Love, Lesbians, and the Luminous Dead

Staff Picks

Love, Lesbians, and the Luminous Dead

Fantasy and Science Fiction with LGBTQA protagonists

In fantasy and science fiction novels where dragons and robots exist, sometimes side by side, it can often feel like protagonists who are part of the LGBTQA community seem rarer than unicorns. But that has been changing recently with more and more amazing books being published in recent years.

In this list, you will find a variety of LGBTQA protagonists: time-traveling enemies, a diplomat trying to prevent the colonization of her planet, a young man who can take away people’s memories and put them into books, a civil servant who ends up in the middle of a magical conspiracy, a heartbroken veterinarian on her way to Mars, and others.  

Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time: An Indigenous LGBT Sci-fi Anthology edited by Hope Nicholson, Erin Cossar and Sam Beiko
Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time is an indigenous science fiction and urban fantasy anthology, with stories by Canadian and American native authors. Each story is a love story, whether it’s about self-love or finding love after heartbreak, all with science fiction and fantasy world-building influencing the possibilities of each protagonist.

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone
This science fiction novel balances epistolary correspondence and intense third person narrative as two time-traveling agents begin a dangerous rivalry via letters that they leave each other through time and space. One woman serves the Garden, an organic mind that wants to eliminate technology. The other, Red, serves the Agency, a cybernetic organization that wants to wipe out the Garden. What begins with one woman mocking the other transforms into something else over the course of the novel.

Provenance by Ann Leckie
Set in the Imperial Radch universe, this science fiction story is about a woman desperate to earn her place as the future head of the family. For as long as she can remember, Ingray has been in direct competition with her siblings. Now she’s making a dangerous gamble involving an intergalactic thief, priceless artifacts, and conspiracies that span both her world and other planets, all of which have greater consequences than she knows.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley
In Pulley's novel set in a fantastical London, Thaniel Steepleton is just a simple government clerk trying to support his widowed sister and her children until he finds a golden watch on his pillow. The mystery of the watch grows more dangerous as the watch saves his life when an explosion rocks Scotland Yard. In the course of trying to discover more, Thaniel meets the watch’s equally mysterious maker, Keita Mori, and becomes involved in something that blends the genre edges of science fiction and fantasy.

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
Mahit Dzmare is the newest diplomatic ambassador for a small mining planet that prizes its independence from the nearby Teixcalaanli Empire. When she arrives at the Imperial Court, however, she quickly realizes that her predecessor was murdered and that she herself is in danger. Things prove even more complicated when the technology that was supposed to allow her to access her predecessor’s memories breaks. Mahit both loves and hates the Empire, and must balance both her love of its culture with her fear of its expansionist tendencies if she can protect herself, her new friends and her home.

The Binding by Bridget Collins
Emmett Farmer has simple plans: recover from his strange illness that has taken most of his memories of the last year and take over the farm from his father one day. But then a letter arrives, sending him to be the apprentice of a bookbinder. Binders are feared by his community, seen as witches and monsters, and books are seen as dangerous. But Emmett has the gift of bookbinding, and his apprenticeship will teach him of magic, human cruelty, and love.

The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling
In this claustrophobic, intense science fiction novel, Gyre Price lives on a poor mining planet. Determined to get off-planet and find the mother that abandoned her, she lies about her caving experience in order to get a lucrative but dangerous caving job. But she quickly realizes she’s in over her head -- instead of a full, experienced team assisting her on the surface, there’s a single voice in her ears of a woman who seems equally desperate and willing to risk Gyre’s life for success.

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
In the first book in the Machineries of Empire trilogy, Captain Kel Cheris finds herself in trouble with her commanders after using an unapproved method to win a battle. Her chance at redemption comes in the form of retaking an enemy fortress. With her is an unusual advisor: a master tactician who lived hundreds of years ago, most of his memories kept alive and intact via technology. However, Shuos Jedao’s assistance comes with danger, because when he was alive, he massacred two armies: the enemy’s and his own. Now Cheris must balance his advice’s wisdom and his past history in order to win back the fortress -- and survive the victory.