DatesOctober 6–9, 2011
LocationVail Cascade Resort and Spa, Vail, Colorado
Guests of Honor
Justine Larbalestier, born to anthropologist parents in Sydney, Australia, now divides her time between Sydney and New York City. Her first work, a scholarly examination called The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction, was short-listed for the Hugo Award in 2003, and her first work of fiction, Magic or Madness, won the 2006 Andre Norton Award for best Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy work. Since then, she has written How to Ditch Your Fairy, two additional books in the Magic or Madness trilogy, and the critically acclaimed Liar, and has edited the award-winning Daughters of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century and the zombie works in Zombies vs. Unicorns. She has also dabbled in short films, radio programs, essays, and short stories. She is currently working on a book set in 1930s New York City, which means she spends a lot of time listening to Duke Ellington and learning to Lindy Hop.
Nnedi Okorafor, born in the United States to Igbo (Nigerian) immigrant parents, holds a B.A. in rhetoric, masters degrees in both English and journalism, and a Ph.D. in English, and is a professor at Chicago State University. Though American-born, Nnedi’s muse is Nigeria, and therefore, many of her stories take place there, either literally or figuratively. Her first work, Zahrah the Windseeker, won the Wole Soyinka Prize for literature, and was shortlisted for several other awards, including a nomination for the Locus Award for Best First Novel. Nnedi’s second book, The Shadow Speaker, won the CBS Parallax Award and was a finalist for the Essence Magazine Literary Award, the Andre Norton Award, and the NAACP Image Award. Nnedi has also won the 2007/08 Macmillan Writer’s Prize for Africa for Long Juju Man, and her next work, Who Fears Death, features magical realism. Nnedi also writes short stories, plays and scholarly works, and her most recent, Akata Witch, was published in spring 2011.
Laini Taylor grew up with her toes in many oceans and her nose in many books. A graduate of U.C. Berkeley and a non-graduate of the California College of the Arts, she has written three young adult fantasy books: Dreamdark: Blackbringer, Dreamdark: Silksinger, and Lips Touch: Three Times, the last of which was a finalist for the 2009 National Book Award. She also collaborated with husband Jim Di Bartolo on The Drowned, a supernatural horror graphic novel. Her books have been YALSA Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults, NPR Best Young Adult Fiction and Book Sense picks, and Junior Library Guild selections, among other honors. Her next book, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, was published in fall 2011.
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Books and Breakfast
Friday, October 7, 2011
Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves
In the Forests of Serre by Patricia McKillip
Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson
Nightshade by Andrea Cremer
Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link
Saturday, October 8, 2011
Chime by Franny Billingsley
Dark Goddess by Sarwat Chadda
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
Racing the Dark by Alaya Dawn Johnson
Zoo City by Lauren Beukes
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2011 Accepted Programming
Annihilating HER Again: How Eroticized Rage Against True Blood’s Vampire Lorena—Avatar of the Monstrous Feminine—Resurrects the Forgotten History of Goddess Culture’s Suppression
Rachel E. Seiler
This talk revolves around the scene of eroticized violence perpetrated against True Blood’s Lorena during Season 3, Episode 3: "It Hurts Me Too." Drawing upon 800,000 years of art, myth, histories, and poetry, and amplifying leading voices in archaeomythology, women's studies, and Goddess scholarship, we will trace parallels between this scene and the mythologies of goddesses dismembered, slain, or made subordinate to male gods which represent the shift to the “dominator” world of today. We will explore contemporary issues like gender relations, sex and sexuality, and rape as a social and cultural metaphor for behavior and identify models for partnership.
The Birdcage: The Gender Politics of Publishing in L.E.L.'s “The Fairy of the Fountains”
Letitia Elizabeth Landon’s “The Fairy of the Fountains” was first published incongruously in the fourth edition The Fisher’s Drawing Room Scrap-Book. Previous editions of the annual had contained only short poems that echoed accompanying engravings and systematically reinforced hegemonic ideals of feminine beauty. “The Fairy of the Fountains,” however, is over six hundred lines long and echoes no image. The independent poem, sans image, acts as subversive rejection of the publishing restrictions imposed on nineteenth-century female poets.
