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Strangers Among Us

Tales of Underdogs and Outcasts

edited by Susan Forest; Lucas K. Law
by Ursula Pflug; Kelley Armstrong; Edward Willett; A.M. Dellamonica; A.C. Wise; Amanda Sun; Lorina Stephens; Hayden Trenholm; Robert Runté; Derwin Mak; Mahtab Narsimhan; Sherry Peters; Rich Larson; Tyler Keevil; Erika Holt; Bev Geddes; Gemma Files; Suzanne Church & James Alan Gardner
introduction by Julie Czerneda

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short stories
list price: $19.95
also available: Hardcover eBook
category: Fiction
published: 2016
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  • Winner, (Canadian SF&F) Prix Aurora Award (Best Anthology)
  • Winner, Alberta Book Publishing Award (Speculative Fiction Book of the Year)
  • Short-listed, Foreword INDIES Award (Best Anthology)
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There's a delicate balance between mental health and mental illness . . .

We are your fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, friends and lovers. We staff your stores, cross your streets, and study in your schools, invisible among you. We are your outcasts and underdogs, and often, your unsung heroes.

Nineteen science fiction and fantasy authors tackle the division between mental health and mental illness; how the interplay between our minds' quirks and the diverse societies and cultures we live in can set us apart, or must be concealed, or become unlikely strengths.

We find troubles with Irish fay, a North Korean cosmonaut's fear of flying, an aging maid dealing with politics of revenge, a mute boy and an army of darkness, a sister reaching out at the edge of a black hole, the dog and the sleepwalker, and many more.

After all, what harm can be done…

AUTHORS: Kelley Armstrong, Suzanne Church, A.M. Dellamonica, Gemma Files, James Alan Gardner, Bev Geddes, Erika Holt, Tyler Keevil, Rich Larson, Derwin Mak, Mahtab Narsimhan, Sherry Peters, Ursula Pflug, Robert Runté, Lorina Stephens, Amanda Sun, Hayden Trenholm, Edward Willett, A.C. Wise

Introduction by Julie E. Czerneda

Edited by Susan Forest and Lucas K. Law

Recommended by Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, School Library Journal, Locus, Foreword Reviews, and Quill & Quire.

2017 Prix Aurora (Canadian SF&F) Award Winner

2017 Alberta Book Publishers Award Winner (Speculative Fiction Book of the Year)

2016 Foreword INDIES Finalist (Anthologies)

One honorable mention in The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017 (ed. by John Joseph Adams & Charles Yu)

Six honorable mention in The Year's Best Science Fiction: Thirty-Fourth Annual Collection (ed. by Gardner Dozois)

The anthologies in this series (Strangers Among Us, The Sum of Us, Where the Stars Rise, Shades Within Us) have been recommended by Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, School Library Journal, Locus, Foreword Reviews, and Quill & Quire.

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The Cullng by Kelley Armstrong

We grew up with stories of how the Cullings saved us. Stories of the famines and the aftermath, a world that once grew grain and corn in abundance, the forests overrun with rabbits and deer, lakes and streams brimming with trout and salmon. How all that had come to an end, the water drying up and everything dying with the drought—the grain and the corn and the rabbits and the deer and the trout and the salmon. And us. Most of all, us.

Left with so few resources, it was not enough to simply ration food and water. Not enough to reduce birth rates. Not enough to refuse any measures to prevent death. We needed more. We needed the Cullings.

The Cullings removed surplus population by systematically rooting out “weakness.” At first, they targeted the old and infirm. When that was no longer enough, any physical disability could see one culled. Even something that did not impair one’s ability to work—like a disfiguring birthmark—was said to be enough, on the reasoning that there was a taint in the bloodline that might eventually lead to a more debilitating condition.

The population dropped, but so did the water supply, and with it, the food supply, and eventually more stringent measures were required. That’s when they began targeting anyone who was different, in body or in mind. If you kept too much to yourself, rejecting the companionship of others; if you were easily upset or made anxious or sad; if you occasionally saw or heard things that weren’t there . . . all were reasons to be culled. But the thing is, sometimes those conditions are easier to hide than a bad leg or a mark on your face. It just takes a little ingenuity and a family unwilling to let you go.



“Who are you talking to, Marisol?” my mother says as she hurries into my room.

I motion to my open window, and to Enya, who had stopped to chat on her way to market. She says a quick hello to my mother and then a goodbye to me before carrying on down the village lane.

I murmur to my mother, “A real, living friend. You can see her, too, right?”

“I was just—”

“Checking, I know.” I put my arm around her shoulders. Having just passed my sixteenth birthday, I’m already an inch taller and making the most of it. “I have not had imaginary friends in many years, Momma.”

“I know. It’s just . . . I’ve heard you talking recently. When you’re alone.”

“I argue with myself. You know how I am—always spoiling for a fight. If no one’s around to give me one, I must make do.” I smack a kiss on her cheek. “I don’t hear voices, Momma. I’m not your sister. I have a little of what she did, but only a little, and I know how to hide it. I don’t talk about my imaginary friends, even if they’re long gone. I don’t let anyone see my wild pictures. I don’t tell anyone my even wilder stories. I am absolutely, incredibly, boringly normal.”

