The 2016 Year in (Writing/Editing) Review Post

With the new year settling in, another year of writing, reviewing, and editorial work is done. 2016 was a decidedly full year in many ways, replete with financial hills and valleys, and definite peaks where career and personal life were concerned. If you’ve been following/occasionally checking in with me on Twitter then you’ve heard me speak at length on the state of the world, so I’ll not duplicate that here. And a lot of the personal stuff is just that and will remain so. But it was an interesting year for me in publishing and related fields.

I’d initially planned to have this post up earlier and do the 2016 Recommended Reading, Retrospectives, and Notes post today. But there’s still so much 2016 short fiction reading I need to catch up on that I’m looking at aiming for the end of the month for the recs post. In past years I’ve put that up around February 15th which is useful to highlight work for awards whose nomination periods are later in the year, but it’s always too late to be of any use for pointing people to work they might want to consider for Nebula nominations. (Not being a member of SFWA I can’t add directly to any of the recommendations threads on their message boards, so this is how I contribute there.)

I often get a head start at the end of a year in terms of getting the recs post ready, but the last two months of 2016 were absurdly full in their own right. From November through the end of the year I ran a crowdfunding campaign for Anathema: Spec from the Margins, spent a fair bit of time putting together the website for Anathema (with help, because oh my god website construction is not my forte), soliciting for Anathema, oh and ghostwrote a non-fiction book for a client in six weeks. So, you know, I was a little busy…. :)

And though there was a lot of scrambling for money last year because I kept having freelance contracts fall through after Brexit tanked the GBP, and with a couple other things just not coming together in the end, I ended up getting a fair bit of work done anyway.

You may have heard I wrote a novel last year? In truth, I wrote (including that non-fiction book) two and a third books in 2016. That third of a book is the second book of the series to which the novel belongs.

I also clarified, right near the end of the year, how I wanted to proceed with a story cycle I’ve been putting together since … well, Clarion West, actually. At the time I didn’t realize that one of my CW stories was tied to the saga I call “Titan and Serpent,” but in retrospect that first draft of the story was absolutely tied to that mythology. Up to six of those stories written now, with two of them sold (“Until There is Only Hunger” in Upside Down, and “And in that Sheltered Sea, a Colossus” forthcoming in Shimmer) and at least several more stories planned in that sequence.

Of course stories and novels weren’t the only thing I wrote in 2016. There were practically no reviews done on the blog last year (beyond one book review and one film review — the latter was admittedly 9,000 words long), but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t reviewing. By my count I wrote 25 reviews for Publishers Weekly in 2016. Not that many all told, but I didn’t get around to everything in my queue so some of last year’s review copies will be dealt with this year.

It was a slower year than some for publishing short stories, as I had only three short stories published in 2016: “Change as Seen Through an Orrery of Celestial Fire,” “All Them Empty Alleys,” and “Until There is Only Hunger.” I talked about those some in the award eligibility post I put up. And it was nice to see the latter get a thoroughly lovely mention from Nisi Shawl in her Seattle Review of Books article “The Future Alternative Past: this dystopian hope.” The article covers a far bit of ground, but in reference to Upside Down Nisi notes that my and Haralambi Markov’s stories are “deeply moving weirdness.”

I think I’ve found what to answer when people inevitably ask me what I write. :D

I debated pitching anthology projects (there are a couple I want to do at some point) to publishers, but right now I’ve only got the kind of reach where I can work with small presses as an editor and that’s not by and large getting anybody the kind of money contributors ought be making for their work. I’m also hesitant to take on another anthology right now until everything’s sorted out with the back end of The Humanity of Monsters. I don’t like leaving projects unfinished, and at the end of last year a third of the contributors to that book were still owed remuneration in one form or another — some of that due to error on the part of a distribution partner from what I gather. Still, having the completion of that project in limbo means I focused elsewhere rather than launching into doing more anthologies.

Which ended up meaning that, given the completion of a novel, and having finally gotten the short story collection into good shape (said shape has since shifted again, but that’s what happens when you continue to grow as a writer), for the first time in ages I was sending out queries to presses and agents for my own work.

