Strangers Among Us: Tales of the Underdogs and Outcasts

Strangers Among Us: Tales of the Underdogs and Outcasts

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*2017 Alberta Book Publishing Awards Winner (Speculative Fiction Book of the Year)

*2017 (Canadian SF&F) Aurora Awards Winner (Best Related Works)

*2016 Foreword INDIES Finalist (Anthologies)

Recommended by Library Journal, School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, Locus, Foreword Reviews, and 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

Hardcover: 978-0-9939696-4-5
Trade Paperback: 978-0-9939696-0-7
ePub: 978-0-9939696-1-4
PDF: 978-0-9939696-2-1
Kindle: 978-0-9939696-3-8


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Project Objectives

A portion of Laksa Media’s net revenue from this anthology will go directly to support one of the programs provided by Canadian Mental Health Association.

Laksa Media will donate CAN$1,000 upon the publication of this anthology.

Bulk Purchasing

For Canadian inquires on bulk purchases for bookstores, libraries, corporate use, sales incentives, or non-profit sales, please email us.


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 . . .

Foreword------------------------------------------------- Lucas K. Law
Introduction--------------------------------------------- Julie E. Czerneda
The Culling---------------------------------------------- Kelley Armstrong
Dallas's Booth------------------------------------------- Suzanne Church
What Harm------------------------------------------------ Amanda Sun
How Objects Behave on the Edge of a Black Hole----------- A.C. Wise
Washing Lady's Hair-------------------------------------- Ursula Pflug
The Weeds and The Wildness------------------------------- Tyler Keevil
Living in Oz--------------------------------------------- Bev Geddes
I Count The Lights--------------------------------------- Edward Willett
The Dog and The Sleepwalker------------------------------ James Alan Gardner
Carnivores----------------------------------------------- Rich Larson
Tribes--------------------------------------------------- A.M. Dellamonica
Troubles------------------------------------------------- Sherry Peters
Frog Song------------------------------------------------ Erika Holt
Wrath of Gaia-------------------------------------------- Mahtab Narsimhan
Songbun-------------------------------------------------- Derwin Mak
What You See (When the Lights Are Out)------------------- Gemma Files
The Age of Miracles-------------------------------------- Robert Runté
Marion's War--------------------------------------------- Hayden Trenholm
The Intersection----------------------------------------- Lorina Stephens
Afterword------------------------------------------------ Susan Forest
About the Contributors
About the Editors
Copyright Acknowledgements
Appendix: Mental Health Resources
Cover and Interior Design by Samantha Beiko

What is mental illness?
Mental illness affects how a person thinks, feels and behaves. It includes depression, bipolar disorder, psychosis, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and personality disorders.

For more information:

Kirkus Reviews

". . . stories do a masterful job of knitting legitimate and painful mental illnesses to characters who still retain agency and power." Mentioned as one of "The August Science Fiction & Fantasy Books You'll Want to Read" by John DeNardo

Library Journal (8/1/2016 issue, Vol. 141, Issue 13)

Much of speculative fiction explores how we deal with forms of an "other." Sometimes the outsider is a monster or an alien. The 19 stories collected here tackle the idea of people who are other, even to themselves, as a result of mental health issues. The authors, all Canadians, take different approaches, some addressing the concept straight on, some exploring it slantwise, with characters whose differences created challenges or granted fresh insights. The excellent opener, Kelley Armstrong's "The Culling," concocts a dark, resource-starved future in which those who are deemed too unusual are culled from society. In Tyler Keevil's "The Weeds and the Wildness," a man in the grip of extreme paranoia believes malevolent gardeners are stalking his neighbors. And "The Dog and the Sleepwalker" by James Alan Gardner has a hero named "Dog" whose difference might save an entire spaceship's crew. VERDICT Mental illness is an exciting theme for an anthology, leaving plenty of room for variety. The volume also includes an appendix of mental health resources. [A portion of this anthology's net revenue will go to the Canadian Mental Health Association.—Ed.] —MM

Quill & Quire (July/August 2016 issue)

