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Based on the fact that this topic has over 1.5 million views, everyone's answer should be "What have you been reading recently?"

The topic is dead! Long live the topic!   —Alorael, who will throw in The Ringmaster's Daughter, a relatively normal and therefore still quite unusual novel by Jostein Gaarder. Unlike Sophie's Wor

It was in one of the introductions for a book. Part of the problem was he had a few children and was trying to save for their future educations.   The figure I've seen is that a basic paper back

Originally Posted By: Erasmus
Originally Posted By: Actaeon
Sophie's World fits two of those criteria, but I'd be curious to here what it actually is.

No, you got it right.


Are you sure we're not talking about a bound volume of the webcomic "Cat and Girl"? Bad Decision Dinosaur is up there with Kierkegaard and Rousseau.
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Originally Posted By: Micawber
Not sure anyone has ever described the Ring cycle as fanfic though...


That's because the Ring cycle added elements to its source material (namely some of the greatest music ever composed) that increases its artistic merit, while LotR simply did the same thing to Wagner/Norse mythology that Inheritance did to it: pillaged characters, backstory, and plot wholesale from its predecessor, switched around some names, and then deleted some of the more controversial themes (in the case of LotR, it was the blatant anti-Semitism, and in the case of Inheritance it was the sentiment that "EVERYTHING NEW IS TERRIBLE AND BAD").

I could swear we had this discussion the last time an Inheritance book came out.
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Originally Posted By: Dantius
Originally Posted By: Micawber
Not sure anyone has ever described the Ring cycle as fanfic though...


That's because the Ring cycle added elements to its source material (namely some of the greatest music ever composed) that increases its artistic merit, while LotR simply did the same thing to Wagner/Norse mythology that Inheritance did to it: pillaged characters, backstory, and plot wholesale from its predecessor, switched around some names, and then deleted some of the more controversial themes (in the case of LotR, it was the blatant anti-Semitism, and in the case of Inheritance it was the sentiment that "EVERYTHING NEW IS TERRIBLE AND BAD").

I could swear we had this discussion the last time an Inheritance book came out.

To be sure, the blatant antisemitism was also present in Wagner's work. Just harder for some to recognize because it's in German.
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Originally Posted By: Kreador
To be sure, the blatant antisemitism was also present in Wagner's work. Just harder for some to recognize because it's in German.

What Diki said.

Also, how would it be harder to recognize? The villain of he first opera, Alberich, is short, dirty, greedy, and has a long nose. I'm pretty sure you don't have to speak German to know that's an anti-Semetic caricature.
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Originally Posted By: Tyranicus
Originally Posted By: Erasmus
Originally Posted By: Randomizer
Both have a forbidden romance between the descendant hero and a woman with divine origins.

Could you refresh my memory?
Aragorn and Arwen.


Arwen isn't from divine origin, just not human.
It would be like saying a dinosaur was divine because it came before the crocodile. There are three classes of divinity in LotR, and elves are not one of them (in case you're wandering the classes are Iluvatar, Valar and Mayar).
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Originally Posted By: Erasmus
Arwen isn't from divine origin, just not human.
It would be like saying a dinosaur was divine because it came before the crocodile. There are three classes of divinity in LotR, and elves are not one of them (in case you're wandering the classes are Iluvatar, Valar and Mayar).
Not truly divine, no, but her grandfather, who was also a distant ancestor of Aragorn, is responsible for the morning star in the sky. Also, elves are not divine, but compared to humans, they appear semi-divine. Tolkien's elves are semi-immortal. They cannot die of natural causes.
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Originally Posted By: Dantius
The villain of he first opera, Alberich, is short, dirty, greedy, and has a long nose.


He's a dwarf. Certainly being short, dirty and greedy seem are normal dwarf characteristics. Where is it said that he has a long nose? Not that I am denying Wagner's anti-semetism of course, which was explicitly expressed in his writings.

Originally Posted By: Erasmus
p.s. are you sure about the Nibelungenlied? I just wikied it and the story seems more akin to the Illiad than to LotR?


I'm 100% certain the Ring cycle is based on the Nibelungenlied. I make no claims about any link from LOTR to the Ring cycle (and thence the Nibelungenlied), but others do.
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Calling either Wagner or Tolkien fan fiction really doesn't work. Wagner worked explicitly with the same mythological cast as the Nibelungenlied, and mythology inspired him, but the story really was his. Tolkien didn't use the same cast, although again the same mythological themes inspired him. Did Wagner also inspire him? Consciously or unconsciously, almost certainly. But that's really not at all the same as calling either work fan fiction: they're both large departures from source material.

