When you think about great authors in fanfic history, one name comes to mind: Jaya. It doesn't matter exactly which one you're talking about, because both of them happen to be great writers.
Jaya #1 is Kaylee "KayJay" Gordon, of the Kai & Logan series fame. I first met her a long time ago on the Compuserve comics section and had wondered where she'd gotten to. Imagine my surprise when I found out that she'd made a name for herself in the fanfic game, with a character that every person could relate to.
She's a versatile writer, too, running the gamut from steamy love scenes to tense action scenes. One of the more vocal members of the fanfic community, she's not afraid to put her own personal spin on characters we all know and love.
Session Start: Fri Mar 24 22:09:56 2000
Q: Shall we get started?
* KayJay throws up her arms defensively. Go easy...I'm fragile...!
KayJay: Okay, let's start.
Q: Like heck you're fragile. <grin> How did you get into comics?
KayJay: My brother. Worshipped the guy. He once slammed a mean bully-type up against a locker and threatened his life when the guy called me a rude name. So OF COURSE I thought he was cooler than sliced bread, and wanted to be into everything he was into. Thus, comics.
Q: Which ones were you two into? And what's your brother's name?
KayJay: My brother is John, but he's going by his middle name these days; Mason. "John Mason," like Sean Connery's character in The Rock...? At the time he had X-Men and G.I.Joe. I fell for the X-Men hard.
Q: About during which run was this?
KayJay: Fall of the Mutants. I remember reading the issue where the X-Men died in Dallas and actually crying. A little.
* TrishaLynn grins.
KayJay: Little tears.
Q: Have you always been into writing?
KayJay: Nope! Or, yep, with a long pause in the middle. I started writing young. Wrote a novel when I was eight. It filled up this little spiral-bound notebook with all my barely legible childish handwriting, and I really honestly thought I'd send it to a publisher and be the youngest published author around. My dog peed on it, though, so that was the end of that. I quit writing for a while -- years, actually -- then started putzing around with it again in late high school. Kept at it. <smile>
Q: What was it about?
KayJay: The first 'novel'? Oh dear. <ahem> "The Miracle of the Eagle". A paralyzed young girl met an eagle in the woods, and somehow through a rather senseless bunch of events, she was able to walk again.
Q: What genre?
KayJay: I guess it would be...not exactly fantasy. Sorta...miracle-fiction? Is that a genre?
Q: It could be. <grin> So when did you get into fanfic?
KayJay: I played around with it a little a few years ago on Compuserve, but never actually read it until AFTER I had Kielle post my first story for me, which was...May 5, 1998? Or thereabouts.
Q: Which story was this?
KayJay: "Kai & Logan: Canada". I'm still surprised I didn't alienate everyone by coming out with a first story about an original female character that sleeps with a canon male character right away.
Q: Now, I remember you toying with "Kai" in the Princess Trial [an online role playing game on the fanfic section of Compuserve] back in 1996. What was your original concept for the Kai and Logan series?'
KayJay: The original concept was to have a kickass (can I say 'ass' here?) lady show up and interact with my favorite character. She was just gonna be a 'friend,' not a lover. It was the way most people use Mary Sues: to get a personal view into the story and be able to connect with it. It's sorta the easiest way to get started, I think. The concept changed a lot before I posted to the web, naturally.
Q: What was the response like to your first story?
KayJay: Cool. <smile> I was lucky in that Kielle posted my story for me, with a nice note at the beginning saying, "Feedback her; I know where you live." That was on [alt.comics.fan-fiction], back in the day when it was more active. Over a period of a week I heard from a small handful of very sweet people who sent a paragraph or so saying that it didn't suck big furry rocks. And baby, that was ALL the encouragement I needed!
Q: How many stories are in the Kai & Logan series?
KayJay: <laughing> I'd have to count. Somewhere toward thirty, I think, of the ones I've written.
Q: Kai was named the Best Female Character in the 1999 CBFFAs. Why do you think she's so popular?
KayJay: Hm. Y'know, odd as it may sound, I've never really thought about the 'why' of it that much. I've been told by some people that she seems very real, very human and flawed and engaging. And that people empathize with her even if they don't like her. Maybe they just like to see how many weird insults she'll come up with per story.
Q: Kai's got an interesting supporting cast. Tell me about them.
