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The best way to learn about other people is through fiction.
That’s why (with the help of the Rainbow Space Magic Virtual Con Facebook Group) I compiled this list of books to buy, read, and celebrate BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour) authors that write our favourite genre: Sci Fi and Fantasy with LGBTQ+ main characters.
Because reading and sharing is vital.
Traditional publishers and even small indie publishers pass over BIPOC characters and authors, claiming that readers don’t want to read about them. And when they do accept books, they pay smaller advances than they do white authors. And I can only imagine that writing both LGBTQ+ and BIPOC characters would be all the harder.
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of every book, but a starting off point featuring as many authors as possible. I personally find it a lot easier to get into a new author when I’m recommended one particular book. So take a look, read something new, and then read more by that author.
That being said, if I didn’t include your favourite book by that author, please include it in the comments!
And if I didn’t include an author that you think should be on here, please also comment and I’ll add it to the list. (I’d LOVE to add more indie authors!)
Books are pretty much only organised by when I found them/they were suggested to me. I also included boxsets where possible, because boxsets are amazing.
(I have not personally read all of these, and these are all book descriptions not recs by me, but they are on my TBR list.)
Thanks again to the Rainbow Space Magic Virtual Con Facebook Group for recommending most of these!
Prefer print books?
You can find all the books mentioned here (when available) on this book list at Bookshop.org, so you can support independent bookstores as well as BIPOC authors.
Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle.
The Inheritance Trilogy omnibus includes the novels: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Broken Kingdoms, The Kingdom of Gods, and a brand new novella set in the same world: The Awakened Kingdom.
Long after the Towers left the world but before the dragons came to Daluça, the emperor brought his delegation of gods and diplomats to Olorum. As the royalty negotiates over trade routes and public services, the divinity seeks arcane assistance among the local gods.
Aqib bgm Sadiqi, fourth-cousin to the royal family and son of the Master of Beasts, has more mortal and pressing concerns. His heart has been captured for the first time by a handsome Daluçan soldier named Lucrio. In defiance of Saintly Canon, gossiping servants, and the furious disapproval of his father and brother, Aqib finds himself swept up in a whirlwind gay romance. But neither Aqib nor Lucrio know whether their love can survive all the hardships the world has to throw at them.
Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time is a collection of indigenous science fiction and urban fantasy focusing on LGBT and two-spirit characters. These stories range from a transgender woman undergoing an experimental transition process to young lovers separated through decades and meeting in their own far future. These are stories of machines and magic, love and self-love.
Stories featured are by an all-star cast of writers including:
- Cherie Dimaline (The Girl Who Grew a Galaxy, Red Rooms)
- Gwen Benaway (Ceremonies for the Dead)
- David Robertson (Betty: The Helen Betty Osborne Story, Tales From Big Spirit)
- Richard Van Camp (The Lesser Blessed, Three Feathers)
- Nathan Adler (Wrist)
- Daniel Heath Justice (The Way of Thorn and Thunder: The Kynship Chronicles)
- Darcie Little Badger (Nkásht íí, The Sea Under Texas)
- Cleo Keahna
The newest stage in human evolution begins in outer space. Survivors of a cataclysmic nuclear war awake to find themselves being studied by the Oankali, tentacle-covered galactic travelers whose benevolent appearance hides their surprising plan for the future of mankind. The Oankali arrive not just to save humanity, but to bond with it—crossbreeding to form a hybrid species that can survive in the place of its human forebears, who were so intent on self-destruction. Some people resist, forming pocket communities of purebred rebellion, but many realize they have no choice. The human species inevitably expands into something stranger, stronger, and undeniably alien.
From Hugo and Nebula award–winning author Octavia Butler, Lilith’s Brood is both a thrilling, epic adventure of man’s struggle to survive after Earth’s destruction, and a provocative meditation on what it means to be human.
On a cool evening in Kolkata, India, beneath a full moon, as the whirling rhythms of traveling musicians fill the night, college professor Alok encounters a mysterious stranger with a bizarre confession and an extraordinary story. Tantalized by the man’s unfinished tale, Alok will do anything to hear its completion. So Alok agrees, at the stranger’s behest, to transcribe a collection of battered notebooks, weathered parchments, and once-living skins.
From these documents spills the chronicle of a race of people at once more than human yet kin to beasts, ruled by instincts and desires blood-deep and ages-old. The tale features a rough wanderer in seventeenth-century Mughal India who finds himself irrevocably drawn to a defiant woman—and destined to be torn asunder by two clashing worlds. With every passing chapter of beauty and brutality, Alok’s interest in the stranger grows and evolves into something darker and more urgent.
Shifting dreamlike between present and past with intoxicating language, visceral action, compelling characters, and stark emotion, The Devourers offers a reading experience quite unlike any other novel.
