10 Science Fiction Books with Queer Leads

Hello everyone! As part of Sci-Fi Month, I’ve decided to write a list of some of my favorite science fiction books with queer protagonists. These books contain protagonists who are bi, lesbian, ace, intersex, trans, or other LGBTQIAP+ identities and span subgenres from military science fiction to techno-thrillers to superheroes.

Image result for planetfall emma newman1. Planetfall by Emma Newman

Queer identities represented: bisexual, pansexual or m-spec protagonist

Sub-genre: colonizing alien planet

Ren is the 3-D printer engineer for a human colony that lives in the shadow of a giant alien structure the colonists call “God’s City.” The settlement is built upon a foundation of lies, and Ren is one of only two people who knows the truth. The colony has existed for twenty years and the lies have never been revealed, but then a stranger arrives at the colony’s gates and everything begins to change.

Image result for ninefox gambit2. Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

Queer identities represented: woman who loves women protagonist

Sub-genre: military science fiction

Kel Cheris is a captain of the military division of the hexarchate, a totalitarian government of six divisions that is constantly putting down “heresies,” rebellions. When Cheris herself uses heretical methods in battle, she is given a last chance to possibly redeem herself by devising a plan on how to recapture an important fortress overtaken by heresy. She proposes bringing the Hexarchate’s greatest general out of storage. Shuos Jedao is a brilliant tactician who’s never lost a battle, but before being turned immortal by the Hexarchate, he went mad and killed his own army as well as the enemy’s. Yet, Shuos Jedao is entirely unpredictable, and Cheris and the troops she commands may be the next victims.

343812543. An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

Queer identities represented: queer, intersex protagonist

Sub-genre: generation ship

An Unkindness of Ghosts is set aboard the HSS Matilda, a generation ship that’s been sailing through space for three hundred years. The ship’s strictly divided along class, race, and gender lines, with the upper decks exerting an authoritarian control over the lower decks. The lowest of the decks are forced to labor in the fields, dealt arbitrary and harsh punishments from armed guards, and suffer a myriad of other abuses. In short, it’s a generation ship where the divide between first class and steerage resemble the antebellum South.

Aster is a lower deck woman. She’s forced to labor in the fields like everyone else, but she’s also been able to gain enough of an education to act as a doctor for the others in the lower decks. When her friend Theo, the ship’s Surgeon, brings news to her that Matilda’s sovereign is dying, Aster bids him good riddance. Except, the man due to replace him as supreme ruler is somehow even worse, and the sickness that’s destroying him bears an uncanny resemblance to the writings of Aster’s dead mother, a suicide from twenty-five years ago. Aster always assumed that her mother was going mad, but her notes hint that she figured out one of Matilda’s secrets, a secret that might offer hope for Aster and all the others brutalized by Matilda‘s oppressive systems of power.

Image result for god's war kameron hurley4. God’s War by Kameron Hurley

Queer identities represented: bisexual protagonist

Sub-genre: bug-punk?

The planet of Umayma has been settled for roughly three thousand years. For the last few centuries, it has been consumed by a holy war between two of its countries. It’s an all consuming sort of war that sucks in the vast majority of young men through a mandatory draft and spits out bodies and scarred survivors.

Nyx is a former bel dame, a government assassin who takes the heads off deserters. She is mostly focused on her own survival, but when aliens come to Umayma claiming to be able to end the war, Nyx becomes wrapped up in something she never expected.

Image result for afterparty daryl gregory5. Afterparty by Daryl Gregory

Queer identities represented: lesbian protagonist

Sub-genre: techno-thriller

In Afterparty‘s future, drugs can easily be created through chemical printers. Ten years ago, Lydia Rose was one of five people who created a drug called Numinous. Meant to cure schizophrenia, Numinous instead produced the perception of a divine presence. At a disastrous party, the creators all overdosed on the drug, leaving the survivors with permanent hallucinations of their own guardian angel. However, Lydia’s wife did not survive the party – she was found stabbed to death once the other four came out of the drug.

Flash forward to the current day, where Lydia’s in a mental hospital and a girl recently brought in commits suicide. Lydia recognizes her symptoms – someone out there is producing Numinous, and Lydia’s determined to find out who.

247909016. The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie

Queer identities represented: lesbian protagonist

Sub-genre: young adult, climate change dystopian

Cassandra Leung’s entire family is involved in the industry that creates and trains gigantic sea monsters, Reckoners, to escort ships and provide protection from pirates. Cas is a trainer who has just been given her first solo mission when everything goes terribly wrong. Her Reckoner is killed, and Cas herself is captured by pirates led by pirate queen Santa Elena. And Santa Elena has a plan. Somehow, she’s gotten a hold of a Reckoner pup, and she’s going to use it and Cas to change the balance of power on the high seas.

256594637. False Hearts by Laura Lam

Queer identities represented: bisexual protagonists

Sub-genre: techno-thriller

Tila and Taema are twin sisters who were conjoined until the age of sixteen, when they escaped the isolated cult they grew up in. Now they live separately in a futuristic San Francisco, but they’re still close enough that Taema doesn’t consider it possible that Tila could be keeping any secrets from her. Until the night when Tila arrives at her apartment covered in blood, before being arrested for murder. The police suspect that she was involved with a criminal organization producing Verve, a drug used to send people into a dream world of their own making. Taema’s given a choice – save her sister by pretending to be her, going undercover and gathering information on Verve. And there’s nothing Taema wouldn’t do for her twin sister.

