The 2022 Sekrit Solstice Sci-Fi/Fantasy Story Swap!

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CobraMisfit

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Hear ye, Hear ye!

The First of December is once more upon us, which means that we stand on the precipice of yet another season of writer-based joy and wonderment.

That’s right, gang, polish up your prompts, spool up your spellcheckers, and flex those fingers because it’s time once again for the Best Thing to Happen to Humanity Since the Invention of Tacos (TM)*....



THE TENTH** ANNUAL SEKRIT SOLSTICE SCI-FI/FANTASY STORY SWAP!



So what exactly is the SS-SFF-SS you may ask?

The SS-SFF-SS (AKA: The Sisyphus) is an event where all participants submit a prompt with details for the kind of story they want to receive and what they’re willing to write. Once we close the window for prompts, participants are secretly paired up via the Story Elves and a lot of math, they create a story based on their assigned prompt, then provide it to the Story Elves who send it to the giftee a la Secret Santa.

The best part is that authors not only gets to write something fun or outside of their normal comfort zone, but everyone who participates walks away with a story written just for them. Hilarity normally ensues, especially when we try to match authors with stories in a blind Guessing Thread.

If you want an idea of the general madness involved, feel free to review last year's Sisyphus and the SS-SFF-SS Guessing Thread (password: vista).

What the Sisyphus is not:

1) Stressful: No word-count minimum and no grammar police allowed.
2) Lonely: We’re a family here. We lean on each other if we’re struggling.
3) Judgmental: Genre, word count, and typos don’t matter here.

Basically, we prompt, we write, we trade stories, we guess, we share the joy of the event, and we foster camaraderie with our fellow writers.

If this sounds like your kind of literary playground, then here are the rules and such.


The Rules and Such:


RULE #1) THE 50 POST REQUIREMENT:


In order to join in the Sisyphus fun, all participants must have a minimum of 50 posts on AW. No exceptions. This ensures everyone meets the requirement for posting in the Share Your Work (SYW) sub-forum where we'll play the Guessing Game.

TLDR:

Less than 50 posts?
NAY!

50 posts or more?
YAY!


RULE #2) HOW TO PLAY:


There are two primary ways of participating: RECEIVING/GIVING and GIVING ONLY. A third path, The Beta Option, exists for those who simply want to help fine-tune the stories. See Rule #6 for more details on beta-ing.

2a) RECEIVING AND GIVING:

Signing up to RECEIVE a gift means signing up to GIVE a gift. No exceptions. Since the spirit of this event is giving, if you ask for treasures, you must give treasures.

To sign up, you’ll make a post (aka: Prompt) with what you want to read as well as what you’re willing to write. See Rule #3 for details on the Prompt Parameters.

2b) GIVING ONLY:

You may absolutely sign up to GIVE a gift, but not RECEIVE one. If you’re the benevolent type that loves to give and give, I’ll forward you a copy of my Christmas Wish List***. I’ll also hook you up with a giftee (or more than one if you so fancy). Please let me know if you want to give a story in general or for a specific prompt so I can match you appropriately.



RULE #3) PROMPT PARAMETERS:

When you sign up to GIVE AND RECEIVE, please include a prompt that provides parameters for both your gift AND what you're willing to write for someone else. Your “receive” info can be anything: a word, a quote, an author name, an idea, a theme, etc. Just give your gifter a direction in which to run. Once you post your prompt, please also rep me via Rule #13.

That said, please KEEP YOUR PROMPT REASONABLE. Long, detailed diatribes run the risk of not getting matched because people don’t want to be boxed in. Feel free to ask for the moon, but also allow your gifter room to maneuver. If your prompt is deemed too stringent or “outlin-esque”, the Story Elves may contact you to tweak it. If you ignore the Elves or refuse to bend, you run the risk of Getting Benched (See Rule #12).

Also, please specify themes/topics that you are okay with/not-okay with, both for receiving and for giving. Maybe you want to receive a space opera, but aren’t confident with writing sci-fi yourself. Perhaps horror isn't something you want to read. Add the perimeter of comfort for your incoming and outgoing stories so those writing and receiving know where to draw a line.

HOWEVER: Unless otherwise specified, the person writing for you will assume all bets are off.

Mwa.
Ha.
Ha

Example Prompt:


Originally Posted by Queen Novella Von InkyQuill, High Potentate of Wordsmithia and All the Territories and Colonies Therein,

Golly, CM, this sounds like The Best Thing to Happen to Humanity Since the Invention of Tacos (TM)! Of COURSE I’ll participate. Sign me up to both give and receive.