KayJay: We've got the original Mooks, Jack and Zach. Jack was a young mutant psivamp who tried to turn off his powers and found instead that if he didn't take other people's life energy, his powers would cannibalize his own. Zach's a slightly older fellow Kai'd worked with before; a psivamp who was forced through some nasty means by nasty people to learn the sorta iron control his kind needs to avoid losing it. Kai brought Zach to Muir to help Jack, they hit it off, and some-odd stories later they were picking out curtains. Literally.
We've got Mama Francis, who's Kai's birth-mother, though she doesn't know this yet. Kai got her name from Three Eyes connections, went to have a word with her, and found out that Mama's a rather nifty woman. She's not complex -- just sweet.
And finally, Darius. Leader of Three Eyes (covert organization -- government without a country sorta thing). Big guy. Voice like James Earl Jones. Much more developed in my head than he is on paper thus far. Methodical, pragmatic, and as human as he can be despite that.
Other than our hookers, Candy and JoJo, those are the significant players.
Q: Who, do you think, influenced your portrayal of Kai?
KayJay: Myself, naturally. <wink> Sometimes she's been my voice when I couldn't express something painful. My sister, for some of her utterly ridiculous willful blindnesses that people find kinda charming. A shihan lady at my dojo, Joyce Ashley, for some of how I "see" Kai in my head. Otherwise...snippets of people.
Q: Dojo? This is where you got that black belt I keep hearing about?
KayJay: Yeppers. My roommate, Kael, introduced me to Sensei when I was fifteen or so. I went back after I had my license, lied about my age so I didn't need a parent's signature, and dove in.
Q: How long did it take you to get your belt?
KayJay: Black belt? Little less than two years. I was there constantly.
Q: Which art?
KayJay: Chito ryu yoshukai. Traditional Japanese karate.
Q: Switching gears. In your opinion, what's a Mook?
KayJay: <grin> A sap. A sweetheart. A person who in at least one relationship in his/her life is sweet-but-not-cloying.
Q: Why do you like and write Mooks?
KayJay: Hell if I know! I'm pretty much the anti-mook [in real life]. I'm not looking for a One True, I'm not particularly sweet to anyone, and I'm only occasionally sugary. But for some reason there's something appealing about writing them. Guess I'm touching those buried mooky tendencies that even I have. Of course, it doesn't hurt that I believe strongly in gay rights, and this gives me a chance to play with the Trojan Horse theory.
Q: Trojan Horse theory?
KayJay: Um hm. Read something about that from one of my favorite writers, Andrew Vachss. Take a concept people have trouble with, cloak it in an interesting/sympathetic/realistic story, and see to it that the idea gets inside their walls before they realize it was really there at all. Vachss chooses a hardline approach to that, whereas I'm going for sweetness. But the theory's the same.
Q: Why did you choose Remy and Bobby to Mookify?
KayJay: I guess it won't hurt to tell the story openly now... In the early days of #plotting, the channel was very much a private channel. One day a person intruded uninvited -- a person who was a known homophobe. We didn't want to kick this person out, and I figured that if he was open-minded enough to participate in a conversation about something he was openly opposed to, he could stay... So I scrabbled together the intro scene of "A Different Kinda Craving" and spammed it to the room, asking for opinions. I picked the boys because they were the most common fanfic slash couple for comics, and I wasn't feeling particularly creative. I liked the story, though, and even after the gentleman left (very politely), I kept working on it. Mostly because Poi Lass promised me a Logan-story if I wrote her a Bobby-story. <smile>
Q: And did this person like it?
KayJay: He glanced, said it wasn't his thing, and left. Never came back, actually...
Q: Not discounting your own talent, why do you think the Mooks have gotten a good reception?
KayJay: They're sweet. They're loving, in a way that I think reflects the way love CAN -- and rarely does -- go in real life. I work at keeping the characterization as genuine as I can, so Bobby and Remy are still recognizably Bobby and Remy. They're just Bobby and Remy who happen to sleep together. The Two Sweaty Men principle also plays a part, I think. At least for the female audience.
Q: Let's go on with that topic for a second. Sequential Tart did an article a bit back about women and slash fics and why they write them. Why do you think women are more apt to write slash than men?