Friends Don’t Let Friends Use Similes
Justine Larbalestier, Sarah Rees Brennan
Writing buddies Sarah Rees Brennan and Justine Larbalestier recently put their friendship, sanity, and careers at risk by writing a novel together—about Many Secret Monstrous Things. Come see their multidimensional and at least bi-media presentation about their collaborative process, the dangers of elbows, and why vampires can’t laugh.
I Will Be with You on Prom Night: Gender Roles in Frankenstein and Carrie
Despite the time and distance that separate the eighteenth century nobles of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein from the 1970s teenagers in Stephen King’s Carrie, both worlds retain a strict social order divided along gender lines where men are socialized to define themselves as individuals in charge of their own destiny, and women socialized to define themselves through their relationships to others. This paper compares Shelley’s tragedy of male self-absorption to King’s tragedy of female self-abnegation and looks at where each author draws the line between responsibility to self and responsibility to others.
Sponsor: Amy Tenbrink
(Ir)responsible Feminism: Angry, Crazy, and Slutty Women in Fantasy Literature
As we seek to write, read and support feminist works of fantasy literature, what it means for a fantasy work to be “feminist” becomes a critical inquiry. While some argue that varying portrayals of women in fantasy literature advance the feminist agenda, others contend that portrayals of women must be responsible in order to qualify as feminist. Working from a definition of “feminism” as a movement for equal rights for people of all genders, this presentation will first argue that portraying many types of women in literature—including angry, violent, wild, and promiscuous women—is not only validly feminist, but indeed, critical to the advancement of feminism, and then open the floor for audience discussion.
Ista dy Chalion: Saint, Madwoman, and Demon Swallower
Does “happily ever after” actually portend early death, explaining why so many princesses no longer have mothers? Ista dy Chalion, from Lois McMaster Bujold’s Paladin of Souls, had the fairy tale wedding, but her story’s ending left much to be desired. At age forty, no longer queen or needed as a mother, she leaves on a pilgrimage where she finds herself, continued sainthood, and a romance of her own choosing. Not witch, nor crone, nor madwoman, Ista comes to trust herself and the wisdom she has fought to attain.
Magical and Monstrous Female Beings in South Asian Myth and Folklore
Rachel Manija Brown, Shveta Thakrar
The myths and legends of India and many of its neighbors feature beautiful snake women and cannibal demons, celestial dancers and nature spirits, most of whom are largely unknown in the West. Through storytelling, discussion, and slides from popular Indian comic books, we will introduce the magical and monstrous women of South Asian tales, with a focus on the fluidity and ambiguity of their classification as monstrous or simply supernatural.
Making Society Uncomfortable: Why Monsters Matter
What exactly are monsters, and what are they doing taking over genre fiction? Are they there for spectacle or as plot devices, or is there more to them? From Beowulf to Anita Blake, monsters have challenged accepted behaviors, creating avenues of power for women or confronting the issues of interracial marriage. They are foils for humanity and, more specifically, foils for our heroes’ identities. Find out what makes a fictional monster fall flat, and which monsters we love, or love to fear.
Walking the Walk and Talking the Talk: Understanding and Accepting the Woman Warrior
How does Alanna come to terms with her female body? Why does Kel insist on both wearing dresses and battling bullies? This presentation investigates the performance of gender roles in Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness and Protector of the Small quartets. How do Alanna and Kel negotiate the performative aspect of their gender with the experience of their physical bodies within their status as women warriors? By examining this YA literature with the help of gender theorists Judith Butler and Katherine Hayles, we can hopefully better understand how gender identity is generated, understood, and enacted.
Lauren J. Lacey
Looking at Tanith Lee’s The Silver Metal Lover (1981), Marge Piercy’s He, She and It (1991), and Jeanette Winterson’s The Stone Gods (2007), this paper explores the monstrous metal Other as love-object. Using feminist philosophies of the monstrous as a guide, it argues that the novels in question develop models of post-human possibility, and reinvent the romantic love narrative as a method of empowerment and potential.