Prompt: I'd like an Alt-History Steampunk YA Cookbook, please. Nothing grimdark or with explicit violence/smexy times. Bonus points for a manatee in a tutu!

I'm willing to write anything, except smexy manatees in tutus.

Once you have posted your prompt, I’ll put the names of participants in The Sign-Up List of AWesome located at the bottom of this post.

And yes, you may absolutely write an additional story/stories based on other prompts that catch your fancy if you want!
There's no maximum to how many you send to others. Plus, it shakes up the Guessing Thread, which is always fun.

Note: Failure to sign up by the closing date (December 22nd, US, East Coast Time) means you'll miss out on this year's fun.


RULE #4) “EGADS, YES!”/”NO THANK YOU”:

If a prompt really excites you or there’s a prompt/person you don't want to write for, no matter the reason, please rep/e-mail me with your request. I’ll do my best to accommodate your wishes.


RULE #5) WRITING TIME:

Once the sign-up thread closes, the Story Elves and I will pair up everyone based on the Prompts and what people are willing to write. On Christmas morning (US, East Coast time), the Story Elves will send out assignments via e-mail. From the day you get that e-mail you'll have approximately 10 weeks to create your masterpiece.

As of today, our target delivery date is MARCH 14th 31st. This ensures that authors don’t feel pressured to write during the holiday season AND gives them enough time to get their stories to betas as needed. Keep in mind that target dates are flexible and we can always shift them if folks need or want more time.

Most important: Communicate! If you hit a snag or have questions/concerns, please contact me via e-mail or here on AW and I’ll do my best to help you out. If you’re struggling and go radio-silent, especially as we reach the final weeks of the event, the Story Elves will go into full panic mode and may initiate Rule #12.


RULE #6) THE BETA OPTION
:

This is the tangential way to participate since beta volunteers are always welcome. If you'd like to serve as a beta, please let me know via Rule #13. I'll post your name in this thread so folks can reach out as needed. Authors may also seek out betas exterior to this thread/genre as they desire.


(continued in Post #2)
 
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CobraMisfit

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RULE #7) WORD COUNT:

There’s no limit to story length. We’ve seen everything from 100 word poems to over 30k novellas. A good story is a good story, so don't fret the word count.

RULE #8) DON’T FRET IF YOUR STORY ISN’T “COMPLETE”:

It can be rough, clunky, filled with typos, etc. Folks won’t care. What they WILL care about is the fact that you put in time and effort to make something. We’re among friends here, so do your best, but don’t lose sleep. If the deadline hits and you need/want more time, submit what you have and work things out with your giftee for the "completed" story down the road.

RULE #9) SUBMITTING STORIES:

When you're ready to deliver your gift, send it to me via e-mail in Word, .rtf, or .pdf (if a different format, just let me know). Also, please make sure to include a 200-400 word section pasted directly into the e-mail that you feel best represents your tale of wonders. I’ll use this for the guessing thread. Again, for those unfamiliar, here is a link to last year's Guessing Thread. (password: vista)


RULE #10) OWNERSHIP:

The author of the story owns that story outright.


This is especially true if the author decides to polish/expand the story for a professional market. The prompt they use is merely a motivating tool, but does not transfer ownership of the story to the giftee in any way.

Everyone who participates in this event agrees to this.


RULE #11) SAY “THANK YOU”:


In the past, a few people have expressed concern about whether or not their giftee liked their story. Once you receive your gift, PLEASE thank your gifter. A heartfelt “thank you” goes a long way to convincing someone that the hours spent building something special were not in vain.

Please be courteous and vocally appreciative.


RULE #12) GETTING BENCHED:

The Sisyphus is a fun bonding experience with a great deal of latitude, however we also need to ensure it’s a safe and agreeable environment for all participants. Endangering this safe space, in any fashion, is not acceptable. That said, benching is a last resort and the Mods and I will attempt to work things out with an author long before it happens.

By agreeing to participate in this event, you also agree that actions like bailing without communicating, inflexibility, hostility, or out-right offensive/boorish behavior may result in removal from the event and/or being forced to sit out of next year’s Sisyphus.


RULE #13) I’M IN!:


To ensure you have read ALL THE RULES, including this one, please send a PM that contains the following:

A) A statement that says you have read and agree to all the rules AND that you swear to give your gift by the deadline.

B) Your current/preferred email, even if you've played in the past, so the Story Elves can ensure they have the most updated contact info.

Once you submit your PM, I'll send you a confirmation e-mail within 24 hours.



Here ends The Rules and Such.
 
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CobraMisfit

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The Timeline of Excellence:


December 1st: Sign-ups open. Masses flock to this thread. A new dawn of storytelling breaks and hope reigns supreme.