KayJay: Gay men will write slash because it gets them hot, or because the emotional interaction is the kind of thing they deal with in their lives. As for women...well, I can speak for myself. [Male to Male] slash offers a chance to focus totally on the male. Men are fascinating creatures. It's a bit of indulgence on a woman's part, mayhap. Some women write gay or bisexual men with very feminine emotions, playing up the sensitivity that so many women say they want in a relationship.
But those whys and wherefores aside... The Two Sweaty Men theory. If ONE hot, sweaty, aroused man is a nice mental image, then TWO are even nicer.
Those were some of the assorted reasons women write slash. The human reasons that don't depend on the gender of the writer are possibly another matter. Part of the attraction of the genre is -- to me -- the opportunity to explore the kind of courage it takes for a person to choose that lifestyle. Psychologically, socially, it's not an easy one. Dislike of homosexuals is one of the few remaining prejudices that's still socially acceptable in "polite society." I have to admire people who are willing to face that, and my inner mook does cartwheels over the chance to show a person making that decision for love.
Q: <grin> "Any Kind of Breath" I think is the most serious of the Mooks series. What prompted that one?
KayJay: The experience of caring for my mother as she died of cancer a little over a year ago. It's pretty much impossible for me to describe succinctly how much I was affected by those months, and how much I learned about myself and life and death and strength and fear. I wanted a way to funnel that, and to share what I've learned and the questions I came out of that experience with.
I was getting good response to the Mooks. People seemed to honestly care about them. That's when it occurred to me that I could pack a lot of message into a story that is, at its heart, very simple.
I could ramble on about this for days. I'm making an effort to be concise. <wink>
Q: Ramble as much as you feel comfortable with. <smile>
KayJay: All righty. A little more then.
Seeing a person going through cancer is horrible. Beyond horrible. There're thousands and thousands of stories and countless made-for-TV movies about long term illnesses, but that's canned emotion. Very little of it really catches the genuine experience. So much of it is used for angst-value.
In real life, you're watching someone you love get poisoned. You're holding a hideous pink basin while they throw up green bile into it. You're combing out their thinning hair and trying not to cry when they ask you if you think a wig would help.
Sometimes you really do find yourself asking why they keep fighting. If it's worth it. If your own life would be easier if they'd just let go.
But despite all that, there are these moments that defy easy description, when this person who's drugged to the teeth and barely able to speak puts a hand out and strokes your hair and says "You're so tender" when you tuck a pillow under the head. Or when the person comes out of a vegetative state to spend three hours one night telling you things you never knew she knew. Wise things. Things I think a person spends a lot of time pondering when she thinks she's dying.
It's as if all the pain and the exhaustion and the fear somehow manages to make those startling moments of clarity so much more precious than they'd ever be otherwise. Somehow, I'd like to be able to convey some of that. I guess. I'm not feeling particularly eloquent at the moment.
Q: Like hell you're not. <grin> Listening to you say this, I can see each scene clearly in "Breath". How hard or easy was it for you to write?
KayJay: A bit of both. <grin> Some of it poured out like blood from an artery. Hardly changed a word of those sections before posting. Some of it was pure labor. I get discouraged easily with this one, because it's very important to me that it comes out as truthful as I can make it. Awful lot to put on a series that started out as a light-hearted joke, innit?
Q: Not at all. <smile> Of all the stories you've written, which do you think is the hardest?
KayJay: Hardest technically, or hardest emotionally?
Q: Um, either?
KayJay: Technically, "Cold Shepherd" in the ["Kai & Logan" series]. Writing-wise, it's probably the best quality piece I have out there, and it was a major brain-drain. Emotionally, definitely "Any Kinda Breath." But it's not a bad sorta painful to write.
Q: Why was "Cold Shepherd" hard to write?
KayJay: There was some rather twisty abnormal psychology at work in that one. On the actual writing-end, I was working at turning out something I'd consider as close to professional-quality work as I was capable of, which meant exhaustive reviewing, rewriting, plotting.
Q: Which of your fics total do you think you're proud of the most?
KayJay: Of the K&Ls, "Cold Shepherd" and "What Matters". Of the Mooks, "Any Kind of Breath". I'm pretty pleased with "Here There Be...", the Draco story. Non-series stuff...no particular faves. Oh! The Seeing Red/Shades of Red stuff! I kinda liked that. Even if I did hand it off. <grin>
Q: Oh, Draco! I need to ask about him. <grin> <ahem> Why Jason Todd? Of all the Batguys to write about, why him?