She makes a face at me.

“What?” I say. “It is boring. But I will fake it, for you and Papa.”

“For you, Mari. Our worries are for you, and yours should be, too.”

“But I don’t need to be worried, because I am very careful.”

“The Culling is coming.”

“As you have reminded me every day for the past month. I will be fine. I’ll even stop arguing with myself, though that means you’ll need to break up more fights between Dieter and me.”

“Your brother will happily argue with you if it keeps you safe.”

“It will.” I give her a one-armed hug. “I’ll be fine, Momma.”

Excerpted from Strangers Among Us Copyright © 2016

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Contributor notes

Susan Forest is a three-time (Canadian SF&F) Prix Aurora Award finalist for short fiction and a writer of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Her novel (Bursts of Fire), the first in a seven-volume epic fantasy series, the Addicted to Heaven Saga, will be out in 2019 from Laksa Media, followed by Flights of Marigolds. Her collection of short fiction, Immunity to Strange Tales, was published by Five Rivers Publishing. She has published over 25 short stories in Canadian and international publications. Susan has co-edited three anthologies (Strangers Among Us, The Sum of Us, Shades Within Us) on social issue-related themes with Lucas K. Law. Their next anthology, Seasons Between Us, is scheduled for Fall 2020. Strangers Among Us and The Sum of Us won the (Canadian SF&F) Aurora Awards for Best Anthology.

Lucas K. Law is Malaysian-born freelance editor and published author who divides his time and heart between Calgary and Qualicum Beach. With Susan Forest, he co-edits Strangers Among Us, The Sum of Us, and Shades Within Us. Their next anthology, Seasons Between Us, is scheduled for Fall 2020. Strangers Among Us and The Sum of Us won the (Canadian SF&F) Aurora Awards for Best Anthology. Lucas is the co-editor of Where the Stars Rise with Derwin Mak. Where the Stars Rise won the Alberta Book Publishing Award for Speculative Fiction Book of the Year. He has been a jury member for a number of fiction competitions including Nebula, RITA and Golden Heart Awards. When he isn’t editing, writing, or reading, he is a corporate and non-profit organization consultant in business planning and development.

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Editorial Review

"Mental illness is an exciting theme for an anthology, leaving plenty of room for variety." (Library Journal)

"The writers of these stories address such varied subjects as agoraphobia, depression, schizophrenia, autism, anxiety, and addiction. Though this book has some shortcomings, readers who have mental illnesses may find themselves somewhere in these pages and as a result may no longer feel so alone or isolated." (School Library Journal)

" Stories do a masterful job of knitting legitimate and painful mental illnesses to characters who still retain agency and power." (Kirkus Reviews)

"A solid effort, a mixed SF/fantasy original anthology, with a number of entertaining stories to be found within its pages." (Locus - Gardner Dozois)

"The writing is excellent throughout . . . This is a unique collection that should attract readers of all genres." (Foreword Reviews)

"The stories in Strangers Among Us are as varied in tone and approach as their authors. The power of the collection derives from this variety; while each story can be read in isolation, the assemblage of outsiders feels, on a whole, exultant. There is, indeed, strength in numbers, when each individual is accorded space and respect." (Quill & Quire)

"Strangers Among Us . . . is important, shining a much-needed spotlight on issues that get far too little attention. A wonderful anthology, one of the major SF&F books of the year. Bravo!" (Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo award-winning author of Quantum Night)

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About the Authors

Susan Forest

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Ursula Pflug

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Kelley Armstrong

When librarians finally granted Kelley Armstrong an adult card, she made straight for the epic fantasy and horror shelves. She spent the rest of her childhood and teen years happily roaming fantastical and terrible worlds, and vowed that someday she'd write a story combining swords, sorcery, and the ravenous undead. That story began with the New York Times bestselling Sea of Shadows and continues with Empire of Night.

Armstrong's first works for teens were the New York Times bestselling Darkest Powers and Darkness Rising trilogies. She lives in rural Ontario with her husband, three children, and far too many pets.

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Edward Willett

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A.M. Dellamonica

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A.C. Wise

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Amanda Sun

Amanda Sun was born in Deep River, Ontario, and now lives in Toronto. The Paper Gods series, which includes InkRain, and Storm, was inspired by her time living in Osaka and traveling throughout Japan. She is an avid video gamer and cosplayer. Visit her on the web at www.amandasunbooks.com and on twitter @Amanda_Sun.
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Lorina Stephens

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Hayden Trenholm

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Robert Runté

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Derwin Mak

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Mahtab Narsimhan

MAHTAB NARSIMHAN is an award-winning author with numerous critically acclaimed books nominated for several awards, including The Third Eye, which won the Silver Birch Fiction Award in 2009. She is inspired by life, love, and the desire to make sense of the world through stories. Mahtab is deeply committed to representing diversity in her books. You can find out more at www.mahtabnarsimhan.com.
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Sherry Peters

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Rich Larson

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Lucas K. Law

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Tyler Keevil

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Erika Holt

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Bev Geddes

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Gemma Files

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Suzanne Church

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James Alan Gardner

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Julie Czerneda

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