R.S. Hunter

Science Fiction & Fantasy Author

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A Love Letter to the Battle of Endor

Battle of Endor

As I saw this Star Wars tattoo yesterday it made me think: if I was to get a Star Wars tattoo what would I want? (OT only of course) Obviously, since this is hypothetical–let’s go big, insanely big–I’d get a full sleeve of my favorite part of the entire original trilogy: the Motherfuckin’ Battle of Endor. (That’s what ol’ Jorge called it in the original script, you know.)

So here it is: a love letter to what I think is the greatest space battle ever put on film. Star Trek (the rebooted movies) had some fancy CGI and the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica had some great dog fights, but they all owe some of their coolness to the OG BoE.

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Let’s Talk About: Moffat’s Doctor Who

The Time of the Doctor

This’ll be a quick post with not a lot of structure. I’m trying to turn these “Let’s Talk About” pieces into looser articles where I don’t have to have a central point or something.

Anyway this morning it hit me that my experience watching Steven Moffat’s three seasons of Doctor Who has been largely defined by questions. What do I mean by that? Well, when watching a Moffat episode (especially ones he writes himself), my wife and I end up pausing the show every few minutes because we’re asking questions.

“Wait… How does that make sense?”

“If he did this thing now, then how could he do that in the past?” (or some other time-travel related question)

“Does this mean he changed the future?”

“I’m confused. How could that happen?”

Over and over. And I really don’t think being confused should be the core feeling one gets while watching Doctor Who. But it’s not that we’re stupid (in my opinion) or not paying attention. I’d like to think that as a writer of science fiction and fantasy, I’m pretty good at keeping up with sci-fi shows. Same thing for my wife. She’s not a writer but she gets hyperfocused when she’s watching something she loves, and Doctor Who definitely falls under that category.

So I think this comes down to Moffat’s fundamental flaw as the showrunner: he tries so damn hard to impress the viewer with how clever he is.

Doctor Who the Silence

Sometimes it creates “ah-ha” moments, but for the past few episodes–the end of season 7 and this year’s Christmas special, “The Time of the Doctor,” in particular–those moments never came. Instead the episodes were marked by either me or Erin calling out “Pause! So wait, what…?”

The emphasis on plots, timey-wimey twists and turns, and clever surprises can sap an episode of its emotional, character-driven moments. I really enjoyed Matt Smith’s run as the Doctor, but I was more sad to see David Tennant go than I was last night. Instead of feeling sad last night, my mind was occupied with trying to untangle years of plotlines (exploding TARDIS, the Silence, warrior priest soldier people, crack in the wall, etc.) rather than savoring Matt Smith’s final goodbye. (Okay his last couple of lines about changing from moment to moment were real good)

So another chapter of Doctor Who is over and a new one begins. I’m excited to see how Peter Capaldi will play the character. I just hope that I can start watching the show again without having to ask “How does that make sense?” every few minutes.

Doctor Who Season 7

Side bar: I think having Matt Smith’s last episode be the Christmas episode was a mistake. The show tried to mix normal Christmas-special stuff with Regeneration-stuff plus tying up Moffat’s loose ends. That’s way too much disparate stuff to cram in a single episode.

Side bar to the side bar: Here are a couple of articles on i09 (here and here) about “The Time of the Doctor” that I liked. Check ’em out. They also touch on some of the episode’s highs and lows.

My Favorite Games of 2013

Even though I’m not part of the video game press/reviewing scene in an official capacity anymore, I thought it’d be fun to write a little post about some of my favorite video games from 2013. (Yes, I know 2013 isn’t over for 12 more days, but I’ll update this post if anything changes).

And because this is my site, I’m going to broaden the topic to include any game I played for the first time this year, not just ones that came out in 2013. I was fortunate enough to play some truly great games this year, so let’s dive right in.

Best of the Best

Fire Emblem: Awakening

Fire Emblem: Awakening

Fire Emblem: Awakening was my first time with the Fire Emblem franchise. Think fantasy chess/tactical RPG meets dating sim. That’s Fire Emblem: Awakening in a nutshell. I reviewed it for Gamer Limit and it was easily one of the few games I replayed this year. If you want a more in-depth breakdown of how Awakening makes the series even more enticing to newcomers and more casual players, check out my review. Recommended if you like Final Fantasy Tactics, Ogre Battle, or other turn-based tactical RPGs.