KayJay: He was forgotten, discarded, abused, loathed... How could I NOT love him?
Q: What's your Jason Todd like? How has he grown from the original DC characterization?
KayJay: The original DC characterization was woefully inconsistent, but toward the end they at least gave him the stable ground of being a rebellious, confused kid to work from. My Jason Todd is scarred, blind in one eye, and not quite a hundred percent otherwise, physically. He's learned a good bit from his mistakes, but he's also pretty damaged emotionally. He more or less stopped growing emotionally at age fifteen, when he nearly died. Intense trauma will sometimes do that to you.
He is, however, living and learning. I expect to see him grow a good bit in the maturity department.
Q: Where does your universe veer off?
KayJay: Right at the 'death' of Jason Todd. In the Dracoverse he made it out of the warehouse before it blew. The 'why' of that is covered in an upcoming story with the Joker. Many of the current events in the comics are being shifted a few years down the road in the Dracoverse, because I want to see where DC is going with them before working them in. The Cataclysm and No Man's Land, for example, will be happening 'next year' in the timeline from "Here There Be..." (HTB).
Q: How many stories do you have planned for Draco?
KayJay: Oh, I dunno. At the moment I've got HTB to finish, the Joker story started, and a story with Tim and Jays working together started. Lots more in my head, but that means nada.
Q: And Seeing Red/Shades of Red? You know that story's responsible for me liking Scott Summers again.
KayJay: Woohoo! We got us a convert!
* TrishaLynn grins.
KayJay: Got the idea for Seeing Red while mucking out stalls at a barn I worked at in Florida. Wanted to see if I could make myself feel sorry for Cyke. Did.
Wrote [Shades of Red] because it seemed like the thing to do after ripping the man's life apart. Never finished because...because I'm woefully lazy, and Alicia expressed an interest in taking it off my hands. <smile>
Q: Did you have any concrete direction in mind when you wrote it?'
KayJay: I'd love to say 'yes,' but all I really wanted to do was play with random life, and how it goes where it wants to no matter the reins we try to put on it, and...and I'm bullshitting. No, no direction. Just wrote on a whim.
Q: Good to see you can be honest. Which do you like writing more, comedy or drama?
KayJay: I think they belong together.
Q: I can understand that, but there's one story I can think of in particular that's pure comedy, and that's "The Adventures of GOD" (AoG), co-written with Poi Lass. How hard (or easy) is it for you to write straight comedy?
KayJay: Except in rare moments of inspiration, I'm not much good at straight comedy. AoG was purely Poi's brilliant idea, and I tagged along on her coattails. She brings out the funny in me.
Q: What's it like co-writing with her?
KayJay: We're both amazingly inconsistent. <grin> We send each other snippets sometimes, then (when we were first writing AoG) one or the other would get inspired and write a sizable segment, and the other would have to match it out of guilt... <wink> But Poi's awesome. Full to the brim with ideas.
Q: Who else have you co-written with that you enjoyed co-writing with?
KayJay: I've...co-written with...um... <thinkthink> Well, sorta with my roommate. Like that. And a long time ago I had a blast co-writing a purely for fun AoA story with Shera Crawler 007. My roommate, [by the way], is Kael, who I owe my firstborn child to (not that I'm planning to have rugrats) for all the help she's been to my writing.
Q: How has Kael helped you?
KayJay: Aie, how hasn't she? She's a constant font of information and ideas. I use her as a sounding board so often I'm surprised she hasn't started wearing earplugs. She's got an insight into human psychology/sociology that dwarfs mine, and she uses that to offer input to characterization and plotting. She's an awesome editor, and on certain stories (namely Mooks stories) she's an almost tireless cheerleader.
Q: Is there anything else you'd like to write, any genre, any character, that you haven't written yet?
KayJay: I'm in the process of writing an Oz-fic right now based off HBO's prison drama. Not sure how into that fandom I'm gonna get, but it's been fun thus far. In the comic area...no, I don't think so. I'm trying to tie up about a thousand loose ends so I can leave comic fanfic and focus on my original efforts exclusively.
Q: How has that been going? Any successes?
KayJay: I haven't completed anything yet that I think is publishable. Have some good prospects, though. If I can shake off the seductive lure of instant gratification in the form of feedback. Lori McDonald once told me that fanfiction is the honey-coated trap, and she was sooo right.
