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I was busy reading all the Doctor Who fic but then it suddenly occurred to me that I've never seriously checked out Twin Peaks fic, ever, so I went and read all of that, and now I urgently have to make a definitive recs post but don't have the time.

The joy of coming back to reading fanfiction after a long pause is finding that since you last checked any archive, a million new stories have been posted...
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Hello. Anyone still around?

Since December I've developed a mild Doctor Who obsession. (Not for the first time; it's like a sort of fandom malaria that only flares up every four years. This is the third flare-up since 2005.) I want vids and fic, urgently, but as usual the fandom isn't really in tune with what I want and isn't writing any of the stuff I want. And as for vids, I'm not sure how to look for them anymore these days. Woe.

Here's a tumblr sideblog I made about Peter Capaldi. (Not that much happening there, as you can see. This is a minor obsession, and also, I've been working like crazy for the last five weeks or so, which doesn't leave me with much fandom time.)

I've also been posting a bit on reddit, when I got a bit too desperate for fannish conversation, lol. Also, I just miss forums as a format for conversation.

The other major internet place where I still do anything on a regular basis is goodreads, in case you're curious about what I'm reading. (Damn, I need to catch up on my reviews there.) I'm curious about what *you* are reading!

In theory I'm also on twitter, but I find it difficult to check that regularly.

Book chain

Sep. 3rd, 2015 08:26 pm
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Anybody else ever have that thing happen where books you read one after the other seem to have strange random connections? E.g. the first one has a bit with two big birds attacking the narrator. The second one also has a bit with two big birds attacking someone; also, its main theme is... matter always reconfiguring again in the same ways? The one you read after that starts with a quote by Engels about how matter always returns to the same shapes or something... etc.

Happens to me all the time, and sometimes it's really strange. Several books sharing several characters with the same names; or tackling the same theme *and* the same time period... I should really write all these coincidences down... I think the longest chain of that sort I ever encountered was something like five or six books long. I don't remember the actual links, though.
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I just noticed Charles Stross will be reading. Very likely from the next Laundry novel. When I'll already have to be on a train or bus home to Germany on Sunday. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
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How did institutional British magic become a genre?

And why does it work so much better for me than its American, rugged individualist counterpart, the paranormal PI?
hmpf: (weirdface)
Maybe I'm unwittingly participating in a disinformation campaign by the real Laundry. They're setting me up to help saturate the public with fictionalised accounts of their doings, so that nobody will know or believe what they're really doing. ;-)

Something like that would be the Laundryverse explanation for a coincidence like this, anyway.
hmpf: (weirdface)
But first: @beccadg: I will reply to your comment... soon, I hope. Just kind of extremely pressed for time, these past several days (and probably also the next three).

Okay, now for the weirdness: today I went to a flea market, a small one, where there were mostly clothes and all kinds of small trinkets and knick-knacks on offer. Some of the stands had a few books, too, though, and guess what the first two books I saw there were? Books 1 and 3 of the Laundry series. In English.

I don't even know how to describe how unlikely it is to find *any* English language science fiction/fantasy books on a small German flea market focused on clothes and old porcelain. And it wasn't just any two English sf/fantasy/horror books - it was the series I've been gushing about here (and obsessing about in other places, too) for the past two weeks! Also, they were the same editions as mine - American for book 1, British for book 3. And, last but most certainly not least, books 1 and 3 together constitute the starter pack I've given to several friends to try to get them into the series: book 1 because it is the start of the series; book 3 because I have some strong reservations about book 1, and think that in many ways (though not all), book 3 is a better book. It's as if SOMEONE or SOMETHING (probably something extradimensional with too many tentacles) meant for me to assemble another Laundry starter pack to give away to someone.

Three out of four of these books were found in suspicious circumstances

Left: books I bought at the flea market today. Right: my own books. One of which, incidentally, was also found in unlikely circumstances. I feel like someone is leaving a breadcrumbs trail of Laundry books for me all over the city...

