Representation and inclusivity is important everywhere, including within the pages of books. These 20 outstanding authors have managed to bring diverse characters and stories to life with their science fiction and fantasy novels. From Joanna Russ to newer authors like Alex London, these writers and their fantastic books are sure to keep you entertained for hours. Read about the 20 LGBTQ+ authors below, and then let us know who we missed!
Samuel R. Delany
Delany, known as “Chip” to his friends, has been writing science fiction—in addition to memoirs and criticism—since the 1960s. The author has won four Nebula Awards and two Hugo Awards, and was inducted in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2002. His novel Babel-17 follows the story of Rydra Wong—a linguist and poet who is called in by the military to decode a strange message that threatens the galaxy’s war effort. But the more Rydra learns…the more tempted she is to join the other side.
And Chaos Died
The author of feminist literary criticism, in addition to science fiction and fantasy, the late Joanna Russ influenced readers throughout her life since she was first noticed in the late 1960s. During her career, she challenged the male-dominated world of science fiction—both in authors and audience. She published And Chaos Died in 1970, which tells of an overpopulated planet where nature scarcely exists and creativity and individualism are suppressed. But there are other ways of life out there. And as the novel progresses, they come into conflict.
In 2010, Farah Mendlesohn's book On Joanna Russ was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Related Work. The book details Russ' life and career as a prolific author and feminist.
Poppy Z. Brite
Are You Loathsome Tonight?
Trans author Billy Martin, who is known professionally as Poppy Z. Brite, is the author of fantasy and horror novels, which usually feature gay or bisexual characters. Some of his major influences include other southern writers like Shirley Jackson, Flannery O’Connor, and Truman Capote. His short story collection, Are You Loathsome Tonight?, spans the bounds of fantasy and horror to bring readers gruesome, other-worldly tales.
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The Salt Roads
Speculative fiction writer Nalo Hopkinson was raised in a literary environment and was greatly influenced by fairy and folk tales she read at an early age—including Afro-Caribbean stories. She often includes Caribbean and feminist themes in her work, as well as subjects relating to race, class, and sexuality.
Her novel, The Salt Roads—a Nebula Award finalist—tells the story of a group of women who unintentionally draw Ezili, the Afro-Caribbean goddess of sexual desire and love, into the physical world. Ezili travels across time and space to influence the lives of three women—providing them with courage and strength.
Charlie Jane Anders
All the Birds in the Sky
Even if you’re not familiar with Charlie Jane Anders, you’ve probably heard of her books All the Birds in the Sky, The City in the Middle of the Night, or Victories Greater Than Death. Winner of the 2017 Nebula Award for Best Novel, All the Birds in the Sky is about a witch and a techno-geek who find each other when they’re kids after being shunned by other children for being “different.” The story follows their relationship, with a crumbling world serving as the backdrop.
In addition to being a science fiction and fantasy writer, Anders was also the founder and co-editor of io9—which she left in 2016 to focus on writing.
The Gilda Stories
In addition to being an author, poet, and playwright, Jewelle Gomez grew up involved in social and political movements—especially those relating to the African American community, which is reflected in her writing. She’s also been involved in lesbian feminist activism, and was a member of Conditions—a lesbian feminist literary magazine.
Her 1991 novel, The Gilda Stories, which was recently republished for its 25th anniversary, follows Gilda in 1850s Louisiana as she escapes slavery and learns about freedom at a brothel where she becomes a vampire. The novel won two Lambda Literary Awards in 1992, for Lesbian Scifi/Fantasy/Horror and Lesbian Fiction.
Stargate Atlantis: Homecoming
Melissa Scott is the winner of four Lambda Literary Awards in the Scifi/Fantasy/Horror category and is known for her science fiction novels that feature LGBT characters. Scott has written numerous stories, three of which are co-authored with her partner, Lisa A. Barnett.
One of her more popular novels is co-authored with Jo Graham—the first book in the Stargate Atlantis: Legacy series, Homecoming, which is based in the Stargate Atlantis universe.
British-American novelist Nicola Griffith is the winner of a Nebula Award, a World Fantasy Award, and six Lambda Literary Awards. After being forced to hide her sexuality as a young teenager, she eventually relocated from Leeds to Hull. There, Griffith found her first women’s community and was able to read feminist fiction.
Later on, she was accepted to Michigan State University’s Clarion Workshop where she studied amongst sci-fi and fantasy greats, including Kim Stanley Robinson and Samuel R. Delany. Her first novel, Ammonite, takes place on a planet in which a deadly virus has killed most of the original colonists and changed the survivors dramatically. When anthropologist Marghe Taishan arrives on the planet, hoping to test a new vaccine against the virus, she realizes that she may destroy the planet altogether.
Alex London is the author of the sci-fi young adult Proxy series. The series follows Syd who, as a proxy, is responsible for paying for someone else’s crimes. And when his patron Knox crashes a car and kills someone, Syd is held responsible. On the run to beat the system, the boys uncover a secret rebel society that tests everything they believe in. The Proxy series is notable for its gay main character, something that is not seen often enough in a YA dystopian/cyberpunk series.
Before he was a novelist, London was a journalist who reported from conflict zones and refugee camps.
