Strangers Among Us

Tales of the Underdogs and Outcasts

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Pub Date 08 Aug 2016 | Archive Date 08 Sep 2016


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 speculative fiction 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, Julie E. Czerneda (Introduction)

EDITORS: Susan Forest, Lucas K. Law

RECOMMENDED AGE: Mature Readers (ages 16 and up)

Explore the delicate balance between mental health and mental illness with nineteen thought-provoking and moving stories by Kelley Armstrong, A.M. Dellamonica, Gemma Files and sixteen other authors.

Speculative Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction

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...

A Note From the Publisher

Available in Hardcover (9780993969645) US$28.00 and EBook (9780993969614) US$7.99

• A donation of $1,000 CAD goes to Canadian Mental Health Association upon its publication.
• A portion of the anthology’s net revenue goes to Canadian Mental Health Association.
• The second anthology in this ‘social causes’ series is The Sum of Us: Tales of the Bonded and Bound. It explores the world of caregiving and caregivers. Slated for Summer 2017.

Available in Hardcover (9780993969645) US$28.00 and EBook (9780993969614) US$7.99

• A donation of $1,000 CAD goes to Canadian Mental Health Association upon its publication.
• A portion of the...

Advance Praise

"VERDICT: Mental illness is an exciting theme for an anthology, leaving plenty of room for variety."

-- Library Journal

Recommended as one of "The August Science Fiction and Fantasy Books You'll Want to Read"

--Kirkus Reviews

"The stories in Strangers Among Us are 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

"The writing is excellent throughout, and even the few not-as-strong stories make for a good read. This is a unique collection that should attract readers of all genres.

--Foreword Reviews

"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

"VERDICT: Mental illness is an exciting theme for an anthology, leaving plenty of room for variety."

-- Library Journal

Recommended as one of "The August Science Fiction and Fantasy Books You'll Want...

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 BookExpo/BookCon America 2016 (Chicago) and American Library Association 2016 annual conference (Orlando)

· 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...

Average rating from 41 members

Featured Reviews

An important collection. Finally, we have a book that doesn't cast those with mental illnesses as people to fear. It is also wonderful to see the hopeful and positive message each story gives the reader. I loved it, and plan to use it to spark conversation about the issues that face so many people today.

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Strangers Among Us is one of the best books I've read in a long time! Once I started reading it, I couldn't stop! Most books of short stories have a few good ones, but mostly ones you rush through hoping that the next one will be better. That was not the case with "Strangers Among Us." Every story stood on its own and was a pleasure to read.
Many of the stories had me wondering if my reality is real. Many of the stories gave me hope. All of the stories made me see things in a different light. A truly enjoyable and thought provoking book.

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I enjoyed this, it makes you think. I got it for the Kelley Armstrong story and find it is reminiscent of Margaret Atwood in that it explores how society could be if the worst came to the worst and people started being persecuted for the slightest differences, for not conforming to society's idea of normality and health.

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I enjoyed reading Strangers Among Us: Tales of the Underdogs and Outcasts. The science fiction and fantasy aspect puts a whole different perspective on mental health and mental illness. Some of the short stories were hard to follow due to being a short story, however most of them I enjoyed. My favorites were Living In Oz by Bev Geddes, possibly due to my favorite movie being the Wizard or Oz, Troubles by Sherry Peters and What You See (When the Lights are Out) by Gemma Files. I believe that Susan Forest sums up the entire book perfectly at the end to highlight issues of mental health and mental illness with: "'Who are the strangers among us?' We are."

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Strangers Among Us has a brilliant premise, that "the other minded", people with so-called mental disabilities, may not be disabled at all. It may be that they are evolutionary steps forward into the future. In the way that people who are living with functional Asperger's Syndrome are almost ideal candidates for computer programming and coding, other differences may show real utility, if we just had a way to harness them. This collection of stories is highly interesting for "new idea" junkies. Because there are some new authors and some seasoned veterans, the collection is a little uneven and prone to be dark, but it is well worth reading, just for the provocative ideas.

