Brian Kirk

A Journey of the Imagination

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My Favorite Reads of 2016

My reading habits are all over the place. I’ll read modern lit, eastern religion, psychological horror, and old westerns in the same month. Mix them up in my psyche like some mystical stew.

Rarely do I read books the year in which they’re released, so my “Best of the Year” lists are misleading. I do, however, enjoy sharing the books that I found particularly enjoyable in a given year, even if some of the titles have been around for decades or more. I’ve missed them up until now, so maybe someone else has as well.

With that said, following are my ten favorite reads from 2016, listed in alphabetical order. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

I’d love to see what you’re reading. Please post your favorites in the comments, or friend me on Goodreads so we can exchange recommendations. Here’s to another year of great literature in 2017!

A Brief Introduction

Hi, and thanks for visiting my site. I wanted to provide a brief introduction to anyone who may be visiting for the first time.

I am a Bram Stoker Award-nominated author of dark thrillers and psychological suspense. My debut novel, We Are Monsters, was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First novel, and has received the following praise from authors and industry critics. Film rights for a movie adaptation were purchased by Executive Producer, Jason Shuman.

My short fiction has been published in many notable magazines and anthologies, most recently Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, where professional critics have called my story the strongest among an all-star cast that includes multiple New York Times bestselling authors.

I am currently preparing to pitch two novels:

  1. A new psychological horror novel that casts the reader as a protagonist in a frightening urban legend.
  2. The first novel in a trilogy of dark sci-fi thrillers that integrates virtual reality technology into the story experience.

Please contact me to discuss a project, or just to chat. Thanks for stopping by.

{GUEST POST} Top Ten Comedic Horror Flicks by Stuart West

I’m a big fan of comedic horror. I lean towards dark humor over slapstick antics, but have always felt that humor offers the perfect counterpoint to horror, the two going together like anchovies and parmesan cheese (or whatever flavor combination works for you).

Author Stuart West walks the tightrope between horror and dark comedy in his fiction, and was gracious enough to offer a list of his favorite comedic horror films to check out this Halloween.

He asks for recommendations at the end, so I’ll go ahead and give mine:


Man Bites Dog. A mockumentary about a film crew that follows a serial killer and becomes increasingly entangled in his horrific crimes. You’ll feel bad for laughing, which is what I love about it.

Now I’ll turn it over to Stuart, and his stellar list of humorous horror. Thanks for sharing, Stuart!


Hey, whaddaya know, another movie list. First, a couple disclaimers: this isn’t a definitive list. After all, it’s a subjective opinion and what do I know anyway? Plus, my lists tend to change like the wind, fickle cinephile that I am. Second, even though this is a post about (intentionally) amusing horror films, very few on the list are straight-up comedies. A very important distinction. While I think Young Frankenstein is a classic, it doesn’t belong on my list as the film’s first intent is to make audiences laugh.

As in my horror novels, a lot of humor sneaks into the books, just can’t be helped (shameless plug time: Demon with a Comb-Over; Zombie Rapture; Neighborhood Watch; Godland; The Killers Incorporated trilogy; lots more). Horror and humor’s a tricky balancing act, though, one that can easily teeter into stupid Scary Movie territory if not careful. Am I successful in my books? I dunno. You guys be the judge. But in my opinion, all of the movies on my list succeed quite well. Horror should always come first, humor a nice little accent. It’s hard for me—as a viewer or reader—to give a damn about the story if the story, first and foremost, doesn’t matter. There needs to be true matters at stake, real heart, consequences for better or worse (usually worse where horror’s involved).

Okay, enough pretentiousness! Let’s roll…


Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein. And, right off the bat, I’m negating my rule. This is a comedy. But one of the best things about it is the horror elements truly work. Lots of my love for this film is unabashed nostalgia as it was one of the first horror flicks I saw as a child. But it holds up. I broke my daughter in on it one Halloween night. Watching Lou, clueless and addled, freak out while the Frankenstein monster is unknowingly behind him is a great sequence, poised perfectly between hilarity and horror.