Q: How so?
KayJay: Honey-coated trap: You get so used to the insta-praise that you find it harder to work on something seriously that won't get much attention for months or years.
Q: What (comic-fic wise) are you working on now?
KayJay: Comic-fic-wise... <deep breath>
Last part of Any Kinda Breath. Finishing "Here There Be..." A couple of Draco-stories. Two (exactly two, no more) K&Ls, both of which I'm only writing because I promised them to certain people. A story set loosely in the K&L-verse, down the road, about Jack & Zach, which I'm writing for Kael. Possibly more chapters of Tooth & Claw, since someone recently reminded me of why I liked writing that. A Mooks story for Alestar's birthday. Um. More, I'm sure. A story borrowing Gina Beldacci from PollyMel, set in the Dracoverse.
And... I forget.
Oh! Almost forgot a long-in-progress story I'm writing with Alicia McKenzie. Logan and Nate at the funeral of an old friend. More complex than that, but I don't wanna give anything away, assuming we actually finish it one day.
Q: And The Project(tm)?
KayJay: Cards didn't stack right for me to end up with a partner in The Project(tm). Which is probably just as well -- I'm a really lousy co-writer.
Q: No, I mean, what prompted your beginning The Project(tm) and how many writers have you managed to rope into it?
KayJay: Ooooh! The Project(tm) -- which is thus far still barely outta the idea stages and just inching into the actual experimentation stage -- was inspired by seeing how two writers with very different styles and approaches to storytelling managed to merge their differences into a story that capitalized on both their strengths and minimized their weaknesses. The idea is to pair up people who write differently -- stylistically, content-wise, whatever -- and have them bump and swear their way through the rough spots 'til they manage to smooth out and present a mingling of their efforts and skills.
Numbers-wise we've got eight or so pairings signed up for the experimental phase, though I doubt we'll see stories from all those pairings.
Q: Why do you think so?
KayJay: Everyone's quick to jump on the hot new ideas. People lose some enthusiasm when they realize there's a lot more work involved than they bargained for. <wink> To be more fair, it's hard to fit everything into a busy schedule, so it's easy to let things sit by the wayside until they're forgotten. I know that better than many. <wink>
Q: Who do you read on a regular basis, both fanfic and non fanfic wise?
KayJay: Hm. Varies. I hardly read anything that doesn't come directly to my non-list e-addy these days. I'll read anything by Poi Lass, Alestar, PollyMel, Kristina Sennvik, Amanda Sichter...a few others. A group of us (who largely hang out in #KJcorner on DALnet; and no, we don't mind nice visitors if someone feels like peeping in) do a lot of plotting together, merrily inflicting our rough drafts on each other at random. That's (variably) Falstaff, Pebblin, PollyMel, Kerithwyn, Heatherly, Tangherine, Kael, Dannell, Carmen, some random others... They're all immensely talented people. Jaya Mitai doesn't write enough, but I always enjoy her stuff and really wish we could make her write more. Alara Rogers and Luba Kmetyk turn out some great work. Um...damn, I feel like I'm gonna leave a lot of people out no matter what... Alara Rogers and Luba Kmetyk turn out some great work. Of course I also read Kael's stuff, but very little of that is online yet. Devo/Glam. Big fave. Fanfic daddy of Bobby/Remy stories.
Non-fanfic: Andrew Vachss, Dave Barry, Josepha Sherman, Jennifer Roberson, Frank McCourt...love Robert Frost's poetry (but who doesn't?)... A pretty eclectic mix.
Q: For the above people, whose work would you recommend to other people?
KayJay: Fanficcers or non?
KayJay: All of them. Terrific writers. We've got a lot of people running around out here that really need to go pro one day. Add in Kielle, even though the Scribe hasn't written much in a long time, and DuAnn Cowart, Alicia McKenzie, Heatherly Hodges...um...so many more... We just have too many talented people.
Q: Any specific pieces?
KayJay: <head in hands> Oh, ow, to choose, to choose... Okay, I'll limit myself to three. Three's a nice number. Dannell Lites' "Music of the Night." That affected me. Lots. Jaya Mitai's "The Sun Hasn't Yet Risen" (good luck finding it -- I have a copy if I can convince her to let me share it) is still with me months and months after reading it. Poi Lass' "First, Do No Harm" is one of the absolute best pieces out there, and deserves a Hall of Fame spot, no question.
