Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World

9/10 stars
based on  29 reviews

Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World

Free

This course is available On demand

This course is provided by Coursera Coursera

Course Description

Instructors:  Eric Rabkin
School:  University of Michigan
We understand the world — and our selves — through stories. Then some of those hopes and fears become the world.

Ratings Summary

Average Content rating
9/10 stars
based on  29 reviews
Average Instructor rating
7/10 stars
based on  1 review
Average Provider rating
9/10 stars
based on  4083 reviews

29 Reviews for Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World

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Belinda Beasley profile image
Student rates this course 10/10 stars Completed
This was my first experience of Coursera and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment. I have done a few paid-for online courses and been very disappointed by the standard and the structure, but this exceeded all my expectations. I have learned a lot about the subject and all for free. I am an education junkie who is currently hampered by lack of funds, so Coursera suits me down to the ground. I have a degree in literature and the level of this course was certainly degree standard in terms of the video lectures. Professor Rabkin is an inspiring lecturer with a tangible passion for the subject. This was infectious. There were two to three hours of lectures each week plus a short extra video in response to something that came up that week on the forum. I felt that the Professor put a lot of time and effort into the course himself. For anyone thinking of doing the course, be aware that it takes quite a bit of time each week - I estimated that I spent 15 - 18 hours each week in reading, research, writing the essay, reviewing other essays, watching the videos and using the forum. There has been some criticism of the peer-review process and while I had a few reviews from people who did not seem to know what they were talking about (making erroneous comments about grammar, mostly), the majority of my reviewers were courteous and knowledgeable and made an effort to give constructive feedback. The grading system could be better, but overall I felt I got the grades each week that I deserved. I also felt that I learned a huge amount from doing reviews of other people's work. This democratic approach of learning from each other (with some input from the Professor but gentle and from afar) was a new experience and I found it very rewarding. The forum was fascinating - not only in terms of the ideas which people discussed, but as a fascinating study into human behaviour and psychology. Sometimes it was infuriating and sometimes perplexing, but always entertaining and often enlightening. I loved reading and thinking and writing essays but, finally, the best thing of all has been interacting with people from all over the world. I felt very much part of a global community, sharing ideas and experiences (oh, the excitement of waiting for results each week). I have also made several new friends and the learning continues as several of us (78 to date) have set up a Facebook Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Group. I've also signed up for at least twelve other courses and become an unofficial ambassador for Coursera to anyone who will listen!
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Laura MacNeil profile image
Student rates this course 10/10 stars Completed
I definitely improved and enhanced my knowledge of key texts and themes in these 2 genres. I found the time commitment quite high - the reading varied in length from week to week and some weeks I was struggling to get the reading and essay done in time. All in all however the course was well paces, full of great insights and information and thoroughly enjoyable!
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Tracey T profile image
Student rates this course 5/10 stars Completed
I'm in the final week of the course, and will earn a certificate of accomplishment. Overall, I've learned from the combination of Rabkin's lectures, the reading, and the requirement to write brief (320 word) essays. Each week Rabkin assigns a full book to read, along with the required essay (8 of 10 required for a statement of accomplishment), and 5 peer reviews (30-150 words on form and content for each essay). The video lectures (about 90 minutes of listening time, which can be reduced by speeding up playback) are topical and engaging, though a few contain factual errors about the stories. Unlike some professors (Al Fireis in Modern & Contemporary American Poetry), Rabkin shows no desire to interact with students, never participates in forum discussion, has no live webinars, and hasn't updated his lectures for a few years. However, if you want to approach fantasy and science fiction on a deeper level, his lectures will show you new insights into the work, and if you apply that level of reading to your own essays, you will gain a lot more from your reading. Peer reviews are, as expected from Coursera, a very mixed bag. They're rarely that insightful, in my experience. The essays you're required to grade are often poorly written, cobbled together work, frequently from students for whom English is a second or third language. While it's admirable that they're attempting the work, the time required to puzzle through the writing and the lack of insights most give to the reading, made peer review grading (for me) the absolutely biggest time waster and useless part of the course. One of the biggest negative surprises for me (and many others, based on forums postings) was the grading "scheme" for essays. There is a 3 point scale for form and content. Rabkin, the professor, states that a score of "2" on form and content means "successful" and that the essay is "smoothly written." But we all learned this week - at the END of the course - that awarding a "2" in the class's scoring scheme actually was the equivalent of a "D" - because a "2" in form and "2" in content gave you a "4" for the essay, or a 66% (a "D"). Most students in the class got scores below 80% because of the instructions in how to score. And despite emails to the professor during and after the class, he never responded. TA's that participated in the class stated that they had never had any contact with the professor. SO ... take it if you want to push yourself to read science fiction literature, and if you can learn from lectures and apply those to your own writing, but don't expect valuable peer feedback in general, and know that the scoring will give you a high likelihood of a low Coursera grade. On the plus side, no one in the entire market economy is going to give you a job or fire you because of a Coursera score.
