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Slash Fanfic Discussion

Discussion in 'Fanfic Discussion' started by Skeletaure, Sep 26, 2021.

  1. Mr. Mixed Bag

    Mr. Mixed Bag Sixth Year

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    This.

    Just because I read a story in an SI manner does not mean I'll like it or that it's high quality. Even if I can connect with the main character, if the writing is poor technically, or there are plot holes left and right, or the side characters have all the personality of a mannequin, it'll be dropped. Often immediately.

    There are even stories I've finished and, dare I say it, enjoyed, that I wouldn't rate especially highly because I can recognize that they're a guilty pleasure. Character I see as myself that gets betrayed and exacts an excruciating revenge that's spelled out in great detail? If the prose is passable, sure why not, I'll have some.

    But at the end of the day those stories are like scratching an itch: satisfying, but not as developed a pleasure as, say, a really good meal, which is what I see my favorite stories as.

    My long time favorite, the Percy Jackson series, is a good example for the food. The character I associate with is competent and likeable, so no problems on that front. But they also face real challenges, grow over time, and go through well developed and soundly designed plots with foreshadowing and depth- all of which are commonly accepted as aspects of a high quality story.

    What I'm trying to get at is that just because I read with an SI lens doesn't blind me to quality. How much I like a story isn't dependent upon how closely I associate with the protagonist, but rather how much I like the plot, writing, world-building, etc... that goes on around a character who is close enough to me in enough ways for me to immerse myself in their perspective.
     
  2. darklordmike

    darklordmike Headmaster

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    Ah, okay. That's partly where the confusion lies. I took you to mean more than that based on things you've said in the past, and I'm not so sure that the two styles of reading can be divorced from the way we digest stories. I'm still a bit surprised by your position. I don't want to get too far off subject here, but tell me if I'm understanding our conversation correctly:

    --

    You: I'm an SI reader. I prefer to read only those stories with characters that I can identify with. Ideally, they will be competent, smart, and powerful. If they're male, they must be heterosexual. That's why I don't like slash.

    Me: Fair enough. How do you read serious fiction then?

    You: I try not to.

    Me: What? Why?

    You: There's no such thing as 'serious' fiction anyway. Even if there is, it's inferior to genre fiction, and a perversion of the story-telling impulse. Thus, a Shakespeare tragedy or Tolstoy novel doesn't have anything important to say about life that can't be found in, say, a good Harry Potter fanfiction.

    Me: You can't be serious. Moreover, if there's no distinction between high art and low art, why are we on a site that reviews fanfiction and separates it into categories like 'good stories' and 'trash?'

    You: Oh, we're not actually judging stories based on any objective criteria at DLP. When we give a story 1/5 because of its cliches, bashing, harems, and poor dialogue, what we really mean is 'this story is bad because it doesn't scratch the particular itch that we all share here, even if it's literate.'

    Me: I don't think everyone got that memo, especially in the last few years. Why have we dedicated millions of words to analyzing the quality of stories? Why are we judging them for reasons other than whether we identify with the main character? Why does WbA exist? Or all the threads devoted to becoming a better writer? Don't we reject stories that feature bashing, harems, and godlike protagonists because they're just immature power wanks, and thus 'bad writing?'

    The big reason I'm confused is because elsewhere you seem to endorse a distinction between immature and mature reading that mirrors the distinction between SI reading and third-party reading. IIRC, your 'stages of fanfic diagram' does exactly this, and implies that the immature reader starts in a 'simple SI phase' and wants to read only edgelord stuff that is little more than mental masturbation. As that reader matures, they gain an appreciation for more complex stories and other points of view. This maturity mirrors, in my opinion, the movement from the SI style of reading to the third-party style of reading.

    I'd argue that the ability to learn anything from literature requires developing the skill to read from the third-party point of view. If you're solely an SI reader, how do you sympathize with or understand a character who has little in common with you? How do you challenge yourself or even analyze something without taking that 'objective' step back? One's style of reading does seem to have an effect on what one can learn from a story.