Samuel R. Delany’s 1976 SF novel, originally published as Triton, takes us on a tour of a utopian society at war with . . . our own Earth! High wit in this future comedy of manners allows Delany to question gender roles and sexual expectations at a level that, 20 years after it was written, still make it a coruscating portrait of “the happily reasonable man,” Bron Helstrom — an immigrant to the embattled world of Triton, whose troubles become more and more complex, till there is nothing left for him to do but become a woman. Against a background of high adventure, this minuet of a novel dances from the farthest limits of the solar system to Earth’s own Outer Mongolia. Alternately funny and moving, it is a wide-ranging tale in which character after character turns out not to be what he — or she — seems.
Yetu holds the memories for her people—water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners—who live idyllic lives in the deep. Their past, too traumatic to be remembered regularly, is forgotten by everyone, save one—the historian. This demanding role has been bestowed on Yetu.
Yetu remembers for everyone, and the memories, painful and wonderful, traumatic and terrible and miraculous, are destroying her. And so, she flees to the surface, escaping the memories, the expectations, and the responsibilities—and discovers a world her people left behind long ago.
Yetu will learn more than she ever expected to about her own past—and about the future of her people. If they are all to survive, they’ll need to reclaim the memories, reclaim their identity—and own who they really are.
Inspired by a song produced by the rap group Clipping for the This American Life episode “We Are In The Future,” The Deep is vividly original and uniquely affecting.
For generations, the marsh-surrounded town of Shimmer, Maryland has played host to a loose movement of African-American artists, all working in different media, but all utilizing the same haunting color. Landscape paintings, trompe l’oeil quilts, decorated dolls, mixed-media assemblages, and more, all featuring the same peculiar hue, a shifting pigment somewhere between purple and pink, the color of the saltmarsh orchid, a rare and indigenous flower.
Graduate student Xavier Wentworth has been drawn to Shimmer, hoping to study the work of artists like quilter Hazel Whitby and landscape painter Shadrach Grayson in detail, having experienced something akin to an epiphany when viewing a Hazel Whitby tapestry as a child. Xavier will find that others, too, have been drawn to Shimmer, called by something more than art, something in the marsh itself, a mysterious, spectral hue.
From Lambda Literary Award-nominated author Craig Laurance Gidney (Sea, Swallow Me & Other Stories, Skin Deep Magic) comes A Spectral Hue, a novel of art, obsession, and the ghosts that haunt us all.
Cinnamon Jones dreams of stepping on stage and acting her heart out like her famous grandparents, Redwood and Wildfire. But at 5’10’’ and 180 pounds, she’s theatrically challenged. Her family life is a tangle of mystery and deadly secrets, and nobody is telling Cinnamon the whole truth. Before her older brother died, he gave Cinnamon The Chronicles of the Great Wanderer, a tale of a Dahomean warrior woman and an alien from another dimension who perform in Paris and at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. The Chronicles may be magic or alien science, but the story is definitely connected to Cinnamon’s family secrets. When an act of violence wounds her family, Cinnamon and her theatre squad determine to solve the mysteries and bring her worlds together.
The city of Leiodare is unlike any other in the post-climate change United States. Within its boundaries, birds are outlawed and what was once a crater in Appalachia is now a tropical, glittering metropolis where Anna Armour is waiting. An artist by passion and a factory worker by trade, Anna is a woman of special gifts. She has chosen this beautiful, traumatized city to wait for the woman she’s lost, the one she believes can save her from her troubled past and uncertain future.
When one night Anna creates life out of thin air and desperation, no one is prepared for what comes next – not Lucine, a smooth talking soothsayer with plans for the city; Lucine’s brother Eugenio who has designs of his own; Seife, a star performer in the Leiodaran cosmos; or Rory, a forefather of the city who’s lived through outbreak, heatbreak, and scandal. Told through their interlocking stories, Smoketown delves into the invisible connections that rival magic, and the copst of redemption.
What if the African natives developed steam power ahead of their colonial oppressors? What might have come of Belgium’s disastrous colonization of the Congo if the native populations had learned about steam technology a bit earlier?
Fabian Socialists from Great Britain join forces with African-American missionaries to purchase land from the Belgian Congo’s “owner,” King Leopold II. This land, named Everfair, is set aside as a safe haven, an imaginary Utopia for native populations of the Congo as well as escaped slaves returning from America and other places where African natives were being mistreated.
Shawl’s speculative masterpiece manages to turn one of the worst human rights disasters on record into a marvelous and exciting exploration of the possibilities inherent in a turn of history. Everfair is told from a multiplicity of voices: Africans, Europeans, East Asians, and African Americans in complex relationships with one another, in a compelling range of voices that have historically been silenced. Everfair is not only a beautiful book but an educational and inspiring one that will give the reader new insight into an often ignored period of history.