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Thanks to NetGalley and Laska Media Groups for granting my wish and providing me with an ARC to review!

Strangers Among Us is a speculative short story collection about neurodiversity. The stories in this volume explore the world through different perspectives, aiming to highlight some of the difficulties that mental variances can cause people, largely because of discrimination from others.

The book’s goal is admirable. There aren’t a lot of speculative fiction pieces that deal so directly with neurodiversity. While mental abilities are often explored in science fiction and fantasy, these stories often focus on telepathy and mind control, not hallucinations, anxiety, and learning disabilities. And when characters with mental illnesses are featured, they are rarely the protagonist, and often not treated with a lot of nuance. Strangers Among Us tries to reverse these problems by showcasing a variety of characters with a wide array of mental health issues. And, for speculative fiction lovers, every story has some sort of fantasy or sci-fi twist, and each one focuses on something new and interesting for readers.

While I found that the book started off slow, the stories rapidly became more and more interesting to me. Some standouts were AM Dellamonica’s Tribes, about a school haunted by spirits that only one girl can see; AC Wise’s How Objects Behave on the Edge of a Black Hole that traverses the lives of two sisters, one who just so happens to hallucinate a better version of her sibling, and what this does to their relationship; James Alan Gardner’s The God and the Sleepwalker that details how a “disabled” employee saved the lives of all his supposedly more intelligent and capable shipmates; and Edward Willett’s I Count the Lights, another story about how dangerous it is to assume that if someone’s brain works differently, they have nothing to offer.

So many of these stories were creative, innovative, and thought-provoking, and more than a few will pull at your heartstrings. They do an exceptional job at building empathy for people that society often shuns and mistreats. Sure, there are a few submissions that I thought were either weakly put together or treading well-worn ground, but, overall, the collection was quite unique and interesting. I look forward to what future volumes this editor and press put out that deal with people too often forgotten in the pages of speculative fiction.

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I read this book as a pre-release .pdf e-book obtained through NetGalley, provided by the publisher.
This is a collection of 19 science fiction or speculative fiction short stories, by 19 different authors, all Canadian or associated with Canada in some way. Holding them together is that each story has a character with a significant mental disability; some with a physical disability. Mental health treatment itself interferes with some of the goals of protagonists. In some cases mental hospitals or drugs are used by those in power to prevent a protagonist from taking action against them.

Stories involving genocide or societal discarding of those deemed imperfect are cautionary in nature. Some are full of hope. Some depict the disabled as having some hidden ability which serves an important role in communicating with ghosts, fey, or others. One was very humorous, such that I burst out laughing during the story.
Some of the stories are speculative fiction, some are science fiction. One example is whether the event horizons of black holes give rise to ghosts. Some have people with bionic implants – leading to two classes of people, with inherant bigotry and discrimination. Sometimes, fully biological humans are needed under specific conditions. Sometimes, these nonhuman entities control part of society – from warring factions to cliques and clubs in a school. Some of the “help” offered by society is unhelpful, as seen in the story “The Weeds and the Wildness”, where the push to ensure that everyone is “normal” is massively dehumanizing.
Everything from space travel through eugenics through human trafficking to hybridization are covered. There is something here for nearly everyone.
I particularly enjoyed the humorous story in the book, “The Age of Miracles”, which portrayed someone arguing and discussing things with his household appliances and the dog. The appliances are part of the “Internet of Things” who try to micromanage his life and choices, from whether or not he eats an average amount of toast to whether he's eating enough, whether he's putting suitable effort into a job search, and report his actions to his Mom for not eating right, and not doing what she wants, while interrupting him from what he's doing. These objects reveal that the reason he believes a conspiracy theory, making him appear crazy, is the work of the dog – augmented by technology so it can speak. How much technology is too much? That idea was in a book given to him by his mother, and is discussed by the appliances and the protagonist. Has the technology operating his home made him an extraneous thing in the house?