(Speaking of coincidences: Rebecca count for last weekend is now up to five - found out that the colleague I'd been chatting to at work is also named Rebecca. Huh. I feel like I'm turning into a walking probability anomaly.)
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I need to talk about how much I love the Laundry series. I've spent the past several months in a state of constant low-level excitement for the impending release of the latest volume, and now, after reading it in essentially one go last Sunday, I'm going to spend the next year (yes, the next volume comes out exactly one year from now) in anticipation of the next. Painful anticipation. *sobs*

A year and a few months ago, after moving to this part of the city, I found the third volume of some... urban fantasy series? - I wasn't quite sure what it was, and I'm still not sure how I would classify this - on a bookcrossing shelf here. It was one of two English-language books on there, both of them from the sf and fantasy spectrum. This one was by Charles Stross; the other by Bruce Sterling. I remembered enjoying the only bit of Stross I'd ever read, and not-so-much-enjoying what I'd read of Sterling, so I only took the Stross – despite the fact that it was part of a series (I'm not too keen on series), and the third volume and thus almost certainly a bad place to start. (I should have taken the Sterling, too, really. When I came back a week later it was gone.)

I started the book without expectations, but it grabbed me, hard, from the very first page. The first two pages of The Fuller Memorandum dump what feels like a truckload of major spoilers on the reader – terrible gods and lost love and grievous injuries and on top of that, nothing less than „the beginning of the end of the world“. Reading this laundry list (heh) of disasters, you may find yourself checking the book's length: but no, it really has only 350 pages. To be fair, one of the items on the list, lost love, is a bit of an overstatement on our narrator's part. The rest, though, yeah. They definitely happen in those 350 pages.

Then the first chapter proper begins, and it's the contrast between the drily humourous tone on display there, and the prologue's dire foreshadowing that really sold me on the book, I think. The first chapter takes us back to our narrator Bob's everyday life. Bob (not his real name), whose narrative voice in this chapter is less drenched in the cynicism and despair of the prologue, and instead is characterised mainly by the sarcasm of the put-upon office drone, is an IT guy in the civil service, who does IT guy things, like revising cabling proposals for a building project, and civil service things, like filling in lots and lots of forms. But - he's an IT guy in a top-secret government department – nicknamed the Laundry – that deals with the occult, and so his job also occasionally entails, say, exorcising haunted jet fighters. Magic, it turns out, is a branch of applied mathematics in the Laundry universe, and that's why a lot of computer sciences students and IT professionals there end up accidentally branching out into summoning monstrous creatures from beyond space-time. Stopping that kind of thing from happening is part of the Laundry's job.

There's a strong line of office/IT humour running through this series (more evident in the earliest three volumes than the latter two) – it's been compared to Dilbert, The Office, or the IT Crowd, among other things; there's also an element of pastiche, in particular of British spy novels (mostly in the first four volumes). Yet the third main ingredient is a heavy dose of the cosmic horror of H. P. Lovecraft, and that element is mostly played straight. The horror sits strangely against the humour, but somehow the two don't clash but rather, sort of, amplify each other. It's a great literary trick, if you can manage it.

The constant tension between the series' disparate elements makes for a great deal of its charm. Still, it might grow stale, if Stross kept recycling the same recipe. Starting with volume three of the series, though, comes a major shift in the series' emotional tone: our narrator begins to understand that he is living in the actual, proper End Times – that the „walls“ between realities are growing thin, and very soon all the horrors of the multiverse will enter his world, where they will probably find humanity, as Bob puts it, „crunchy and good with ketchup“.

I'm not actually a big fan of grim, dark and gritty stuff per se. I rather enjoy a healthy dose of fun in my reading (and watching, and gaming etc.). Mix the grim and the dark with the fun in just the right proportions, though, and it can, occasionally, be delicious. The Laundry series get the mixture exactly right.