American Werewolf in London. Regardless of what I think of director John Landis as a human being (the Twilight Zone movie tragedy), he pulled off a remarkable feat with this feature. It’s an impressive cinematic accomplishment as Landis effortlessly segues between true horror, laugh-out loud humor and devastating pathos. Any of those genres are hard to singly pull off, let alone blend them together successfully. Landis tried to duplicate his success, but his other horror comedies failed to reach Werewolf’s heights. Plus Werewolf was one of the first flicks to utilize cool bladder/transformation effects, eat it CGI! (1981 was a stellar year for classic werewolf comedies; Joe Dante’s The Howling gets a close runner’s up.)


American Zombie. Here’s the dark horse on my list. No one’s seen it. Grace Lee (a documentary filmmaker) has accomplished something extraordinary with this film. The narrative unfolds as a documentary detailing the average-Joe lives of several zombies. I won’t belittle the movie by labeling it as a “mockumentary”; it’s too smart for that. But it skewers many current topics in its satirical aim and by corky, if it doesn’t get creepy by the end. (I’ve been trying to contact Grace Lee to interview her for my blog,–I’ve got a zillion questions to ask her–but she’s playing hard to get.)


Dead Alive. Before Peter Jackson became king of the Shire, he was making deeply personal, low-budgeted, highly irreverent horror comedies, Dead Alive his best, if for no other reason than the sheer blood-spattered insanity. Yes, it’s gory as all get out, but Jackson’s humor makes it highly palatable. It’s hard to forget the image of a guy lawn-mowing his way through a horde of the undead.


Basket Case. Oh, Frank Henenlotter, how I love your movies. Not really a good movie by any stretch, it’s still one of the most entertaining on the list. Poorly acted, darkly shot and completely unforgettable, Henenlotter’s tragedy of a pair of twins (one disturbed, the other deformed and disturbed) works on a purely visceral level. Remarkably, the film makes you care about the twins, sick humor and all. Henenlotter followed this with two inferior sequels (heavier on the in-your-face humor) and the equally as good Brain Damage. I’m still trying to figure out what I think of Henenlotter’s Bad Biology, though.


What We Do in the Shadows. Okay, again, this movie’s first and foremost a comedy. But it works. Another “documentary,” this time detailing the mundane lives of several vampires sharing an apartment. Probably the funniest film on the list, it has many laugh out loud moments, yet takes thoughtful care in the characterization of the leads. One of my favorite films of the year. Or any year, maybe.


Frenzy. Okay, it’s Hitchcock time! Is Frenzy a horror film? Maybe. Is it a comedy? Kinda. But, hey, for me it works as both. Hitchcock’s black humor (the best kind!) is in ample evidence. The scene where the killer’s in the back of a potato truck trying to retrieve a piece of incriminating evidence from his most recent victim is a stellar sequence poised between breathtaking suspense and dark comedy. And the long-suffering lead inspector’s meal-time nightmares with his culinary experimenting wife are superb.


Zombieland. A very well done horror film that never lets the often uproarious humor get in the way of its story. Well-acted, imaginative, inventive, it’s the perfect Halloween movie. I even got my wife to watch it and she hates horror. (She still hasn’t forgiven me for The Babadook. “Honey, it’s an art film…”). I was torn between giving Shaun of the Dead, another very funny and effective zombie tale, this spot. But Zombieland edged it out. Watch ‘em both.


Slither. I love this movie. In many ways, James Gunn’s opus is an old-fashioned, fright night thriller. Yet the humor is very modern. And the cast is awesome. Who doesn’t like Nathan Fillion? The movie isn’t afraid to splatter up the set, but Gunn balances it with nicely realized amusing moments.


Spider Baby. How in the world do you categorize this 1967 messterpiece? I know I can’t. David Lynch before David Lynch was cool, the outlandish tale about a family of lunatics unspools at a straight-faced, fast pace. Great character actor Sid Haig headlines and poor Lon Chaney, Jr. drunkenly warbles the theme song. For the time in which it was made, the movie takes a fascinatingly nonchalant attitude towards the casual violence, just another day in the life of the Merrye’s. It just rolls. Sublime.