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ShloEmi Ohayon profile image
Student rates this course 10/10 stars Completed
Outstanding, enriching, enlightening course IMO. I relay enjoyed each week topic and getting the insights. The lectures are well presented pointing very interesting points. The topics are well selected giving understanding of the fundamentals of SciFi & Fantasy. Bottom line - If you love SciFi & Fantasy, I highly recommend taking this course, you'll probably to see it in a very different way when the course ends.
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Inese Okonova profile image
Student rates this course 8/10 stars Completed
The large workload is due to the reading list. Enjoyable course. Requires a lot of self-discipline. But weekly peer reviews are worthy and . interesting. Recommend.
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Ashrujit Bhattacharjee profile image
Student rates this course 10/10 stars Completed
A very good course that makes you read, write and evaluate others. Do not take it unless you are able to give it priority and make some time for it over ten weeks. The lectures are superb, and the syllabus is wide-ranging. I enjoyed this course.
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
Robyn Nussbaum profile image
Student rates this course 10/10 stars Taking Now
This is my first experience with Coursera. I graduated from college with a BBA in Finance back in 2004, so it has been a while since I've taken a college class and I'm not sure if I will ever make it to grad school. Additionally, this is my first experience with an online course since they weren't quite so mainstream when I was in college. I've always loved reading, literature, and science fiction and fantasy. I've been looking for a good online book club for a while, so when I discovered this class on Coursera, I thought it would be great for me. The class has definately exceeded my expectations. I have learned so much not only from Professor Rabkin, but from other students on the forums and through the peer reviews. Being a full-time working mom, I normally don't spare a lot of time for reading, but this class has made me read more books in the 11 weeks than I sometimes read in a year. It is definately time consuming and I am currently sacrificing precious Christmas crocheting time to finish the course up. It has certainly been worth it though. Professor Rabkin's lectures are amazing and insightful. It really feels like he is speaking directly to me. I'm sad that this class is coming to an end. If I had any suggestions, I think it would have been nice to have spent an extra week on the Dracula unit. It was the longest work of the course and there was so much to analyze. It was my favorite book of the course, so I may go back and re-read it at some point. This course has given me everything and more that I wanted - exposure to books I wouldn't have normally read, and a challenge. I think it would be neat to see it offered again, but with a different selection of readings. I would definately do it again. Also, I think it would be neat if Professor Rabkin could compile a list of recommended books at the end of the course so we can further our knowledge of this genre.
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Andrew Feltham profile image
Student rates this course 8/10 stars Completed
The very engaging lectures and on screen persona by the Professor ensured that working on the course didn't feel a lonely experience. The depth of insight into a genre of literature was truly enriching. Peer interaction was intensive and useful. On my session there was no direct engagement by course staff on the forums, nonetheless the course had so many motivated and some very competent students that with the excellent course material, a good educational experience was achieved. As with any MOOC, meeting peers online can be a varied experience so ensure to read the forum guidelines, follow the good and useful, and ignore the occasional impoliteness. Allow enough time for reading especially if English is a second language, preferably read the books ahead of the course and re-read parts for the course. Great course! Thanks Professor and team!
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Tracy Poff profile image
Student rates this course 9/10 stars Completed
Perhaps the most excellent part of this course was simply that it forced me to read a fair bit of interesting fiction quickly, while thinking about it carefully. The weekly assignments were to write very brief essays that would enrich the learning of other students, so while reading I was always on the look-out for interesting themes or other insights that might be worth sharing with others. Not a bad state of mind to be in! The discussions in the forums were extremely interesting. Rather like discussions on book reviews, but much more focused on deeper analysis of the text. I'd love to participate in similar forums in the future--like a very engaged book club. As for the lectures: they were definitely interesting, and sometimes enlightening. Many times, I felt that Prof. Rabkin was going a bit far in his analyses--it was a favorite tactic of his to give any scene in any book some sexual interpretation, which was sometimes warranted, but often seemed not to be. However, given the nature of the course, it was not necessary to agree with the professor's interpretations, so there was no harm in it. I'd recommend this course to anyone with an interest in reading and writing about science fiction and fantasy. It's very rewarding.
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L Figueroa profile image
Student rates this course 8/10 stars Completed