Available on 3DS.

XCOM: Enemy Within

XCOM: Enemy Within

I received XCOM: Enemy Unknown last year for Christmas and never played it. (I know! Shame on me!) Then the Enemy Within expansion came out last month and grabbed my attention. I’m not done with the campaign yet, but it’s checking so many boxes for me (many of the same ones as Fire Emblem), that I feel confident including it on this list. Sci-fi alien invasion setting–check. Tactical turn-based combat–check. Strategic decisions that can lead to you screwing up your chances to win the game for good–check.

Even if you’ve already played Enemy Unknown, check out Enemy Within because the new elements in this expansion (including power armor!) completely change the way you play. Tactics you’ve learned before will have to be adapted or scrapped entirely.

Available on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.

Europa Universalis IV & Crusader Kings II

I’m lumping these together because they kind of go hand in hand. Both Crusader Kings II and Europa Universalis IV are grand strategy games by Paradox Interactive. CKII’s set in Medieval Europe (867 AD with The Old Gods expansion to 1453) and EU IV picks up right after (technically in 1444).

I got into these games after watching people like Northernlion, Arumba, and Quill18 play them on YouTube. Also Rowan Kaiser’s CKII Beginner’s Guide helped a lot. The games are intimidating if you’ve never played a Paradox game before, but overcoming that intimidation can be done! I’m living proof. I’ve put over 40 hours into Crusader Kings II and 25 into Europa Universalis IV, but that’s just scratching the surface for how long these games can keep you blissfully occupied.

Available on PC.

Torchlight II

Inspired by the Diablo series. That’s really all I need to say about Torchlight II. It’s the sequel to 2009’s Torchlight. Whereas Diablo III veered away from some of the core tenants of its franchise, Torchlight II stayed true to its roots. The game is a loot-filled clickfest. The story doesn’t make a lot of sense, but compared to the first game: there are more character classes, more quests, more locations, more loot, more everything. I’d recommend Torchlight II to fans of the Diablo series and any of its subsequent “clones.”

Available on PC.

Rayman Origins

Rayman Origins

Rayman Origins is the first Rayman game I ever played and the only platformer I’ve ever completed while playing multiplayer. This game is gorgeous with a hand-drawn art style that works so well with the gameplay’s fluidity. Some of the levels are hard, especially if you’re trying to collect all the optional thingies and knickknacks, but when you get in a groove, it just works. If you’re a fan of platformer games like Mario, Sonic, or maybe even Bit.Trip Runner, give Rayman Origins or its sequel Rayman Legends a try.

Available on pretty much every platform.

Honorable Mentions

These are games that didn’t quite make the cut. They’re memorable, but I wouldn’t consider them among my favorites.

Dishonored + DLC

Dishonored: The Brigmore Witches

Dishonored is the best game I didn’t play this year. You read that right. For whatever reason, I find the stealth action gameplay of Dishonored too tense/nerve-wracking to play. But I love the art direction, story, and world building. I think the reason I didn’t like playing Dishonored was due to the fact that the level design and special powers allow you to be a murderous whirlwind, but the story and available endings discourage that style of play. The artificially imposed edict to be a stealthy non-lethal character if you wanted the “good” ending made the game too tense for me to play.

So I watched a Let’s Play of Dishonored and its two-part DLC: The Knife of Dunwall and The Brigmore Witches. Maybe I truly am missing out by not playing the game for myself, but I finished the series on YouTube with a sense of satisfaction. I’ll be keeping my eye out for a Dishonored 2.

Available on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D

I’ve written about how the inclusion of motion controls in the Wii version of Donkey Kong Country Returns made the game unplayable for me. The 3DS port is an infinitely better game because they’ve been removed. Nintendo and Retro Studios still made a couple of missteps when it comes to Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D, but it’s still a very good platformer (though nowhere near my favorite Donkey Kong game). DCKR 3D also doesn’t come close to replacing Rayman Origins on my favorites list.

Available on 3DS.