There you go, gang. My current list. It’ll probably change tomorrow, it always does. SO many other films I can now think of belong on the list (hello, Evil Dead 2), but that’s for another time. Heck, I could really rip it out and have tons of fun with a list of my favorite UNintentionally hilarious horror films. What say you, Brian?

Thanks, Brian, for letting me blather on, a fitting topic for the scariest time of the year. While I’m at it, three of my horror novels just came out in paperback. Get ‘em all! Giggle uncomfortably while you hide from the mysterious, unnatural shadows! Hyperbole! Zombie Rapture; Neighborhood Watch; Godland.

zombie neighborhood godland

Don’t forget Demon with a Comb-Over and the serial killer black comedy trilogy, Killers Incorporated.

demon killers

Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley’s always open, too, for knee-jerk reactions, ludicrous screaming and horror and hugs. (By the way, my first horror short story collection will be out soon under the same name).

Think I’m done plugging now, Brian.

Anyone else have any movies to recommend that I haven’t seen?

Going Beneath the Lake

I was fortunate to be invited as a guest on the inaugural Beneath the Lake Podcast for Crystal Lake Publishing, along with host and author, Todd Keisling, the esteemed editors for the hot new horror anthology, Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, and fellow contributor and dear friend, Mercedes M. Yardley.

We talk about our stories and beauty in horror and a bunch of other things, but my favorite part is the beginning where we tear a hole in time and space, unleashing a strange dirge of satanic verse (fitting for a horror podcast). As a funny aside, this was host Todd Keislings’ first live show, and it was awesome to watch him sweat as things go astray knowing the publisher was watching with keen interest. Fortunately, he righted the ship and it was mostly smooth sailing from there.

CLICK HERE to watch the recorded episode. Hope you enjoy it!

Crystal Lake Podcast


My DragonCon Schedule

To my current and future friends attending DragonCon in Atlanta this weekend, I hope you’ll come say hi during one of my events, or find me sometime in-between (likely at the bar) so we can hang out or get to know each other. Following is my schedule:

Title: Creepypasta
Time: Fri 10:00 pm Location: Peachtree 1-2 – Westin (Length: 1)
Description: We look into the phenomenon of internet creepypasta.

Title: Frayed Ends of Sanity: Asylums in Horror
Time: Sat 05:30 pm Location: Chastain I – Westin (Length: 1)
Description: An exploration of the role of sanitariums in horror.

Title: Autograph Session: Be on the lookout for me and my munchkin crew (photographed below) as we’ll be signing copies of my Bram Stoker Award-Nominated novel, We Are Monsters along with the hot new horror anthology, Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories containing stories by Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, Paul Tremblay, myself, and more.
Time: Sun 02:30 pm Location: International Hall South – Marriott (Length: 1)


My Street Team

Title: Short Shocks to the System
Time: Sun 08:30 pm Location: Chastain I – Westin (Length: 1)
Description: The art of crafting unforgettable short horror fiction.

I’ve heard so much about this event, but have never been before and can’t wait. Hope to see you there!

Guest on The Darkness Dwells Podcast


I was recently a guest on The Darkness Dwells Podcast talking about my latest story in the Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories anthology, why mental illness and creativity are often intertwined, and what makes horror writers some of the happiest people on the planet. I hope you’ll check it out.

CLICK HERE to Listen

While there, be sure to check out the recent episodes from fellow GUTTED contributors Mercedes Murdock Yardley, Damien Angelica Walters, and Ramsey Campbell as well. Enjoy!

I Got Interviewed for GUTTED

I have a new short story titled “Picking Splinters from a Sex Slave” in Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, an anthology comprised of New York Times bestselling authors Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, and Ramsey Campbell, and some of the genre’s top emerging voices, Paul Tremblay, Josh Malerman, Mercedes M. Yardley, and more.