Overall a great and demanding course, which forces you to read a fair amount of stimulating science fiction novels. If you finish it, it will help you in becoming a better writer. Professor Rabkin is a knowledgeable and enthusiastic lecturer who does an admirable job as guide to the relevant literature. However, the peer review process for grading the weekly essays on the reading material still has some growing pains and issues with consistency.
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
Joanna profile image
Student rates this course 10/10 stars Completed
The sheer amount of reading required makes this great course difficult. I plan to take it again someday and finish it. Professor Rabkin is very engaging and his lectures are very insightful. I would love this course to be shorter, because all short MOOCs are better than the long ones.
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Brian profile image
Student rates this course 10/10 stars Completed
I couldn't say enough good things about this course. This was one of the first courses on Coursera I took, and even after taking nearly a dozen courses, this is probably still my favorite. Dr. Rabkin is a joy to listen to. The workload of this course is 90% reading. Reading a book a week can be very time consuming! However, all the books are enjoyable, and easily available.
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Efthymia Priki profile image
Student rates this course 10/10 stars Completed
This was my first experience of an online course and I thoroughly enjoyed it! The subject material was very interesting. I had the opportunity to read (and read carefully) works that I always wanted to read but never got around to do it, like Grimms' tales, Dracula and Frankenstein, but also works by authors who I didn't know and have now become favorites, like Cory Doctorow and Ray Bradbury. I particularly liked the structure of the course. In my opinion, the fact that we had to write our assignments prior to watching any lectures was very important, because I could write without prejudice and it gave me the freedom to write about whatever I thought was interesting and express my own ideas about the works. Thus, after going through that process every week, when I finally got to watch the lectures and take the quizzes, I had an adequate familiarity with each work to really enrich my reading through the lectures! It also removed the stress to having to watch the lectures in order to complete the assignments, which would have made it impossible to do them and get a grade given my busy schedule. As for the lectures, Prof. Eric Rabkin is an excellent speaker! It was easy to concentrate on what he said and understand his analyses. Regarding the content of the lectures, I found that it was rich, interesting and it really made me think more critically about the works and about fantasy literature in general. Now, regarding the peer- reviewing system... Though in an ideal world the professor and/or his assistants would (also) mark the assignments, I understand that this is impossible given the large numbers of students. However, even if at times I found the peer-reviewers' comments out of place or unhelpful and felt that I would have liked to be able to discuss it with them, it was still an interesting experience and... I did manage to get good grades. Also, that I was able to peer-review other essays, was a constructive and helpful exercise, and I hope that I did those essays justice. Lastly, through this course I came in contact with lots of great people with similar interests, with whom I had very interesting discussions and exchange of ideas on fantasy literature and more, which was very exciting and it gave me the "feel" of an actual (in- class) course. Overall, this was a great course and I hope there would be more courses like it!
Was this review helpful? Yes 6
Mehreen profile image
Student rates this course 10/10 stars Completed
I would recommend this course for all who would like to enhance their reading. I ended up reading more than ten works that I otherwise would have put off for lack of time. The course also helped me develop the skill of thinking analytically while reading and then writing about it.
Was this review helpful? Yes 5
matt ledding profile image
Student rates this course 10/10 stars Completed
The Good: The forum and the peer review process were fantastic, not for the peer reviews that were given, but for the learning that takes place when you try to help someone else who makes mistakes surprisingly like yours or someone who is better. That is where the real work is. The Better: Rabkin's explanations, and marvellous humanity were delightful. One has the sense that he is addressing you directly. However, Rabkin is not the only teacher in the pack: there are a large group of peer teachers who are very willing to help you if you ask them. I really have to say that I was as touched by their generousity as by Rabkins'. The Best: It worked, and Rabkin delivered on improving our writing. The limiting writing space tightened up my writing, and the exposure to such excellent writing inspired and humbled me. My writing did "go up a level" and I have been able to help others already with what I learned. The not so good: There were some people who used the anon peer process to troll, and perhaps the addition of a peer grader reputation system could help contextualize this. Also, it appears that Coursera has decided to completely ignore the grading system set out, and give out percentages: exactly what Rabkin innately knew would be a bad idea with peer grading. I think that is harmful on the part of Coursera because English is a NaN course. So, despite the little setbacks, totally predictable in a first time experiment, I would be really tempted to do it again. (264 words... coincidence?) PS: level required in the review is silly. This course cuts across levels. but I will put it as advanced.
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VKnutsen profile image
Student rates this course 8/10 stars Completed
