Shades Within Us

Tales of Migrations and Fractured Borders

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Pub Date 08 Sep 2018 | Archive Date 30 Nov 2018

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Journey with twenty-one speculative fiction authors through the fractured borders of human migration to examine assumptions and catch a glimpse of the dreams, struggles, and triumphs of those who choose--or are forced--to leave home and familiar places.

Migration. A transformation of time, place, and being . . .


We are called drifters, nomads. We are expatriates, evacuees, and pilgrims. We are colonists, aliens, explorers; strangers, visitors--intruders, conquerors--exiles, asylum seekers, and . . . outsiders.

An American father shields his son from Irish discrimination. A Chinese foreign student wrestles to safeguard her family at the expense of her soul. A college graduate is displaced by technology. A Nigerian high school student chooses between revenge and redemption. A bureaucrat parses the mystery of Taiwanese time travellers. A defeated alien struggles to assimilate into human culture. A Czechoslovakian actress confronts the German WWII invasion. A child crosses an invisible border wall. And many more.

AUTHORS:  Vanessa Cardui, Elsie Chapman, Kate Heartfield, S.L. Huang, Tyler Keevil, Matthew Kressel, Rich Larson, Tonya Liburd, Karin Lowachee, Seanan McGuire, Brent Nichols, Julie Nováková, Heather Osborne, Sarah Raughley, Alex Shvartsman, Amanda Sun, Jeremy Szal, Hayden Trenholm, Liz Westbrook-Trenholm, Christie Yant & Alvaro Zinos-Amaro
With Introduction by Eric Choi & Gillian Clinton

EDITORS:  Susan Forest & Lucas K. Law

RECOMMENDED AGE:  Mature Readers (ages 16 and up)

Journey with twenty-one speculative fiction authors through the fractured borders of human migration to examine assumptions and catch a glimpse of the dreams, struggles, and triumphs of those who choose-or are forced-to leave home and familiar places. Authors include Seanan McGuire, Elsie Chapman, S. L. Huang, Rich Larson, and Tyler Keevil. 

Speculative Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction

FIC009040 FICTION / Fantasy / Collections & Anthologies
FIC028040 FICTION / Science Fiction / Collections & Anthologies
FIC061000 FICTION / Magical Realism

Journey with twenty-one speculative fiction authors through the fractured borders of human migration to examine assumptions and catch a glimpse of the dreams, struggles, and triumphs of those who...

A Note From the Publisher

• Available in Hardcover (9781988140087) US$28.00 and EBook (9781988140063) US$7.99

• Available to US and international libraries through Ingram, Overdrive, and Cloud Library (Bibliotheca)

• A donation of $1,000 CAD goes to Mood Disorders Association and Alex Community Food Centre upon its publication.

• A portion of the anthology’s net revenue goes to Mood Disorders Association and Alex Community Food Centre.

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

• Available in Hardcover (9781988140087) US$28.00 and EBook (9781988140063) US$7.99

• Available to US and international libraries through Ingram, Overdrive, and Cloud Library (Bibliotheca)


Advance Praise

"[A]ddresses issues surrounding migration and borders at a very poignant moment in history . . . despite being speculative, many of these stories read like they were ripped from present-day headlines . . . this collection do a great job of asking readers not only to reflect on their own lives but also to consider the lives of others." —Booklist

“An engaging collection of poignant travel through time and space. Highly recommended for its breadth of stories that look at having to leave home-or discover it.” —Library Journal

“An intriguing addition to short story collections.” —School Library Journal

"With each story, the authors expand their settings and reality into a universe of broader potential to make sense of the tensions that plague the twenty-first century. Even as they represent foreign existences, the problems remain the same—family, love, belonging, identity, survival . . . A few of the stories revisit well-worn tropes, but most take a fresh approach to their subjects and conjure terrifying futures brought on by climate change, greed, and corruption of power. Political and daring, this collection adds to the future imagined by Philip K. Dick, George Orwell, Margaret Atwood, and Aldous Huxley." —Foreword Reviews

". . . Shades Within Us is a timely collection that invites us to ask whether we still do (or still should) live in a space of national borders and national definitions of identity. It invites us to use our speculative imagination to think through new ways of understanding selfhood in relation to the borders, boxes, and categories that are placed around us." —Speculating Canada  (Derek Newman-Stille)

"[A]ddresses issues surrounding migration and borders at a very poignant moment in history . . . despite being speculative, many of these stories read like they were ripped from present-day...