The Monstrous Female Messiah in The Diamond Age and Cloud Atlas
Rachel E. Poulsen
Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age (1995) and David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004) depict futuristic fantasy worlds scarred by corporate imperialism, global wars, environmental disasters, and technological escalation. The question of what it takes to remain—or become—human in such worlds lies at the center of both novels. Out of the chaos, young women emerge as the chosen messengers of truth. But at what cost?
The Monstrosity of Vampires and Queers: The Normalizing Force of Charlaine Harris
Lisa A. King
Since its inception, queer theory has sought to undermine the normativity of heterosexuality, identifying normalizing power as one of our currently most entrenched forms of oppression. Through the work of Michel Foucault, this paper will argue that Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse series, and HBO’s True Blood based on it, situate vampires in much the same way that the dominant culture situates those who do not fit into the hetero-normative paradigm, but that Harris’s world ultimately re-inscribes the normalizing practices of the dominant culture.
The pre-empaneled papers listed above received the 2011 Sonnet Award.
Sponsor: Lauren Kent
Book Reviews, Community, and Fantasy
Hallie Tibbetts, Faye Bi, Juliet Grames, Jazz Sexton
In online communities, the divide between creators and fans is ever-shrinking. In book-related communities, particularly online blogging circles, reviews may be written by and about publishing industry professionals. Recently, there have been discussions (and kerfuffles) of whether creators and professionals can—or should—express negative opinions about books in public, and even whether some people should express opinions at all. This panel will discuss reviewer etiquette, the complications of personal opinions and online presences for professionals, fantasy fan communities, and whether a bad review can kill a career.
Destructive Love Myths
Mette Ivie Harrison, Justine Larbalestier, Dene Low, Laini Taylor
From the white knight to bad boys, from Cinderella to happily-ever-after, there are strong love myths that drive our choices in romances. But which ones are destructive and why?
Epic Fantasy = Epic Fail?
Marie Brennan, Cora Anderson, Rachel Manija Brown, Juliet Grames, Andrea Horbinski
Many epic fantasy authors include almost no female characters in their stories, beyond a token one or two. Others include plenty, but don’t handle them well. (Robert Jordan, we’re looking at you.) What is it about epic fantasy as a subgenre that makes these failure modes so common? And what happens when an author achieves a success mode instead?
Justine Larbalestier, Sarah Rees Brennan, Laini Taylor, Nnedi Okorafor
Writers dust off the storage trunks, turn off the shame meter, and read from their 4th- through 12th-grade works of unalloyed proto-genius. (No, not even slightly.) A great way for beginning writers in the audience to feel much better about their own efforts. Yes, even your favorite writers were once terrible.
Monstrous Women and Female Monsters in Anime and Manga
Rachel Manija Brown, Cora Anderson, Andrea Horbinski
Manga and anime feature a wide variety of monsters, from the morally ambiguous homunculi of Fullmetal Alchemist to the bizarre demon-weapons of Soul Eater to the charming creatures of Fruits Basket. Sometimes the monster is female, and sometimes the monster-slayer is—and, as in Claymore, sometimes the line between them blurs. This panel will discuss the monstrous female and the “monster girl” in anime and manga.
Sponsor: Sharon Goetz
On Writing Monsters and the Monstrous
Amy Tenbrink and guests
Author guests will discuss writing the monstrous feminine.
Sponsor: Sharina Pratt
Bringing Speculative Fiction to Your Community
What brings people together better than the written word? If you’re looking for a way to increase the appreciation and readership of speculative fiction in your city or school, you might consider creating your own literary journal or zine! We’ll learn about the simple steps to create your own journal and then develop a unique concept to take home with you!
The presentation listed above received the 2011 Song Award.
Care and Feeding of Critique Groups
S. R. Gruber
Are you trying to find the right critique group for your work, but not quite getting what you need? Critique groups come in many forms, and not every group is suited to every writer. After reviewing common group formats and guidelines, we will discuss how to build your own critique group based on respect for and commitment to the works in progress. Participants will gain a better understanding of their needs and expectations as they develop an outline for their own group guidelines.
