LGBTQ+ Inclusive Fantasy and Sci-Fi Literature
By Emma Holbrook, Becca Binnie and Emily Myhill
Fantasy and science fiction genres of literature are hugely popular, both allow for limitless creativity and because these genres are in high demand, it is important for all communities, including the LGBTQ+, to be included and celebrated in the stories.
The Mask of Mirrors by M. A. Carrick
Up first, we have the beautiful, engrossing and breath-taking first instalment in the Rook & Rose trilogy, The Mask of Mirrors by M. A. Carrick. For those of you unfamiliar with this amazing dark-fantasy novel, the novel follows the story of Ren, a skilled con-artist, who has come to the dazzling city of Nadežra with the goal of breaking into one of the novel houses to steal enough riches for her to secure her sister’s future. But when it all goes horribly wrong and she finds herself trapped in the House Traementis, she realises she’s entered into a darker, crueller world than she could have ever imagined, where the aristocrats are driven insane by their poisonous feuds. Oh! The drama is more than enough to satisfy those looking for twists, turns and bumps throughout its 700 pages!
What I love so much about this novel is the inclusivity of LGBTQ+ characters but also the refusal to confine their characters to stereotypes. In the novel, there are four confirmed LGBTQ+; Vargo, one of the main protagonists, is bisexual aromantic, Giuna, a minor protagonist, is bisexual and finally, one lesbian and one transgender side character. There is also a mix of different LGBTQ+ relationships within the book, this includes Vargo’s sexual but unromantic relationship, a romantic cis-female/trans-male relationship) and a romantic cis-female/cis-female relationship.
If you’re looking for a new dark fantasy that hooks you from the first page, this is the book for you!
The Priory of The Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
Next up, we have The Priory of The Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon, a gorgeously intricate fantasy novel published in 2019. It follows four narrators across 848 pages, within the beautifully complex and well-developed world of Inys; a world on the brink of war between the East, worshipers of dragons, and the West, where they are fervidly feared. Packed full of dragons, pirates, strong female protagonists, secret orders, and mysterious myths, this is an unmissable read for any high fantasy fans!
The Priory of The Orange Tree stands amongst the greatest fantasy books of all time with a set of very impressive comparisons; frequently quoted as a “feminist successor to Lord of The Rings,” being likened to the second bestselling fantasy book series of all-time is incredibly high praise! Also commonly referred to as “Game of Thrones with lesbians,” it has huge boots to fill and does so with ease.
A sapphic romantic sub-plot is woven throughout the book, between two main characters, Ead and Sabran. An immensely slow build, it is simultaneously beautiful and heart-wrenching. Niclays is also queer, although no specific sexualities are specified for any characters, same-sex attraction is a large part of their stories. Not only great queer representation, strong female friendships are also a pivotal part of the story and as something not often seen in high fantasy, it’s very refreshing to read. Your next epic high fantasy novel awaits, and with a prequel in the works, there isn’t a better time to pick it up!
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
Published in 1969 the science fiction novel The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin follows the character Genly Ai. Ai is from the planet Terra and he’s been sent to Gethen to convince them to join a confederation of planets called Ekumen. It is clear when Genly gets to Gethen that there is much about this planet's culture he does not understand.
Le Guin utilises the creativity of the sci-fi genre to confront the constructed gender binary of the contemporary world. The inhabitants of Gethen can choose and change their gender, by creating a planet which separates gender and sexuality and embraces fluidity and free will, Le Guin rejects restrictive gender and sexuality norms.
This queer sci-fi novel highlights the importance of embracing difference and respecting others.
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
Next a thrilling sci-fi novel published in 2019, Gideon the Ninth. The first book in The Locked Tomb series by Tamsyn Muir. The story follows Gideon as she packs her sword, shoes and dirty magazines to escape a life of servitude. Chaos descends as the Emperor hosts a lethal trial of wits and skill and Harrowhark Nonagesimus is called into action. The book depicts a fiery relationship between dynamic characters Harrow and Gideon as this heart racing whirlwind unfolds.
Creating an epic solar system of sword play, necromancers and cut-throat politics Muir has given life to an LGBTQ+ inclusive and exhilarating world. Good news, the third instalment in the series is set to be released September this year!
Inclusive fantasy and sci-fi literature is important and these books are compelling and deserving of a place on every bookshelf!