Sunday, October 19, 2014

Zombies, Ghouls, and Gods V:
A Look at the Literature of the Zombie Apocalypse

Compiled and Formatted by Anthony Servante





Scenes from Night of the Living Dead (1968)



When George Romero brought us NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, little did he realize that he would be creating a whole new genre, a literature that has been evolving since the movie's release. Movies, TV shows, novels, short stories, and more have tried to tweak the original Romero zombie (some more successfully than others). In Zombies, Ghouls, and Gods I through IV, I followed the history of the zombie in film and then approached authors of Zombie Apocalypse literature to discern a pattern to the evolution of the undead. Today we continue our search for new directions the zombie genre has taken, and we have five authors with us to discuss their take on the living dead: Scott Essel Pratt, Ray Wallace, Steven G. Bynum, Jaime Johnesee, and Doug Lamoreux.

Let's begin...


Scott Essel Pratt





1. Biography:

Essel Pratt is from Mishawka, Indiana, a North Central town near the Michigan Border. His prolific writings have graced the pages of multiple anthologies, a couple self-published works, as well as his own creations.

As a husband, a father, and a pet owner, Essel's responsibilities never end. Other than a family man, he works a full time job an hour from his home, he is a writer for the Inquisitr, a full time student on his journey to a degree, and is also the Chief of Acquisitions and Executive Assistant for J. Ellington Ashton Press. His means of relieving stress and relaxing equate to sitting in front of his dual screens and writing the tales within the recesses of his mind.

Inspired by C.S. Lewis, Clive Barker, Stephen King, Harper Lee, William Golding, and many more, Essel doesn't restrain his writings to straight horror. His first Novel, Final Reverie is more Fantasy/Adventure, but does include elements of Horror. His first zombie book, The ABC's of Zombie Friendship, attacks the zombie genre from an alternate perspective. Future books, that are in progress and yet to be imagined, will explore the blurred boundaries of horror within its competing genres, mixing the elements into a literary stew.

You can follow Essel at the following:

www.facebook.com/esselprattwriting

Esselpratt.blogspot.com

@EsselPratt

2. Tell us about your history with zombies.

My history with zombies has showed me that they are more than just gross undead beings.  Instead, they are remnants of brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, and more.  They are victims of circumstance, they did not ask for, nor strive to, become the crazed and hungry killers that they have become.  Zombies are an emotional antagonist because the ones protagonists that kill them must do so knowing that there is no cure and there was no choice in the transformation.  There is always the thought of whether there is a glimmer of sanity within the deteriorating mind.
I have one published story that includes zombies, and many more that are waiting to become reality, including one that I am planning that places zombies in a situation that will completely rewrite what we know about history.  In my story, XMB3 –published in Undead War, my zombies are not the product of disease and viruses.  Instead, they are victims of a drug, aptly called XMB3.  The drug interacts with the junkie’s blood and reproduces to levels that create the zombie-like state. When the drugs escalate to a level that is too high, the victim overdoses and dies.  However, the crazed hunger that builds in the violent zombies can spread to others as the victim is bitten and blood from the infected mixes with the blood from the bite.  The entire zombie issue could be simply solved if every uninfected individual were to barricade themselves indoors, yet it continues to spread because the chaos in the world hides the desire to research further.

3. Compare George Romero’s original zombie from Night of the Living Dead with a zombie from any of your books.

Romero’s zombies are an incarnation of evil, they “live” to feed and destroy.  They are there to wreak havoc on those that are in the way. Their motivation is an unsatisfied hunger that motivates them to eat more flesh and innards.
My zombies, like the ones in XMB3, can still maintain their human qualities to an extent.  Those qualities can remain until the drug reaches near overdose levels and begins to consume the host body until death.  The hunger in the zombies overrides any rational thought, although they may hold back as much as possible until the urge becomes too great.  This occurs much like a severe drug addict may fight the urge to shoot up or sniff powder until the urge gets the better of them.
Overall, I think the biggest difference is that my zombies still hold on to some of their reality, constantly fighting for normalcy.

4. What is the most cliché thing to come from the zombie genre and how do you avoid it? For instance, a trauma to the head kills a zombie.