 

—Alorael, who would go ahead and read Stephen R. Donaldson's Gap Cycle if you want Ring Cycle fanfic. At least that's what he set out to write, kind of.

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"Fanfic of"

 

"Based on"

 

"Inspired by the same mythology as"

 

...these are totally different terms. Don't throw them around as if they are one and the same. As Alorael said, neither Wagner's nor Tolkien's works would qualify as fanfics or even as being "based on" previous stories.

 

RE anti-semitism:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khuzdul#External_history

 

However, since Tolkien depicted dwarves more positively than men, on the whole, it is hard to see this as anti-semitism.

 

The wikipedia link is interesting: it makes a point that pleased me probably far more than it should have, that Khuzdul is a constructed language both in reality (as Tolkien constructed what little of it exists), and within Middle-Earth (having been constructed by Aulë).

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Originally Posted By: HOUSE of S
"Fanfic of"

"Based on"

"Inspired by the same mythology as"

...these are totally different terms. Don't throw them around as if they are one and the same.


I was under the impression that they were, but you would simply use each term depending on the quality of the literature in question: for instance, Paradise Lost might be "inspired by the same mythology" as the Bible, whereas Left Behind would be a bible fan fiction.

I mean, other than quality of the derivative material or age of the derivative material, I find it difficult to come up with any kind of object standard for sorting them into those categories, unless you're using some strange literary version of the Axiom of Choice I need five degrees in English Literature to understand...
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Originally Posted By: Dikiyoba
Originally Posted By: Kreador
To be sure, the blatant antisemitism was also present in Wagner's work. Just harder for some to recognize because it's in German.

No, Dantius is saying that LotR removed the anti-Semitism of Wagner's work.

Dikiyoba.

AH, read it backwards.
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Originally Posted By: Erasmus
I'm glad we agree.

You're kind of missing the point here. The point is it's a romantic relationship between an immortal (more or less) woman and a mortal man.

Originally Posted By: Dantius
I was under the impression that they were, but you would simply use each term depending on the quality of the literature in question

Not really. Fanfic takes place in the specific universe of another person's work (so same universe, same setting, same characters, same backstory) while something "based on" something else implies adaptation from one format or genre to another (so turning a book into a movie or vice versa). A source of inspiration can mean just about anything, from myths to newspaper headlines.

Dikiyoba can't see the Inheritance Cycle as LotR fanfic. Highly unoriginal and drawing on too many tropes that originated in LotR, yes, but not fanfic.
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Originally Posted By: HOUSE of S
"Fanfic of"

"Based on"

"Inspired by the same mythology as"

...these are totally different terms. Don't throw them around as if they are one and the same. As Alorael said, neither Wagner's nor Tolkien's works would qualify as fanfics or even as being "based on" previous stories.


Fair enough. The Inheritance series certainly draws heavily on Tolkien's work. Of that there is no doubt. I won't go into details for two reasons: I haven't read LotR, only seen the movies, and I don't want to give any spoilers.
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"Derivative" is a work that hews too closely to the original without being fanfic. The Inheritance series is derivative. (Is derivative necessarily derogatory? No. But it handles scorn with such grace!)

 

Paradise Lost is really the Gospel of Milton; huge parts of it have become popularly accepted as, if not religious truth, than religious understanding. Left Behind is really the same thing, except it's not well written, does not have immense cultural penetrance, and receives a lot of scorn. The times when they were written also make a difference.

 

—Alorael, who really isn't sure either one of those works is inspired by the mythology. They're based on. They're expansions of. And Left Behind might be the more original of the two as stories go, what with being novels and not the epic poetry of the English people.

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There's a quote widely attributed to T.S. Eliot: "All writers borrow. Great writers steal." In fact this is a misattribution, as you can find out if you just google the quote and look through the list a bit. Eliot did write a rather dense paragraph that pretty much amounts to that, but I haven't been able to find out who first paraphrased him so neatly.

 

The point is that by the time a great writer has gotten through with your idea, it isn't yours anymore. The original legend about a ring is now just a footnote to Wagner and Tolkien.

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I've finished Lord of Chaos, and I'll get my hugemassive post finished sometime this week. It's unfortunate that I've been slowing down in my reread (more working from home -> less time on bus -> less time reading). This is the point in the series where the number of characters just explode. And really, whose bright idea was it to have two Aes Sedai embassies both be lead by ladies whose names start with 'M'?