Overall my 2016 submission statistics weren’t too terribly different from the 2015 numbers. I sent out 46 submissions in 2015 and 48 in 2016. Each year had four acceptances and/or requests for full or partials for the books. The biggest difference was that in 2015 ~4% of the subs had been for long form work, and in 2016 that was up to ~20%.

In truth, being that close to last year’s numbers is unusual given the statistical variations since I started keeping track of my submissions in 2010. (Prior to that I’d been submitting haphazardly and poorly, and was decidedly not ready to be published.) This because the numbers have been as follows from year to year:

  • 2010 – 31 subs, 1 rewrite request, 1 acceptance (not related to the rewrite request)
  • 2011 – 115 subs, 4 acceptances
  • 2012 – 75 subs, 10 acceptances (only 7 of which were ever published)
  • 2013 – 51 subs, 5 acceptances (only 4 of which were ever published; I pulled the fifth because I decided in the end I didn’t want to publish it)
  • 2014 – 24 subs, 1 acceptance (I was at CW; did far more writing and revising, trying out new approaches, rather than submitting that year as a result)
  • 2015 – 46 subs, 4 acceptances
  • 2016 – 48 subs, 4 acceptances/partial or full requests for manuscripts

If I were to hazard a guess, 2017 will probably look more like the last two years than what came before. I’m working on a mix of short and long form material again, and averaging out at just under a submission a week seems to be a comfortable level for me. Could go entirely differently, I admit. I’ve already had occasion to send out three submissions in 2017, so I’m slightly ahead of the curve I just mentioned. As ever I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see how that shakes out.

So am I happy with 2016’s year in writing overall? Yes I am. The world had a truly fucking awful year (and publishing had some definite shit show moments), but as with many writers, artists, and other creators, for me it was a good year for the work.

Thus far 2017 looks like it should be a good year for my creative work as well. Anathema‘s had a strong start with the successful crowdfunding and we’re in the middle of our first submissions period. I’ve got short fiction work I want to attend to, novels to write, and we’ll see how fares the search for an agent. Should be an interesting year. :)

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Anathema Open to Subs, and Freelancing Notes

 

I’m foregoing digging up an image for this blog as it’s just a quick couple of notes:

Anathema: Spec from the Margins

In all the chaos of the last few days — what with the New Year and all — I haven’t had a chance to note here that Anathema: Spec from the Margins is open to submissions of fiction, non-fiction, and cover art. We’ve outlined what we’re looking for on the Anathema submission page (linked above), and we’re eager to see more of what’s coming in. As we’re also in the process of setting up listings with various market listing aggregators, Andrew, Chinelo, and I would appreciate that anyone who uses sites like Duotrope and The (Submission) Grinder please file your submissions to us with them.

Freelancing

Owing to a banking error back in November, I’ve been dealing with a running shortfall from a very large freelancing payment that never came through. As the situation has yet to be rectified (despite multiple attempts), I’ve been taking any and all freelancing work I can to make up for it. Given how long the situation has gone unfixed, it’s starting to be more than a small problem at this point (yes, I am understating matters), so if anyone has freelance work they need done or knows someone who does, I would very much appreciate people sending work my way as soon as possible. Rates and types of editing available can be found on the Matheson Freelancing website.

2017 is proving an interesting year thus far. Going to be a hell of a ride, one way or another. Here’s hoping it’s a good one. :)

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Happy New Year and a 2016 Award Eligibility Post

Happy new year to one and all! It’s 2017! Fucking finally.

I don’t normally do an award eligibility post for, well, some of the same reasons a lot of writers feel uncomfortable doing them: I’m of the opinion that other people’s work deserves recognition before my own, promoting my own work ventures deep into imposter syndrome territory and prompts various flirtations with anxiety, and I’d rather be talking about and promoting other people’s work much of the time.

Most years I package up the discussion of work published in the prior year with the “[X] Year in Writing” post. And I will be including the work I had published this year, along with wider discussions, in the 2016 Year in Writing post I’ll be putting up this month. But, you know … fuck it. I’m proud of last year’s published work.

Yes, one of the three stories I had published last year (the flash piece) was written entirely for the sake of pitching something to a ridiculous (and ridiculously fun) anthology. But I’m happy with everything I had published last year. That’s not something I can say every year.