I think the most cliché is using a virus as the cause of zombie outbreak.  It is a fantastic idea, and causes a silent panic when Ebola and EV-D68 hit the news, but it is too overplayed.  I plan on placing a group of zombies in a future book, a prequel to my debut novel “Final Reverie” where the zombies are rebirthed through earth’s magic and must cope with their new role beyond human existence.  The entire virus catalyst is never mentioned.  I contemplated adding the zombies in “Final Reverie”, but it just didn’t fit.  Although, there will be a spot for them in “Abiding Reverie”, the second Reverie book.

5. Are we reaching the end of the zombie apocalypse stories? What do you see in the zombie literature of today that leads you to believe otherwise?

I think zombies are no different than vampires, werewolves, and shock horror icons like Freddy and Jason.  They are at their Pinnacle at the moment, and will continue to see the light of day for some time to come.  However, they will fade when the next big thing comes along.
The continued fanatic response to shows like the Walking Dead causes me to believe that zombies will be here for a little while.  The way the seasons are split allow the craze to die down a little and reemerge full force when the show comes back on.  The popularity of The Walking Dead will be the gauge for some time, I believe. 

6. What’s the best zombie apocalypse movie and why?

I think the best Zombie Apocalypse movie is not a movie at all.  Instead, it is simply the Walking Dead Television series.  The reason I believe this is because, as a viewer, we are not mesmerized by the blood and guts of the monsters.  Instead, we get to learn about the lives of those that survive.  We gain an emotional connection to them, like no other movie or show that has come along thus far.  There is a rawness about it that draws you in and feeds upon your fear, not via the zombie destruction, but the feeling connection to the characters and the fragility of their fate.

7. Is the popularity of zombies today limiting the imagination of writers who are repeating the same plots?
Much like Vampires, zombies can be repeated in similar plots over and over again.  However, this is not limited to monsters; we see it in cheesy post-apocalyptic movies, love stories, and action adventure. Despite the similarity of plots, better classified as formulaic, there is usually a slight evolution from one movie to another.  It may be small enough not to notice, but looking back after the fad has faded, it typically becomes more apparent.

8. Which writers do you feel are keeping the originality alive in the zombie genre?

Two of my favorite zombie writers are Joe McKinney and Catt Dahman.  Both have managed to create their own universes of zombies that are separate from so many others that have erupted onto the scene.  They seem to have a broad idea of the zombie genre, where it may transition, and how they feel it should be approached. This is a stark contrast to those that write zombie material as a one off occurrence to insert their stylings into the genre, not that there is anything wrong with that. Instead, Catt and Joe focus on their universes and insert the zombies within the atmosphere.

9. How are you being original?

One aspect that defines me as original is my attempt to forego the traditional zombie approach to my first Zombie book and aim the focus in a different direction.  In “ABC’s of Zombie Friendship”, I took the zombie genre to toddler aged children and created a means for younger fans to be introduced to their favorite undead creatures by walking through each letter of the alphabet.  The colorful pictures are perfect for the young fans to immerse themselves into the story, yet still emotional enough for parents to enjoy it as well.  While reading through the book, the CEO of my publishing company actually shed a tear at one page and the visual it portrayed.

10. What’s on the horizon for you as a writer of zombie literature?

I am in the process of plotting an outline for a future novel, which I hope to release by the end of next year.  Without giving too much away, it will take a tragic event in history and a man that is hated by nearly every human on the planet, and reimagine him as a caring and sensitive individual, committing the crime in order to save humankind as a whole.   The book will either be hated by the masses or loved by them, I am not sure there will be an in between.  However, it is something that I feel I need to write.  IT will take me some time, due to research and careful treading of water, but the end result will be fantastic, at least in my mind.



Ray Wallace
   1. Biography:

Ray Wallace hails from the Tampa, FL area and is the author of The Nameless, The Hell Season, the short story collection Letting the Demons Out, and the One Way Out novels Escape from Zombie City, Escape from Zombie Island, and Escape from Zombie Planet. He also writes reviews for SFReader.com and is a member of the Horror Writers Association.