Worst of the Worst

And here are a few of my least favorite video games from 2013.

Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity

The combination of Pokemon plus rouguelike, dungeon-crawling elements should be an amazing combination. Unfortunately this game was a boring, boring, oh so boring mess. Full of repetitious dialogue and bland dungeons, Gates to Infinity completely misses the mark on what makes a Pokemon games and dungeon crawlers fun.

Bioshock Infinite

Bioshock Infinite wallpaper

I’ve written extensively about my displeasure with Bioshock Infinite as have other better writers than me. I won’t repeat them all here. I will say this though: Bioshock Infinite is the worst game with the highest production values I’ve ever played.

Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams

Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams starts out as an entertaining platformer, but it soon transforms into an incredibly difficult slog that is nowhere near as cute or “punk” as it thinks it is. I reviewed this one for Gamer Limit too, and I wasn’t impressed. There’s a fine line between difficulty that encourages the player to do better and difficulty that feels like the game is just being a dick. This game’s in the latter camp.

It’s not a definitive list by any means. In fact, I find it kind of funny how RPG and strategy game heavy it ended up. I know there are games I missed out on playing, plus others that just weren’t good–or bad–enough to make this list. Plus with Christmas around the corner, this post might get updated if I’m able to get my hands on The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (and I happen to enjoy it).

Now I turn it over to you: What were your most loved or most hated video games this year?

Is It Me or Is It You, Pokémon?

Pokémon X & Y Logo

I’ve been playing Pokémon X for the past few weeks–my first one since Diamond six years ago–and I still can’t tell if my lack of progress into the game is my fault or the game’s. I’m leaning toward foisting the blame onto the shoulders of all 718 Pokémon.

My major gripes with the Pokémon series have only gotten worse as I’ve gotten older. I’m not in 4th grade anymore, so I don’t have near endless hours to grind and level up my creatures.

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Let’s Talk About: Elementary & Miss Hudson

Elementary logo

Let’s talk about Elementary. My same caveats about my own background and privileges I spelled out in my Let’s Talk About of Teen Wolf still apply. That said, the show’s brilliant.

There’s a dozen of things I could talk about why I like this show, but the biggest one I want to focus on is diversity and how it makes everything better.

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Challenge Accepted!

Ancillary Justice

I followed the Twitter conversations about The 52 Review’s “Best Of” post (I think this was last month or the month before). That’s when I first saw the challenge: only read genre fiction books written by women in 2014. Since then I’ve been caught in a morass of indecision.

I want to do it. I am going to do it. That’s not what I’ve been undecided about; I’ve been going back and forth whether or not I should tell anybody I’ve accepted this particular challenge.

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Let’s Talk About: The Lord of the Rings: War in the North

The Lord of the Rings: War in the North

A “Quick Hits” style post today. I got The Lord of the Rings: War in the North from GameFly the other day, so let’s talk about it.

I’m only in the first chapter so these are more impressions than an actual review or anything like that.

First off the story: I get what the developers are trying to do–show a tale that runs parallel to the events of The Lord of the Rings (the movies specifically). The point is to emphasize that the war against Sauron was bigger and involved more of Middle Earth than people imagined. So therefore the developers invented some characters and said this is how they fought in the north, in the former Numenaran kingdom of Arnor. Apparently by keeping Sauron distracted in the north, they helped the Fellowship accomplish their mission.

So basically these guys are the Rogue Squadron on Hoth to the Fellowship’s transports and Millennium Falcon–fighting to buy time.

Problem is the characters are all boring. Maybe this is just a limitation of the source material, or the fault could be with me. I’m not 16 anymore (haven’t been for a while), and I don’t find the setting/story anywhere near as interesting.

The Lord of the Rings: War in the North gameplay

Plus it’s disconcerting to hear British accents everywhere and then the Dwarf main character sounds American. Kinda strange.

So you have three side characters, problem is none of them are interesting either. Again this could be a limitation of the setting: the “good guys” all have to be super good and noble and bland, while the “bad guys” embody evil (though they’re not too evil. Sauron’s supposed to be the really evil guy).