Do I think those three stories are award worthy? I don’t know. I’d rather people nominated the wide host of absolutely fucking amazing writers working in the field before my work — sometime this month (aiming for the 15th) my 2016 Recommended Reading post will be highlighting a number of things I think you should have a look at in that regard.

Quick notes: If you do for some reason nominate my work for awards instead of the wealth of other things available to you (and hey, thank you, that’s perfectly lovely of you) — please refrain from nominating my work for the Aurora awards. Long story; happy to celebrate many of the nominees, but don’t want anything of mine up for it in any category.

So what did I have published last year? See below, with excerpts (because they were all published in anthologies and aren’t available to read for free online):

“Change as Seen Through an Orrery of Celestial Fire”
(March 2016, Superhero Universe; Short Story, 3,800 Words)

Shurui peels long strips of burnt skin off her shoulders in front of the bathroom mirror. She grits her teeth as they tear away down her back. The days between immolations are always painful; the moments in which she burns down to ash blinding, but nothing compared to the waiting – to the slow build of days before the fire frees. Her body a cage, too-narrow knit with bird-hollow bones.

The rest – the rebirth and what comes after—

—The rest is agony.

Has been since she first rose, broken, garbed in lank, slick flesh. Since she tumbled to Earth in a scatter of pinions, remiges, and retrices; her sun-bright feathers ripped away in the heat of her descent. Since she spotted the first Xifeng bathing in a moonlit lake. And fell.

“All Them Empty Alleys”
(October 2016; Pac’n Heat; Short Story, 850 Words)

Ain’t no ghosts in a dead city.

They got no truck with burgs colour-leached and shiny. Haints haunt the living. Haunt the lost. Inner cities, downtown cores, drowntowns with sewers flooded and floaters galore. Down where the bodies lie thick as leaves in gutters, and the streets are another kind of sky, rain falling up and up and up from sweat-slick pools.

They haunt my city. Gridded streets black as asphalt, sepia-bleeding two-tone sunsets. The works.

You’ve seen my story. It’s been round the block. Been in all the papers. You’ve seen the gutters I was dragged out of, half-dead and so full of holes there wasn’t enough left to patch. City’s got my name on it, writ fancy in blood and faded ribbons.

“Until There is Only Hunger”
(December 2016; Upside Down; Short Story, 4,000 Words)

Bones come undone at the Magician’s touch. Wind themselves up like silver and dance into the air. Strung like copper wire. Their fire a shimmering, living thing.

She’s all smiles for the crowd.

And, of course, they are never her bones. That’s not the trick.

The trick is to keep the audience from noticing how much lighter they all feel. They’ll notice a twinge, an emptiness later, deep in the night, when the carnival is done and home and the softness of white-sheeted beds have called. When sweet-souled revenants beckon, and the witching hour is but a memory.

Everyone gives something for the magic. That’s how it works. You are not spectator. You are participant. Always.

Thought about doing just a paragraph from each or so, but I like long-ish excerpts. More fun getting to have a sense of the rhythm of a piece.

And now back to working on the 2016 Year in Writing post and reading for the 2016 Recommended Reading post. Going to be a very full month, and you’ll be hearing from me in it at least twice more. We’ll see how the timing on that shakes out.

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Happy Holidays and an Anathema Guidelines Preview

Happy holidays to all! The sun is down, so Hanukkah has officially started and will take us into 2017. And Christmas Eve here has been a nice day in the city, full of the beginnings of a gradual return to longer days and warmer weather. (With some cold snaps and deep freezes in the offing until we get there, because Winter.).

I’ve spent today winding down after several days of far too much work, trying to get a project done and out the door. Had planned to work today as well, but it’s not the day for it. Mostly I’m taking today and tomorrow off. But I do have a gift for everyone before I do so. :)

Last post I mentioned that I wanted to give people a head start on seeing what our full guidelines were going to look like at Anathema, given that we’re opening to subs the same day the guidelines (and the website more generally) go live. So here it is, the basic breakdown of information you need to know to prep your subs for Anathema: Spec from the Margins, and some other pertinent information as well:

Anathema Guidelines (the Super Condensed Preview Version) and More

Submissions:

  • Fiction: 1,500-6,000 words (soft min/max, but please within that general range). Original fiction only, no reprints. Must have some speculative content, however slight. No restriction on genre.
  • Non-Fiction: 1,500-3,000 words (soft min/max, but please within that general range). Original content only, no reprints.
  • Simultaneous submissions allowed (please do notify us if you sell your sub somewhere else so we can remove it from consideration). No multiple submissions.
  • Cover art: Portfolio previews/links thereto preferred, rather than single piece submissions.
  • You must be a queer person of colour/visible minority to submit to Anathema. (That covers a lot of ground, but if you have questions please do query us.)