Creating Realistic Animal Characters in Fantasy: Exploring the Clash Between Instincts and Intelligence
The Ratha or Named series, about intelligent prehistoric big cats struggling to survive and build a community, is noted for its naturalistic yet sympathetic depictions of wild animal characters. The young female, Ratha, also encounters the same challenges as today’s women as she develops as clan leader. Sharing insights gained from writing the series, author Clare Bell will guide workshop participants in creating realistic animal characters for fantasy fiction.
The Celebration of Female Erasure and Silence
Mette Ivie Harrison
This roundtable discussion will focus on specific examples from television, books, movies, and other media in which female characters are erased and/or silenced, and in which that sacrifice is seen as particularly feminine, of value to society, and of use to the male hero who lives on afterward.
Sponsor: Hallie Tibbetts
Fear in the Face of Monsters
A woman who is monstrous is also one who inspires fear. How does this fear affect the perceived identity and self-identity of the woman? In this discussion, we will talk about the relationship of fear to this year’s monstrous theme, with reference to popular fantasy.
It’s Alive!: Examining Frankenstein’s Monster
The image of a man with green skin, stitches, and neck bolts is almost synonymous with the word “monster.” This roundtable will discuss the original monster created by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley in her novel Frankenstein, as well as Boris Karloff’s version in the 1931 movie of the same name. Please come to discuss what makes a monster. Prior knowledge of the story is not strictly necessary; there will be a brief summary of the novel before the discussion.
Sponsor: Sabrina Chin
It’s Cool to Be Queer—Especially If You’re Not Human
Vampires and other supernatural creatures are often portrayed with far more flexible sexual tastes than their human counterparts. Does this make such characters more exotic and exciting? Or does it simply emphasize their status as abominations? Join us as we examine the correlation between monstrosity and sexual fluidity, and analyze the feminist implications of the lesbian monster and her simultaneous role as both villain and romantic heroine.
“Life Is Not a Song”: The Women of A Game of Thrones
At first glance, both the novel and the television adaptation of A Game of Thrones appear to be a story of men embroiled in a war for a kingdom. A closer look shows that the women of Westeros wield their own kind of power. This roundtable will discuss the role of these queens, mothers, and girls in the game where the only options are victory or death.
Sponsor: Amy Wilson
The Monster Within: Using Fantasy to Address Mental Illness
This roundtable discussion will focus on novels and authors that use magical or supernatural elements to address issues of mental illness. We will explore Dementors, Dark Muses, the side effects of magic (or refusing to use magic), and the many other ways characters deal with mental and emotional trouble. These fantasy elements can help characters to cope with mental health problems and, in some cases, cause them. Lastly, we’ll discuss how these stories help readers deal with their own depression, anxiety, and other disorders.
The Monstrous Feminine in Kristin Cashore’s Fire
In Fire, Kristin Cashore has honed the theory of the monstrous feminine into a pointed study of feminine beauty, agency, and power. In a land rife with monsters—vivid, deadly versions of normal beasts—Fire is the last human monster, powerful not only in her beauty, but in her ability to bend wills. She is the most beautiful, the most desired, the most feared, and the most reviled person in her land, and men, in response, want to possess her, to subjugate her, and often, to kill her. Join us to discuss Fire’s status as a female “monster,” and how, in learning to accept her power, Fire learns to reject as inauthentic reflections of herself veiled through male desire and loathing.
Sponsor: Manda Lewis
You almost can’t glance at the fantasy section without being deluged with vampire and werewolf stories, and if you can navigate around those you’ll inevitably be confronted by the classic elves and dragons. But if you can somehow sneak through the ranks, what strange and terrifying monsters can you find? Who are your favorite monsters? Why do they work so well narratively? Should efforts be made to mainstream more lesser-known monsters? Come prepared to talk about some of your favorite fictional monsters, particularly the less mainstream varieties (possibilities include djinn, stormwings, elgorts, kitsune, incubi, dementors, etc.).
Creating Proposals, Abstracts and Compendium Submissions for Sirens
Are you thinking of submitting a program item for next year? Want tips on how to prepare your ideas for consideration by the vetting board? We'll cover abstract formats for papers, panels, workshops, afternoon classes, and roundtable discussions. Also, your talk, paper, workshop, or roundtable discussion can become part of a published book: every other year, Sirens produces a compendium of presentations. We will discuss formatting issues, editing, bibliographic citation and why it matters, and some differences between writing for oral delivery and writing for print. The presentation will be very informal; attendees are welcome to drop in for a few minutes to ask a quick question or to use the time for group brainstorming.