 

I've also read Nightfall (the short story), and I hate to say it, but... meh. It wasn't bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it wasn't the "best SF short story EVAH" that I was promised. The main feeling I got while reading was "okay, I get it, move on already". Okay, I get it, a society whose members have never had to cope with darkness, move on already. Okay, I get it, perfecting the theory of gravitation would be more difficult in a multi-star system, get on with it. Okay, I get it, Lagesh's understanding of the cosmos would be extremely limited, get on with it. I'm guessing that if I have issues with the story's pace, I should skip reading the novel.

 

One major issue: Nightfall happens because five of the suns set, and the sixth is eclipsed. Okay, shouldn't it still be day for the other hemisphere? I suppose the obvious answer is that all parts of the globe get a period of darkness, just not all at once. But I could swear that one of the astronomers effectively said that the entire planet would be plunged into darkness. Did I miss something?

 

Again, it wasn't bad, it just wasn't fantastic. As far as I can tell, this is the first Asimov that I've read. I think I just like ACC's and PKD's writing style better. You may now flame at will.

 

(As for my favourite SF short story EVAH (that I've read): The Nine Billion Names of God. It doubles as a great way to teach deciders and enumerators!)

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Originally Posted By: Dintiradan
I've finished Lord of Chaos, and I'll get my hugemassive post finished sometime this week. It's unfortunate that I've been slowing down in my reread (more working from home -> less time on bus -> less time reading).


Well, Sanderson only finished the first draft this past week. You're two million words in and have eight or nine months to finish the other half.
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I'm at the same spot in my re-read of WoT (well, in the middle of LoC). I think because I started reading WoT right before CoS came out, I just sort of think of all the stuff that happened in books 1-6 as having "already happened a long time ago," as if it all took place by the end of book 1. But if you look at it from the perspective of the series as a whole...

 

I mean, people often point out that book 3 hardly involves Rand at all. At that point, the number of characters isn't big enough to do what books 9 and 10 did (same time, different characters), but it has the same feeling. The whole time I'm reading the book, I want to get back to Rand, and we have only a couple of scenes until the very end that involve him at all.

 

Equally, the first half of book 5 (part of the much-hyped books 4-6 segment of the series) is really, really slow, as someone pointed out a few pages ago in this topic. The end of the book is rather astonishingly fast (how many regions, how many major characters? woah), but that's just the last couple hundred pages or so.

 

So I think the reason I so much liked the re-read I did right before book 12 came out was just that we had book 11 by that point, and book 12 shortly thereafter. Brandon Sanderson said this at one point, but I think he was right: the books in the series are fairly consistent, but since books 1-6 came out so much more rapidly than the books thereafter, they were better received. Even if book 5 was a little slow, you were still reeling from book 4 just a year earlier and had only a year to wait until book 6 came out. On the other hand, when book 10 was a little slow, you had been waiting for it for over two years, and you had two and a half years to wait for the next one.

 

That said, none of the books since book 10 has dragged at all.

 

Click to reveal..
Also, the series reads kind of the way that (I'm told) watching the Sixth Sense works. Once you know the twists at the end (or in ToM, at least), the whole thing takes on a completely new flavor. Verin being a Darkfriend makes a lot of Moiraine's (and Verin's) comments take on a new character. Knowing that there is going to be something funky with Lanfear's not-evilness (as at least implied at the end of ToM) makes her whole plotline a lot more interesting to watch; she does a LOT to help Rand in the early books. There are tons of other things like this.

 

I'm still not sure I totally get Graendel killing Asmodean. I know that Rahvin, Sammael, and Graendel were conspiring, so it would make sense for either Rahvin or Sammael to be in Caemlyn when Rand takes the city, and if Sammy were there, he'd probably not be able to resist taking a big shot at Rand during the battle, but Graendel rarely likes to fight directly in that way. Okay, so I see how we narrow it down to her. (Though I still think that Taim made at least as much sense, unless there is something that I'm missing that made it have to be a female channeler. Maybe that Rand would've sensed it? As female channelers go, Graendel is by far the most obvious.) But why did she do it? Just to weaken Rand? I gather that RJ thought that the next few books help explain this, so I'll keep my eyes on Graendel for a bit and see what the heck.

 

I have two big theories for the last book. First, Perrin finds the Song. There is a ton of stuff between Perrin and Tinkers in the first handful of books. (For the whole series, if you count Aram.) All that business about choosing between the ax and the hammer also leans that way. Perrin casts off violence and becomes a Tinker.