Another thing Stross gets very right in this series is how to turn a character who started out fairly lightweight and lighthearted into... something very, very different from that description. Bob acquires a set of rather interesting and unsual talents (unusual, that is, even in fantasy – especially for a main character)... and I can't really talk about this part here without going into full-on spoiler mode, which is a shame, because as so often, it's the character development that gets me truly hooked on this series.

Speaking of Bob, I also need to mention Mo. Bob, you see, is married. His wife Mo is also an agent of the Laundry, and she kicks as much ass as he or more - and she does so with one of the more original magical weapons I've seen in fantasy so far: a vampiric violin made from human bone, whose music kills demonic critters. When she comes back from whatever the latest job the Laundry sent her on was – likely an assassination or something similarly stomach-turning – Bob breaks out the comfort food and the Scotch, and holds her while she cries. When Bob wakes up screaming at night because he's having nightmares in which he (REDACTED), she does the same for him. They're a hurt/comfort kind of couple, and they're lovely - heartbreakingly brave, and sad, and laughing in the face of a cruel universe.

The Laundryverse's apocalypse is approaching - has, in fact, already begun, and is rapidly picking up speed. It looks like Stross will give us open magical warfare in the streets of London fairly soon, with all the shocks and changes that implies for a modern, intensely non-magical society, and I can't wait to see how he's going to handle that. It looks as if at some point the Laundry series will pivot to show us not just the impact of magic on individual characters, but on an entire society that is very poorly equipped to deal with it. This is especially intriguing to me since the usual mode of the genre seems to be for magic to somehow always remain hidden from the public – contrast that with the Laundry, which even in the current, fifth volume, is preparing a public information campaign for the inevitably approaching moment when reality incursions from other universes will become undeniable...

I should perhaps also note here that magical warfare in the Laundryverse isn't so much wizards waving wands („wizards“, incidentally, is a word not generally used by practitioners there - who, if anything, are more likely to call themselves sorcerers or computational demonologists or necromancers, depending on their specialty) as heavily armed special forces who are quite officially, though also very secretly, part of the British army... Also, when conventional heavy weaponry and magic both fail, nukes are the natural next step.

(I was going to continue here for a bit yet, and then also add a couple of paragraphs about the reservations I have about the books - because these books aren't perfect, and there are a couple of things that bother me about them, and also, they're kind of hard to get into for a lot of people, I suspect, because especially in the beginning, they're absolutely packed with IT references, which makes them intermittently near-incomprehensible to non-IT nerds. But, I'm just so in love at the moment I don't really feel like dwelling on the negatives; and also, very very tired. So here, have a love bomb instead.)
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I've been very nearly completely offline for... weeks (pretty much since I made my last post here, exactly), and only partly online again for... a week or so. My laptop died. Completely. Not even the "power on" diode is working anymore. My ancient desktop, after a three-day period of trying and failing again and again, turned out to be incompatible with Linux (which I tried to put on it so as to have at least *some* sort of working computer again with which to go online and look for computer advice as well as start shopping for a new laptop). I'm now on a borrowed eight-year-old laptop (which was also broken/heavily infected with something, and which has an extraordinarily crappy keyboard), on which I installed Linux and which is therefore, now, somewhat safe to use for going online again. I've also finally ordered a new laptop, which should be delivered sometime this week. Pheew.

The novel is now at 1,500 words, roughly, btw. Have been somewhat stuck/blocked for a while though, mainly because I have some trouble developing the setting in my mind - seems like I can't really write unless I can imagine the world my protagonists live in. I've started borrowing lots of geography books from the local library; maybe that will help.

I've finally started reading comics again! I sort of fell off that particular wagon a year or two ago, mainly because I switched to reading more novels again. I've started reading Saga now (which had been brought to my attention a couple of times before, but I wasn't in comic buying mode then, so it never stuck). It's good, but not as weird as I feel I'd been promised. I think reading Finder and Donna Barr's stuff and assorted Manga has forever ruined me for finding any comic coming out of the mainstream weird. The world also doesn't feel quite as fully realised to me yet as reviews had led me to expect. Again, I'm probably spoiled by Finder. Still, it's promising - and it's definitely a flavour that you don't get much in comics, so I'll support it for that, too. Mind you, I only have the first volume, so far.