    (Of course, most of us probably go back and forth or employ a mix of styles. I certainly read stuff in the fantasy genre from an SI perspective, because fantasy is fun and escapist to me, not serious).

    I'd also argue that there's a distinction between high and low art, and that there's more to literary criticism than saying 'a story is only good or bad based on whether it's technically competent and scratches one's itch. Otherwise, it's totally subjective.' I have a hard time squaring that claim with things you've said elsewhere, with all the writing advice provided by DLP, and with the fact that most people agree that a literary canon exists, even if the concept is amorphous.

    But we can agree to disagree on that last bit. Have I otherwise misunderstood your position? It's an interesting topic.

    --

    More on topic, the idea of slash doesn't bother me, even though I read fantasy from an SI perspective. As long as it's not the sexually graphic kind, or written in 'the slash style,' then no problemo. The trouble is that I don't think I've ever encountered such a story. If the Harry Potter character in a fic by, say, nonjon, the Santi, or Joe, turned out to be gay, I'd have no trouble reading it. But does that story exist?

    I could read a good adventure story from Dumbledore's POV that includes a romance with Grindelwald, so long as that isn't the sole focus. Does that story exist either?
     
  3. Gengar

    Gengar Degenerate Shrimp –§ Prestigious §– DLP Supporter

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    If the Amazon emails to me admonishing me on my return policy are anything to go by, it's that reading fantasy fiction with an SI slant is...hard. I've lost count of the amount of times I've deleted an audiobook in disgust after a particularly stupid or whiny characters strains my 'SI-Credulity-Index' too far.


    It could also mean that Audible reviews are hot garbage and not fit for purpose.


    As to Lindsey's point, it's also made me realize how hard it must be for people like me who are gay or trans. They're far, far less served for options than I am and even I feel like I need to scrape the bottom of the barrel far too often.
     
  4. moribund_helix

    moribund_helix Third Year

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    @darklordmike I love your abridged version of the conversation. I understand much of the conversation the same way as you, but I believe Taure views it differently and that your main difference stems from the following misunderstanding(?).

    Taure can correctly claim that there are some criteria for distinguishing a better story from a worse one. He can argue that a story that isn't for him will just not be reviewed by him or others who have the same issues. I won't get into the several ways one can judge a literary work for its merits, but there are obviously differences in quality between works.

    Now, what Taure does not realize, and I believe it is the reason behind your dispute, is that in this post (at least) two rationales are given for not liking a slash story. But the "type of reader" is actually about admitting the reader's limitations and the "slash style" argues for actual bad storytelling in (most of) these stories. But while the first reason is about the reader's deficiency and the second about the story's, when presented like so, there's an implicit assumption that both are about the story's shortcomings.

    To me the most interesting part that surfaced is that people experience reading so differently, I've never considered myself a self insert or third party reader and I've never been troubled about the protagonist doing stuff I wouldn't etc, while being completely immersed in the story (to such a degree that I'd lose all sense of time and space).

    -------
    I understand exactly the same, and this is such a preposterous position that I can't even understand how someone goes about defending it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2021
  5. Testamentary

    Testamentary First Year

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    Well, gonna jump in with my perspective, which may add a layer to the whole "SI Reader" thing. As a man who is attracted to other men (albeit, not exclusively), I find most slash utterly unreadable. Even though the experience being described should be eminently relatable to me, it usually just feels bizarre and fetishistic. Like, slash ship characters are almost never fully realized representations of same-sex relationships, in the same way that lesbian porn isn't the pinnacle of lesbian storytelling. Slash fic is for the straight female gaze, and most slash writers are working with that in mind, whether consciously or not. Anyways, I don't have a coherent argument here, just a collection of poorly organized thoughts I slapped together on my lunch break.
     
  6. FitzDizzyspells

    FitzDizzyspells Sixth Year DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

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    This is easily one of the most valid criticisms when it comes to slash. It's leveled often, and rightly so.