Praise for the collection has been extremely high, with many professional critics calling attention to my story in particular, which is certainly nice to see, especially considering the company. Here is the illustration that accompanies the story, followed by a sample of what critics have said:


Art by Luke Spooner

“‘Picking Splinters From A Sex Slave’, pulled me/led me/dared me back to the wave of fear and awe and wonder I had upon my initial encounter with words so perfectly placed as to seem alive and moving across the page. In Kirk’s scant few pages of prose, I placed the book down at least four times: to recover, to reflect, to feel. To get it.”
-Unofficial Alan Moore

“Picking Splinters from a Sex Slave by Brian Kirk really sets the tone for this collection. It’s one of the darkest, saddest stories I have ever read, with the father’s inappropriate humor putting a perfect edge on the drama.”
-Beauty In Ruins

“Which leads into what I think is the best story in the book: Brian Kirk’s “Picking Splinters From a Sex Slave”. A story that illustrates what lengths a person might go to to accommodate a loved one, in exquisite detail. The actual tableau is revolting, but the internal logic is inescapable. The tone is perfect.”
-Retrograde A

“One of the strongest stories in the collection, “Picking Splinters from a Sex Slave” by Brian Kirk. Kirk’s portrayal of a father desperate to help his daughter is at once alarming and moving, leaving you with a lingering disquiet.”
-Eden Royce

“Brian Kirk’s “Picking Splinters from A Sex Slave” kicked me upside the head, leaving me truly considering the lengths I would travel to help my own daughter.”
-Bleeding Cool

Author and book reviewer A.E. Siraki also had some kind things to say about the story in her review of the book, and offered to interview me to learn what inspired the story. Read The Full Interview Here.


Thanks so much to the early readers for their kinds words. It’s a great book that I’m honored to be a part of. CLICK HERE to check it out.

{Guest Post} JG Faherty on His New Novel, The Changeling

I’m pleased to welcome multi-Bram Stoker Award nominated author JG Faherty to my website today, here to talk about his latest novel, a YA sci-fi thriller titled, The Changeling.

As Faherty discusses in his article, he is seeking publication through Amazon’s Kindle Scout program, where readers vote on the books they want to see published. Check out what inspired JG Faherty’s return to YA fiction, where he has experienced much success before, and then CLICK HERE to vote for his latest book and the chance to win advance copies.

Genre, Audiences, & Publishing – An Experiment in Decisions

by JG Faherty

Sometimes, you can go back home.

My guest blog today is all about returning to my roots.

Back in 2010, after several years of having my short stories published in various magazines, ezines, and anthologies, I had my first novel published. That was Carnival of Fear, a YA horror novel. I’d written it well before that, but submitting to publishers is a long and nail-biting process. My submission strategy was pretty straightforward and standard: send out query letter with synopsis and chapters. Wait for response and hope they ask for full manuscript. Wait for response and hope for acceptance.

After several rejections, it got accepted.

A few months later, while I was finishing my second novel, that publisher went out of business. So I had to begin the submission process all over again. That book was Ghosts of Coronado Bay, a YA ghost story. Ghosts scored me a 3-book deal with a publisher. Following that, I entered into a multi-book agreement with another publisher, who ended up putting out 7 novellas and a novel of mine.

So, from 2011 to 2016, I never had to write a query letter or pitch a book.

Then, my most recent publisher went out of business (it’s the industry, not me, I swear!). So suddenly I find myself in the position of putting together queries, getting pitches ready.

And this is where the whole returning to my roots idea comes into play.

My first two novels were YA; one straight horror, one a paranormal romance. Every book after that – 9 novellas, 3 novels – were firmly in the adult horror or at least paranormal thriller genre.

With my latest novel, I’ve returned to YA. The Changeling is a science fiction thriller about a teenage girl who is accidentally exposed to a military weapon and gains some unusual powers.

It’s also a homecoming of sorts for me because I’m venturing into new territory, publishing-wise. Back when I was trying to sell Carnival of Fear, I’d never pitched or submitted to publishing houses before. With The Changeling, I’m testing the waters of Amazon’s Kindle Scout program. This is a new direction in publishing, not only for me, but for the industry. Readers get to preview the first couple of chapters online, and then decide if they want to see the book get published. Based on votes and the opinions of Amazon’s editing team, a few books get selected each month to receive a publishing contract from Amazon.

The benefit to the readers? If a book they voted for gets selected, each person who voted receives a pre-publication copy of the ebook.