Payment:

  • Fiction: $50 (CAD).
  • Non-Fiction: $50 (CAD).
  • Cover art: $100 (CAD).
  • We’re paying primarily through PayPal, but will arrange other payment methods as necessary.

Rights (Fiction, Non-Fiction):

  • First Electronic Rights (Online and eBook).
  • 4 months exclusivity from date of publication, archiving unless requested to remove story/non-fiction by author.

Rights (Art):

  • Electronic Rights (Online and eBook).

Submissions Windows/Issue Release Dates:

  • Our submission windows are the entire months of January, May, and September. All responses will be sent out by the end of the next month after a submission window closes. (So the longest you’ll ever have to wait for a response from us is at most about eight weeks.)
  • Issues of Anathema will be released in April, August, and December. (Right now we’re aiming for the first day of each release month. We might adjust that to the first Tuesday of each month though; we’ll see.)

All of our content will be free to read online. In order to support the cost of the magazine we will be selling eBooks of each issue individually, selling subscriptions, and there’s a Patreon in the works as well.

And seriously, when we say no restriction on genre re fiction, we mean that. In the crowdfunding campaign we framed what we cover as “(SF/F/H, the weird, slipstream, surrealism, fabulism, and more).” Use that as a starting point and send whatever you want: as long as it’s got some kind of speculative content we’ll consider it.

Where non-fiction is concerned, you can pitch us an idea, but we’ll only be purchasing completed essays or other non-fiction.

We’ll be posting the Anathema e-mail address once the guidelines are live, so between now and January, if you have questions you can ask us on Twitter (@anathemaspec), ask us on the Anathema Facebook page, or even comment here.

That said, we’re looking forward to seeing submissions in January. And in the meantime, a most excellent holiday season to one and all. :D

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December Middle of the Month Updates

It being round about the middle of the month, seems an appropriate time for updates on several things.

To start with, the prevalence of images heading up the last few posts has put me in the mood to try doing that uniformly going forward. Brightens up the place a bit, so to speak. :)

So, I’d been debating putting together the year in writing post this month, rather than in the middle of January as I would normally. I think I’ll do that once we’ve had the full span of the year though. I don’t expect that there’ll be many more submissions out of me before the year’s done (just given what my workload looks like right now), but that could always change before the year’s out.

I will be putting together the 2016 recommended reading blog earlier than usual though. Normally I leave that until the middle of February because it’s also a record of what I’ve read throughout the year in long form, so at least part of it’s a record for me. But leaving it until February 15th routinely always means that it’s too late to be of much use to anyone who wants additional options to consider before the Nebula nominations deadline hits. I can’t nominate directly — not being a member of SFWA — but I do like to give people the option to use the recommended reading lists as both a chance at catching up on things they might have missed, and as a resource for whatever awards they want to nominate for.

To that end, I’m going to aim for having the 2016 list up by January 15th at this point. That should still give me enough time to get through the majority of things I want to look at.

Speaking to time and recommendations both, I’ve not really managed to get a lot of reviewing on this blog done throughout the year. Largely because my time is taken up reviewing for Publishers Weekly and with the freelancing and with work in the outside world to help pay the bills and with my own work as well. That lack of time for in-depth reviewing on the blog affects the yearly recommendations list as well because by the time that goes up I don’t have the wherewithal to comment on everything there, tempted though I am.