That’s really all I have about The Lord of the Rings: War in the North. It’s bland like plain toast. The art style does nothing special. Lots of brown and grey during the first few levels. Plus within the first couple of hours there were three or four turret sections. That’s kind of ridiculous in a game with supposedly medieval technology. Also boring. Needless to say, I shipped it back to GameFly with no misgivings.

Let’s Talk About: Teen Wolf

Teen Wolf title card

My wife (man that’s still weird to type) got me to watch Teen Wolf with her. Not the movie from the 80s but the “edgy, sexy, totally not Vampire Diaries but with Werewolves” MTV reboot. Okay, that was a little facetious. Despite some misgivings, I have to say that I walked away from the three seasons mostly impressed. There’s a few things that stuck with me that the series got right*, but then there are others that the show gets very, very wrong.**

*Note: I’m looking at this show from the perspective of a straight, white, cis male. It’s entirely possible that some of the things I liked about the series are extremely troubling, problematic, triggering, etc. to somebody else from a different background and I didn’t catch it because of my privileges. If that is the case, please let me know. And then there are the things I think the show gets wrong: if it appears that there are some problems I missed, or that my abbreviated analysis in this post doesn’t go far enough, please let me know.

**Another note: Also, there will be spoilers for all three seasons of Teen Wolf.

Things I Liked

Female Characters

At first I was unsure about Allison and Lydia. Not because they were “bad” characters, but I really hoped that they wouldn’t become just “the love interests.” I was wrong.

While Lydia starts off as one of the stereotypical “mean girls” similar to Cordelia in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it soon becomes apparent that she’s also the smartest person around. I can’t find the exact quote online, but it’s clear that she maintains her ditzy demeanor because of the way gender roles are policed and enforced in a high school social setting.

Lydia and Stiles Teen Wolf

Ambitious and possessing a genius-level intellect, these things make Lydia an important part of the show, and allow her to help out main character Scott time and time again. Oh, and she’s also a Banshee (though the extent of her powers according to the show’s mythology remains to be seen). Too bad she, Allison, and Stiles aren’t the main characters.

Allison is basically the Hawkeye of the show. She starts out more as the conventional love interest for Teen Wolf Scott (yeah I called him Teen Wolf for most of my time watching the show). Her family belongs to a long line of werewolf hunters, but of course she’s been left in the dark so she can have a normal childhood “until she’s ready.” One of those kind of deals.

But as soon as she becomes immersed in the world of the supernatural, her badassery comes into play. Time after time she tells Scott that she can take care of herself. Typical for this kind of show, right? ‘Cause of course she’d say that, but in reality she’d need saving, right? Not this time! Remember how I called her Hawkeye? Yeah. Allison is an extremely skilled archer, and she ends up saving her friends’ lives with her marksmanship and fighting skills.

Allison Argent Teen Wolf

Also, according to her family’s traditions, the women are the strategic leaders while the men Hunters are trained to follow their plans. So by the end of season three, Allison is basically in charge of the Argent family (though greatly diminished by death, suicide, and failed werewolf-ification). She’s seemingly portrayed as the hero’s love interest at the beginning, but ends up a fully fledged Hunter, leader, and expert archer by the end of season three. Oh yeah. She also breaks up with Scott partially because he keeps trying to control her in order to “keep her safe.”

Scott’s mom, Melissa McCall, also deserves a special mention. Single mother, loves her son, works hard to provide for her family, and she even accepts Scott’s werewolfitude fairly quickly once she finds out. Too bad she doesn’t get more screen time or is used as bait by the Big Bads to get Scott’s attention.

Others posts disagree have issues with the characterization of Lydia, Allison, and the other women on the show. They raise good points that I agree with. However, I wanted to focus on aspects of these two characters that I enjoyed. That does not mean that they are perfectly characterized or that the writers of the show can’t improve.

