By Rhys Wright, Amy Blay, Becca Binnie and Rosie Green
As a genre of limitless possibilities that can change the way we look at the world, Science Fiction is ripe for the exploration of queerness, gender and sexuality. From space operas to time travel, here are some sci-fi novels with excellent LGBTQIA+ representation.
The Seep by Chana Porter
Ambitious and full of fresh ideas, The Seep is an alien invasion story unlike any you’re familiar with. It’s a mind-bending sci-fi novel that feels truly original.
A benevolent alien entity called The Seep infiltrates Earth’s water supply and changes everything: scarcity and conflict become things of the past, people can change their appearance and live forever, and many people begin using The Seep as a psychoactive drug. But Trina, a trans woman in her fifties, finds herself sceptical of the new utopia. When Trina’s wife Deeba decides to turn into a baby and start life again from the beginning, Trina is thrown into despair and has to figure out a better way to live in this new world.
A Lambda Award finalist for Trans Fiction, Porter’s debut novel shows the end of the world and the birth of a new one from a trans, queer perspective, while also telling an ultimately hopeful story focused on human experience. An ambiguous utopia that encourages you to question the ethical implications of the world it presents, The Seep is the type of sci-fi novel tailor-made for fans of Octavia E. Butler and Ursula K. Le Guin.
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
In her debut novel, Chambers puts a spin on the typically action-packed space opera genre to deliver a cosy, feel-good story centred around a young explorer who finds a new family in the depths of space.
Rosemary Harper is in search of a quiet place to call home after fleeing her old life and isn’t quite sure what to expect when she joins the Wayfarer’s crew. She meets a variety of personalities and species aboard – including Sissix, the friendly reptilian pilot with whom sparks may fly – and they’re certainly a bizarre bunch. When the crew accepts a dangerous, lucrative job, they’re thrown into a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Despite this, Chambers keeps the plot simple and low-stakes, focusing on the Wayfarer’s diverse crew, the secrets they keep and their complex feelings towards one another.
With fascinating explorations of culture, gender and unconventional relationships, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is a great gateway for those new to the sci-fi genre.
Yesterday is History by Kosoko Jackson
Kosoko Jackson’s novel, published by Sourcebooks in 2021, tells the story of a boy, Andre Cobb, who discovers an unexpected power after a vital liver transplant: the ability to time travel.
Ready for his life to finally begin, Andre begins to tread a wildly different path when he wakes up one night in 1969. In a reality worlds away from his own, Andre meets Michael. But as quickly as he arrives, Andre is thrown back to the present day where his donor’s family have appointed Blake (his doner’s brother) to teach him how to use his newly discovered talents. Dividing his time between past and present, Andre must navigate his conflicting feelings. As Andre gets to know Michael, he wishes he could be like him; despite a mutual attraction, Blake, still suffering after his brother's death, keeps Andre at arm's length. Torn, Andre is faced with working out where he belongs and who he wants to be before the consequences of time travel catch up with him and eliminate his choice.
This fascinating and heartbreaking LGBTQIA+ YA sci-fi romance covers letting go of the past, building a future, remaining true to oneself and cherishing the moments as you live them.
Adam-2 by Alastair Chisholm
While prototype robot Adam-2 has been living the same solitary day for 243 years – wake up, school, playtime, bed – the world outside his basement has been ravaged by a civil war between humans and robots, which he suddenly finds himself part of when two human children stumble across him.
Thrown into the middle of a conflict he knows nothing about, with both sides hoping he holds the information to destroy their enemy, Adam has to negotiate centuries of grievances to understand their origins and which – if any – side he should take. Alternating perspectives between Adam and Linden – one of the children that finds him – highlight the complexity of their individual experiences, the trauma and trust they shape, and the importance of understanding each other to make progress. Linden is non-binary and uses neo-pronouns, which are slipped seamlessly into the story as part of their character without being important to the plot. Adam’s immediate understanding when Linden says ze’s non-binary also provides a really simple explanation of what that means and how to use neo-pronouns, which works well in a book for younger audiences.
Dystopian sci-fi novels with LGBTQIA+ representation are not frequently found in middle-grade collections; with its gripping plot, vivid worldbuilding and enduring message, Adam-2 is a rare gem.