"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." More...
Foreword Reviews (Fall 2016 issue) In this outstanding collection, nineteen established writers are asked to explore the borderland between mental health and mental illness. Since all of the contributors come from a science-fiction and fantasy background rather than a medical one, the results are anything but the same-old, same-old. The opening story, “The Culling,” depicts a heroine unquestionably sane by our own standards but deemed a mental defective and  sentenced to death in the dystopian world she inhabits. Other stories, such as “Dallas’s Booth,” “How Objects Behave on the Edge of a Black Hole,” and “Living in Oz,” show ordinary people whose abnormal behavior is a realistic response to disability, isolation, and grief. Some of the strongest stories remain deliciously open to interpretation. In “Troubles,” a young Belfast woman recovering from a psychotic break sees and talks to faeries who make a convincing case for their reality, while in “The Weeds and the Wildness,” an aging, lonely person becomes an ecoterrorist in response to the “merciless” war waged by sinister lawn specialists bent on  eradicating all that is wild and natural. Society is the patient in “The Age of Miracles,” which depicts a culture gone so overboard with talking, monitoring, and nagging appliances that only the Dalai Lama can maintain his sanity. 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.
Library School Journal (July 2016 issue, Vol. 62, Issue 7) Gr 10 Up—Nineteen writers tackle the subject of mental illness in this uneven compendium of speculative short stories. In this volume peppered with tales that range from simplistic to melodramatic to immature to downright disturbing, there are some that rise above the rest. Among these are two entries that demonstrate the quiet value of people with autism: one takes place in a fantasy kingdom and the other in a science fiction landscape. Another work takes a look at mental health through the metaphor of a disordered lawn—the implication is that the wildness of a chaotic mind is more lovely and exciting than uniformity. One of the strongest selections in the book is about a high school caught in the crossfire of an ancient battle among mythical creatures that include a kraken, a qi-lin, a gargoyle, a Minotaur, and a yeti. Watching from the sidelines is the girl with the Sight, who can doom or save them all. 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. VERDICT Not a strong collection as a whole, but there are a few standouts among the stories that make this an additional purchase for collections in need of speculative fiction. —Heather M. Campbell, formerly at Philip S. Miller Library, Castle Rock, CO

Locus Magazine (April 2017)

"Strangers Among Us: Tales of the Underdogs and Outcasts, edited by Susan Forest & Lucas K. Law, doesn’t rival the top anthologies of the year, such as Jonathan Strahan’s Bridging Infinity and Drowned Worlds, but it’s still a solid effort, a mixed SF/fantasy original anthology, with a number of entertaining stories to be found within its pages. The emphasis here is on stories about, and sympathetic to, people with mental illnesses and conditions of various sorts that make friends and families keep them at a distance, and the ways they struggle to deal with and sometimes control and transcend their conditions – there are several stories here, for instance, in which schizophrenia is really an ability to communicate with other creatures that ordinary humans either can’t perceive or can’t communicate with, including aliens, the fey, and the High Lords of Faerie, but there are plenty of other sorts of strangers and outcasts here, including uplifted dogs, Neanderthals, invisible girls, and others. Best story here is ‘‘Carnivores’’ by Rich Larson, a fast-paced, noirish tale of a recreated Neanderthal trying to discover (and burgle) the secrets of an intensively guarded vault, but also good are ‘‘The Dog and the Sleepwalker’’ by James Alan Gardner, ‘‘Tribes’’ by A.M. Dellamonica, and ‘‘I Count the Lights’’ by Edward Willett. The best of the stories that deal with the distancing from family, friends, and society at large that can be caused by mental conditions is ‘‘How Objects Behave on the Edge of a Black Hole’’ by A.C. Wise. The anthology also features an extensive Appendix of Mental Health Resources." (Gardner Dozois)
Bibliotropic "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." -Ria More...
Speculating Canada The Culling: "It is significant that Armstrong made her protagonist a teenager both because this is the time period when most psychological disabilities become apparent, but also because teenagers are often subject to a normalizing influence, encouraged to conform, and yet are viewed as being rebellious and non-conformist. Her character is at the perfect age to invite social questions even while she is trying her hardest to fit in to a society that has already rejected her." -Derek Newman-Stille More...
NetGalley Reviewers "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." -Kristin T. (Reviewer) "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." -Bonnie B. (Educator) "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." -Karen D. (Bookseller) More Reviews on NetGalley

We recognize that not everyone has the resources to buy this anthology, Strangers Among Us: Tales of the Underdogs and Outcasts. Since mental health is such an important subject, please help us to reach as many readers as possible. Our dream is to have every library in the world having this anthology available for its library users.