Prince Robot is totally modelled on The One Electronic, though.

One thing that's kind of interesting is that what Saga tries to do - telling a love story about an established relationship, against a background of large-scale conflict - is *sort of* what I'm trying to do in my novel. Huh.

As for weirder comics: Finder: Third World, the story that was serialised in Dark Horse Presents, is finally getting a trade paperback release in August. This is making me very, very, very, very happy.

Also, it seems there will be a Hellblazer, pardon, Constantine (pronounced wrong, though, ugh) tv show? Not sure how I feel about that, but it's reminded me of the fact that my Hellblazer collection is sadly incomplete. Turns out that now they're finally collecting the whole shebang from the beginning and without gaps. Well, hooray. Only I've already bought about a third of the entire run in various other forms. I doubt the new collections will neatly fill the gaps in my stack of issues and trades, so I suppose I'll end up with lots of spares. Meh.

I also still haven't read the actual ending of the actual comic (stopped reading for money reasons, a while before it ended). Was it okay? Or is it better to just... not read it, ever?

Aaaand speaking of London magicians, I also recently read Rivers of London and enjoyed it quite a lot. What I didn't enjoy quite as much were some of the spoilers I read online about Lesley's future. Fingers crossed that those were misinterpretations or something. Now waiting for the second volume to be delivered... which should have arrived last week already, so I'm getting antsy.

Right, well, gotta get off this thing now as it's getting late and I have to get up early tomorrow...
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experiencing an urge to buy books that borders on the crippling.

Especially sf by Banks, Delany, and a few others.
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So I guess that's what they're supposed to be. So they're both part of the same sentence, actually, but the italics stop in the middle of the sentence (which is also the page break).
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I think my copy may be missing a page, or a few lines or something. It's kinda hard to tell, because Delany uses sentence fragments a lot anyway, but the semantic "break" between pages 181 and 182 of my edition (the Vintage one with the blue and purple cover, with Empire Star at the back) seems to be bigger and more abrupt than it should be, and also, he usually frames his sentence fragments in dashes and there aren't any dashes here. The last line of page 181 is:

"You are so big inside me I will break. I see the pattern named" (italics in the book)

And the first sentence on page 182 is:

"The criminal and the artistic consciousness meet in the same head with one language between them..."

This is in part four, "The Butcher" - in the second chapter of it.
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and it really is great. Up there with my favourite stories of first contact and alien cultures.

Check it out; buy it. Maybe he'll write a sequel...
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Bought this week (as if I had money, hah): Constellation Games by Leonard Richardson - on the strength of a number of enthusiastic reviews that made it sound really interesting. It arrived today, and I've had a closer look, and it still looks really interesting (exept for the cover, which is awful). It's a First Contact story told essentially in the form of blog reviews of ancient alien computer games sent to the (human) reviewer by the aliens. If nothing else, that's a conceit for a novel I haven't encountered before.

Looking forward to receive as a birthday gift from my parents, in less than two months: All four published volumes of the print version of Problem Sleuth, the most systematically, intricately insane webcomic I know. Strangely enough, this is also a kind of meta-meditation about games. I read this a couple of years ago online and have been wanting to reread it on paper for ages; I just held off on buying the books because I was hoping the author would perhaps publish the fifth and last volume of the series sometime soon so I could buy them all in one go (the postage for international shipping is ridiculous). But it looks as if that's still years away, so I put it on my wishlist for my birthday - and it's right at the top of the list, too.