Marketing Plan

• Advance reading copies sent to print and online media, including Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal and BookList
NetGalley galley
• Book display at American Library Association 2018 annual conference (New Orleans)
• Book launches, author or editor appearances at select festivals and genre conventions
• Print and digital advertising campaign • Pre-order campaign

• Advance reading copies sent to print and online media, including Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal and BookList
NetGalley galley
• Book display at American Library Association...

Average rating from 25 members

Featured Reviews

ARC Copy...extremely interesting collection of stories depicting tales of migration/movement across borders of many kinds and the genres literally from range various garments of sci-fi, fantasy...genres don't even have category fitting for an anthology about messing with borders.

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Interesting collection of stories that touches on the ideas of identity and belonging that is very prevalent. This is such a good that I would recommend to everyone as I think they are very important.

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Now, I think it’s important to recognise that I’m a white lady who has never lived more than three hours from where she grew up, therefore there will be a layer of nuance to these stories that I can’t hope to pick up on. I’m reviewing this from my own experience and my own perspective (though I always try to be as unbiased as possible) and I urge you to read other reviews as they will doubtless have had a different experience when reading this. If I come across any that are particularly poignant I will link them below.

The range of stories, settings and characters in this anthology is, simply put, exceptional. From stories about climate change to time travel to alternative history, this book has them all. I think it would not only work for those who like to dip in and out of things but also for people like me who like to read things in one go.

I liked that the authors each took such a different approach to the theme, it just goes to show how complex and intersectional the idea of borders and migrations are. This collection does a great job of conveying that intricacy.

Normally, I would pick a favourite story but in this instance, it would be impossible to choose as the stories are all so different.

I think this is a collection that has to be read to be believed. I cannot recommend it highly enough, whether you enjoy short stories or you’re looking to find out!

My rating: ⅘ stars

I received a digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

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I really liked the different migration stories. I loved hearing from different authors and their point of views in migration and how they interpreted in their stories.

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I was so excited to read this book and toyed with the idea of waiting until it was published to grab a copy. Luckily, I decided to take the plunge on NetGalley and was overjoyed to be given a copy! 'Shades Within Us' is a timely speculative fiction anthology and feaures such big names as Seanan McGuire, S. L. Kuang and Tyler Keevil. Each of the twenty-one stories cover different themes, most of which are significantly deeper than your usual speculative fiction or science fiction. These are stories that transcend borders, generations, and cultures. Each is a glimpse into our human need in face of change: to hold fast to home, to tradition, to family; and yet to reach out, to strive for a better life.

The previous books in this series have received widespread critical acclaim and this one i'm positive will be no exception. I haven't read the others so I can't compare them, but I purchased them the second I realised how awesome these stories are! Despite being identified as speculative, most of these stories seem as though they are ripped from today's headlines, and each does a great job in asking the reader to reflect on how they can change their lives for the better, as well as the lives of others. We certainly need some of that right now! There are a few of the stories that fall back on well-worn tropes of the genre, but most are refreshingly original. This is a daring and wonderful collection that adds to the future as imagined by authors such as George Orwell, Margaret Atwood and Philip K. Dick.

The key theme and topical issue that unifies each story is that of immigration. But also explored are identity, belonging and the marginalised. I found most of the tales to be of exceptional quality, with important messages to boot. I simply couldn't pick a favourite as there was such a wide selection and each was indispensable in its own way. A great collection that is well worth investing your time in. Highly recommended.