Consent

Speaking of Scott and Allison, here’s the second thing I was impressed with: consent (at least in regards to sexual intimacy between Scott and Allison). In season one, there’s the first big “Make Out, Take Off Each Other’s Clothes” type scene between Scott and Allison. As they’re making out, Scott stops and asks if she wants to continue. She looks him in the eye, and even though she turns the question back on him, it’s clear she’s in control of the situation and it’s what she wants.***

***A third note: However, this post brings up something I completely didn’t think about. Allison says yes to sexual intimacy with Scott under the impression that he’s human and not a werewolf. When looked at that way, she says yes without having important information disclosed to her. While I contend that her breaking up with Scott because “he continues not to talk to her about things because he decides it’s better for her” is a nice bit of characterization in her favor, I can see how it’s problematic from a consent standpoint. My points here also don’t address Teen Wolf’s other issues with consent (i.e. werewolf bites, Peter’s actions towards Lydia). I’m only focusing on something I noticed on my first watch of the series.

And the scene continues. However, rather than removing Allison’s shirt to show her in a bra, her bare back, whatever (possibly problematic because I believe the characters are under 18 in that season), the show has her taking off Scott’s shirt. The camera lingers on his abs and bare chest while the two of them continue to make out. There’s a bit where they remove Allison’s bra beneath her shirt, but Scott is the focus of most of the scene’s “gratuitous” nature. It made the scene feel different and not as “male gaze” centric.

The way the scene was shot and written, there was no coercion, no uncertainty, just a strong assertion that yes she wanted to keep making out and move on to more. Because Teen Wolf is on MTV and marketed at teens, it made me happy to see this scene. Trying to change the way our culture views women, sex, and consent needs to start with how we teach our children. And one of the ways to do that is through popular culture. People reproduce what they see and experience. Maybe I’m missing an important part of this scene because of my privileges, but to me, it was a point in Teen Wolf’s favor.

Stiles

And finally, one of the best things about Teen Wolf is Stiles. He’s Scott’s best friend and pretty much the heart of the show. Think Xander from Buffy the Vampire Slayer but minus the misogyny. Okay, maybe that’s not quite an apt comparison. Considering how much research he does to help Scott fare better against the show’s evil monsters, he’s probably closer to Willow than Xander. Either way, Stiles is funny, irreverent sometimes, and one of the few characters who recognizes Lydia’s intellect, i.e. in “Formality.” But he does it in a way that doesn’t come across as a Nice Guy™.

Stiles bus Teen Wolf

I can write off part of his years-long crush on Lydia as teenage angst (and this is a show on MTV after all), but for the most part, Stiles treats her with respect. While he does like her in a romantic way, whenever he helps her, it doesn’t feel like (to me) he’s doing it just to put in some kindness tokens into her womanly vending machine**** in order for a sexual payout further down the line. I hope the show keeps them out of a romantic relationship for multiple reasons, the main one being it would feel too much like a “proper reward” for being nice.

****A fourth note for ya: Also read the essay “Toward a Performance Model of Sex” linked in the vending machine article.

Things I Didn’t Like

Fridged Women & PoC? You’re Going to Die

These two issues kind of go hand in hand. Basically if you’re a person of color, especially a woman, on this show your days are numbered.

Every season has at least one woman of color who gets killed, and they’re usually the only women of color on the show. A couple of deputies (that get names posthumously) are murdered. Another woman who helps Isaac (a white male) escape from two Alpha werewolves is killed. We don’t find out her name until many episodes later.

Seriously it got so bad that any time a woman of color appeared on the screen, I’d turn to my wife and say “I bet the show kills her.” I realize that’s a terrible thing to say, and it’s extra, extra terrible when my facetious comment would end up being true! And most of these women are all killed in order to make the male protagonists feel bad.

Derek Teen Wolf Man Pain

Of course, it’s not limited to women. Boyd is the token black werewolf. We learn next to nothing about his backstory. And then he gets killed in order to give Derek exquisite man pain.

Erica, a young woman who goes from epilepsy-suffering pariah at school to bombshell after receiving the werewolf bite, gets killed off-screen. Literally in season three the characters find her body after she’s “been missing for months.” Her death is used for Boyd’s man pain, and then when he dies on-screen episodes later, both deaths are only emphasized through the lens of Derek’s man pain and man tears.

So you have women of color dying left and right, including one who’s part of the Big Bad Alpha Pack. You have other women fridged. Danny, a queer PoC character (who for the most part is written well) barely gets screen time. Boyd dies after being thinly written.