Generally if I don’t leave a comment it’s that I enjoyed something and don’t feel the need to qualify that. Even with the DNFs (did not finish) list (which this year is long enough that I’m going to give it its own category) often there it’s not that the books are bad, it’s that I’m the wrong audience or I dropped out of it for a variety of other reasons. If a book is terrible or offensive for whatever reason, I’ll talk about that. And I make this point because as writers we see a DNF tag and we fill in the blank by assuming a problem, and I don’t want people thinking I hated their work just because I didn’t finish something of theirs. Believe me, if I hate someone’s work, I have absolutely no problem being honest about that to their face. :)

But the more pertinent reason I bring up the lack of reviews on the blog this year is because it’s possible that trend may continue next year. There are a lot of things I wanted to review on the site (that I don’t have the opportunity to review elsewhere), and I just don’t know where the time to do that is going to come from right now. Especially with Anathema starting up in 2017.

And speaking to Anathema:

Anathema solicitations have begun. And because the guidelines on the website won’t actually be going up until the website’s fully launched on January 1st, and that’s the same day we’ll be opening to submissions, I want to give people a bit of a head start on getting things ready. So I’ll be posting a brief rundown of the submission basics (minus submission e-mail) to the blog about a week before the 1st. Given the timing, it’ll probably go up around Christmas and is thus going to be my gift to everyone for the season this year.

A marginally lazy gift, true. But it doesn’t mean I like any of you any less for the effort I didn’t put into getting you something more extravagant. I wanted to give everyone something more, but then we had a cold snap and I was all “Fuck going outside,” and I never know what to get everyone as a blanket gift that would speak to what everyone wants and needs throughout the year, so I ended up getting everyone this magazine instead. What are you gonna do, right?

Walking back from the marginal absurdism momentarily…. Soliciting for the magazine brought to mind something that I come up against every time I have to send out invitations for a project, and even sometimes when I’m just pitching things to people. Said thing being the following (which I posted to Facebook this morning and am now just reposting here):

And now, a thing often said by anthology editors, but also echoed by those of us just trying to dig up people’s contact info (or in this case, trying for the umpteenth time):

Writers, for the love of all that’s motherfucking holy/unholy, have a contact e-mail listed, or a contact form, on your website or any of your social media. For those worried about personal safety and trying to maintain limited accessibility, contact forms are perfectly fine and also help protect you from assholes spamming you (especially if your form requires senders to verify they’re an actual person sending you mail).

This is true for artists as well — who, for the most part, are far, far better about having contact info and/or methods available on their websites and social media. It’s almost like the ability to commission artists is built into the understanding of how a visual artist survives and manages to make (whatever qualifies in this context as) a living. Writers need to be thinking likewise. You may not want to be available to take commissions and solicitations depending on how you work, but if no one can figure out how to get in touch with you, you’re going to miss out on opportunities to sell your work.

Other things you don’t *have* to do, but that are super helpful:

– If you have an agent, list them on the contact page of your website.
– If your agent is only handling certain types of projects for you (short fiction, long form, film/tv, and so on), mention that. The assumption otherwise is they probably handle anything you’ll be asked about/solicited for. Which is usually not an issue, but best to avoid confusion in the long run.
– If you don’t have a website, get one. It doesn’t matter what form of social media you’re using, a website is still a highly functional hub for aggregating all the various work you do. Hell, you can build a perfectly serviceable hub website through Tumblr if you (understandably) dislike most website back end interfaces. And you don’t have to use a paid website hosting service, there are a number of perfectly fine free hosting options to be had if you want to do minimal work and just want to park various information online and let it be.

It’s a worthwhile thing to make some time to do. And let me reiterate: Giving people the opportunity to locate your work or get in touch with you online doesn’t have to sacrifice your privacy, nor does it have to put you at risk. There are good, safe ways to both have an online presence and make sure you’re protected.

And for all those who already have their work online and have been putting together award consideration posts (or even just writing year in review posts), let A.C. Wise and Cat Rambo know so they can include your post in their meta eligibility posts. Twitter’s, I think it’s fair to say, the easiest way to do that right now (?):

And with that, I’m out. See you all next week to talk more about Anathema. Until then, look after yourselves, and enjoy the season. :)

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Upside Down is Out Today

upside-down-promotional-image-animated

Today’s the release day for Monica Valentinelli & Jaym Gates’ anthology Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling. My story, “Until There is Only Hunger” appears alongside some exquisitely good work from a range of fantastic authors and essayists, including Maurice Broaddus, Delilah Dawson, Haralambi Markov, Nisi Shawl, Alyssa Wong, A.C. Wise, and a metric fuckton of other awesome people.