 

Second, we find out what is going on with Taim. He's clearly a Darkfriend, but my call is that what actually happened when he got away from the Aes Sedai and eventually showed up at Caemlyn is that the Shadow broke him free from the Aes Sedai and turned him against his will. This "turn to the Shadow against one's will" trick was Chekhov's gun starting in book 3, but no one ever shot it, that we know of. Yet Taim shows up in book 6 after a known plot by the Black Ajah to capture Taim from the Aes Sedai, and he's obviously a Darkfriend (and looks funny to Bashere, who ought to know him, and freaks out LTT, who, judging by book 13, can sense Darkfriends). He also responds with terror at the mention of the Forsaken showing up at the beginning of book 6. He's been turned against his will.

 

The other speculations, that he's turning Black Tower men against their will also in order to create an army of male Dreadlords, seems pretty fair here too. The Shadow captured him early in book 4, and he doesn't show up in Caemlyn until Rand announces his amnesty, at which point he shows up promptly, within moments. That seems awfully convenient. I think the Shadow turned him and didn't know what to do with him until Rand's amnesty.

 

I don't count the expectation that Rand will die at the Last Battle or that he'll seal up the Bore, linked with Alivia and probably Nynaeve and using Callandor, because those I take as obvious. I do think that it may happen (this would be cool) with Perrin leading an army of Tinkers/Aiel/Ogier with the Song to make the fix "grow" back (maybe with a cutting from Avendesora, maybe with something taking the place of a Nym?), but obviously that's a theory contingent upon another theory, which is tricky.

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Originally Posted By: Harehunter
"Inheritance" - Paolini
It may take me a while, but I'm going to try to squeeze it in.


I actually finished that yesterday. It might be a long read, but it goes quickly.

Click to reveal..
I was disappointing by the ending. So it turns out that a deus ex machina that was vaguely alluded to in the first book winds up resolving everything. Boo. I wanted Murtagh to throw Galbatorix into a bottomless pit after being ordered to kill Eragon by the king. I mean, you might as well complete the circle, since it's pretty much been apparent that it's a blatant copy of Star Wars since the evil ruler's second in command revealed the hero's unknown royal parenthood after defeating him in single combat at the close of the second act.


Honestly, I don't understand the LOtR comparisons earlier in the thread at all. They don't really match, and when there's another, better-known cultural phenomena that it is so obvious "fanficton of" (to use Slarty's least favorite term tongue ), I'm frankly shocked that nobody else brought it up earlier.
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It's interesting to see parallels that spring up. For example, what does the following sound like it is describing?

 

The heroes use an aircraft hidden from the enemy fleet to sneak into a huge, floating base, with immense destructive capabilities, run by a military organization that has basically taken over the world. They do this primarily to rescue a beautiful, talented woman who has been taken prisoner there. (When she is rescued, there is some flirting with one of heroes.)

 

At the base, the heroes have a confrontation with the dark, evil, and powerful antihero of the story. He is a long lost member of the protagonist's family, although we haven't learned that yet. When this confrontation takes place, one of the heroes -- an old man well known for his supernatural powers -- sacrifices his life rather dramatically to stop the antihero and allow the other heroes to succeed in escaping with the girl.

 

In a later confrontation with the protagonist, the antihero's arm appears to become detached. Much, much later, it becomes evident that the antihero still has a fragment of goodness left in his soul; he was actually the pawn of a more dramatically evil associate of his. In fact, all the peoples we have met over the course of the story have been caught in the midst of a battle between two powerful foreign groups: one trying to help and protect them, and one trying to exploit and destroy them.

 

Sound like Star Wars? Well, it wasn't -- it was Final Fantasy IV.

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Originally Posted By: HOUSE of S
Sound like Star Wars? Well, it wasn't -- it was Final Fantasy IV.


The FF series' lead designer at the time is on the record as being a huge Star Wars fan, and put some clearly deliberate references to it in FF6 and Chrono Trigger, so it's not impossible that there's some actual influence there rather than just coincidence.
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Originally Posted By: HOUSE of S
*snip*


Well, that makes sense. I suppose Square Enix would have to practice blatantly ripping off other people's work and publishing it as a new game before they started ripping off their previous work and publishing it as a new game. After all, they're been milking FFVII for what, ten years now? Fifteen?

And don't even get me started on Zelda games. They aren't even trying to hide it anymore...
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At least the first half before Brooks finally developed something original.

 

Also Dennis L. McKiernan's Iron Tower Trilogy was by his own admission heavily based on LotR. You could tell what was going to happen because it followed the plot so closely.