Kali and Morell Teen Wolf

Tyler Posey, the actor who plays main character Scott, is part Mexican, and he says that Scott shares his heritage. However, the show never acknowledges his background. If I hadn’t looked up Posey on Wikipedia and saw a gif where he said Scott is Latino, I wouldn’t have known. That’s not to say that Scott needs to act “browner” or some other racist garbage, but it’s important to note that his Latino heritage is never officially acknowledged in the show’s canon. However, the main cast is very white and almost all of the persons of color on the show either support them or end up being thrown to the wolves.

So What’s Next?

Teen Wolf comes back for part two of season three in 2014. I’m going to watch because I found it compelling (and definitely cheesy in parts), but it’s not a perfect show. Who knows, after all the articles I read while writing this post, I feel like the creators, writers, and producers have to know that there are problematic aspects that fans (and not fans too) are picking up on. Maybe pieces like the ones linked to in this article will help the next season be better and emphasize the positive parts that stood out to me and others.

Some Publishing Announcements

The Exile's Violin

You might’ve noticed the warning on my The Exile’s Violin page saying the book will be out of print starting in September. This post is to explain a little more about why that’ll be the case and what’s going to happen moving forward.

My publisher recently announced that they are dramatically scaling back their operations (basically going out of business). As part of this process, the authors and myself were presented with a couple options:

  1. I could leave my novel in the publisher’s hands. It would remain for sale and everything would continue. I was also one of the special cases where I had a sequel under contract. The publisher would put that out at some point. The timeline for when that would happen wasn’t entirely established.
  2. Or any of us that weren’t being dropped outright could ask for all our rights to revert back to us and part ways with the company.

I took Door Number Two. Without getting too specific, I’m not entirely happy with the way my book came out, especially with regards to formatting, back cover design, and marketing. That’s why I asked for the rights to The Exile’s Violin and Terraviathan back.

I don’t know what’s going to happen next. All of my attention is focused on planning these last few crazy weeks before my wedding and honeymoon. I arranged it with my publisher that my book will stay for sale until after I get back from my honeymoon. After September 9th, the book will go out of print and the rights will be mine again.

I have a couple of options for what to do with the series once that happens:

  1. I can go full indie with the Tethys Chronicles series. That would give me complete control over the interior formatting, better formatting for the back cover of the print version, and no publisher to split royalties with. Going indie comes with its own challenges.
  2. Or I could shop the series around and try to find a publisher interested in reprinting the first book and picking up the essentially-done sequel.

Personally, the second option sounds a little more appealing. I like the collaborative process of working with editors and publishers, and I like the support they normally give you. With a potential move across the country on the horizon, I’m not sure trying to make it as an indie author (at least with this series) is something I’m prepared to do right now. I definitely don’t want to leave the series unavailable to potential readers for a long period of time!

It’s an uncertain time, but it feels full of opportunities! You know that old saying about doors and windows? It’s true in this case.

Thank you to all the people who bought or downloaded for free The Exile’s Violin. The fact that you’re reading the words I wrote means a ton to me. And if you enjoyed the book, rest assured you will get to read more adventures starring Jacquie and Clay. One way or another, you will get Terraviathan (and maybe even a third book!) in your hands.

A Reward and Thank You for My Readers

Flowers of the Sky: The Collection coverEarlier this week The Exile’s Violin was free on Amazon. It ended up hitting #3 in the Epic Fantasy subcategory under Free Science Fiction & Fantasy. That’s certainly a result that will give an author the warm and fuzzies.

So as a thank you and reward to all my readers, I have a special gift for all of you who downloaded The Exile’s Violin or purchased it in the past. You send me your Amazon confirmation email or a screen shot of your receipt, and I’ll send you an electronic copy of my mini-anthology Flowers of the Sky: The Collection. (ePub or Kindle format only for now)

That’s all you have to do! “Easy as eating pancakes” as my 8th grade math teacher used to say. And if you want to help me out, feel free to write reviews of any my works. Post ’em to Amazon, Goodreads, your blog, wherever you want. Any little bit helps and I appreciate it a ton.

Send your proofs of purchase to rshunter (at) rshunter-author (dot) com. Remember to tell me if you want an ePub copy or a Kindle copy of Flowers of the Sky.

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