Behind the Mask

By Lorana Hoopes


Behind the Mask

by Kelly Link, Carrie Vaughn, Seanan McGuire, Cat Rambo, Lavie Tidhar and others



Behind the Mask is a multi-author collection with stories by award-winning authors Kelly Link, Cat Rambo, Carrie Vaughn, Seanan McGuire, Lavie Tidhar, Sarah Pinsker, Keith Rosson, Kate Marshall, Chris Large and others. It is partially, a prose nod to the comic world—the bombast, the larger-than-life, the save-the-worlds and the calls-to-adventure. But it’s also a spotlight on the more intimate side of the genre. The hopes and dreams of our cape-clad heroes. The regrets and longings of our cowled villains. That poignant, solitary view of the world that can only be experienced from behind the mask.



Behind the Mask is a multi-author collection with stories by award-winning authors Kelly Link, Cat Rambo, Carrie Vaughn, Seanan McGuire, Lavie Tidhar, Sarah Pinsker, Keith Rosson, Kate Marshall, Chris Large and others. It is partially, a prose nod to the comic world—the bombast, the larger-than-life, the save-the-worlds and the calls-to-adventure. But it’s also a spotlight on the more intimate side of the genre. The hopes and dreams of our cape-clad heroes. The regrets and longings of our cowled villains. That poignant, solitary view of the world that can only be experienced from behind the mask.


EXCERPT:   “The Beard of Truth” by Matt Mikalatos


On my lunch break I called the Powers Reporting Line. A woman with a pinched voice answered and asked for my name. I told her.

“Are you reporting your own manifestation or someone else’s?”

“My own.”

“I am required by law to tell you that if your manifestation inadvertently caused the harm or death of someone else, you have the right to a lawyer, and any prison time may be commuted to time served in the Military Powers Program.”

I choked. “People get killed by new powers?”

“Yes, sir. Just last week we had a call from a man who accidentally turned his gardener into gelatin.”

“That’s horrible.”

“Actually, sir, our scientists think it’s possible the gelatin is still sentient, so it is being kept under observation at our facilities here in town. Perhaps it will turn back into a gardener.”

I cleared my throat. “That’s, uh, good news. And I’m relieved to hear the gardener might be okay.”

“We had a woman last week who causes people’s livers and brains to trade places.” I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything. She waited a long time before saying, “Those people are dead.”

“Uh. Yeah. Well. Either way, I didn’t hurt anybody. My powers just make people all . . . truthy.”

“And where are these extraneous teeth growing, sir? Please stop me when I reach the appropriate location. Mouth. Eyes. Forehead. Fists. Knees. Belly—”

“Not toothy. Truthy.”



“As in ‘honest.’”

“That would be another word for it,” I said.

“That would be the correct word for it, sir. Please hold while I transfer you.”

I had no idea why she would need to transfer me. The Powers Act required that anyone who manifested powers had to report it within twenty-four hours, but I was unclear what happened after that. There were rumors, of course, of people being drafted or locked up or becoming politicians. But I just figured those were all things that could happen to you, powers or not.

Another voice came on the line, crisp and authoritative. “Mr. Stevens, I am Special Agent Sam Travis.”

“How did you know my name?”

“I have limited telephone-lepathy, which only activates when I am filling out forms. If there’s a blank on a paper in front of me and you know the answer, I can fill it out. But only if we’re on the phone.”

“That’s amazing.”

“I suppose. Nothing like a truth serum, though. I can see from your paperwork here—”

“I haven’t filled out any paperwork yet.”

“Telephone-lepathy, sir. Try to keep up. As I was saying, your power has gone dormant, probably because of some change in your person. It’s unlikely to be the sex thing—”

“I put that on the paperwork? My girlfriend would kill me for sharing that!”

“Sir, I can see it from your mind. While we’re on the telephone. I’m going to go ahead and round your IQ down, I think you may have exaggerated it. In any case, yesterday was Tuesday, so I’ve set up an appointment for the two of us for next Tuesday in case your power only works then. Do everything you did yesterday. Wear the same clothes, do the same errands, eat the same breakfast. When your powers start to kick in again, drive directly to my office. I’ve sent you an email with these instructions, my phone number, and our address. Any questions?”

I hadn’t really followed all of that, but I figured I could read the instructions off the email. “Which email address did you use?”