    Have you ever read any fics in this category that were good? Or, any compelling fics with an LGBT character that were so different from slash that you wouldn't even consider it slash?
     
  7. Testamentary

    Testamentary First Year

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    Nope.

    Though of course it’s not something I would seek out, especially not in HP fanfic. It’s not a topic I particularly trust fanfic authors to handle with nuance or artistry. And they don’t have to—if straight women want to write about boys kissing, good for them. It’s just never going to be something I want to read.

    I have read fics with queer characters/elements that I thought handled them well enough, but the fics were never primarily about those elements. Frankly I just don’t think HP has that much interesting space to interrogate the queer experience. Like, being able to do magic doesn’t really change what it means to be gay. That being said, I have read some interesting fics about what it would mean to be trans in a world where magic (esp. metamorphmagi/polyjuice) exists.
     
  8. Golden Shadow

    Golden Shadow Third Year

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    I wouldn't consider myself a SI reader exactly, I do project myself onto characters I'm reading about, it's just that I also maintain some separation. Reading for me isn't purely wish fulfilment, it's more like if I was in the head of the protagonist as a passive observer, experiencing the events from that perspective while freely critiquing his actions or imagining things I would have done differently or at all.

    While mostly I can ignore some aspects of the character or story I don't like, in the context of different motivations and whatnot, some things still jar me out. Slash is part of it, since I can't really fully invest myself into something I can't form a connection with, especially with how fanfic slash works, but also other stuff that doesn't compute with me but is just casually accepted in the setting does it too.

    On the other hand I don't really mind it when it's other characters or in the background, or mentioned but not really delved into as a major part of the story. So I don't think disliking slash (for being slash, as opposed to how relationships are handled therein) is necessarily homophobic.
     
  9. oakes

    oakes Unspeakable DLP Supporter

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    I think you're taking what Taure has said too literally. There is always going to be preference to what one reads but that doesn't mean that we don't read stuff outside of our preferred scope. It's not as black and white as you seem to have understood the situation.
     
  10. Skeletaure

    Skeletaure Magical Core Enthusiast ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    This. Describing the circumstances in which you find a story enjoyable is not the same thing as describing all the circumstances in which you will read a story. Enjoyment is not the only reason to read. Education is another. I read a lot of non-fiction for example, especially history. Needless to say, I am not "self-inserting" when I read those books.

    To the extent that a story has "important things to say about life" and that is the reason you are reading it, then you are engaged in a very different activity to reading for enjoyment - something much more akin to studying or even religious activity. It's not really storytelling that the author is engaged in but rather pedagogy. And because it's a different activity, I don't think it really has any relevance to this discussion.

    That said, I maintain the position that a lot of the "literary canon" is just pretentious guff.

    As an aside, "here's a summary of what you said in my preferred wording" is always a red flag in a discussion. There's no need to summarise what I said, it's literally just above in the thread. The only real reason to "summarise" someone's position right after they have said it is to simplify, distort or misrepresent.
     
  11. Lindsey

    Lindsey Chief Warlock DLP Supporter

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    Hilariously enough, I had a conversation about slash with my younger gen-z sister yesterday.

    They primarily read slash (though apparently didn't know what the term meant, they use MLM), and have a lot of friends in the various fandoms. One big point they made was that most gen-z fanfic readers and writers are non-binary or trans. They could care less what gender the characters are, it's all about the pairings. As gender doesn't matter, it's not uncommon to pick a male character to become your SI that pairs well with the character you would romance.

    It was very interesting talking with my sister about fanfiction because we have completely different styles. They are all about romance and could care less about bad writing, while I am picky and dislike romance-focused stories.

    But one thing we both agreed on is that most gen-z writers are people who were born female, and have a very female-focused thought patterns. Romance is still the best selling genre in publishing because of women heavily preferring them to almost any other story. It's not surprising that the rise of more female writers has shifted the fandom to more romance-centered stories.