2. Tell us about your history with zombies.


As with many people of my generation (those who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s), my earliest exposure to the modern zombie mythology was through the films of George Romero. In written form, it came via the Book of the Dead series edited by John Skipp and Craig Spector along with Philip Nutman’s Wet Work. The first zombie comic book series I read was the excellent Deadworld illustrated by Vince Locke. Over the years, I’ve watched any number of zombie films and TV shows (The Walking Dead, In the Flesh, Dead Set) and read more than my share of collections and novels, too many to list here.

3. Compare George Romero’s original zombie from Night of the Living Dead with a zombie from any of your books.
My One Way Out novels (Choose Your Own Adventure style books in which only one set of choices results in your survival) feature the slow, Romero style zombies. I’ve also included “howlers”—the living who’ve been infected with the zombie virus but have not yet succumbed to its effects—along with mutant, rampaging “berserkers” to spice things up a little.

4. What is the most cliché thing to come from the zombie genre and how do you avoid it? For instance, a trauma to the head kills a zombie.

For me, one of the biggest clichés of the zombie genre—along with the entire post-apocalypse genre—is the tendency for most of the survivors to act like selfish assholes (to put it bluntly). This is not to say that there wouldn’t be people who’d behave badly in a situation like that. People behave badly in all manner of situations. But I believe they’re a minority, that in times of crisis most people would tend to work together. Aside from the sociopaths out there, we’re very social, empathetic creatures for the most part. I’m currently working on a zombie apocalypse series for Severed Press in which I’ve tried to show most of the characters in a positive light. For me, a story of this type has higher stakes when it’s populated with characters I can root for.

5. Are we reaching the end of the zombie apocalypse stories? What do you see in the zombie literature of today that leads you to believe otherwise?

I don’t think we’re reaching the end of the ZA story. Not as long as readers still want them. Lovecraftain horror still abounds after all these years as does the Tolkien style fantasy, the vampire tale and the space opera. No doubt, there’s a lot of retreading of the same old storylines going on out there. But then I’ll read a book like The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden bell and think, Well, there you go, someone with talent can always bring something compelling and new to the table.

6. What’s the best zombie apocalypse movie and why?

Despite its age, it still has to be Night of the Living Dead. Right? I mean, it’s the one that started this whole mess.

7. Is the popularity of zombies today limiting the imagination of writers who are repeating the same plots?

I don’t think so. Writers with real talent, with real imagination will always do something unique and original even if it’s within the confines of a well established sub-genre like ZA fiction. I’d have to say that any writer repeating an existing plot just isn’t all that imaginative.

8. Which writers do you feel are keeping the originality alive in the zombie genre?

I’ve already mentioned Alden Bell. Of course, Max Brooks did a nice job finding an interesting approach to the ZA tale with World War Z. And I don’t think it gets any more unique than what Tony Burgess did with Pontypool Changes Everything and The n-Body Problem. For anyone looking for something truly different, he’s a writer definitely worth checking out.

9. How are you being original?

With my One Way Out books (Escape from Zombie City, Escape from Zombie Island, and Escape from Zombie Planet) the originality was in the concept itself, having the reader make choices in order to survive a zombie apocalypse. And I did my best to include characters and situations along the way I hope readers will find entertaining. As for the series I’m working on now, well, I’ll get into that more with my answer to your final question…

10. What’s on the horizon for you as a writer of zombie literature?

I’ve just finished writing the first book of a ZA quadrilogy for Severed Press entitled The Year of the Dead. Each book will cover a season (summer, fall, winter, spring) as the catastrophe unfolds. The entire series will consist of 365 chapters, each of them covering one day and presented in consecutive order. The first book’s in the editing phase at the moment and, as of now, there’s no set release date. But as soon as it gets one, I’ll be sure to let you know.



Steven G. Bynum


1. Biography:

Steven G. Bynum writes horror stories. They range from short stories to novels. Someday he plans to branch out to other genres. As of this moment, he has published two novellas and three short stories, one of which is featured in an anthology.

Steven lives in the backwoods of Louisiana. When he isn't writing, he is reading or playing video games, but he is always thinking of story ideas.