Many thanks to Laksa Media Groups for an ARC. I was not required to post a review, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

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This a beautiful and necessary compilation of short stories all telling a different tale of immigration. It's a book everyone can learn from and enjoy. The range of authors ensures that it never feels repetitive despite the subject matter being the same.

I would highly recommend this collection, it's simply stunning (as is the cover)

My favourites were Defender of Mogadun by Alex Shvartsman & Shades of Void by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro

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As you can tell from the subtitle, Shades Within Us is a speculative fiction short story anthology about migration, immigration, and refugees. The collection mixes authors I’m already familiar with (Karin Lowachee, Seanan McGuire, S.L. Huang, Rich Larson) with plenty of authors who are new to me.

I’m going to start positive by going over some of my favorite stories of the collection. Karin Lowachee’s story, “Invasio,” is absolutely stunning, showing off her fantastic prose. During an alien invasion, the main character is forced to flee as the world slowly crumbles to ash.

I really enjoyed Amanda Sun’s “The Travelers,” in which time travelers escape a cataclysmic past by taking refuge in our present. It’s a really cool concept that she executes flawlessly, only going to show that I need to track down more stories by her.

I love S.L. Huang’s longer work, and her inclusion was one of the reasons I decided to pick up this collection. “Devouring Tongues” is the story of a Chinese immigrant in Japan who is trying to learn Japanese and gain a career that will let her provide for her parents, who write and illustrate dangerously political children’s books in mainland China. To speed her way, she has made a deal: her mother tongue for Japanese. But as she loses more and more of the language of her birth, she fears she is losing herself as well. “Devouring Tongues” is a powerful story of language and identity.

One of the most memorable stories is “The Swordmaster of Ravenpeak” by Brent Nichols, even if it ultimately takes a turn for the depressing. A disabled man is able to have friendships and happiness in life through an online gaming community, but his abled family members decide to move him to a different facility… which means he will be moving servers without even the chance to say goodbye to the people who matter most to him. “The Swordmaster of Ravenpeak” might not at first glance be connected to the theme of the collection, but even if the protagonist isn’t changing countries, he is still forced to change his life.

Seanan McGuire likely has the greatest name recognition of all the authors in the collection. Her offering, “Remember the Green,” takes place in a future where the densely packed, urban “grey,” and the agricultural “green.” A family from the green is forced to move by the government, who is relocating farming families to turn them over to mega-farms. I would put “Remember the Green” in the upper half of the collection, but we’re starting to get out of my favorite stories and more into everything else.

Likewise, Alex Shvartsman’s “Defender of Mogadun” is a well-constructed story that I enjoyed reading but doesn’t have a huge amount of staying power. Dragons from other dimensions try to break through the veils of reality and destroy cities… but some guards against them are infinitely reincarnated.

Rich Larson imagines an eerily believable future where people are trying to escape America. The protagonist of “Porque el girasol se llama el girasol” is a little girl whose mother has contracted a coyote to get them past the border wall and detention camps and into Mexico. The coyote operates by moving them outside of our reality for portions of the trip… but walking outside the world is dangerous, and not everyone will survive.

In “Superfreak” by Tonya Liburd, a girl moves from the Carribean to Canada after her parents die and she’s supposed to be left in the care of a predatory and sexually abusive uncle. Unfortunately, the next relative she’s left with isn’t much better, and she soon finds herself in a shelter for homeless teens. Oh, and did I mention? In this world, most everyone has some sort of supernatural power… except for our protagonist.

“The Vagabond of Trudeau High” by Sarah Raughley is another story set in modern-day Canada. A black girl witnesses her father get beat up by the police and makes a deal with a supernatural power to be able to curse people. She decides to use this gift to get revenge on behalf of marginalized people who have been wronged.