December 22nd: Sign-ups close. Late-comers reap a harvest of sorrow.

December 25th: Assignments are lovingly wrapped and hand-delivered direct to your inbox. Hooray! Presents for everyone!

December 25th – March 13th: Plots are generated, characters are drawn, and words are flung.

March 14th 31st April 10th: Stories are due to moi. Everyone celebrates the impending burst of Spring with the knowledge that their masterpiece is a mere hours away from arriving in their giftee’s inbox.

March 15th April 1st April 11thish: Stories are delivered to giftees who are overwhelmed by teh awesomez. Guessing Thread open in SYW. Stories are read. Friendships are forged. Joy spreads through the valley and there is peace.

March April Somethingth: We crown this season's Supreme Guessinator who lords over all of us with her/his story-guessing might.


All hail last year's winner: Norman Mjadwesch!


As Supreme Guessinator, Norman has ruled the Land of Sisyphus justly, spreading excellent grammar and vibrant adverbs to all the peoples. But will this season's winner be as magnanimous or will they rule with an iron fist?


Only time will tell.



Personal Note: This is hands-down my favorite writing event. There’s something magical about writing specifically for another person using their prompt. Not only does it allow you to move outside your comfort zone, but also helps you explore a genre you may have never considered before. The more people who participate, the more fun we have, so feel free to tell your friends, family, kids, cats, or even that strange neighbor who mows the yard in nothing but a sheen of sweat and a smile.

And now, without further ado....



The Official Proclamation:

Let it be known throughout all the writing lands that the 2022 SS-SFF-SS season is now officially open!




The Sign-Up List of AWesome:

Name: | Both Give and Receive(B)/Give Only(G)

1) Maggie Maxwell: B
2) AnnieColleen: B
3) Unimportant: G
4) Sue77: B
5) Silenia: B
6) Tamlyn: B
7) Friendly Frog: B
8) amo1143: B
9) eyeblink: B
10) CMBright: B
11) Jaymz Connelly - B
12) kinokonoronin - B
13) Gatteau - B
14) armgrab - B
15) shortstorymachinist - B
16) Brightdreamer - B
17) Norman Mjadwesch - B
18) J.A. Nielsen - B
19) biberli -B
20) Justobuddies - B
21) ajaye - B
22) Coddiewomple - B
23) Yzjdriel - B
24) CobraMisfit - B
25) Albedo - B
26) kjbartolotta - B

Betas:

1) Unimportant


*TM. As in “Tacos, Mmmmmmm!”

**Good gravy, ten years! TEN! We need to celebrate this!


*** I’ve been extra good this year. Just sayin’.
 
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Maggie Maxwell

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Whoohoo! Here we go!

As always, in for giving and receiving.

What I'd like to receive: Two words: Inconvenience Store

What I am willing to give: I can write SF/F with humorous tones, or touches of horror. I cannot write smexytimes or gore. I am willing to write shiny emo teen vampires and smexy manatees in tutus if it comes to it. Just don't expect it to be serious.
 

AnnieColleen

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Yayyy! In to give and receive also.

I'm in for give and receive.

Give: I can try most varieties of SFF (generally ending up with something oddball and in-between). Anything research-intensive will probably end up approximated, and I'm not the best person to attempt grimdark or sexy anything.


Receive:
As above, please no grimdark or explicit sexytimes.

I would like a story based on a three-line poem from the game Wayfinder. Play the game to generate your own, or use one or some of mine from the list here.

One example poem:
afternoon drizzle
the sound of wings
in bloom
 

Sue77

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Fabulous! Count me in for give and receive.

Give: I write horror, sci-fi and sometimes fantasy finds it way into the mix. Often my stories blend genres. I also enjoy rewriting fairy and mythological tales. If you want sex or spooky happenings in your story no problem, but I'm pants at humour.

Receive: I'd like a story with a doppelganger. It can be horror, sci-fi, fantasy or weird. As long as it has a doppelganger I'll be happy.

I've also got some news...

A story I wrote for one of the Summer Sisyphus's has just been published. It was the time we had a Mad Scientist prompt.

On the Cusp of Sleep has been published along with another novelette and an interview with each author. I'm extremely excited about this. Here's a link for those of you who wish to check it out.


This is the second book in the Roads Less Travelled series and Eyeblink is in the first.
 

amo1143

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I'm in for giving and receiving!

What I can give: Pretty much any genre -- mystery, fantasy, romance, thriller, spooky times, etc. Serious or ridiculous, I'm in.

