books

2019 Queer Adult Sci-Fi & Fantasy Gift Guide

2019 has been a bumper year for queer books of all flavors and genres, and especially within the science fiction & fantasy genre. While representation continues to grow within the genre, it’s important to keep highlighting queer and QUILTBAG books, since often their being queer isn’t a part of the marketing. The number of times I’ve heard someone go “oh, I didn’t even know that was gay!” and then immediately buy a book continues to underline how very important it is to shout about these books.

I’ve already highlighted many of the queer debut novels that came out this year (over both the first half and the second half of the year) and I’ve done a few threads on twitter yelling about specific representation and genres. Just recently I researched and shared a thread about all the queer adult science fiction and fantasy I could find that had come out this year, and it was far more books and novellas than even I’d expected.

But Twitter, while a great place to shout about queer books, is also a shifting, ephemeral space where things quickly get lost to the depths of the Endless Scroll (TM).

So I’m bringing that list over here for easier searching and posterity. Besides, it could be fun to do this every year and see how the list – and diversity in representation – grows!

Without further ado, and in no particular order:

2019 Queer Adult SFF Gift Guide!

The Sol Majestic by Ferrett Steinmetz:
– gay male MC (and romance!)
– sumptuous feast of a book
– srsly Kitchen Wars but like, in space
A Choir of Lies by Alexandra Rowland:
– Gay MC, queernorm world
– Stories have power!!
– Fantasy tulip mania
Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh:
– Gay MC, m/m relationship
– all my exes are in the trees whoops
– One bed trope, but it doesn’t go as expected
– Sweetly sad, good for a drizzly day and then a looong walk in the nearby woods
The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht:
– Gay MC, m/m relationship
– Pretty hot if you’re into gore
– Everybody’s awful and I love it
– Sexy, spooky, fucked up in the best ways
Lord of Secrets by Breanna Teintze:
– FAB QUEER NECROMANCER
– f/m main, but very important m/m relationship
– Bone monstrosities
– Action adventure, good for a binge read
Alice Payne Rides by Kate Heartfield:
– f/f lead romance
– steampunk time-travel shenanigans
– story about family ❤ and their chaos
– sequel to Alice Payne arrives, so you've got a box set!
A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine:
– Main f/f romance
– Most of the cast is queer ❤
– Court intrigue!! Murrrderrr
– Intricate worldbuilding
The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons:
– Bisexual disaster MC (and disaster might be an understatement) with some m/m flirting
– Queer side characters
– Epic af
– Did you want MOTHERFUCKING DRAGONS
– It’s already got a sequel out so BOX SET
The Name of All Things by Jenn Lyons:
– sequel to Ruin of Kings, so maybe get these together
– queer ladies!
– did you want MORE DRAGONS
– jfc how did this get even more epic
The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie:
– bi, transmasc MC!
– queernorm epic fantasy
– Hamlet-inspired!
– 2nd person POV
Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone:
– lesbian space adventure!!
– feminist Guardians of the Galaxy??
– pew pew excitement
This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone:
– enemies-to-lovers f/f
– spy vs spy but time traveler vs time traveler!!
– epistolary format
The Outside by Ada Hoffman:
– queer autistic MC, f/f main
– space opera with Lovecraft flavor
– blurs the line between sci-fi and fantasy
The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling:
– f/f strangers-to-enemies-to-lovers
– creepy deep-cave diving
– are there ghosts or is everyone just hallucinating WAS THAT A CAT OR IS THERE A GHOST IN YOUR HOUSE
The Library of the Unwritten by AJ Hackwith:
– Bi MC, queernorm world
– Hell’s librarian!!
– Every writer’s secret dream/nightmare, having their characters step out of their books
The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz:
– Queer women protags
– FIGHT AGAINST THE PATRIARCHY but with time travel
– Bloody and complicated and full of revolution
A Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker:
– Queer women MCs
– Post-apocalyptic scifi where public gatherings are illegal
– Fuck capitalism!!!
The True Queen by Zen Cho:
– f/f main
– Sequel to the excellent Sorcerer to the Crown
– Regency fantasy novel with fae and politics
The House of Sundering Flames by Aliette de Bodard:
– queer families ❤ ❤
– 3rd in a satisfying trilogy about a post-magical war Paris
– resilience and hopepunk and Vietnamese dragons and explosions
Amnesty by Lara Elena Donnelly:
– so much gay longing
– 3rd in an excellent trilogy, you can gift it along with Amberlough and Armistice
– queer cabaret spy thriller steeped in politics and exquisite imagery
The Warrior Moon by K Arsenault Rivera:
– f/f main
– awesome warrior ladies doing awesome warrior things
– 3rd in the trilogy, gift with The Tiger’s Daughter and The Phoenix Empress for a happy gift-receivee
The Widening Gyre by Michael R Johnston:
– M/M main
– space opera, more on the “hard” sci-fi side