Two stories deal with the Holocaust and World War II. In “Critical Mass” by Liz Westbrooke-Trenholm, a Jewish scientist and her niece are trying to get to Canada but find their visas repeatedly denied. “Screen in Silver, Love in Colour, Mirror in Black-and-White” by Julie Nováková follows a movie crew in Prague who are working on the edge of a war.

Some of the stories imagine a future devastated by environmental collapse. In “From the Shoals of Broken Cities” by Heather Osborne, some people have genetically engineered themselves to be able to live beneath the ocean, but they are inundated with refugees from above and divided as a community about how to treat them. “Gilbert Tong’s Life List” by Kate Heartfield follows a teenager in a walled-off refugee community of people from a drowned Pacific island that is kept apart from Canada, with none of the descendants of the original refugees granted citizenship or permission to leave legally. “In a Bar by the Ocean, the World Waits” by Hayden Trenholm has the presumption of a failing planet, but the focus is on a young woman given a choice: be put into an all-immersive virtual reality where she’ll have the experience of a happy, full life… but her organs will be harvested after six months. Is it worth it to live and keep trying to save the world, or should she just give up and accept the happiness before death? “Habitat” by Christie Yant depicts a future where everyone is forced to live in one place to preserve the rest of the planet’s ecology. Those who resist are forcibly relocated.

“The Marsh of Camrina” by Matthew Kressel may be a bit about an environmentally devastated future… but it’s more about a future in which technology has advanced to the point that few jobs or economic opportunities are available. A college graduate with no prospects goes to work in a new type of eco-city.

The last of the “middle of the road stories” is “Shades of Void” by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro. I really don’t have much to say on this one. It’s about space exploration and a relationship, but it blurred pretty quickly with all these other stories I’ve read.

Now we get into the stories I had more negative feelings toward. “How My Life Will End” by Vanessa Cardui isn’t a short story at all — it’s song lyrics, and I’ll admit to skimming or outright skipping them.

“Imago” by Elsie Chapman may have been going for a surrealist approach? I’m honestly not sure what was up with it. There’s a ship that people get on to go to the other end of the world, but the trip’s dangerous and most don’t return.

I felt sort of weird about “Voices” by Tyler Keevil. An American man moves with his wife to her native home of Ireland, and he worries about his son, who is bullied for not following conventional gender norms and speaks to presences that may go beyond imaginary friends. The protagonist has a brother-in-law who is Native American and the source of wisdom and life advice. It kind of coat hangs the “Native wisdom” trope… but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still doing it.

However, the story I was most iffy on was “Inkskinned” by Jeremy Szal, which has aliens moving into a mostly human city and facing prejudice. You get aliens as a stand-in for marginalized people, and it also gave off the message of “be kind to bigots and they’ll be less bigoted.” In my experience, that doesn’t work at all and just leads to a lot of suffering on the part of the people doing the kindness.

But a few stories aside, Shades Within Us was a solid speculative fiction collection, if not the best I’ve read this year. I do find the topic of the collection timely and vital, and many of these stories are well worth reading.

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This is a beautiful anthology in more ways than one: on a surface level, its cover is beautifully designed; deeper down, its core collective impulse and ethic is also beautiful. The introduction by Eric Choi and Gillian Clinton makes clear the stakes: the world is not as it should be, does not treat the people who move within it as they should be treated, and the resilience of displaced peoples is not necessarily armor against climate change and technological advances untempered by humane policies. Standout stories for me included the deeply optimistic "Remembering the Green" by Seanan McGuire (always a good bet, that McGuire), the heart-wrenching "Porque El Girasol Se Llama El Girasol" by Rich Larson, the satisfying "Inkskinned" by Jeremy Szai, and the pleasurable mashup of birding and speculative fiction in "Gilbert Tong's Life List" by Kate Heartfield. Matthew Kressel's "The Marsh of Camarina" also brings birds into the mix, making for a synergistic transition to weird but wonderful works like Heather Osborne's "From the Shoals of Broken Cities" and S.L. Huang's "Devouring Tongues." Last but not least, my favorites are rounded out by two stories firmly grounded in existing displaced cultures. Readers who love Nnedi Okorafor's "Akata Witch" series will find a short story home in Sarah Raughley's rightfully outraged and undeservedly generous "The Vagabond of Trudeau High," while those keen to find intersectional works will be most pleased by Tyler Keevil's "Voices," a work which blends questions of identity, family, neurodivergence, and the alien, all while gently questioning toxic gender norms.