“The one on the form, Jimmy.”

I tapped my fingers on the table. “Yeah. Okay.” I hung up. I asked one of my coworkers how his day was going and he said fine, so I knew my powers hadn’t kicked back in yet.


  1. What made you start writing?


I had this amazing theater teacher in high school…a former professional actress who held us to high standards. When I got into college I realized that I had been writing sketches and plays for years, but that I thought of it as acting. I didn’t enjoy how in theater you couldn’t necessarily choose stories that held deep meaning for you personally, you had to with the director’s vision. In writing I could follow my own vision, and I started to experiment more with that. Many of my stories are dialogue heavy, which is likely a side effect of coming into writing through acting.


  1. What is your favorite genre to write?


I love science fiction and fantasy. Most of my work has some element of the fantastic. Behind the Mask was a super fun project because I’ve loved superheroes my whole life. All the stories are amazing! They’re fun, and diverse in the way they approach the main idea of the book, which was what goes on in the everyday lives of superheroes. Readers of this site, who I know love romance, will enjoy my story in the anthology, I think. In my story, the main character has a super-power kick in: when he grows a beard, it works like a truth serum on everyone around him. Of course, this includes his girlfriend, which brings up the question, “Do we really want our loved ones to be completely honest with us?”


  1. Where do you get your inspiration?


Human beings are endlessly fascinating to me. Most of my books deal with some question about human experience. It might be the question of pain, or how to live a good life after losing a loved one. It could be the question of why, when we’re trying so hard to be good people, we still mess up and hurt each other. For my story in Behind the Mask, it was questioning the role of honesty in our relationships. Most of us cycle through questions even in our closest relationships about whether people truly love us, are they being honest with us, are they committed to us or thinking about ditching us? We all want honesty, but that vulnerability sometimes brings pain, which causes us to want to close ourselves off. Exploring that question was exciting to me. Of course, the story is really a romantic comedy, so it was a fun challenge to think about this deep topic in a humorous and engaging way.


  1. What is the hardest part of writing for you?


Probably finding the time. Between my day job, my friends, and my family, finding the chunks of time to write is a challenge. I tease my kids that a lot of my novels have been written during bath time. I’d sit in the hallway where I could hear them and make sure they were okay, and type on my laptop. I’ve had to teach myself to write when I have a few minutes. That could be the waiting room at the dentist, or


  1. Where is your favorite place to write?


I’m one of those rare extrovert writers, so I actually enjoy being in the same room as my family. They can be watching TV and arguing and I sort of drift away into Neverland. When I need peace and the weather is right I enjoy writing in the hammock in my backyard. And I LOVE writing on airplanes. I get the window seat so no one asks me to get up, and then some nice people bring me snacks and beverages. That’s pretty hard to beat.


  1. What’s something about you that your fans don’t know?


I haven’t announced this yet because I don’t usually put the word out until all the contracts are signed. But, since you asked for something my fans don’t know, you get the scoop! I’m just about to sign a deal for a YA fantasy series. The first novel is about halfway written and will come out in the fall of 2018.


  1. Where can we find you on the Internet?


I’m on Twitter @mattmikalatos, Facebook at, and my website is Basically, if you can spell my last name you can find me or one of my relatives who will point you in the right direction.

8. Any last comments?

Be sure to check out Behind the Mask. It’s a great anthology… it got a starred review from Kirkus and rave reviews everywhere else. Even if superheroes aren’t your thing, you’ll enjoy a lot of the stories because they’re about life for the people who put the masks on, not so much about punching aliens in the face (though there is plenty of action in some of the stories). Thanks for letting me crash your blog. 




Matt Mikalatos is the author of four novels, the most recent of which is Capeville: Death of the Black Vulture, a YA superhero novel. You can connect with him online at or



All other authors in the anthology:

Kate Marshall lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and several small agents of chaos disguised as a dog, cat, and child. She works as a cover designer and video game writer. Her fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Crossed Genres, and other venues, and her YA survival thriller I Am Still Alive is forthcoming from Viking. You can find her online at

Chris Large writes regularly for Aurealis Magazine and has had fiction published in Australian speculative fiction magazines and anthologies. He’s a single parent who enjoys writing stories for middle-graders and young adults, and about family life in all its forms. He lives in Tasmania, a small island at the bottom of Australia, where everyone rides Kangaroos and says ‘G’day mate!’ to utter strangers.