– disgraced MC must find their way again – and Earth
The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley:
– Queer women everywhere
– FUCK CAPITALISM
– Lots of gore, I mean do you expect anything less from Hurley??
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon:
– F/F main
– Chonky boi of a book, good for steeping yourself in the read
– Epic fantasy with dragons and political intrigue and mystery
Floodtide by Heather Rose Jones:
– F/f main
– Domestic fantasy focused on a laundry maid (<3 <3)
– Good introduction to Jones' entire repetoire of queer fiction
The Fire Opal Mechanism by Fran Wilde:
– F/F main
– Sequel to The Jewel and Her Lapidary (buy that one too!!)
– Fahrenheit 451 inspired with a rumbled librarian and a thief
The Ascent to Godhood by JY Yang:
– f/f villain romance
– queer af all around
– fantasy & intrigue & magic all wrapped up tight
– 4th in the Tensorate series, all excellent novellas, gift set!!
Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson:
– multiple queer main POV characters
– longing, lyrical prose in a fantasy skin
– good for someone who “doesn’t like fantasy”
– idk if you haven’t read Jeanette Winterson before you’re missing out
– pairs well with Written on the Body
To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers:
– trans rep, ace rep, overall A++ queer rep & queernorm
– space operay, sense of wonder sci-fi
– queering science!!
Steel Crow Saga by Paul Krueger:
– multiple queer characters, including trans rep ❤
– fast-paced, excellent characterization
– magical! animal! companions!!
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir:
– lesbian necromancers
– this is the kind of book that beats up other books for their lunch money and the other books LIKE IT
– seriously gonna sweep all awards next year
If, Then by Kate Hope Day:
– F/F main
– quiet, literary sci-fi with alt reality seeping into the lives of the characters
– imminent disaster
Gamechanger by LX Beckett:
– NB, ace, aro, & bi POV characters
– + many more queeracters
– tasty mixture of sci-fi, mystery, & apocalyptic thriller
The Hound of Justice by Claire O’Dell:
– ace rep! lesbian rep!
– reimagined Holmes and Watson, both ladies, both black, both queer af
– near-future U.S. devastated by a second civil war
– sequel to a Study in Honor, so get them both!
Where Oblivion Lies by T Frohock:
– complicated relationships, but m/m main
– magic based on singing
– horror/fantasy set in-between the world wars with angels & demons
The Ragged Blade by Christopher Ruz:
– bisexual main, m/m
– what do you do when your beau becomes a murderous magician?
– dad doing everything for his daughter in a world full of monsters ❤
The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders:
– f/f, queernorm world
– set on a locked planet, where half the world is perpetual day and the other half perpetual night, and a city inbetween
– culturally aware social scifi
The Affair of the Mysterious Letter by Alexis Hall:
– f/f with a pansexual Lady Holmes and a trans Watson
– Lovecraftian steampunk, where reality is optional
– “punch a shark” is in the blurb idk why you haven’t bought this yet
Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear:
– lesbian MC
– lesbian villain kissing???
– chonky boi sci-fi filled with adventure & complicated relationships
– pirates! old secrets! space chases!
Escaping Exodus by Nicky Drayden:
– very queer, main f/f pairing
– New Weird but make it in Space
– takes place in a “biological, city-size starship carved up from the insides of a spacefaring beast” UM
Fortuna by KS Merbeth:
– bi disaster MC, f/f romance
– space opera about a family of smugglers
– drunk, prickly, bad-decision-making spaceship captain ❤
Salvage by RJ Theodore:
– ace engineer girl, demi gay boy, + trans & disability rep
– steampunk & airships but in space?!
– murdered gods & assassination attempts & floating countries oh my
– second book after Flotsam, buy them both!!
The Perfect Assassin by K. A. Doore
– ace historian MC, many queer side characters
– murder mystery/fantasy, with intense research scenes
– queernorm desert world
The Impossible Contract by K.A. Doore
– lesbian assassin, cinnamon roll healer
– necromancy!!, actiony
– queernorm world
– sequel to the Perfect Assassin, but works as a standalone
Book Reviews

2015 Books in Review, Part Two

Here is part two of my 2015 Books In Review. Part one is here.
 

Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis

“Amara is never alone. Not when she’s protecting the cursed princess she unwillingly serves. Not when they’re fleeing across dunes and islands and seas to stay alive. She can’t be alone, because a boy from another world experiences all that alongside her, looking through her eyes.”

This is the kind of book where I finished it and immediately looked up the author and everything else she has written. Unfortunately, this is Duyvis’ debut, but fortunately she has another book coming out this year.

All that’s to say that this was a YA that made me so, so happy. Interesting fantasy world: yes. Awesome female main character: yes. Awesome bi main character: yes yes. Very high stakes that keep getting higher: yessity yes yes. No love triangle: OMG YES. Fun(?) moral choices: yeeessss.