I loved reading (or rereading) most of the course literature (all but two works available online for free incidentally). Fantasy works...which bridged into Sci Fi...Brothers Grimm, Alice in Wonderland, Frankenstein, Dracula (the Great Granddaddy to modern vampire stories, some HG Wells works, other early sci fi...up to some modern authors, including wonderful Ray Bradbury. (How did I NOT read him earlier!!!) Now some of the more modern works (in my opinion) were too fashionable (i.e. followed modern thought/fashionable but ill founded ideas) and thus not so good (like Ursula LeGuin Left Hand of Darkness). Tho I must note that others loved her work. The course load is medium and you are allowed to miss a little work but still pass the course (10 weeks of reading in the 2012 version is a fair commitment...!). My writing skills quickly sharpened up as I wrote the short required essays. My analytical skills sharpened as I graded others' essays. But they have a little more work to do to make peer grading practices a bit more standard across the board. The boards lit up with comments of "Unfair Grading" or "Poorly written essays" as graders and recipients argued. (That spoiled some of my enjoyment.as my score reflects..till I learned to not obsess over the grade. If you do all/most assignments you will get enough adequate scores to pass.) That said, the Prof's lectures were short and engaging. Love the subtitled English. English is my native language, but when I was pressed for time, I could put on subtitles and set the video replay speed higher and still absorb the info adequately. If one's English is not good, this would be a hard class to take as a weekly essay is required and a moderate proficiency in English is needed. Perhaps they can address this issue, as the course does improve one's skills.
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Pooja Pillai profile image
Student rates this course 10/10 stars Completed
The Fantasy and Science Fiction course with Prof. Rabkin was a wonderful experience. I was introduced to a lot of new books and authors such as Ursula K. Le Guin and Cory Doctorow, and I also read some old favourites such as Grimm's Fairy Tales and Dracula with new eyes. The lectures were interesting and in-depth, and the practice of writing the assignments before we saw the lectures, taught us to rely on our own analyses and insights. I enjoyed myself the most on the forums, where there were some truly high-level discussions and where I met some very interesting people. The peer response system still has a few kinks that need to be ironed out, but it's nothing too serious.
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Krista Garver profile image
Student rates this course 10/10 stars Completed
I loved this course! I had not read much fantasy and science fiction, and this course was a great reason to read some of the classics (Dracula, Frankenstein, etc.). This course set a perfect tone for my summer reading. Eric Rabkin is absolutely charming, and I loved his lectures. The level is relatively high and he often talks about books not read in the class, perhaps assuming that the audience has already read them. I think that the course would be quite challenging for someone who has not had any experience analyzing literature or whose English is not particularly strong. I also enjoyed writing the essays each week. It had been a long time since I had worked my mental muscle in that way, and it was an excellent exercise -- even just as a personal endeavor. Concerning peer reviews: On the whole, I like the idea of a peer review system, especially for a course like this. Reading four other essays each week gave me the opportunity to gain additional insight into the books, and I enjoyed reading what (most) people had to say. I did not, however, find the majority of the feedback on my essays to be particularly helpful. As others have said, there were trolls -- people who were just mean for no reason. This tendency did seem to decrease as the course progressed -- I think a lot of people dropped out because the workload was fairly demanding. If people took the peer review process more seriously (and some did), I think we could all get a lot out of it in a course like this.
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Melanie profile image
Student rates this course 6/10 stars Completed
Great course, brilliant content. It really enriched my reading - how I read, and also by opening up new works to me. Your 'back office' though was seriously lacking - I assume this was because it was held over the summer holidays. We got the feeling there was no one there to answer questions and soothe fears in a timely manner. Hope this will improve as that was the only thing that dragged this course down.
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Anthony Kolasny profile image
Student rates this course 10/10 stars Completed
Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World was my first introduction to MOOC and Coursera. It was a wonderful experience to reread many stories from my youth with new perspectives. Prof. Rabkin provided a very structured and well defined course format. The introduction video, read weekly material, construct an essay providing a thoughtful observation, view the video lectures, review fellow essayists became a 10 week cycle. Each week, a new SciFi or Fantasy book was presented and explored. A local study group provided a more human connectedness to the course material discussions. I would recommend trying to get involved with a local study group if you take this course.
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shanda profile image
Student rates this course 10/10 stars Completed
This was my first massive open online course and it was a wonderful experience. I focused more on math, science and technology courses throughout high school and college, so I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone and take a literature class. Professor Rankin was a fabulous instructor! His passion for the material, even the pieces that I did not care for, kept me interested and excited about the class. Many of my classmates did not enjoy the peer review process, but my experience were 95% positive. I loved being about to read my cohorts perspectives on the material and their opinions about my essays. The class had a few minor technological hitches along the way, but they surely should be worked out for the next term.