The book’s already hit #1 New Release in Science Fiction Short Stories on Amazon. Not too shabby for the book’s first day out in the world. :)

I highly recommend grabbing a copy for all the work therein. But there is potentially another reason to pick it up more directly related to my own fiction:

For those who like following the (admittedly infrequent) connecting lines of my stories, “Until There is Only Hunger” is part of a larger body of connected pieces (two placed, two more on sub, others in the works) I refer to collectively as “Titan and Serpent.”

The next of these stories chronologically (as yet), “And in That Sheltered Sea, a Colossus,” will be available to read in Shimmer come March. The stories stand on their own, but if you’re interested in the larger framework narrative, it’s worth picking up a copy of Upside Down so you can be caught up by the time the next story goes live.

And if that doesn’t sell you on buying the book — lord, but you’re a hard sell, aren’t you? ;) — then here, have the opening few paragraphs of my story as incentive:

BONES COME UNDONE AT the Magician’s touch. Wind themselves up like silver and dance into the air. Strung like copper wire. Their fire a shimmering, living thing.

She’s all smiles for the crowd.

And, of course, they are never her bones. That’s not the trick.

The trick is to keep the audience from noticing how much lighter they all feel. They’ll notice a twinge, an emptiness later, deep in the night, when the carnival is done and home and the softness of white-sheeted beds have called. When sweet-souled revenants beckon, and the witching hour is but a memory.

Everyone gives something for the magic. That’s how it works. You are not spectator. You are participant. Always.

By all means do come along for the rest of the ride. And once again, you can purchase a copy of Upside Down here. Enjoy the book. :)

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Anathema: Spec from the Margins, Live in 2017

It’s been a few hours since the fundraising campaign for Anathema: Spec from the Margins closed. At the end of that month-long effort, we slightly exceeded our goal (101%, with $2,025 raised), and that’s a full year of funds and change in the bag and good to go! :D

This was a very long campaign. But everyone who contributed their time, their funds, and helped signal boost made this absolutely worthwhile. You also eased the burden of handling this by ourselves immensely for myself, Andrew, and Chinelo.

Thankfully the campaign coming to a close also means we can stop shouting at you to throw money our way. Which has never been my favourite part of putting together a project, so it is fantastic that that stage of getting Anathema up and running is done. Now we get to focus on the magazine itself more directly once again.

Specifically, over the course of December we’re finalizing Anathema‘s website so that can go live come the new year, doing some submissions soliciting, and making sure we’ve got everything else we need ready to go for the start of next year. I’ll also be getting in touch with campaign contributors who have manuscript edits or a book that needs mailing owed to make sure those perks get delivered properly. And we’ll be catching up with everyone owed a subscription package more generally come January.

Anathema will also be opening to submissions formally come January, and we’ll be posting our guidelines on the website. For those just catching up on hearing about the magazine, the basics are as follows:

Anathema is a free, online tri-annual magazine publishing speculative fiction (SF/F/H, the weird, slipstream, surrealism, fabulism, and more) by visible minorities on every range of the LGBTQIA spectrum. We’ll also be using cover art from queer POC. We’ll be publishing 15 stories and three pieces of non-fiction a year, each paying $50 (CAD), and each use of cover art will be paying $100 (CAD).

More specific details as to content length and submissions will go up in January, but in the meantime we’re happy to answer any questions people have via the Anathema Twitter account @anathemaspec, and/or on the Anathema Facebook page.

And in the meantime, for anyone who wants to catch up on Chinelo’s, Andrew’s, and my thoughts on why we’re putting together Anathema, you can have a look at our campaign essays (“The Light at the End of the World,” “Because it Matters,” and “This Machine Kills Fascists,” respectively) on the Anathema IndieGoGo campaign’s updates page.

Above and beyond all that, it’s nice to be able to take a breather again (not a lot of downtime in November one way or another) and just bask in the fact that Anathema‘s going to be a real magazine come next year! Just … holy shit, we made it! :D

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