I don’t often unequivocally recommend books, but here you go. Read it.

 

Clariel by Garth Nix

“Sixteen-year-old Clariel is not adjusting well to her new life in the city of Belisaere, the capital of the Old Kingdom. She misses roaming freely within the forests of Estwael, and she feels trapped within the stone city walls. And in Belisaere she is forced to follow the plans, plots and demands of everyone, from her parents to her maid, to the sinister Guildmaster Kilp. Clariel can see her freedom slipping away. It seems too that the city itself is descending into chaos, as the ancient rules binding Abhorsen, King and Clayr appear to be disintegrating.”

My last WIP had an ace main character, so before I started the draft zero I wanted to see what kind of ace representation was already out there in the YA world. Answer: nothing. Real answer: well, almost nothing. Clariel is the only one I’ve found so far with an ace MC, and boy is she awesome.

I’m a fan of the Abhorsen series, so I’m surprised I didn’t pick this one up sooner. If you haven’t yet, and you like necromancers and fairyesque worlds, you should read the first in the series: Sabriel. This one is a fun, if sometimes exceedingly dark, worthy successor in the series. The only downside is that the audiobook isn’t read by Tim Curry. 🙂

 

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

“After a decade of domestic disharmony on a failing farm, Dellarobia Turnbow has settled for permanent disappointment but seeks a momentary escape with a younger man. As she hikes up the mountain road behind her house to a secret tryst, she encounters a shocking sight: a silent, forested valley filled with what looks like a lake of fire. For her, it’s a cautionary miracle, but it sparks a raft of other explanations from scientists, religious leaders, and the media.

The bewildering emergency acquaints rural farmers with urban journalists, opportunists, sightseers, and a biologist personally invested in the outcome. As the community lines up to judge the woman and her miracle, Dellarobia confronts her family, her church, her town, and a larger world, in a flight toward truth that could undo all she has ever believed.”

You know me and literary fiction: there’s a reason most of my favorite list is fantasy. But goodness, this was a fulfilling, yet restless, book. Most descriptions bill it as a story about global warming, but it is so much more than that: a story of chaos and transformation.

Of course, I loved the parts about the butterflies the most, and all the detailed information about their lives. Absolutely insane what they go through. On top of that, I loved the depiction of science and scientists. As someone married to a scientist, I understand the frustration of watching your research be willfully misinterpreted. That careful underscoring of what, exactly, is science as well as why, sometimes, people ignore science was what really made the book.

 

I am Princess X by Cherie Priest

Once upon a time, two best friends created a princess together. Libby drew the pictures, May wrote the tales, and their heroine, Princess X, slayed all the dragons.

Once upon a few years later, Libby was in the car with her mom, driving across the Ballard Bridge on a rainy night. When the car went over the side, Libby passed away, and Princess X died with her.

Once upon a now: May is sixteen and lonely, wandering the streets of Seattle, when she sees a sticker slapped in a corner window. A sticker of Princess X.”

A breathless chase through Seattle, where I never quite knew what was going to happen, ending with crazy madness and excitement. The comic portion integrated very well with the story and it was cool to see what May had been talking about just the page before play out in the comic.

It’s one of those this-is-a-cool-idea! books that could have gone horribly wrong, but Priest has enough chops that it not only works, it works well. It’s also a super quick, super fun read – I actually finished it in a day. That doesn’t happen often. 🙂

 

Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix

“Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland, Ohio. Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjerring bookshelves, shattered Glans water goblets, and smashed Liripip wardrobes. Sales are down, security cameras reveal nothing, and store managers are panicking.

To unravel the mystery, three employees volunteer to work a nine-hour dusk-till-dawn shift. In the dead of the night, they’ll patrol the empty showroom floor, investigate strange sights and sounds, and encounter horrors that defy the imagination.”

This was absolutely ridiculous. But in a good way! I wish I’d had it for Halloween, because it would have been a perfect all-night read. Just spooky enough without actually being scary. Just odd enough to be hilarious. And a perfect commentary on working in the modern retail environment.

The illustrations of the various Orsk products were also brilliant, devolving along with the story. I liked finding all the easter eggs in both the drawings and the story. Another book I read all in one sitting, because it was just too much fun to put down.

 

The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin

“This is the way the world ends. Again.

Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.”

Jemisin has solidified her place in my Absolute Fave Authors A++ category with this novel. It is haunting. It is gorgeous. It is surprising. It may or may not be paying a direct homage to Portal 2 with that ending.

It is, in a nutshell, everything I want from modern fantasy. Diverse and interesting and fully fleshed characters. Diverse and interesting and fully fleshed worlds. Several did that just happen?! moments. New magic systems that make me go why didn’t I think of that?? Moral questioning. Moral darkness. And a very on-point critique of our own society.

The Fifth Season is by far and away my favorite novel of 2015. If you take nothing away from this list, at least do yourself a favor and read this.