    I have a feeling HP might have been that perfect time where you had equal men to women fanfiction writers, and over the years it has heavily shifted to become female-dominated. I can't see the trend changing anytime soon either. Women are flocking to fanfiction far more than men are. In fact, it seems like the writing industry is quickly shifting demographics as well.

    My sister and I had a laugh about women writing gay fiction though, and how it's all not realistic in the slightest. But romance books rarely are... just read any Victorian smut novel to see that in action.
     
  12. moribund_helix

    moribund_helix Third Year

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    I truthfully cannot understand how you can support this narrow-minded view. How can you view this as either/or? I think you've mentioned the need for people to tell a story, but why does someone wish to tell a story? And is that story not richer if it manages to speak deeply about the human nature? To convey experiences, feelings and ideas? And is not engaging with all that a story has to offer entertaining? I think you ought to think more before claiming that genre fiction and world-class works are equivalent and if one's looking to be mentally stimulated then he can't be reading for enjoyment.

    In forums and internet conversations of such length it is often that misunderstandings occur and that meaning is lost or forgotten. One should approach all such discussions with the presumption that the other people are engaging with good intentions before assuming otherwise. Personally I found his summary useful as it was not just quite an accurate one and helped me easily keep all points in mind, but because it made his misunderstanding/positions obvious. You're implying he is missing nuance or outright misrepresenting your position but I don't see that it's that inaccurate and you don't provide any examples that would show bad intentions. I think you're very much in the wrong here.
     
  13. soczab

    soczab Professor

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    It is funny you made this topic as I was typing a long post complaining about people automatically dismissing a story for being slash, then decided to make the post on-topic in this forum, then saw this thread.

    So, a pet peeve of mine is when someone goes "A story is an SI? I hate all those, they always suck." "I'll never touch a slash story or a slashy story, ugh" or even "I hate Hermoine/Harry or xyz pairing ill never read them"


    To me, it shows a certain ignorance or poor understanding of writing and literature in general.

    Now do I have preference and taste? I certainly do. But I find it overly simplistic for someone to say "you can't be a good writer if you write SI." "you can't be a good writer if it has slash."

    Rather imo you have taste and preferences. And most writing on any topic is trash. And if its not to your preference your standards will be higher. But genuinely good writing? With great plotting, characters, description, etc? That's going to draw you in no matter what. And a good story I might add (unless maybe it is very short) doesn't SIMPLY revolve around only one theme.

    Preferences like slash/si/specific pairings are fine for a short hand as your sorting through thousands of fics. But it shouldn't be confused imo as some sort of rule that no good fics (or fics you could ever enjoy) can contain that.
     
  14. Hansar

    Hansar Second Year

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    Well, personally, I want to tell stories to make my daydreams more rich and coherent. I want to write about things that I think are cool and immerse myself more thoroughly in worlds that I, or other people, have created. Yes, if I'm writing fanfiction, I'll try and make my story's themes and characters contrast the original in some way and a couple of my original ideas have some meta-commentary as the central theme, but I hardly think "The standard, friendless, ambition-less, teenage shut-in just doesn't have what it takes to save the world they've been transported to" will blow anybody's mind.

    No, in my opinion, a story is not better if it's trying to make some deep commentary on the human condition, it's just trying to get the critics to take it seriously. All stories convey experiences, feelings and ideas, but why are the ones War and Peace tries to instill superior to the ones from a Sherlock Holmes mystery? Is comedy an inherently worthless or sub-par art-form due to its lack of serious meditations on the pains of drug abuse? What makes a good story is interesting characters, doing interesting things, presented in a well structured way. Whether the author created it because it was a cathartic release of the life-changing experience they've undergone, because they thought of a cool concept they wanted to implement or because they desperately needed to make rent that month, has no bearing on the story's quality.

    I have never been challenged or "mentally stimulated" by anything I've read and I can't imagine what it would mean to be so. Why would I want my leisure activities to be difficult? What could these so called "world-class works" be saying that could alter my views of human nature.
     