We realize that library worldwide has limited budget, so we offer perpetual licensing of our e-book to libraries through Overdrive (i.e. we do not restrict the number of times an ebook can be lent in order not to force libraries to repurchase the same ebook over and over). Also available through cloudLibrary (Bibliotheca)

One easy way you can help us is to submit or suggest this title to your local library (if this book resonates with you). It takes only a few minutes to complete online.

What you need for the library:
Title: Strangers Among Us: Tales of the Underdogs and Outcasts
Author: Edited by Susan Forest and Lucas K. Law
ISBN:9780993969645 (HC), 9780993969607 (PB), 9780993969614 (eBook)
Publisher: Laksa Media Groups Inc.
Notes/Comments: The anthology (dealing with mental health/mental illness) has been recommended by Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, Locus, and Foreword Reviews. Also available through Overdrive and cloudLibrary (eBook: 9780993969614)

Help Us to Change the World, One Book at A Time

August 14, 2016 – 4 PM
Calgary, AB (Kananaskis 1 Room, Delta Hotel Calgary South, 135 Southland Drive SE)
When Words Collide (Book Launch)
Julie E. Czerneda, Susan Forest, Bev Geddes, Erika Holt, Lucas K. Law, Sherry Peters, Robert Runté, Amanda Sun, Hayden Trenholm, Edward Willett and Special Guest: Vanessa Cardui

September 10, 2016 – 5 PM
Ottawa, ON (Zenith Room - 2nd Floor, Novotel Hotel, 33 Nicholas Street)
Can-Con (Book Launch)
Suzanne Church, A.M. Dellamonica, Julie E. Czerneda, Susan Forest, James Alan Gardner, Rich Larson, Lucas K. Law, Ursula Pflug, Robert Runté, Hayden Trenholm, Edward Willett

September 15, 2016 – 7 PM
Toronto, ON (Lillian H. Smith Library Branch, 3rd Floor, 239 College Street)
The Friends of the Merril Collection at The Lillian H. Smith Branch, Toronto Public Library (Book Launch)
Suzanne Church, Gemma Files, Susan Forest, Lucas K. Law, Derwin Mak, Mahtab Narsimhan, Ursula Pflug

September 21, 2016 – 7 PM
Winnipeg, MB (McNally Robinson, Atrium, Grant Park Mall, 1120 Grant Ave.)
McNally Robinson (Book Launch)
Bev Geddes, Sherry Peters and Special Guest: Samantha Beiko

2017 Alberta Book Publishing Awards Winner (Speculative Fiction Book of the Year)
Strangers Among Us: Tales of the Underdogs and Outcasts (edited by Susan Forest and Lucas K. Law)

2017 (Canadian SF&F) Aurora Awards Winner (Best Related Work)
Strangers Among Us: Tales of the Underdogs and Outcasts (edited by Susan Forest and Lucas K. Law)

2016 Foreword INDIES Finalist (Anthologies)
Strangers Among Us: Tales of the Underdogs and Outcasts (edited by Susan Forest and Lucas K. Law)

One winner and three finalists in 2017 (Canadian SF&F) Aurora Awards Short Fiction category
Marion's War by Hayden Trenholm (Winner)
Living in Oz by Bev Geddes (Finalist)
Frog Song by Erika Holt (Finalist)
The Age of Miracles by Robert Runté (Finalist)

One finalist in 2017 for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic - Short Story
The Dog and The Sleepwalker by James Alan Gardner

One story selected for Wilde Stories 2017: The Year's Best Gay Speculative Fiction (edited by Steve Berman, Lethe Press, July 2017)
Carnivores by Rich Larson

One honorable mention in The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017 (edited by John Joseph Adams and Charles Yu, Mariner Books, Oct 2017)
Carnivores by Rich Larson

Nine honorable mentions in The Year's Best Science Fiction: Thirty-Fourth Annual Collection (edited by Gardner Dozois, St. Martin's Griffin, July 2017)
The Culling by Kelley Armstrong
Tribes by A.M. Dellamonica
What You See (When the Lights are Out) by Gemma Files
The Dog and The Sleepwalker by James Alan Gardner
Living in Oz by Bev Geddes
Carnivores by Rich Larson
Washing Lady's Hair by Ursula Pflug
Marion's War by Hayden Trenholm
How Objects Behave on the Edge of a Black Hole by A.C. Wise