Intersectionality may not be the primary guiding principle of this anthology, but it is present in nearly every story contained hererin; importantly for me, this awareness extends to the LGBTQIA+ community as well as communities traditionally othered for reasons of skin color, country of origin, gender, religion, and neurodivergence. A portion of the proceeds from the book go towards the Mood Disorders Association and the Alex Community Food Centre. The stories are not always winsome or whimsical; they delve into the dark and the twisted as often as they do into the empowering and uplifting. Agency is always at stake, and self-awareness lurking just below. This anthology splits the difference between rambunctious new collections like "Robots vs. Fairies" and serious commentaries on the immigrant experience, such as "Becoming Americans." The editors do not clearly state that the anthology contributors were selected for their own migrant experiences, but many tap into first-, second-, or third-generation as well as other personal ancestral histories for inspiration. Many are established voices, others have just recently released their debut books, and still others are deeply enmeshed in careers entirely separate from speculative fiction—so there's something here to please everyone, especially readers looking to sample some new voices unafraid to tackle hard subjects in imaginative ways.

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Shades Within Us was absolutely amazing! I saw Seanan McGuire's name and immedietely requested this and I was not disappointed. Every author had great writing and I flew through this.

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To start with i wasnt sure what to expect from this novel, but the premise of it intrigued me endlessly. It turns out that i actually quite enjoyed it adn found the various writing styles to be a refreshing as there were no two stories the same.

So, the uniting them of all the amazing short stories in this collection is that of borders and migration. While I found the premise interesting, I expected a collection of 'alien approached border and was refused' along with tales of boat people and illegal immigrants. I dont know why since its a collection of spec fiction.

There are stories ranging from aliens finding refuge after a great war, the quest of a mother and daughter through various portals to enter the United States (this one made my heart hurt) to the tale of time travelling refugees to save the world before they destroy it in the future.

With hard hitting authors such as Seanan McGuire and Tyler Keevil within this novels alumna, Shades Within Us contains stories which will make you run the gamut of human emotions. Overall I really enjoyed this book.

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Shades Within Us is a compelling collection of stories. They have an abundance of foci and perspectives. But one thing that unites them all is that they celebrate the differences among us. Ranging from third person perspectives to first person and even second person POVs, this collection was certainly captivating. None of the stories in particular stood out more than the rest, and I think that's excellent. They each shine yet fit so well with each other. As to the editing of this anthology, I thought the ordering of the stories was perfect. Each story flowed so well into the next, even if it was just with the barest connection. For example, the penultimate story involves a girl trying to learn English and Japanese. The final story involves a man trying to learn Gaelic. Both of the characters have moved with their families to foreign lands: Japan for the girl, Ireland for the man. I am sure the ordering of the stories was deliberate, and it works. As for a qualm, a lot of the stories took a bit to get into the flow of things. That is to say, I wasn't hooked in the beginning for a lot of them, but they all had me gripped in the end.

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There were some truly amazing stories in this anthology. It was wonderful to see so many different perspectives, so many different kinds of people from stories set in the past, present and future in countries all over the world, the one thing connecting them all being that they're tales of migration, facing the struggles, prejudices and barriers that come hand in hand with moving their lives across the boarders.