  15. FitzDizzyspells

    FitzDizzyspells Sixth Year DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

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    I can't speak for @moribund_helix, but I think some people are veering into language here that does genuinely make reading fiction sound like a chore, when they actually just mean they're connecting with it in a really meaningful way.

    I wouldn't use words like "challenging" or "mentally stimulating," not because I disagree but because I think it's causing confusion. I certainly wouldn't use a phrase like "literary classics," because that's definitely going to alienate people who didn't like whatever books they were assigned in school.

    I would use phrases like "moving," or "a story I connected with." A book that makes you feel a connection because the author is telling a story that is different from yours but somehow still deeply relatable.

    I mean, you must've at least connected with a song or a movie this way, right? A moment that strikes you because it articulates something that resonates with you?

    I know I'm trying (and failing) not to sound like a cringy high school English teacher here, but I feel like this has to be somewhat of a universal experience, even if different people connect with different kinds of stories.

    EDIT: I also think the phrase "things to say about life" is coming off as this pretentious, high-brow literary idea, but... it's not. A Marvel movie can say something interesting about life.

    I miss Blorcyn, I feel like he could bridge the chasm between these "two kinds of readers" in this ridiculous thread lol
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 2, 2021
  16. Sauce Bauss

    Sauce Bauss Second Year ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    I think I've got a few quibbles here.

    While LGBT authors are becoming more and more prominent in fandom, they are by no means the majority. Additionally, female domination of fanfiction has been the case since the late 90's or something. Men haven't dominated fanfiction since the days of Usenet and Listservs. Hell, even back then and in the era of fanzines there were fandoms which were over 90% female long before just about anyone here was born. Women and girls being the primary creators and consumers of fanfiction has been the case forever. DLP, and the hpfanfiction subreddit to a lesser extent, is an exception to the rule. The usual percentage is somewhere from 70-90% depending on the survey you look at.

    In terms of the general fiction market, women have been the overwhelming majority of readers and writers there for decades too. There's just a trend of a lot of the more successful authors happening to be men, but the majority of works are written by women.

    I just don't see the trends you're claiming, other than the greater proportion of LGBT authors in general.
     
  17. Gengar

    Gengar Degenerate Shrimp –§ Prestigious §– DLP Supporter

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    This is fundamentally misunderstanding the point.

    I can acknowledge a fic with a gay protagonist can be the greatest story ever written (hyperbole goo), and at the same time have zero interest in reading it.

    Just like I can guarantee the best chef in the world could make the most delicious cauliflower soup imaginable, but I wouldn't go anywhere near the thing.

    It's not why I read. Not being able to put myself in the position of the protagonist is a deal breaker for me. As is someone putting down a bowl of cauliflower soup in front of me.

    Different strokes and all that.
     
  18. soczab

    soczab Professor

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    There is a major problem with your analogy. Well a couple actually.

    You can of course have zero interest in reading it (I mean, clearly you do). I can refuse to read any fics that feature an apple in the story if I so chose. heh, my choice. that doesn't make that any less of a ridiculous view point to have though. The question more is whether it is a fair or realistic approach to just refuse stories based on a principle like that.

    1) Just the purely practical, no story is simply defined by one theme. So even if I accepted you just had a genuine dislike of any gay protagonist (which has its own weird problems more on that in a second) a say 100k word fic if it is *well done* is not simply defined by that aspect. If we said that say, any gay protagonist just pissed you off and you hated reading it... it is entirely possible for a story to have all sorts of other plot points and features that would allow you to enjoy it.

    To give a real world example. Lets say you hate the fantasy genre. Well. Maybe you would love say... ASOIAF despite that, because while you hate the fantasy you *love* the politics and snappy dialogue.

    A good writer and a good story is not defined by simply one dimension.

    I can, for instance, find the concept of the one-ring a bit silly and not interesting to me... while still loving the lord of the ring books.

    Thats the first point.


