afternoon. Guy with a dolly full of your book, re-filling the shelf. Asked him about it and he said “What is with this book?. Is it a good read or something, we can’t keep them on the shelf”.


  • Michael Dellacava says:

    How did Tolomei get out of the Makers house and go to Logan and Glokta before Bayaz opened it? Does it mean she can get out again even after Bayaz closed it again?

  • Joe says:

    Who is the mayor in red country? An did she know Logan from before? If so from where?

  • Mockingbird says:

    Fuck, did i miss this AMA?

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