299042198. Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee

Queer identities represented: bisexual protagonist

Sub-genre: young adult, superheroes

Jess Tran’s parents are the resident superheroes of Andover, Nevada. Jess wants nothing more than to be a superhero herself, but unlike her gifted sister, she’s never manifested powers. Determined to try and make her own path in life nevertheless, she applies and is accepted for a prestigious internship… which turns out to be for the town super villain. On the bright side, she gets to spend some time with her crush, Abbie. But as her internship progresses, Jess will begin to realize that there are secrets yet to be uncovered.

319381679. Chameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver

Queer identities represented: asexual protagonist and sapphic trans woman protagonist

Sub-genre: dystopian, superheroes

Patrol is a true dystopian – a city where the sky is chocked with smoke and ash and the ground is just one step away from crumbling into the fires below. And above everything the helicopters of Eye in the Sky survey the super powered citizens, making sure no one can escape. But within this hellhole, the citizens of Patrol have found love, families, and the will to resist. Among them is Evelyn Calliope, a singer with a sonic voice who is the heroine that Patrol needs.

But in the beginning of Chameleon Moon, our main window into the world of Patrol is Regan, a lizard like man with the power to become invisible. Regan’s looking for an escape from Patrol, and a ghostly boy named Hans claims to be able to provide it. But when Regan balks at Hans’s stipulation – murder – Hans takes his memory, leaving Regan with no idea who he is or how Patrol functions. Luckily for him, it isn’t long before he finds help from Evelyn.

3027951410. Dreadnought by April Daniels

Queer identities represented: trans lesbian protagonist

Sub-genres: young adult, superheroes

Fifteen-year old Danny Tozer is secretly painting her toenails behind the mall when two meta-humans get in a fight right in front of her. Thus she’s the only person around when Dreadnought, the greatest superhero of them all dies… and so she receives his powers. But not only does she get superpowers, her body also transforms into the one she’s always wanted. Now everyone knows that she’s a girl. Unfortunately, this includes her emotionally abusive father, who’s always tried to make her into a “manly man.” Oh, and the super-villain who killed Dreadnought is still running around. Danny’s life just got complicated.

Have you read any of the books on this list? What are some of your favorite science fiction stories with queer leads?


9 Comments Add yours

  1. Tammy says:

    Fantastic list! I’ve read several of these, Afterparty, The Abyss Surrounds Us, and Planetfall. And I will be reading An Unkindness of Ghosts soon.

    1. I can’t wait to see what you think of An Unkindness of Ghosts!

  2. Pyo says:

    I’ve read a bunch, although I think only Ninefox Gambit I’d actually put on my top 10 list. Maybe. I’d need to sit down and take stock to decide 😉 Was Nyx actually bi? Huh, the things one forgets …

    My absolute favorite is probably Adam Troy-Castro’s Andrea Cort. Her sexuality isn’t ever discussed, but she’s in a relationship with someone who has a female and a male body (they are one person though) so that counts as queer in my book.

    I suppose also Ancillary Justice although it’s tough putting a ship on the sexual spectrum. Even if she’s in a biological body. But I’ll be generous and count Breq.

    What I generally quite like is science fantasy, or at least scifi that’s not too bothered by weird tech. So John Varley’s drinking-adventurer-bi-heroine in the Demon series was brilliant. I also was surprisingly happy with JL Forrest’s Requies Dawn (basically humanity created “perfect” pseudo-humans to look after Earth for them, except those beings decided that humanity was the biggest problem for humanity. So they killed all except for a few of them).

    1. I haven’t heard of most of these! I’ll need to check them out.

      And yeah, I like science fantasy too. I don’t care to much about scientific accuracy in my science fiction.

      1. Pyo says:

        Can be exasperating though if it’s blatantly disregarded. Recently, I read one between a human and her alien assassin. That assassin was send from a planet three galaxies over to kill her so she won’t one day become US President and build a space ship and put all nuclear weapons on it and fire that into space … and the alien-seers predicted it’d crash into their planet, killing them all.

        I can’t express how ridiculous that entire idea is and not because of future-predicting seers.

        Like Ninefox Gambit; I mean, “magical calender formations” don’t make scientific sense but they aren’t supposed to. Three galaxies are three galaxies through.

      2. I think Ninefox Gambit works because it doesn’t try to explain things. It just uses the whole principal of super advanced science being like magic and runs with it.

  3. I thought Dreadnought was okay, wasn’t crazy about it, but I’m glad to see it on the list. Trans characters are still very under-represented in SFF.

  4. I haven’t read Planetfall yet… But I’ve read other great stuff by Emma Newman, so I think I should read it 🙂
    Meanwhile An Unkindness… Has a very, very special place in my heart. It’s such an amazing book! And the diversity in it is treated SO naturally. Not at all to fill the quotas, but it represents real aspects of real people, it’s easy to get behind it, it’s easy to relate and understand. The book is nothing short of amazing.
    You have a truly amazing list here 🙂 I’m pinning it.

    1. Yay! I hope you get to read Planetfall. Emma Newman’s always amazing.

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