- I don't do explicit stuff, but I'm not afraid of making bad things happen
- I'm not a good fit for hard sci-fi or Fifty Shades of Harvey Weinstein


Prompt: The MC returns from travel to find someone else living in his/her home. No one recognizes or knows the MC when s/he seeks help.

- Any genre! Fantasy, future, domestic thriller, whatever -- bring it. :)
- Romantic subplot a plus! :)
- No harm to kids
- No gratuitous or explicit gore or sex
- No glorified criminal MCs (unless it's part of a redemption arc)
- No anti-religion tropes
- No pro-religion preachiness
- Bonus points if CobraMisfit is a walk-on character
 

c.hansen

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Brilliant! Looking forward to joining in next time :)
 

AnnieColleen

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Welcome! Stick around and see the fun for now.
 

biberli

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This looks AWESOME! I so wish I had > 50 posts 😞

I'm new here and I guess I'll have to wait till next year to take part.

Wish you all a lot of fun!!!
 

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Welcome to AB!

The closing date to join in with the Sisyphus is 22nd December and we'd love to have you join in this year. Get posting! You're already on the way to 50 posts.

I'll check to see if you've posted in the introduction thread so I can say 'Hi!' there and you can reply. :)

It's such a fun event and the Guessing Thread is a hoot.

Sue
 
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Silenia

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I'm in for giving and receiving.

GIVING:

I'm fine with horror, gritty & (grim)dark, violence, and smut (implied or explicit, including the more kinky kind). That said, for anything explicitly sexual I'll need proof (preferably "has access to the password-protected erotica subforums") the requester is actually old enough to receive such content. Humor's fine, but don't expect slapstick or romcom. Black humor, wry & dry, and puns & wordplay are more my style. Much of what I produce tends to be a little bit oddball.

Hard, technical SF ain't quite my thing. New takes on myths, legends, etc. aren't my forte. I don't do stuff set in the contemporary real world/alt-history!earth, including the nearish-future (~upcoming century) or the near-past (~post-Victorian onwards), with a strong preference for secondary worlds. Please no "modern human in the distant past/on a magical world"-stories, either.

I'm comfortable writing non-cishet characters, including non-binary & genderless characters as well as bi, pan, ace, aro and demi characters. Themes of gender, gender roles, gender non-conformity and sexuality in general are fine too. Open relationships & relationships between more than two people are similarly fine; harem-style stories ain't my thing.

I'm comfortable writing about neurodivergent characters, characters with a disability, and characters with mental health issues. That said, there are three requirements:
1. I don't do "cartoonish-evil villain is evil because of often-stereotyped health/mental health issue" or "unhealthy body = unhealthy mind" (aka "you can tell they're the baddy 'cause they're disfigured") stories.
2. Healing, medicine and cures where available are fine; the 'Magical Cure As Happy Ending' trope is not.
3. I require some freedom in what form of disability/neurodivergency/mental health issue a character has. Broad stroke requests (physical disability that limits mobility; mental health in the aftermath of a catastrophe; etc.) are fine, diagnosis-level specific requests are not.

RECEIVING:

As far as subjects and themes, pretty much anything is fine (including gore, character deaths, smut/explicit stories & horror).

That said, I'd appreciate no lengthy, detailed descriptions of pregnancy and/or childbirth (short mentions & references are perfectly fine, however), and I'd strongly prefer for the viewpoint character to not be an outright hate-spewing bigoted arse (be it in regards to race, ableism, sexism, transphobia, etc.) even if they get redeemed/learn their lesson/have karma pay a visit.

Genre-wise, I'd prefer a story not set on contemporary earth, but whether that means scifi, horror, fantasy, historical or something else altogether is up to you. Quirky, oddball or "weird" is not a requirement, but would be nice.

PROMPT:

I'd like a scene in which one or more characters are gathering wild berries. Can be for any reason: magical berries needed to create some potion? Some kind of ritual significance? Jam making? Use as dye? Wilderness survival? Supplemental feed for domestic animals? All up to you.
 

Tamlyn

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Both!

Give: I will try my hand at most anything except hard sf and horror. I can do dark, just not horrifying. Romance, violence, humour (I hope!), all that is fine.

Receive: I thought of an amazing prompt. One night. When in bed. And I did not get up and write it down.

So, anyway, this is my less amazing prompt.

I would like a science fiction story - space, strange planets, something along those lines - with an established, happy couple and things that break in unexpected ways (but not the couple).
 
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Friendly Frog

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I'm in!

GIVING: I generally write SF&F from space opera to modern fantasy and/or humourous. But I am game to try any other genre (with the caveat that I might cheerfully end up doing them badly). Please don't ask me for any gore, grimdark, graphic or sexual violence.