Defending Yourself Against the Monsters
The world holds monsters that come in all shapes and sizes, and some of them see women as prey. This afternoon class offers a first look at basic self defense, situational awareness, and ways to stay safe. Attendees will be active and work in pairs or small groups practicing some of the techniques. Wear comfortable clothing.
E-readers and Digital Fantasy
Exploratory Programming Staff
This afternoon class will focus on fantasy for e-readers. Have an e-reader or a favorite desktop program, or want to find out more about reading this way? Come to share and find out about digital options for reading fantasy, finding fantasy to read, and benefits and detriments of digital stories. The class will center on audience contributions, and drop-ins are welcome.
Sponsor: Sharina Pratt
Rachel Manija Brown’s memoir All the Fishes Come Home to Roost: An American Misfit in India was published in nine countries. Her poem “Nine Views of the Oracle” was a Rhysling runner-up. Her manga has been published by Tokyopop and PandaBuddha Press. In collaboration with Sherwood Smith, she has written an animated series, Game World, which was sold to the Jim Henson Company, and a YA post-apocalyptic novel, The Change: World’s End. In addition to fiction, nonfiction, poetry, comic books, and television, Rachel has written plays, song lyrics, interactive games, and a comic strip intended to be silk-screened on to a scarf.
Sharon K. Goetz works for a print-and-digital project that creates critical editions. Too fond of textuality for her own good, she has also written software manuals, taught college writing courses oriented around speculative fiction and King Arthur, and completed a Ph.D. investigating medieval English chronicles amidst their manuscript contexts. Sharon served as Academic Programming Coordinator for Terminus and Phoenix Rising and as Programming Secretary for The Witching Hour; in 2002 she chaired the Medieval Performativity conference that celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the UC Berkeley Beowulf Marathon. Amongst Sharon’s leisure pursuits are reading widely, playing video games, and volunteering as a Strange Horizons copy-editor.
Mallory Clare Loehr is the editor-in-chief of Random House Books for Young Readers, where she has worked for twenty years! She edits everything from six-page board books to six-hundred-page young adult titles, with a particular fondness for fantasy geared toward any age. She is Tamora Pierce’s editor for the Tortall books featuring Kel, Alianne (Aly), and Beka Cooper. Other fantasy/SF authors she has edited include Isobelle Carmody, Esther Friesner, and Lauren McLaughlin. She has also worked on all the Magic Tree House books by Mary Pope Osborne—the ongoing best-selling series that has launched many a fantasy reader. Mallory is in publishing because she is a reader first and foremost, although her reading volume has been stunted by the arrival of two children. Once upon a time she read ten books a week, frequented flea markets, and danced Argentine tango late into the night. Now she lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband, two small(ish) children, and one cat. In her (little) spare time, she reads as well as organizes libraries at home, at work, and at her son’s school. She is addicted to parentheses and footwear.
Dr. Rhonda Nicol is Instructional Assistant Professor of English at Illinois State University. She enjoys teaching and writing about issues of gender, power, and identity in popular cultural texts and is currently obsessed with young adult fantasy fiction, as evidenced by recent academic works such as “Harry Potter and the Reluctant Reader: Teaching Harry Potter in the College Classroom” (in Terminus: Collected Papers on Harry Potter ), “‘Something That Looks So Fragile’: Holly Black’s and Melissa Marr’s Feminist Faerie Tales” (Sirens 2009 presentation), and an article comparing Twilight’s Bella with Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s title character (in Reading Twilight: Analytical Essays [forthcoming]).
Pat Schwieterman currently teaches at the University of San Francisco, where he occasionally has the opportunity to offer a course on his academic specialty: supernatural beings in medieval literature. He has also taught composition courses at UC Berkeley and, while there, helped to organize conferences on Old and Middle English literature. He’s been an obsessive fan of fantasy literature ever since reading Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea as a teenager, and his other interests include various dead languages, living without a car, and collecting far more folk and indie-rock CDs than he has room for.