The publisher, Laksa Media Group, gives a portion of the revenues from their books to worthwhile charitable causes, projects and events.

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When I originally requested this book through Netgalley, it was because it featured Kelley Armstrong and I'm a huge fan of her work. However, the great things about these kinds of anthologies is that there are several phenomenal pieces beyond that of just the author that caught your attention.

What I took away from these stories is that sometimes the only true strangers in our lives are ourselves. In fact, there are a lot of thought provoking tales that will help to peak your interest. Some of the stories can be difficult to get invested in, or at least up until the point where you get that "aha" moment. But others will leaving you pondering exactly what happened. They touch upon the difference between true reality and that of one's own belief. There is an undertone of acceptance and understanding for mental illness and how it can affect the world around you. For example, in one where a sister is haunted by the ghost of her living sister, the other sister eventually theorizes that perhaps we all experience our own entrance into a black hole as we meet our end and how these black holes are responsible for creating ghosts.

One of the best examples of this is The Culling, in which the world has begun to die. As time goes on, less food and water is available. In order to ensure there is enough for everyone who is living, there is a yearly culling. First, they began with those who were sickly or physical disabled. Then those who have a physical deformity and then to those with psychological issues. I suppose this was a intriguing story, because in truth, it reminded me of Martin Niemöller'a poem of "First they came for..." But the other thing that intrigued me was the ending. It reminded me of the ending of The Giver, in which you can really infer your own opinion of what truly happens. While it might seem obvious to one reader, another might interpret it differently. Either way, it was thought provoking and as the first story featured in this anthology, it really set the tone for the rest of the book.

A book like this is perfect for anyone because it offers a wide variety of stories. Some feature paranormal or fantastical themes. Some dystopian. Some science fiction. Perhaps you like an underdog story. Or maybe you're a fan of a story that will keep you thinking after it's over. And yet, all of them are interesting and though I can't guarantee you will like or enjoy all of them, I do believe you will be able to find at least one story that you will enjoy, if not more. I highly recommend this as a must read.

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I would like to thank Laksa Media Groups and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book.

I am so impressed with this book. Not every story was an easy read, and in fact a couple of them were downright uncomfortable to read. But all of them were eye-opening and thought-provoking, which I think was part of the aim of this book.

The idea of these stories was to explore that area between mental health and mental illness...and how society defines those things. In some stories, that area is more gray than in others.

My favorite story out of the anthology was "The Intersection" by Lorina Stephens. I found this story to be the sweetest out of the whole book. Not the most lighthearted, but definitely not the darkest by far. Some of the stories in the book are rather dark in nature. "The Intersection" was the story that I was able to relate to the most out of all the stories in the book. I rather lost hope of actually relating to any of the stories after awhile, and just settled for enjoying them, so it was a pleasant surprise to find that this one I really connected with on that level.

A portion of the net revenue of this book will go to the Canadian Mental Health Association. And because this book deals so heavily with mental illness, there is a very thorough section in the back of the book that has mental health resources for not only Canada, but also the United States as well as Ireland, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

There is probably quite a bit in this book that has the potential to be triggering. The stories really pull no punches, but personally, I appreciate that. Mental illness pulls no punches either, so it's pretty fitting.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own, and I am never compensated monetarily for my reviews.

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I was thrilled to hear about this anthology, and yet disappointed at the same time when I realized that it wasn’t exactly getting much advanced attention, especially when social reform and visibility for those with disabilities are hot topics on so many lips these days. Maybe it’s because the book’s primarily Canadian, I don’t know, but either way, I haven’t heard nearly as much as I’d hoped about this anthology, and it’s a damn shame because it’s a great collection filled with powerful stories from some amazing authors.

And with Strangers Among Us shining the spotlight on mental illness and society’s outcasts, well, let’s just say that it has some material that hits pretty close to home.