Bibliography:

Becoming the Beast self-published
Into Zombies Complete self-published
Ceremony for the Boy self-published
Train Stuck self-published and included in the anthology, Happy Little Horrors: Freak Show
Sand Box self-published

Links:

All titles are available to buy or read for free with your Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Twitter: http://twitter.com/sgbynum

Becoming the Beast http://amzn.com/B00B7RULWW
Ceremony for the Boy http://amzn.com/B00M7FOLEM

2. Tell us about your history with zombies.

My introduction to zombies began with movies. Specifically, the first zombie movie I watched was the original Dawn of the Dead. I was hooked from then on out and I try to watch most zombie movies that are released. I say most, because I will not watch a movie that I do not enjoy.

I actually did not read my first zombie apocalypse book until this year, 2014. I've met a lot of zompoc authors on Facebook since I began my writing career. One of the first authors that I got to know well was Tony Baker. So, I read his book, Survivors of the Dead: From the Ashes.

I am currently reading other zomboc books and will continue to do so when I have time.

3. Compare George Romero’s original zombie from Night of the Living Dead with a zombie from any of your books.

I'll go with the zombies from my first story, Into Zombies. As soon as they appear, you know they are very different from Romero's zombies. My zombies come in three forms. The first form, which does not stay around long in the story, are alpha zombies. These are the original zombies that begin the apocalypse. Where Romero's zombies remain visually human, the alpha zombies in my story, Into Zombies, are mutated and hardly resemble humans at all. They have a mouth filled with razor sharp teeth and will tear you apart. There's a reason for this and I do not wish to give any spoilers.

The second form are the human zombies. Again they are apparently different. Romero's zombies are weak and tend to not be able to function as well as a living person. My human zombies retain their physical capabilites.

Thirdly, I have non-human zombies. Any living creature, other than insects and plants, can and do become zombies in my story. So, you do not have just human zombies to worry about. You must be on guard for all types of zombies.

4. What is the most cliché thing to come from the zombie genre and how do you avoid it? For instance, a trauma to the head kills a zombie.

I would say the fact that only humans are affected by the virus or whatever turns them into zombies. To get away from this, I turned other animals into zombies. A true apocalypse will affect more than just humans. Just think, rather than having to worry about human zombies, you have to watch out and not step on or close to a zombie snake.

5. Are we reaching the end of the zombie apocalypse stories? What do you see in the zombie literature of today that leads you to believe otherwise?

No, I do not believe for a moment that the end is near for zompoc. I continue to see new and fresh zombie apocalypse stories published often. The authors I know continue to write. Not to mention, there continues to be new authors writing new zombie stories. The genre is not going anywhere.

6. What’s the best zombie apocalypse movie and why?

I'll have to go with Dawn of the Dead. There may be a little bias there because it was the first zombie movie I watched, but it was just awesome. Hands down, I feel like it catapulted the genre to where it is today.

7. Is the popularity of zombies today limiting the imagination of writers who are repeating the same plots?

Not at all. Writers have good imaginations. Something popular will not hinder them from telling a story in any way. For me, I write what feels right for the story. I'm sure others do the same. You can't have a zombie apocalypse without zombies. You'll also need to have survivors, because otherwise the story is already over.

8. Which writers do you feel are keeping the originality alive in the zombie genre?

I love indie writers. They work really hard on their stories. I'll name a few that I enjoy reading. They are: Tony Baker, Eric Shelman, and Mike Evans.

9. How are you being original?

In a way, I believe every story is original because it comes from a different author. It's the way that the story is written and told. I try to catch readers off their guard in my stories. I'm always on the look out to write something that's out of the normal.

10. What’s on the horizon for you as a writer of zombie literature?

My second zombie apocalypse novel, Deaders, will soon be released. I wish I could provide a more specific time, but the release is not up to me. It is in the process of being edited.



Jaime Johnesee





1. Biography: 

Jaime Johnesee worked as a zookeeper for fourteen years before deciding to focus on her passion of writing. Her decision has proven to be a good one, as her books have been received with critical acclaim. Although her initial foray into the literary world has been marked by success, Jaime has just begun and is a force to be reckoned with in the years to come.

2. Tell us about your history with zombies.

From the time I was a child, and watched the original "The Mummy", the dead coming back to life has fascinated me. I read everything I could find on zombies in fiction as well as historical accounts of 'real' zombies like that of Clairvius Narcisse. I read everything I could find about mummies, revenants, zombies, and other creatures of death and rebirth. I grew up cutting my teeth on Romero's work and still love watching "Night of the Living Dead" every year in October.