For me, it’s like starting over again. YA novel, no experience with this facet of the publishing industry. It’s kind of scary, but also fun. Of course, it will be more fun if my book gets picked up, but if it doesn’t, I’ll have learned a few things and then I can start submitting to traditional publishers. Another homecoming. As a writer, there is always something new around the corner, and yet you can’t help but remember the old adage: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

If you want to read the excerpt from The Changeling, you can find it here:, and vote if you like it. There are other great books there as well – horror, sci-fi, mysteries, thrillers; adult and YA. You can nominate as many books as you want, although only 2-3 per week. And Amazon tracks if you actually read the excerpt, just so writers don’t screw around with the system.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the talented JG Faherty and his catalogue of work.

First Review of My Latest Story

New story alert! My next work of fiction is coming out June 24th in the anthology, GUTTED: Beautiful Horror Stories, alongside some of my favorite authors, including Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, Ramsey Campbell, Mercedes M. Yardley, Paul Tremblay, John FD Taff, Josh Malerman and more. The line up is ridiculous, and I feel fortunate to be included.


In addition to feeling fortunate, I was feeling anxious about how my story would stack up against this all-star line up. The editors gave me a boost of confidence when they placed my story, “Picking Splinters from a Sex Slave,” in the lead spot (and yes, the story is every bit as harrowing as it sounds). And then the first advance review hit, which boosted my confidence even more.

Here’s a snippet:

Which leads into what I think is the best story in the book: Brian Kirk’s “Picking Splinters From a Sex Slave.” That story illustrates what lengths a person might go to to accommodate a loved one, in exquisite detail. The actual tableau is revolting, but the internal logic is inescapable. The tone is perfect.

“Splinters” is followed by Lisa Mannetti and then Neil Gaiman. Both stories are good — not pedestrian, but are overshadowed by the excellence of Kirk’s piece.

Whew. Big sigh of relief. Looks like I might actually belong.

Here’s a description of the book, followed by a link to the full review. It’s going to be a doozy. I hope you’ll check it out.

A series of stories that explores the tension between beauty and horror, wonder and terror, sorrow and transcendence. It’s a book of scars, regret and loneliness. But through it all, it’s a book where hope can still exist and beauty can still thrive. This is GUTTED: Beautiful Horror Stories.

CLICK HERE to read the full review.

Get to Know a Bram Stoker Award Nominee

Soon after the Bram Stoker Award final ballot was announced, the governing association asked for me to complete an interview so that people could get to know a nominee. Time constraints may preclude these interviews from being posted, but since mine was already completed, they encouraged me to go ahead and share it on my own.

So, here it is: my thoughts on having We Are Monsters nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. Please enjoy.


Get to Know a Nominee, Brian Kirk

HWA: What do you think good horror/dark literature should achieve? How do you feel We Are Monsters fits into (or helps give shape to) that ideal?

BK: Regardless of genre, my favorite stories are those that expand my idea of what’s possible and help me better relate to my predicament on this enigmatic planet.

When it comes to horror, I gravitate towards stories that make me feel vulnerable in some vital way. As humans, we construct these elaborate fantasies designed to make us feel safe. Governments, religions, borders, pension plans. We don’t like to face the fact that we’re all hurtling towards some unfathomable death that could come at any moment. But I find beauty in that stark confrontation. It’s what awakens me to the present moment and the magic of our existence.

You can’t have light without dark. There is no beauty without heartbreak. My goal in writing is to explore the inextricable duality between light and dark, to shine a compassionate eye on the evils that breed heroism, and to expose the howling void that surrounds us all.

HWA: I’m curious about your writing and/or editing process. Is there a certain setting or set of circumstances that help to move things along? If you find yourself getting stuck, where and why?

BK: My best writing comes from a type of waking dream state. It’s basically when I fall into an immersive daydream that silences my rational mind and taps into my subconscious (at least I think that’s what is happening, I really have no idea). This mindless dream state is where the story unfolds, and my job is simply to bear witness and try and get it down on the page as clearly as I possibly can.

I, therefore, approach writing as though I’m preparing myself for bed. I prefer to do it in the same place, or type of place (a quiet room with a hard surface and minimal potential for distraction). I prefer to do it when all my paid freelance work is done, so that it’s not nagging the back of my mind. And then, like lying down to sleep, when I sit down to work I trust that my mind will shut off and the dreams will begin. This doesn’t always happen, of course. Just as we all have restless nights. But it’s my general approach.