Some background – I’ve struggled with mental health issues pretty much since hitting puberty. A diagnosis of depression and poor treatment of that when I was a teenager kicked off the whole thing. Throw in a batch of neuroatypical issues as I grew older (obsessive-compulsive tendencies, Tourette syndrome, social anxiety, other things that put me squarely on the autism spectrum, and an unpleasant dose of psychotic depression — also called depressive psychosis), and yeah, it’s no surprise that awareness of mental health issues is important to me. I could go on at length about how all this has affected my life, but I know that’s not really what you’re here for. You’re here for the book review. But I wanted to make it clear that I have experience with being one of society’s outcasts myself. I know what it’s like to doubt your sanity, the very essence of yourself, and I know what it’s like to face discrimination from others over said issues. It’s not fun. The more awareness that can be raised about what mental illness is actually like, the better.

Plus, I’m all about trying to share Canada’s great literary talent. This entire anthology is written by authors who are Canadian or who have a connection to Canada; some of the stories are set in Canada, which is a nice change of pace when the majority of what I see in SFF takes place in the US (or what used to be the US) when it’s set in this world.

So Strangers Among Us focuses on issues just like that. They’re all written by authors who write speculative fiction, and indeed most of the stories sit under the genre headers of fantasy or sci-fi, but not all of them. One rather memorable story is about a man who cannot leave his apartment, who spies on people through a payphone, learning about their lives and fantasizing about heroically saving an abused woman, until the time comes when he is pushed beyond his agoraphobia and steps outside to actually do so. Nothing fantasy or sci-fi about that, but it was a strong story nevertheless, and it definitely earned its place among all the others.

There were a couple of stories that dipped into the old well of, “People see things that aren’t there, only wait, those things actually are there and that person’s really special!” A dangerous well to dip into, really, since there have been so many stories done in the past that almost present that as a handwave to mental illness, downplaying what many people actually suffer through in the attempt to provide some sort of supernatural reason why these people aren’t ill, just misunderstood. The stories that did that, though, did it well, I’m happy to say. One, which blended multicultural mythologies in a school setting, legitimately did feature a character who could see things others couldn’t, but that story didn’t seem to tackle mental illness so much as it tackled the idea of being deliberately outcast from ones peers. Another, in which a young Irish girl could see fay and was later diagnosed as schizophrenic, of course turned out to be schizophrenic, but the story didn’t say that schizophrenia isn’t a real condition. It absolutely is. It’s just that some people get misdiagnosed with it because that’s what fits the pattern of modern human understanding.

There’s a sense of both fear and hope in each story. Fear of the unknown, the things we can’t understand, the things that seem different; hope for a better experience and for better understanding. The little boy who can’t speak and would probably get a diagnosis of autism were he not living in a secondary world, he’s sold like an object and overlooked as being too stupid to understand, until someone hurts him and the things and people dear to him and he gets his revenge, however subtle and historically overlooked that revenge may be. The thread of mental illness that runs through generations of family, tearing apart relationships as a sister feels excluded and ignored by those around her as she sees how that commonality brings others closer together. A dystopian future in which the imperfect are Culled, either killed outright or else just cast into the wastes beyond civilization, only to find that there’s a future out there, and people who are accepting and accommodating of those who aren’t what society deems normal. The person who has no bionic upgrades or implants, referred to as a dog, is the only person awake to repair damage to a spaceship, and he’s forced to wake up someone whose upgrades are offline in order to assist him, forcing that person to be thrown into his unaugmented (and, by that society’s standards, pitifully disabled) world. There’s the idea that mental illness can strike at any time, to anybody, and it can change your life, but in every story there’s a repetition of the idea that it doesn’t mean you’re down for the count. You can contribute. You can make a difference. You can maybe make all the difference.

It’s rare that I find an anthology that I like every single part of equally; there’s nearly always one or two stories that just don’t resonate with me the way the others do. And this is no exception, really. There were, I think, two stories that just didn’t do it for me, though objectively they were still quite good. They just weren’t to my taste. Some stories took a little while to get going, but I ended up liking them in the end, more than I expected to. And I can’t deny that the subject matter they tackled was important enough to keep me reading each one even when I wasn’t enjoying them as much as I’d enjoyed others.