Stuart Suffel’s body of work includes stories published by Jurassic London, Evil Girlfriend Media, Enchanted Conversation: A Fairy Tale Magazine, Kraxon Magazine, and Aurora Wolf among others.  He exists in Ireland, lives in the Twilight Zone, and will work for Chocolate Sambuca Ice cream. Twitter: @stuartsuffel

Michael Milne is a writer and teacher originally from Canada, who lived in Korea and China, and is now in Switzerland. Not being from anywhere anymore really helps when writing science fiction. His work has been published in The Sockdolager, Imminent Quarterly, and anthologies on Meerkat Press and Gray Whisper.

Adam R. Shannon is a career firefighter/paramedic, as well as a fiction writer, hiker, and cook. His work has been shortlisted for an Aeon award and appeared in Morpheus Tales and the SFFWorld anthology You Are Here: Tales of Cryptographic Wonders. He and his wife live in Virginia, where they care for an affable German Shepherd, occasional foster dogs, a free-range toad, and a colony of snails who live in an old apothecary jar. His website and blog are at

Jennifer Pullen received her doctorate from Ohio University and her MFA from Eastern Washington University. She originally hails from Washington State. Her fiction and poetry have appeared or are upcoming in journals including: Going Down Swinging (AU), Cleaver, Off the Coast, Phantom Drift Limited, and Clockhouse.

Stephanie Lai is a Chinese-Australian writer and occasional translator. She has published long meandering thinkpieces in Peril Magazine, the Toast, the Lifted Brow and Overland. Of recent, her short fiction has appeared in the Review of Australian Fiction, Cranky Ladies of History, and the In Your Face Anthology. Despite loathing time travel, her defence of Dr Who companion Perpugilliam Brown can be found in Companion Piece (2015). She is an amateur infrastructure nerd and a professional climate change adaptation educator (she’s helping you survive our oncoming climate change dystopia). You can find her on twitter @yiduiqie, at, or talking about pop culture and drop bears at

Aimee Ogden is a former biologist, science teacher, and software tester. Now she writes stories about sad astronauts and angry princesses. Her poems and short stories have appeared in Asimov’s, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Daily Science Fiction,, Persistent Visions, and The Sockdolager.

Nathan Crowder is a Seattle-based fan of little known musicians, unpopular candy, and just happens to write fantasy, horror, and superheroes. His other works include the fantasy novel Ink Calls to Ink, short fiction in anthologies such as Selfies from the End of the World, and Cthulhurotica, and his numerous Cobalt City superhero stories and novels. He is still processing the death of David Bowie.

Sarah Pinsker is the author of the 2015 Nebula Award winning novelette “Our Lady of the Open Road.” Her novelette “In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind” was the 2014 Sturgeon Award winner and a 2013 Nebula finalist. Her fiction has been published in magazines including Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Uncanny, among others, and numerous anthologies. Her stories have been translated into Chinese, French, Spanish, Italian, and Galician. She is also a singer/songwriter with three albums on various independent labels and a fourth forthcoming. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland with her wife and dog. She can be found online at and

Carrie Vaughn is best known for her New York Times bestselling series of novels about a werewolf named Kitty, who hosts a talk radio show for the supernaturally disadvantaged, the fourteenth installment of which is Kitty Saves the World.  She’s written several other contemporary fantasy and young adult novels, as well as upwards of 80 short stories.  She’s a contributor to the Wild Cards series of shared world superhero books edited by George R.

  1. Martin and a graduate of the Odyssey Fantasy Writing Workshop. An Air Force brat, she survived her nomadic childhood and managed to put down roots in Boulder, Colorado. Visit her at

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches atop a hill in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov’s, Clarkesworld Magazine, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. She is an Endeavour, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award nominee. Her second novel, Hearts of Tabat, appears in early 2017 from Wordfire Press. She is the current President of the Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers of America. For more about her, as well as links to her fiction, see

Keith Frady writes weird short stories in a cluttered apartment in Atlanta. His work has appeared in Love Hurts: A Speculative Fiction Anthology, Literally Stories, The Yellow Chair Review, and The Breakroom Stories.


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Lorana Hoopes is an author of children’s books and clean inspirational romance novels.Her books are available at Amazon.Heartbeats series Wishing stone series

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