Sherwood Smith writes fantasy and science fiction novels and short fiction. Her stories have been finalists for the Nebula and Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards, and her characters, including Meliara, Wren, and Inda, are fantasy favorites. Her recently published works include Crown Duel and its prequel, A Stranger to Command; the four Inda books; Sasharia en Garde: Once a Princess and Twice a Prince; Senrid; the Wren series; and stories in Lace and Blade, Firebirds, and Firebirds Soaring: An Anthology of Original Speculative Fiction. In September 2010, DAW published Coronets and Steel, a Ruritanian romance. In addition to coauthoring the Exordium series with Dave Trowbridge, she has published novels set in others’ worlds, including Earth: Final Conflict, Andromeda, L. Frank Baum’s Oz, and (with Andre Norton) the Solar Queen and Time Traders universes.
If people let her, Shveta Thakrar would eat books for dinner. Since they won’t, she settles for writing Indian-flavored fantasy. Drawing on her heritage, her experience growing up with two cultures, and her M.A. in German literature, she likes to explore the magic that is just out of sight as well as that which stands right in front of our faces. Other things that interest her include feminism, cultural and racial notions of beauty, and how language influences how we think. Shveta is currently working on a YA novel featuring Indian fey, bleeding thumbs, and family secrets, all in Philadelphia. She blogs at http://shveta-thakrar.livejournal.com/.
2011 Call for Proposals
CALL FOR PROPOSALS: Sirens
October 6–9, 2011
A conference on women in fantasy literature presented by Narrate Conferences, Inc.
Sirens, a conference focused on literary contributions by women to the fantasy genre and on fantasy works with prominent female characters, will take place October 69, 2011, in Vail, Colorado. The conference seeks papers, panels, interactive workshops, roundtable discussions, and other presentations suitable for an audience of academics, professionals, educators, librarians, authors, and fantasy readers.
The theme for 2011 is “monsters,” and presenters are invited to explore what it means to be “monstrous.” Programming prompted by the theme is encouraged; presenters are not limited to this theme, however, and proposals that address specific aspects of a work or series, works related by other themes, and studies of the fantasy genre across all disciplines are encouraged as well. A non-exhaustive list of sample topics includes literary analyses of novels; studies of genre history; use of fantasy works in schools and libraries for education; examination of related business and legal issues; media and fan studies; craft-based workshops in writing, art, and publishing; and overviews of how fantasy works fit into larger contexts.
Presentation submission to the vetting board is by online system only. No other format or contact will be considered. The online submission system is located at <http://www.sirensconference.org/submissions/>.
The deadline for proposals is May 7, 2011, and notices regarding proposals will be sent no later than June 1, 2011. Those requiring an early decision in order to obtain travel funding should contact the programming coordinator at (programming at sirensconference.org).
At the time of proposal submission, presenters must provide an abstract of 300-500 words, a 50-100 word presentation summary for publication, and a presenter biography of no more than 100 words. Those wishing to submit a proposal for an interactive roundtable discussion may submit a brief explanation of a topic and a list of 10-15 sample discussion questions in lieu of a formal abstract; workshop proposals may be formatted as lesson plans. Afternoon classesinteractive demonstrations of interest to fantasy readers that may be less formally related to the thememay also be presented as lesson plans. Presenters must be available to attend the conference in its entirety; no partial or day registrations will be offered.
Conference papers will be collected for publication at a later date. Presenters must be registered for the conference no later than June 30, 2011. For more information about programming, the review process, suggested timing and structure of presentations, audio-visual availability, and proposal submissions, please see the Sirens website at <http://www.sirensconference.org/programming/>. Questions specifically about programming may be directed to (programming at sirensconference.org), and general conference inquiries may be sent to (help at sirensconference.org).
Sirens is a presentation of Narrate Conferences, Inc., a 501(c)(3) charitable organization with the mission of organizing academic, literary, and exploratory educational conferences that address themes of interest to scholars, educators, students, professionals, and readers. For inquiries about Narrate Conferences, Inc., please write to (info at narrateconferences.org).
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