Q: And the hardest question of all: What pieces of your own would you recommend to readers?
KayJay: Oh, that's not too hard. <smile> K&Ls: "The Great Loogah" for a laugh. "What Matters" and "Cold Shepherd" for the real stuff. The Mooks: "Any Kinda Breath" for, y'know, real-life-ness, and "A Mooky Kinda PWP" for...a different kinda life-ness. <wink> "Here There Be..." for the Dracoverse, for Gotham-fans. "Nightly" and (my fave) "Is Anyone Out There?" for pure Batman stories. The Death of Xavier trilogy isn't bad for Xavier/Mags fans ("Tombstone," "'Til Christmas," "To Guard a Gate"). "All My Hopes" is about Moira, and one of the more simple and emotional pieces I've done. That sounds like a big list, I guess, but considering how much I've written it's really rather short. <wink>
Q: What kind of advice could you give to fanfic authors who are just starting out?
KayJay: Connect with people. Don't be afraid of the Names. Have some confidence, learn to take criticism. Don't follow trends -- make them instead. Watch out for Mary Sues. Think of characters as people. Respect your readers and be grateful for them.
Q: Any parting words for your fans who are waiting for material?
KayJay: I'll give you guys my best. It just may take a while. And, um, I'm still catching up on e-mail, so if you haven't heard back from me, don't give up hope...! Or resend! Resending is always good!
Q: Oh wait, one last question. Which came first, the Jaya Kaylee, or the Jaya Mitai?
KayJay: In fanfic, the Jaya Kaylee. Mitai showed up on a messageboard, signing off as 'Jaya.' I sent her an e-mail saying "My Name!" and welcoming her to fanfic. She responded promptly, very kindly offering to drop the 'Jaya' and just go by Mitai, which I said wasn't necessary, though she more or less did so anyway. <grin> She's a nifty lady.
Q: But you share the title now, right?
KayJay: Yep, though we use our other nicks more commonly. We call each other 'Jaya' (which has been declared the plural of 'Jaya' <wink>) and reflect on assorted niftinesses of being...Jaya. Which is actually a lot funnier and a lot less arrogant than it sounds, I swear. <wink>
Q: <laughs> Thanks so much for your time.
KayJay: Back atcha. Sorry I talked the screen off. <grin>
Q: <laugh> It's not a problem.
Music of the Night by Dannell Lites
--Dick Grayson deals with the death of a former Titan in a poignant way. Lined to the Crime Alley archive.
The Sun Hasn't Yet Risen by Jaya Mitai--Kaylee has a copy of this, but we need to bug Mitai about letting us link it first.
First, Do No Harm by Poi Lass
--A former CFAN feature, this is strong and powerful stuff from a woman also known for humorous schtick. Linked to Quite Possibly Poi
, her archive run by Kaylee.
Kai & Logan: Canada by Kaylee--The first to be written, it tells a lot about who Kai is and why Logan's attracted to her.
Kai & Logan: Sick Day by Kaylee--Tremble as Kai and Logan face the most dangerous enemy they've ever faced in their lives: the common cold.
A Mooky Kind of PWP by Kaylee--Not for the young of age, nor the intolerant of slashfic. Bobby and Remy get it on. 'Nuff said. [NC-17]
Seeing Red and Shades of Red by Kaylee--I liked these so much that I decided to write a side story to it. It's coming eventually, but the origninals are still too good to pass up. Set after the Psi War saga, it's the story of a love gone wrong.
Green and Gold and Copper and... by Kaylee--This woman writes other women well. For Jean fans, with a bit of Scott on the side.
Kaylee's fanfics can be found in very many different places:
for Gotham-related works, the
Itty Bitty Archives
for X-Men related works,
(linked to Fonts of Wisdom) for the Kai & Logan series,
for the Mooks series and
for Draco stories. Whew! This woman gets around, doesn't she?
In addition, I'd like to thank the artists captioned in the fan art above for letting me show their pictures here and
Gambit's Little Surprises and
for the comics images I used in my photomanipulated picture.
Finally, you can e-mail Kaylee at
and send her lots of presents on April 11, as it's her birthday, okay?
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