3. Compare George Romero’s original zombie from Night of the Living Dead with a zombie from any of your books.

Honestly, there really is no comparison. George A. Romero is the King of Zombies and I am really more of a court jester. Take, for instance, the fact that Romero's zombies are intent on biting people. My zombie, Bob, isn't interested in eating people at all. He is a normal guy --who kept his soul-- but just happens to be decomposing after a necromancer brought him back from the dead. It's pretty much the exact opposite of Romero's zombies because Bob is funny, sarcastic, witty, and lovable.

4. What is the most cliché thing to come from the zombie genre and how do you avoid it? For instance, a trauma to the head kills a zombie.

In my opinion the most clichéd trope has to be the mindless flesh munching, or even mindful flesh munching, pretty much just the whole 'chewing on the local gentry' aspect. Sure, Bob likes brains, but he can eat any type of meat to appease his hunger and he doesn't have the craving for human flesh. He does, however, crave Taco Bell occasionally, I truly can't blame him there as I do the same.

5. Are we reaching the end of the zombie apocalypse stories? What do you see in the zombie literature of today that leads you to believe otherwise?

I don't think it's something that will ever go away. Man vs nature and man vs man are two of the most well loved, and often used, struggles in the writing world and zom-poc incorporates both. It's something that, I believe, will always interest people. When you add to that the fact that zombies are one of the most flexible monster personalities, historically speaking, you have a subgenre that will continue to intrigue and terrify readers eternally.

With there being real pathogens proven to attack the host's brain, causing aggression and even cannibalism, it seems to me that the likelihood of a zombie apocalypse beginning due to viral contagion becomes more realistic every day. This is another reason I think zom-poc is here forever. It may become less popular in time but it will always be a part of our culture because it always has been.

6. What’s the best zombie apocalypse movie and why?

I am not a movie critic so I can't say definitively whether one is better than the other, but, I can say I am partial to old movies and the original "Night of the Living Dead" is one I am very fond of. On the other hand, I also adored "Zombieland" for its delightful zom-com elements.

7. Is the popularity of zombies today limiting the imagination of writers who are repeating the same plots?

I actually think it challenges the author's imagination because they have to avoid repeating those plots. Every new book, new series, has to be different from the one before it. Not to mention that I find the well written zom-poc (Mark Tufo's "Zombie Fallout" series, John O'Brien's "A New World" series, Shawn Chesser's "Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse" series, and Armand Rosamilia's "Dying Days" series being my personal favorites) focuses on the characters and subplots using the Z-pocalypse as a setting more so than a plot point.

8. Which writers do you feel are keeping the originality alive in the zombie genre?

Oh my goodness, there are so many. Christine Verstraete, Ricky Cooper, Kay Glass, and Lori R Lopez are definitely up to the challenge of keeping the originality alive, they're unquestionably worth reading if you are a fan of the genre.

9. How are you being original?

Bob retains his humanity, his soul, and his empathy postmortem. Not to mention the fact that he is in a suspended state of rot. When pieces fall off he is able to staple them back on and the magical properties of iron in the staples bond with the magic that reanimated him, thus restoring the missing bit and melting the staple away. Also, in his world, nobody really knows that supernatural creatures exist. Bob and his horde are simply thought of as hardcore zombie fans with a love for special effects make-up.

10. What’s on the horizon for you as a writer of zombie literature?

Well, I have a collection of Bob the Zombie tales (The Misadventures of Bob the Zombie) about to hit the shelves within a month and I have no doubt we will be seeing more from him, and his horde, as he isn't finished telling his story yet.



Doug Lamoreux



1. Biography:

Doug Lamoreux is a father of three, a grandfather, a writer, and actor. A former professional fire fighter, he is the author of four solo novels, a contributor to anthologies, and non-fiction works including the Rondo Award nominated Horror 101, and its companion, the Rondo Award winning Hidden Horror. He has been nominated for a Rondo, a Lord Ruthven Award, and is the first-ever recipient of The Horror Society’s Igor Award for fiction. His newest novel, the Native American best selling paranormal thriller, Apparition Lake, is co-authored by Daniel D. Lamoreux. He starred in the 2006 Peter O’Keefe film, Infidel, and appeared in the Mark Anthony Vadik horror films The Thirsting (aka Lilith) and Hag.