    2) The second point... you are making blatant assumptions around the subject of "Gay Protagonist." What does that actually mean to you? I'm assuming you are *NOT* homophobic.. most who make that sort of statement are not. But think this through. As a logical exercise replace "Gay Protagonist" with say "6 feet tall protagonists." Then replace it with "Black Protagonists." Then replace it with "Women Protagonists." (And by the bye i have the same issue with those who would replace it with "OC Protagonists.")

    All the above statements are probably ridiculous to you and you would never say them. Yet the LOGIC for them is just as strong as for what you said about gay protagonists.

    To make a definitive statement on a story for ANY of those reasons is, to be blunt, idiotic. Now since I don't think you are homophobic lets break it down. Why don't "gay protagonists" interest you? If we assume its NOT because you are homophobic... then it probably actually has nothing to do with them being gay.

    Perhaps you don't like them because not being gay yourself you have a harder time relating to the character? The same reason i might add some don't like women main characters.

    Perhaps it has nothing to do with the character, but in the fanfiction world you are using "gay protagonist" as a stereotype or short hand for a *certain type* of fanfiction writer who essentially writes mushy cookie cutter romantic fics or quasi porn?

    Maybe you've noticed a trend that fics that focus on relationship (gay or straight) tend to be character driven rather than plot driven and you prefer plot driven?

    Maybe its something else entirely.

    But my point is, I highly doubt that it is in fact that the character is *gay*.

    At best, you are using "I don't like gay protagonists" as a short hand to weed out a lot of fics you won't like and focus in on finding ones you do like.

    But considering how complex writing can be, and how complex stories can be, it is pretty ignorant to say you automatically wouldn't like any story that happened to have a gay protagonist no matter what.. (which note is a different fact then saying you have an interest in reading it, which as I pointed out is just a conscious choice of what to read or not read).

    Take what you specifically seemed to say:
    So say you don't like gay protagonists because (as you seemed to indicate) you couldn't relate to the character. That is an idiotic stance, sorry, because as i'm sure you realize if you think about it, people are not defined by their sexuality. Unless you are implying it is impossible to relate in any way at all to anyone who happens to like men? thats kind of crazy. The only way you relate to people is by their sexuality?

    I suspect what you may mean, is there are a bunch of of gay characters you've found written in fanfics that you dislike or had a hard time relating to (perhaps too sappy, to wussy, to romance focused, to whatever), and youve extrapolated that to mean all gay protagonists.

    A character in any *GOOD* story is not going to simply be defined by any one trait... including their sexuality. And thats not touching on the fact that it is entirely possible to write a gay protagonist where his sexuality isnt even his defining trait but just happens to be a side plot. There are plenty of those stories as there are stories where a character is with a woman but its just a side part and not crucial or relevant to the story or even them as a character.

    Edit to add: I'll add. I've no objection with people using broad themes to search and narrow what they look at. So take me for example. I've found I often dislike Hermoine centric fics and I often like say 'sorted into different house fics.' It is perfectly fair to sort past the Hermoine fics and look for the themes im more likely to enjoy.

    It is perfectly fair to say in general you've not liked most fanfics with slash, so you sort past them when looking for stories.

    But there is a key and significant difference between using "themes" as a means to sort through fanfic more selectively because your taste leans one way or another, and making definitive statements that you flat out wouldn't ever like any story that happened to have gay protagonists (or anything else.. OC, Women... characters named Hermoine to take myself)
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2021
  19. Gengar

    Gengar Degenerate Shrimp –§ Prestigious §– DLP Supporter

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    'whether it is a fair or realistic approach to just refuse stories based on a principle like that'

    Ah, here's where the understanding broke down. My apologies. I understand.

    Let me also clarify.

    I couldn't give less of a shit whether it's fair or not.
     
  20. soczab

    soczab Professor

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    Heh way to miss the point. Well let me simplify it for you then. You're wrong. And if you want to know why you can parse my giant wall of text. And if you don't care then c'est la vie
     
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