Recently discovered and found surprisingly effective: The Fuller Memorandum by Charles Stross - third volume of the Laundry series. A series set in the early years of an apocalypse that somehow feels "fresh" to me. It's a weird cross between a spy novel, a satire of bureaucracy, and Lovecraftian horror - all mixed with a kind of IT sensibility, because in the Laundry universe, IT, as applied mathematics, is essentially a form of magic. Or maybe the other way around. The hero is a programmer turned demonologist, and in the employ of a branch of the British secret service. -- I never would have bought this book, but I found it on a bookcrossing shelf just after I moved here in March, and since it seemed to be recent(!) English-language(!) sf/fantasy(!) I just had to take it; it was like it was meant for me. (I live in a tiny German village. Recent English sf and fantasy is the last thing I would have expected on a bookcrossing shelf here. It really felt as if someone had put it there just for me, to welcome me. :D)

These aren't the only books I've read recently or will read soon, but they're the ones that colour my emotions the most at the moment - along with a whole lot of Banks.

Speaking of which: this is a really good interview/article.

Oh, and since there seems to be a theme of "game meta fiction" here today, why not add a rec for Banks own volume of game meta fiction: The Player of Games. This was my true introduction to the Culture, and it made me a fan. It seems to be fairly widely regarded as one of the best ways to get into the Culture series.
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I know there are many, way more important things I could and should blog about here now (some of them I've blogged about here: http://scrapbox-amnesty.tumblr.com), but for the past several weeks, emotionally speaking I've mostly been caught up in a violent urge to read, read, read - preferably sf and fantasy, of which two genres there seem to be so, so many books that I haven't read yet and that sound potentially brilliant. Unfortunately I'm still not in a situation where buying countless numbers of books is a good idea, neither space-wise nor in terms of money. So instead I'm putting lots and lots of of stuff on my amazon wishlist.

I love books so much. I love genre so much. I want to buy and read a lot more books, really... I did actually buy one recently - Among Others by Jo Walton, and got another, Against a Dark Background by Iain M. Banks via tauschticket, which is a book exchange platform here in Germany. But there's so much more I still want to read... Can't someone please pay me to read?

Speaking of Iain M. Banks: he died on Sunday. :-(

So....

Mar. 19th, 2011 03:37 am
hmpf: (ears of love)
I've been bad. I've gone and read some fic. HL, Methos, my eternal number one fic reading fandom, the one I always keep coming back to.

And... there was some really nice characterisation there and all. And yet... suddenly, a bit of romance creeps in, and takes me right out of it, and I can't get back into the story, afterwards.

Why am I so bloody allergic to romance? It's not even like it would be out of character for Methos (unlike Sam and Gene, whom I really can't see having candlelight dinners and giving each other flowers)! Methos' entire relationship with Alexa is straight out of a romance novel. And I've written some bad romantic angst for him myself, in my very first fic, way back... Yet I can't read that kind of thing.

*sigh*

I also notice that I - hypocritically - tend to avoid fics featuring OFCs, and to some degree even OMCs. Hypocritically, because I've written both - in particular, I've written an OFC who's only a hair's breadth away from being a Mary Sue (maybe even is a Mary Sue) - and in a Horsemen fic, no less! I really should give some of those fics a chance.

OMG

Mar. 17th, 2011 04:47 am
hmpf: (ears of love)
814 fics featuring Methos at AO3. And from what I can see at first glance, a *lot* of them actually look really interesting. There's new fic by Amand-r, even.

OMG WANT.

Duuude, I'm *so* overdue a dive into fic reading.

Stupid RL, always interfering... (I suppose I could replace my fic writing time with fic reading time, but somehow I can't bear *that* thought, not with Back to the Future so close to finishing, and other fics percolating in my brain. Arrrgh.)
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is that I always get tempted away from social things by books or comics (mostly books and comics, that is. Occasionally TV or games.)

I really think, sometimes, that I need therapy to learn to cope with *people*. It can't be normal that even *pleasant* social interaction is so draining for me that I shy away from it, can it?

I've been job hunting and doing housework and reading, mostly. Yes, I stopped the LJ catch-up almost immediately after I'd started. There was a rather large number of interesting job ads recently, but that's no excuse, really.