In 1804, shortly before the Caribbean island of Saint Domingue is renamed Haiti, a group of women gather to bury a stillborn baby. Led by a lesbian healer and midwife named Mer, the women’s lamentations inadvertently release the dead infant’s “unused vitality” to draw Ezili—the Afro-Caribbean goddess of sexual desire and love—into the physical world.
As Ezili explores her newfound powers, she travels across time and space to inhabit the midwife’s body—as well as those of Jeanne, a mixed-race dancer and the mistress of Charles Baudelaire living in 1880s Paris, and Meritet, an enslaved Greek-Nubian prostitute in ancient Alexandria.
Bound together by Ezili and “the salt road” of their sweat, blood, and tears, the three women struggle against a hostile world, unaware of the goddess’s presence in their lives. Despite her magic, Mer suffers as a slave on a sugar plantation until Ezili plants the seeds of uprising in her mind. Jeanne slowly succumbs to the ravages of age and syphilis when her lover is unable to escape his mother’s control. And Meritet, inspired by Ezili, flees her enslavement and makes a pilgrimage to Egypt, where she becomes known as Saint Mary.
With unapologetically sensual prose, Nalo Hopkinson, the Nebula Award–winning author of Midnight Robber, explores slavery through the lives of three historical women touched by a goddess in this “electrifying bravura performance by one of our most important writers” (Junot Díaz).
On the islands of Hans Lollik, Sigourney Rose was the only survivor when her family was massacred by the colonizers. When the childless king of the islands declares he will choose his successor from amongst eligible noble families, Sigourney is ready to exact her revenge.
Mokoya and Akeha, the twin children of the Protector, were sold to the Grand Monastery as infants. While Mokoya developed her strange prophetic gift, Akeha was always the one who could see the strings that moved adults to action. While Mokoya received visions of what would be, Akeha realized what could be. What’s more, they saw the sickness at the heart of their mother’s Protectorate.
A rebellion is growing. The Machinists discover new levers to move the world every day, while the Tensors fight to put them down and preserve the power of the state. Unwilling to continue as a pawn in their mother’s twisted schemes, Akeha leaves the Tensorate behind and falls in with the rebels. But every step Akeha takes towards the Machinists is a step away from Mokoya. Can Akeha find peace without shattering the bond they share with their twin?
Pet is here to hunt a monster. Are you brave enough to look?
There are no monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. Jam and her best friend, Redemption, have grown up with this lesson all their life. But when Jam meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colors and claws, who emerges from one of her mother’s paintings and a drop of Jam’s blood, she must reconsider what she’s been told. Pet has come to hunt a monster, and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house. Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend, but also to uncover the truth, and the answer to the question–How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?
ALEX LEBEAU, CHOCOLATIER AND CHEF INSTRUCTOR, wants nothing more than to give her almost grown son a quiet life and a place to call home. Settling in Honfleur, Louisiana, Alex can distance herself from her chaotic romantic past and association with the clandestine group Bellicose Solanum (BelSol).
Things might be looking up for her when she takes a job at a promising cooking school. Her contentment is short-lived when a famous millionaire of Honfleur is murdered during the school’s catering event on an airship.
As the body count begins to rise in an eccentric series of mishaps, all evidence points to one of her most beloved culinary students—her son.
If word gets out about the murder, the culinary school’s reputation is ruined, but most importantly Alex cannot let her son be found guilty for a crime he didn’t commit.
With the help of Josephine, the school potager and voice of reason, Alex hesitantly rallies up old friends from her checkered past to help clear her son’s name.
Armed with the fortune that might (or might not) favor the brave, Alex and Josephine race to find the killer before those nearest to Alex become the latest victims.
Bonus! Discussions and even more stories!
Elizabeth Andre has compiled a list of 78+ must-read black LGBTQ+ fiction authors (including many SFF recs).
José Pablo Iriarte, Ryane Chatman, Arshad Ahsanuddin, and Nikki Woolfolk discussed Queer BIPOC representation in Spec Fic at the Rainbow Space Magic Virtual Con.
The Juneteenth Book Fest celebrates Black American storytelling with recorded panels, including Queer On and Off The Page, My Mythology: Reclaiming Stories of Old, It’s a Different World: Black Secondary Worlds in Fantasy, and We Need a Hero: Black Superheroes in Comics.
MelinaPendulum talks about fantasy, manga, and anime, often in conjunction of race, colonialism, LGBTQ+, and feminism. I highly recommend starting with Empire and Imperialism in Children’s Cartoons – a super light topic (it sounds like a serious college lecture or seminar, but it is a really accessible and a really interesting look into the Empire trope in fantasy).
|What LGBTQ+ Sci Fi and Fantasy Books by BIPOC authors would you add to this list? |
Please share in the comments, and I’ll keep updating this list!