RECEIVING: Something has escaped the space zoo/menagerie/bothanical garden. Please no gore, grimdark, graphic or sexual violence. And with this year being this year I kindly request no downer ending. (Yeah, I'm reusing last year's prompt again unless I come up with something better before sign-up ends.)
 

Maggie Maxwell

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@amo1143, @c.hansen, @biberli, It's not 50 posts at the start of the thread, but 50 by signup end, so you have time to get your 50 posts! We've just had many times when people sign up with no posting history but disappear mid game because they didn't stick around, which stinks for the people who were writing a story for them. We love new people getting involved and it makes the guessing game at the end even more fun, so please, keep posting and stick around and join up when you have 50 posts!
 

CobraMisfit

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I'll echo Maggie's comments. The more, the merrier with Sisyphus, especially considering this is our 10thish Anniversary. The 50 post requirement is designed to ensure folks who sign up have some exposure to, and investment in, AW, but it's also the minimum requirement to be able to play in the Share Your Work sub-forum where we host the Guessing Thread. Ensuring folks have that locked in before we begin the story-writing saves scampering down the road.

But please do join! This is a low-pressure event. Not to mention, receiving a story written specifically for you is wonderful. Writing a story for someone is glorious. And doing this as a little family is heart-warming.

We could all use a little more of that these days....
 

eyeblink

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I'm in for my tenth consecutive year. There have been a couple of wobbles over the past ten years, such as in this year's summer Sisyphus where I had a beginning of a story but nothing else, and still don't...but I've always come up with something. In 2021 I had two stories which were both guessed immediately.

I also have a novel-in-episodes/collection of linked stories in progress, which will include versions of my Sisyphus stories for 2018, 2019 and 2021. Will I write another story in the series (there are two to go) for 2022. Wait and see...

To give: I will try most things but don't expect much in the way of very traditional fantasy or very hard SF. My stuff tends more towards horror and dark fantasy and slipstream (not always) and can be dark. I don't do comedy very well - humorous bits in otherwise serious stories yes, out-and-out comedies no. My stories are usually set in contemporary times or in the past on this Earth, but again there have been exceptions, and LGBTQIA+ characters may well make an appearance. No taboos on language or content.

To receive: As this is the tenth Sisyphus, a story where ten is significant in some way: a ten-year time span or tenth anniversary or some other connection to ten, entirely up to you. Any flavour of SF/F/H is fine and as with "giving" above, I have no taboos on language and content.

ETA: Updated with my giving/receiving guidelines.
 
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CMBright

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I will valiantly make the attempt.

Give... I enjoy fantasy and sci-fi. More cozy and comfortable than dark or epic space opera. I love nature, so there is a high likelihood of fantastic beasts or genetic modification depending on genre.

Receive... the kid is 10yo and loves unicorns that fart rainbows. Love is too mild, obsessed would be more accurate. A strong female protagonist in a fantasy suitable for a young kid would be wonderful gift to share with the kid. Doesn't have to be a princess, it could be the wood cutter's daughter.
 

amo1143

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@amo1143, @c.hansen, @biberli, It's not 50 posts at the start of the thread, but 50 by signup end, so you have time to get your 50 posts! We've just had many times when people sign up with no posting history but disappear mid game because they didn't stick around, which stinks for the people who were writing a story for them. We love new people getting involved and it makes the guessing game at the end even more fun, so please, keep posting and stick around and join up when you have 50 posts!
Hi Maggie! Thanks for looking out.

I was invited by Cobra to join up for this last week and am trying to make sure I do my due diligence.

I've been part of AW for a while, but always avoided the forums because of horror stories about the way people treated each other back in the day.

But I'm hoping to find some camaraderie going forward.

Gotta admit, I'm feeling like I shouldn't be here now.
 

Sue77

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Hi Maggie! Thanks for looking out.

I was invited by Cobra to join up for this last week and am trying to make sure I do my due diligence.

I've been part of AW for a while, but always avoided the forums because of horror stories about the way people treated each other back in the day.

But I'm hoping to find some camaraderie going forward.

Gotta admit, I'm feeling like I shouldn't be here now.
We're a lovely group who get on well. There's leg pulling, but no spitefulness, just plenty of fun. Hopefully you'll find the camaraderie you've been looking for. As Cobra invited you, I'm sure you should be here.
 

CobraMisfit

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We're a lovely group who get on well. There's leg pulling, but no spitefulness, just plenty of fun. Hopefully you'll find the camaraderie you've been looking for. As Cobra invited you, I'm sure you should be here.
I've had the privilege to read/hear some of amo's work and, trust me, we're among a true artist.