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Angela Moore profile image
Student rates this course 8/10 stars Completed
I'm a fan of literature and this course has enabled me to explore genres that I would probably have walked past when in a library or book store. I have had the practice of essay writing, which I'm hoping will be a great help in the future. I'm a fan of education and especially if it's free - let's hope this continues has there are things happening in the world that are making education difficult. I recommend any avid reader or student of Literature to take this course - it should enhance your knowledge.
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Laura Gibbs profile image
Student rates this course 4/10 stars Completed
The readings for the class were excellent, with lively lectures by the professor. Because anonymous posting was allowed in the discussion boards, the atmosphere in the discussions ranged from very positive to very negative. The ability to form lasting connections with fellow students in the class was badly hampered by the poor quality of the discussion board software; personal profiles only became available midway through the course. The writing assignments were not very productive in my opinion because of the serious flaws with the peer feedback system. The peer feedback system involved grading (about which there was much confusion) and it was entirely anonymous. As a result, the peer feedback quality ranged from very positive and useful to very negative and useless, even abusive. The steadily diminishing number of people writing essays each week (5000 in the first week, down to 1400 in the final week) reflected at least in part people's dissatisfaction with the writing and peer review process. I hope that Coursera will find ways in the future to improve that process - the writing assignments and peer review did not live up to the high quality of the course topic and reading list. There was very little responsiveness by Coursera and the instructional staff to technical problems and organizational problems with the class.
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Emilee profile image
Student rates this course 10/10 stars Completed
This course is fantastic -- it is reading and writing intensive, but the lectures are incredibly engaging and the forums are very helpful. Prof. Rabkin is a master of his craft.
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Vadim Solomonik profile image
Student rates this course 10/10 stars Completed
outstanding. peer reviews are incredibly helpful and interesting, if you are mature enough to ignore trolls and google-translated essays.
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Linda Pek profile image
Student rates this course 10/10 stars Completed
This was a fascinating and enriching course. Prof. Rabkin's videos were incredibly enlightening and introduced new concepts for reading fantasy and science fiction more analytically.
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Svjetlana Nevešćanin profile image
Student rates this course 10/10 stars Completed
It was my first course and it was great, really insightful and because of this course I have singed in to many others.
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Franis Engel profile image
Student rates this course 6/10 stars Completed
The course gave the history of Fantasy and SciFi in literature. Going back to the basics of how storytelling evolved from classic stories in these genres showed me quite a bit. I learned how stories coming from imaginative sleeping dreams seemed to inspire further variations beyond the re-working of classic myths and fairy tales. Especially fascinating to me were the history of how SciFi evolved from magazine publications and authors world-building writing skills. It seemed repetitive to be required to write essay after essay, using the same form. Frankly, arguing as if I'm a lawyer persuading someone to agree with me is distasteful, and I got enough of the essay form from past schooling. Conversing with someone in person using argument isn't be likely to add to their experience of reading a story. Plus, my best arguments were wasted on those who couldn't speak English, despite my eliminating all complex sentence structure for their benefit. If this was a "creative" course, we might have been asked to use other writing forms as part of our responses as students - a poem, a play, humor. It would have been much better to have been able to converse with graders to clarify what they meant. What was the point that a peer grader should remain anonymous? It was my involvement in the forum that taught me the most and from where I got the most benefit. So I believe that credit should have been given for that sort of participation. The peer review process was not useful for me as a writer. There needed to be more education on how to review. Graders in the first half of the course seemed to find excuses to wield power punitively. Despite a grader not finding anything wrong with my grammar, punctuation, structure, etc. an "average" (or lower grade) would be the result. After six useless peer reviews, I composed an appeal for motive from graders in the citation section. Then peer responses got more specific and useful. Graders would still declare, "I don't agree..." or "Your examples aren't all from the story..." ...As if these things were required! My only recourse to right this wrong was to grade others by forgiving in the other direction - and to offer specific editing help, especially for ESL participants. But I did enjoy the video lectures. I'm still looking at some of them again...as well as waiting for my final grade a month later.
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Andy Fraga profile image
Student rates this course 10/10 stars Completed
Hi! I´ve just finished the course, and it was great! Prof. Rabkin's lectures are awesome ! I've learned a lot English, Literature and yes, also Sociology... The forums are very enriching, and so is the peer grading . I really enjoyed the experience, read wonderful books many of which I would have never read otherwise, and met wonderful people! I highly recommend this course!
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