Gah.

Have some recs:

[livejournal.com profile] beccatoria made another awesome Farscape vid! Actually, I'm sure she's made at least a dozen good vids recently, because she went a bit crazy last month and tried (possibly even managed?) to make one vid(let) per day. So head over there and enjoy!

Did you realise you can read shitloads of classics of the fantastic genres for free on gutenberg.org? I've decided it's time to check out some of that old stuff, and have read Peter Pan and am currently reading The Napoleon of Notting Hill (I read The Man Who Was Thursday years ago, though maybe a reread is in order...) Peter Pan was much odder, and darker, than I expected. TNoNH is about as odd as I expected, because after TMWWT I expect major weirdness from Chesterton. Got any recs of other old stuff I should check out? Maybe A Voyage to Arcturus? That's definitely available there. Or I could try to get back into News from Nowhere, I started that two years ago and then was interrupted by uni stuff...

I've also reread two webcomics I'd more or less stopped checking regularly because they were (and still are) in the habit of going on really long hiatuses. They're both really really good, though. Dicebox is social science fiction with beautiful art and very three-dimensional characters and relationships. Hero is fantasy with religous/mythological overtones, possibly set after some apocalyptic(?) conflict between some analogues between the forces of heaven and hell. Or something. Beautiful digital watercolour manga art, and a surprising sense of humour. (For even more webcomics, check out the links in my sidebar here.)

I've spent a bit of time playing flash games, too:

I really enjoyed Little Rocket, despite the fact that it took me ridiculously long to learn how to control the rocket. But when I finally had the hang of it, I played the entire game through twice.

Endeavor is a nice, big-pixeled exploration platformer.

Looming plays like an extremely minimalist, retro version of Myst.

Seasons is another beautiful web toy/experience by the maker of Windosill.

The Dreamerz (don't ask me about the stupid "z"!) is a charming little point-and-click adventure that feels like you're reading a slightly surreal picture book.

And Transform is another example of patented Eyemaze madness. In other words, it's awesome.

****

I just rediscovered a very fitting old tag so I'm using it...
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Still like it.


**

Currently reading:

Neal Stephenson: Anathem (awesome)
Mark Z. Danielewski: House of Leaves (creepy)

Reading them in parallel because a) I want to make Anathem last longer and b) House of Leaves on its own would creep me out too badly.


**

Regarding the flat:

- Washing machine broken again
- Hot water access decidedly spotty
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I've had a somewhat calmer week due to a lack of job offers. Then, a couple days ago, a whole bunch cropped up, all with the same due date, so I'm all busy now again. To prepare for one of the applications, I'm going to travel to the small town where my dad was born, tomorrow, to visit a museum there. This will be the first time I go there on my own since my grandparents died. Maybe I'll find time to visit the cemetery, too. I'm not sure I could find their graves on my own, though.

Thanks to the period of relative calm, I've managed to clear a little bit of space in my mind for fic writing. I've made some - modest - progress on the nuclear fic. Oddly, the latest part of the fic seems to be all about vegetables. I wish I could say I'll keep writing now, but with all the applications I have to send in the next few days, it's looking doubtful.

Which reminds me again of how much it sucks that to get a chance to survive financially, you have to basically stop doing everything you really want to do. Even after all these years of growing up and getting used to "the way things are", that still feels morally wrong to me. Maybe I'm not quite done growing up yet, after all.

And the other thing I still haven't figured out how to integrate into my life properly is, of course, activism. Getting a paying job in this field is as unlikely as ever, so I have to find a way to do it "on the side". And I've recently read a lot and thought a lot and come once more to the conclusion that there is no really effective course of action short of a complete remodelling of my life, and I still don't know how to even begin that.

Currently reading: Octavia Butler: Parable of the Talents. Just started, so I can't say much yet, except that this - along with Parable of the Sower, the first part of the series - really feels like it's the future we're heading towards.

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