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WoT doesn't even really start off LotR-like, except in the broadest stokes. Two Rivers is a bit Shire-like, but it's directly attacked. There's a group of heroes, but they're not especially Fellowship-esque. And they're not quite aiming for the same task.

 

—Alorael, who is most impressed that Terry Brooks is still getting published in a market saturated with bad fantasy and not too devoid of good fantasy.

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Originally Posted By: Erasmus
Originally Posted By: Paint Quality Monitor
—Alorael, who is most impressed that Terry Brooks is still getting published in a market saturated with bad fantasy and not too devoid of good fantasy.

They even made a Shannara computer game smile
Do you recommend reading the series?
Yes, but stop after the Heritage of Shannara series and don't read any further unless you really want to.
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Originally Posted By: Goldenking
As part of a genealogy of American colonialism that I am trying to construct, I've been reading relevant portions of Colossus by Niall Ferguson, A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn, and Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loenn. While not books, I've also been reading lots of articles about Nietzsche and Foucault's genealogical methods.


Continuing this same project, I'm reading Bartolome de las Casas' Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies, as well as the book Black Elk Speaks by John Neihardt. Both are good, but sad. That's colonial history for you, I suppose.
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Originally Posted By: Paint Quality Monitor
WoT doesn't even really start off LotR-like, except in the broadest stokes. Two Rivers is a bit Shire-like, but it's directly attacked. There's a group of heroes, but they're not especially Fellowship-esque. And they're not quite aiming for the same task.


They leave in the night, are forced into taking more party members than planned, and are attacked at an inn just outside of their homeland. The wise, magical leader is accompanied by a king without a kingdom who knows the wild well. The core character has some suggestive dreams, they have a run in with an evil that is separate from the main one but nearly gets them anyway...

I think that covers Bag End to Rivendell and Emond's Field to Caemlyn pretty well. It's certainly not as blatant as Inheritance's Star Wars links, but I think there's something there. Whether it's enough to qualify as derivative is questionable. Most of the involved tropes are quite well worn.
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There's overlap, but there are too many major plot differences for me to really want to call them very similar. Emond's Field is attacked in a way the Shire isn't, Shadar Logoth isn't very much like anything the hobbits face, and Moiraine is no Gandalf; for one thing, she's directly involved in the protagonists' departure.

 

—Alorael, who has heard the Shannara game is quite excellent, although he hasn't played it. The first trilogy (loosely) is bad. The Heritage books are decent and really don't require much understanding of the earlier books. Read them, and if you're hugely impressed go backwards.

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Originally Posted By: Tyranicus
Originally Posted By: Erasmus
Originally Posted By: Paint Quality Monitor
—Alorael, who is most impressed that Terry Brooks is still getting published in a market saturated with bad fantasy and not too devoid of good fantasy.

They even made a Shannara computer game smile
Do you recommend reading the series?
Yes, but stop after the Heritage of Shannara series and don't read any further unless you really want to.
Yes, the four Heritage books are probably the best of the bunch. The Voyage trilogy added a couple of interesting things to the world, but probably isn't worth your time. I don't remember anything redeeming about the High Druid trilogy, which is when I stopped. And now there's apparently five more books tying the Shannara setting with the Word and Void setting.

I must confess, I've got a bit of a soft spot for the first Shannara trilogy, mostly because it's the first fantasy series I read. Had I read LotR beforehand, things probably would have been different. I didn't enjoy Elfstones that much, and Wishsong is probably my favourite of the three.

Running with the Demon was pretty interesting, though the next two books in the Word and Void series didn't add all that much.

It's been a while since I've read them, but the Landover books are probably better than his others. The setting is a lot more lighthearted and comedic than his other ones. Apparently there's a sixth one now -- I've only read the first five.
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Originally Posted By: HOUSE of S
Yeah, some of those things are generic far beyond LOTR. For example, "The core character has some suggestive dreams" happens in every other epic story going all the way back to Gilgamesh.


I bet someone 3500 years ago was saying the Epic of Gilgamesh is too derivative, it lifts too much material from the cave paintings in the next valley over tongue
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Prompted about seeing vague reviews and comments about the new movie The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo I figured I should probably read the book myself and I have just finished it about a minute ago. A Finnish translation of course. This is one of the times I really wish I'd actually learned some Swedish in school, but oh well. The whole trilogy's been sitting on our bookshelf for years but I hadn't picked them up before. Definitely my bad. It was a wonderfully gripping read.

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The last thing I read was Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, which I only grabbed because someone in the bookstore filed it under non-fiction.

 

Spoiler:

 

Abraham Lincoln actually freed the slaves because vampires were eatin' black people like, left and right.

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