2. Tell us about your history with zombies.

My history with zombies is a long one, going back four decades into childhood. A huge monster film fan, and pen pal of Famous Monsters of Filmland editor Forrest J. Ackerman, I grew up on one zombie, revenant, walking dead character after another, from TV reissues of I Walked with a Zombie, White Zombie, King of the Zombies, to sitting front row center at a midnight showing of the original Night of the Living Dead. Outside of the John Russo novelization of Night of the Living Dead, I don't remember many zombie novels, but I had a subscription to Marvel's Tales of the Zombie comic. My first novel, The Devil's Bed, featured resurrected Templar knights, who are zombie-like and mummy-like and described as both. But my real foray into zombieland was my third novel, The Melting Dead, blood-thirsty radioactive, melting messes; pure carnival ride entertainment (with lotsa hidden Easter eggs for horror film fans).

3. Compare George Romero’s original zombie from Night of the Living Dead with a zombie from any of your books.

Romero's zombie "knew" only that they had to eat human flesh. Otherwise, they had a feeling for their former lives but no real knowledge. My zombies, to varying degrees (because they are suffering an illness), have knowledge of their former lives. My caretaker zombie still uses his keys, which is a problem for the protagonists. A stricken little boy, still able to talk, apologizes to some of his victims by name before he goes after them. Married zombies still hold hands, which is something the living forget to do.

4. What is the most cliché thing to come from the zombie genre and how do you avoid it? For instance, a trauma to the head kills a zombie.

"Kill the brain and you kill the ghoul" is probably the biggie. I didn't avoid it, I decided instead to have fun with it. I have characters do what I've done a dozen times sitting in the theater, scream at other characters foolishly wasting ammo by NOT shooting them in the head. To stretch the point, I made the head shot temporary. The zombies go down with a head shot, but you don't know when, or if, they will get up again. It isn't supposed to make sense, it's meant to be fun.

5. Are we reaching the end of the zombie apocalypse stories? What do you see in the zombie literature of today that leads you to believe otherwise?

I see the same thing that has kept every genre alive, writers taking the same old thing and making it new with characterization, setting, and story twists. There is a biblical school of thought that adrressed the silly notion of originality thousands of years ago; "...that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun." The same old thing becomes original when you add you to it.

6. What’s the best zombie apocalypse movie and why?

For me, I imagine the best would be Romero's Dawn of the Dead (1979). It had the freakiness of his original monsters, plus color, plus wit, plus something to say about civilization. And I was seventeen when I saw it, just right for a life-long impression.

7. Is the popularity of zombies today limiting the imagination of writers who are repeating the same plots?

No doubt about it. I have nothing against making money. But there are a lot of writers out there struggling and completely willing to kick dead horses if someone will pay them to do it. Many writing zombies hope they are creating the next Walking Dead franchise and, big surprise, originality is not the chief concern of the film industry. When I wrote The Melting Dead, I was not thinking franchise. I'd just come off researching and writing Dracula's Demeter, an intense year, and wanted to have fun.

8. Which writers do you feel are keeping the originality alive in the zombie genre?

Max Brooks, obviously, with World War Z, and The Walking Dead series by Robert Kirkman. Feed by Mira Grant is clearly a new take. Jonathan Maberry is great. There are plenty to choose from and, when you run out, you can always read me. My publisher thanks you.

9. How are you being original?

In The Melting Dead, the radiation that causes the transformation effects each character as an individual as a sickness would. They die at different rates, return at different rates, melt and rejuvenate at different rates. Some talk and think. Some remember and revisit various parts of their life's routine. Some are just stumbling messes. And the whole affair is treated with a broad and dark humor.

10. What’s on the horizon for you as a writer of zombie literature?

When, and if, I return to zombies, it will be with a worthwhile story about genuine "zombies", creatures resurrected by old world voodoo. I've had my whack at psuedo vampires and blood thirsty revenants. I'd like to try culture, religion, magic, human villainy, and fears in the night before the creature even leaves his grave.

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Thanks to our guest authors for their views on zombies and in particular their own zombie creations. We are always on the lookout for what literature on the zombie apocalypse is out there. We welcome you to participate in our next look at zombies. For more information, I can be reached at:




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