Overall, I’d say this was a fantastic collection of short stories, and one that’s absolutely worth reading, even if mental health issues aren’t a pet passion of yours. The publisher donates a portion of the profits from this book’s sales to mental health initiatives, too, which is a wonderful bonus, and it makes me doubly glad that I was able to get my hands on this and be able to spread the word about it a little bit more. It’s an important collection, a great one to dive into, and that uplifting thread of hope that ran strong was, to be perfectly honest, what I needed during a stressful time. Definitely check this one out if you can; it’s worth it, and you won’t be disappointed.

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A very interesting book about how it is to live with mental illness. I really liked the variety in the different stories. Some of the short stories I wished for being longer. A great project to bring the topic mental illness to the younger public. An enjoyable read from the first sentence throughout the book. Highly recommended not only to YA readers.

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A very different anthology that I have ever come across. Definitely will buy the book when it comes out!

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I'll be the first to admit that Kelley Armstrong was the main draw to this book as she is one of my favourite authors. However I found myself enjoying all of the stories. It's such a unique anthology based around the themes of mental health and mental illness, issues that are very close to my heart. Normally I find anthologies hard to get through and always some stories I don't connect with; not the case with this one! I will say that my personal favourite was Kelley Armstrongs story The Culling. In this story the world is dying and every year people are selected to die, at first it starts with the weak and disabled but then moves to those deemed to have a mental illness. The ending was brilliant and it was a very affecting story to read. Other works are more sci-fi based such as a story where a man is convinced that there are 'others' who mow peoples gardens and that they are in fact taking over their minds as well. I absolutely loved that and the descriptions of the gardening and the flower arrangements totally made me want to get outside and plant something!

There was such a variety of stories over what is normally a not often talked about subject that i can't recommend this book enough. This is an anthology I know I will keep coming back to in the future.

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Obscure and odd, this collection of short stories is indescribable. If you want to read about stigma against mental illness in a variety of fantasy settings, this is the anthology for you.

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There really is no way for me to accurately review this book of short stories. They are strange, they are speculative, they are intriguing, and they mess with your feels. Each one is different than the last. I tried to put aside a few of the stories to review as my favorites, but I ended up with about ¾ of the stories as being “favorites”. So that being the case I’m just going to say this is one of my favorites of this year, and possibly all time. They were all just so different that I was completely engaged through the whole thing.

I daresay that even if you aren’t a fan of the short story, you will find at the very least a handful of anecdotes within this anthology that would make it worth the read. For those that enjoy Sci-fi and speculative fiction, along with short stories, this is right up your alley and must be read.

Thank you Negalley for providing me with a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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I don't generally read short stories, but the premise of this collection drew me in. My biggest complaint about short stories (and this is all down to me, nothing to do with the writing or writers, if anything it shows their skill) is that they always leave me wanting more. Especially well written sci-fi or fantasy short stories like the ones that fill this collection.

I want to know more about the Dog, the one unaugmented human on his spaceship whose job it is to keep the ship safe while everyone else is unconscious during their jumps. I want to know more about the 70 year old rebel fighter. I want to know more about the society where the Culling takes place.

All the stories in this collection are excellent and I really enjoyed all the different angles that the authors approached the premise from. From schizophrenia to autism, to anxiety and depressive disorders, there is a wide range of mental health issues represented. In most short story collections I find there are a couple of "fillers" - stories that aren't great but are included to pad out the volume. There is no "filler" in this collection. The stories are wonderfully insightful, understanding and sympathetic. It is a great collection about a difficult topic.

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This was a really great anthology. I really enjoyed how they took the theme of mental health and intertwined it into each of the short stories. I found myself diagnosing the characters until I realized one important thing: you only diagnose if it's a problem. Great reads to be found within!

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