I don't think there were any stories that I particularly disliked, but there were definitely some that stood out more than others. I adored the way that language played a big part in stories like Porque El Girasol se Llama el Girasol by Rich Larson, Inkskinned by Jeremy Szal and Devouring Tongues by S.L Huang. I also really loved Critical Mass by Liz Westbrook- Trenholm and The Travellers by Amanda Sun.

The only real problem I had with this anthologies is as the subject matter can be so upsetting and dark, I found that reading them back to back was really quite depressing. I wouldn't take issue with the book itself, but I would advise readers to take a step back and read something else for a bit of a break, which as they're short stories is very easy to do!

I wholeheartedly recommend this book though. There were beautiful, important and heartbreaking stories throughout the anthology and really show different ways of viewing the world.

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This was such a special and fascinating collection of stories! Each story wowed me in different ways and each spoke uniquely on its own. This is a collection of speculative fiction short stories about migrations and borders, and the reasons people seek other places. Each story shows the reader how migrations or the crossing of borders can be more than just physically moving from one’s home, these changes can also be emotional, mental, or cultural. And they impact every person in different ways. All of these stories show us that ‘home’ can be a fluid concept and it is very much a concept that we carry within us in addition to being a physical place.

These stories were all so very impactful and each carries its own message, they truly all felt like the author’s were contributing a part of themselves within these stories. I really enjoyed reading this collection and found myself consuming it slower than I usually do most books, because it felt like I needed time to savor each of these stories. There wasn’t a single story that I rated lower than 3 stars during my reading of this, and the majority of them were all 4 or 5 star reads for me.

A few of the stand out five star reads for me were:

“Porque el Girasol se llama Girasol”- Rich Larson
This story involved a group of migrants essentially quantum walking through borders. Also, there are terrifying monsters that can catch you if you falter while crossing. There is a “wall” mentioned several times in the story, and it definitely hit some eerily similar notes to today’s world. Fear and the need to help your family escape were heavy in this story. The atmosphere of this short story was just so terrifying and important.

“Habitat”- Christie Yant
In this story the inhabitants of Earth have brought upon themselves a self-imposed apocalypse and in order to save what remains of Earth and themselves, they have created Habitat-- a new sustainable living space for survivors. However, the reverse of the situation is turned on its head in this story as we see that denizens of Habitat are constantly sweeping the remains of human tribes on Earth away from their lives out in the open to be force-integrated into life within Habitat. I loved the conservation message of this one.

“Devouring Tongues”- S.L. Huang
An intricate look at the ways that languages help us transcend borders, but how our first language, even if it may not be prominently used culturally, can feel like home to us. A Chinese foreign student in Japan desperately sells parts of her soul to the Reaper, in an attempt to master her multilingual learning and ultimately create safe passage for her family, but along the way realizes she is losing parts of her culture that she cannot afford to lose.

“The Vagabond of Trudeau High”- Sarah Raughley
This ended up being my favorite short story in the entire collection. It carries such a powerful, important and relevant message for all of us today. A young girl of Nigerian immigrants experiences police brutality firsthand when she witnesses her father being brutally beaten one night. Incorporating elements of Yoruba folklore, she is offered a chance at revenge and must decide what is most important to her. At school, amidst the parameters of a patriotic assignment, she struggles to define what being Canadian means for her and those around her who feel anything but “at home” here.

Each of these stories were so very different in particulars, but so unifying in their messages. I loved the aspects of speculative fiction that the authors added to these stories and the fluid genre nature of each story. Though each story has an element of ‘other’ to it, it doesn’t take much to imagine that they all could very well take place in the world we live in right now. This is such an important collection of stories and I hope it gets the recognition it deserves!

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This is an incredible genre-bending collection of stories from a group of amazingly talented writers. From science fiction to fantasy to things that are difficult to even narrow down in a word or two, SHADES WITHIN US tells the story of various types of migrations and borders. Places, people, time, space, emotions - so many of these stories were topical and important to read in today's political climate. Themes of belonging and identity are repeated throughout in various ways, and I loved the inclusivity here. Would definitely recommend!

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