When I’m stuck, it’s typically because I’ve involved my rational mind in some annoying way. It’s when I’m consciously trying to “write well” rather than just let the words flow naturally. This quote from Thornton Wilder resonates with me, “If you write to impress it will always be bad, but if you write to express it will be good.”

Editing involves more of the rational/critical mind than composing, but I still consider it a creative process. I spend as much time rewriting as I do writing the initial draft. Every pass seems to help flesh out character and setting, while cutting extraneous fluff. There is a point of diminishing returns, however. It’s like tightening a screw. At first there’s such little resistance the screw turns easily. Then, as it gets closer to the end point, each turn produces a satisfying tug, like it’s all coming together. But go too far and you strip the grooves.

HWA: As you probably know, many of our readers are writers and/or editors. What is the most valuable piece of advice you can share?

BK: First, don’t listen to me, as I’m as clueless as anyone else. But, if forced, I’d say the following:

Never settle for something that feels safe. Always strive to surprise yourself. Try and make yourself laugh, gross yourself out, make yourself mad. Write stuff you’d never want your parents to read, then send it out. Write what you fear is way too strange or personal to be published and then make it as good as it can be. Know that everyone secretly believes their work sucks but they keep doing it anyway. Rebel against your inner critic.

HWA: If you’re attending WHC this year, what are you most looking forward to at this year’s event? If not attending, what do you think is the significance of recognitions like the Bram Stoker Awards?

BK: What I’m looking forward to the most is spending time among fellow horror enthusiasts. When I started writing horror fiction, I did not know a single other person who shared the same compulsion. At times, I felt alienated. At times I wondered what was wrong with me (as did many of my family and friends!). There is a particular feeling of belonging that only comes when surrounded by fellow horror writers. It’s a feeling of coming home. That’s what I can’t wait for.

As far as the awards go? Art is so subjective. At times I feel like it’s silly to objectify something as subjective as art with an award. And the process is impossible to perfect, so “worthy” pieces undoubtedly go overlooked, often making people feel cynical or dejected.

The positive effect I believe awards can have, however, is to bring more attention and potential readership to a particular genre, or books in general. That’s why it’s so important for all of us to tout the work of other authors that we’ve really enjoyed, so that when new readers are drawn in by an award, they become exposed to a host of other fantastic authors whose work they may enjoy as well.

HWA: What scares you most? Why? How (if at all) does that figure into your work or the projects you’re attracted to? 

BK: The thing that scares me the most is the thing I work hardest to accomplish, which is the collapse of my own personal identity. This includes both how I view myself, and how I view my place in the world.

I am horrified to think that one day my core identity will be stripped away and/or that certain perceived talents which help construct my sense of purpose will be diminished.

I’m frightened to think that the people closest to me may change in such dramatic ways as to sever the relationships I hold most dear.

I am terrified to think that I am nothing more than a mistake of random evolution and that nothing I think or do has any importance or permanence whatsoever.

So I work very hard to lose my attachment to all of these thought structures and free myself from the fear they bring. These are all themes I tend to explore through my writing.

HWA: What are you reading for pleasure lately? Can you point us to new authors or works we ought to know about? 

BK: That changes all the time. I have fairly eclectic tastes and enjoy all types of fiction. The best way to see what I like to read would be to friend me on Goodreads and peruse my bookshelf. I’m always looking for good book recommendations as well. Specifically, however, here are my favorite reads from last year (despite many titles being published previously) listed alphabetically.

  1. A Choir of Ill Children by Tom Piccirilli
  2. A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay (Read my essay on it HERE)
  3. Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes
  4. Close Reach by Jonathan Moore
  5. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
  6. Finders Keepers by Stephen King
  7. Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson
  8. Least of My Scars by Stephen Graham Jones
  9. Slade House by David Mitchell
  10. The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum

Thanks for the interview, and I look forward to seeing everyone in Vegas!

If interested in purchasing a copy of my Stoker Award nominated work, you can do so through any of the following outlets (and I’ll thank you kindly):


Barnes and Noble 


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