Aiden Thomas made history with their debut 2020 novel Cemetery Boys, which landed on the New York Times YA hardcover bestseller list. At the time, Thomas wrote on Twitter, "This is the FIRST time a trans author with a trans book has made it onto the New York Times Best Sellers list! While I am BLOWN AWAY and SO GRATEFUL, it's 2020 and I should NOT have been the first — and I'm sure as hell NOT GOING TO BE THE LAST. TRANS FAM — KEEP WRITING!"
Cemetery Boys follows a trans Brujo who attempts to conjure his dead cousin, and instead summons the spirit of Julian, their high school’s former heartthrob bad boy.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
V.E. Schwab is the bestselling author of numerous fantasy series and standalone works, from the Shades of Magic saga to her recent novel The Invisible Life of Addie La Rue.
In a 2020 essay for Oprah Daily, Schwab wrote of herself, “You are 29, a bestselling author with a major platform, when you announce that you are gay. You did not want to, really, but you have begun to write queer characters, and people have begun to wonder if it’s your place, and so you claim it [...] looking back at your work, it has always been there, the versions of you that did not fit, that were not home inside their skin. Every single story with an outsider at its center, a person at odds with their world, who decides to escape, to change, sometimes themselves, sometimes everything else. You no longer need to hide your heroes."
You can read the powerful essay in its entirety here.
Yoon Ha Lee
Yoon Ha Lee has described himself as “trans, identifying as male, and I’m queer.” He is the Locus Award-winning author of Ninefox Gambit, the first book in his Machineries of Empire series, which is set in the intergalactic Hexarchate empire.
His book Phoenix Extravagant follows Gyen Jebi, a talented, nonbinary artist hired to paint magical sigils on the government’s enormous mecha warriors. But when Gyen discovers the extent of the government’s crimes, they realize they can no longer ethically be neutral. They’ll need to fight back, in the best way they know how.
Rivers Solomon is the Lambda Award-winning author of An Unkindness of Ghosts, The Deep, and Sorrowland. Rivers uses fae/faer and they/them pronouns, and describes faeself as "a dyke, an anarchist, a she-beast, an exile, a shiv, a wreck, and a refugee of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.”
Faer latest novel, Sorrowland, follows Vern, a pregnant woman who escapes a cult’s compound and takes refuge in the forest. Vern gives birth to twins, and resolves to raise them in the woods. As she protects her children, Vern recognizes that her own body, and the world she’s escaped into, are more complicated and capable of violence than she had thought.
Arthur C. Clarke
Arthur C. Clarke’s sexuality wasn’t something he was necessarily vocal about, but it wasn’t a secret, either. Clarke's friend Kerry O'Quinn wrote as much after Clarke’s death, stating, "Yes, Arthur was gay ... As Isaac Asimov once told me, 'I think he simply found he preferred men.' Arthur didn't publicize his sexuality – that wasn't the focus of his life – but if asked, he was open and honest."
The sci-fi Grand Master had romantic relationships with men throughout his life, and is buried next to Leslie Ekanayak, a man with whom he is thought to have had a relationship. In a 1986 interview with Playboy, when asked if he’d ever had “bisexual experiences,” Clarke had replied, "Of course. Who hasn’t? Good God! If anyone had ever told me that he hadn’t, I’d have told him he was lying [...] I don’t want to go into detail about my own life, but I just want it to be noted that I have a rather relaxed, sympathetic attitude about it.”
Queer characters were also notably represented in Clarke’s work, including his novels Rendezvous With Rama, Childhood’s End, 2010, and The Songs of Distant Earth.
Trans author and film critic Gretchen Felker-Martin’s 2022 novel, Manhunt, is post-apocalyptic horror that’s “fun as hell” (Torrey Peters) and “a modern horror masterpiece” (Carmen Maria Machado).
In the world of Manhunt, a virus has transformed men into zombie-like monsters. Beth and Fran, two trans women, must salvage estrogen from the testicles of these feral men. But the greatest danger the pair face isn’t the violent victims of the virus, but the armies of trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) taking over the East Coast.
Canadian author C.L. Polk, who uses they/them pronouns, came onto the speculative fiction scene in 2018 with Witchmark, their debut novel. It was nominated for Nebula, Locus, and Lambda Awards, and went on to win The World Fantasy Award. Witchmark is the first novel in the Kingston Cycle, an Ewardian gaslamp fantasy series that follows British witches and wizards as they learn to use their abilities.
Polk’s 2020 novel The Midnight Bargain is set in a Regency Era-esque world in which women’s magical powers are cut off when they marry. Beatrice has secret ambitions of becoming a magus, but is torn between her own desires and her obligations to her family. The novel was a contender in 2021’s Canada Reads, an annual celebration/competition of Canadian books.
Polk's upcoming novella, Even Though I Knew the End, is a sapphic fantasy noir that follows a private detective as she tracks down the infamous White City Vampire.
She Who Became the Sun
Shelley Parker-Chan, who uses she/they pronouns, is the author of the Radiant Empire duology. The first novel in the series, She Who Became the Sun, is historical fantasy set in 1345 China. It follows Zhu, a young girl who assumes her brother’s identity after his death to join a monastery. Eventually, Zhu becomes a force in the rebellion against Mongol rule, where she must learn whether she can measure up to the destiny she’s chosen for herself.
Parker-Chan, a former international diplomat, told The Geekiary they “wanted to write that kind of genderqueer character that I wasn’t finding anywhere else,” put those characters at the center of the story, and allow them to be undeniably victorious.
Chana Porter, who uses she/they pronouns, describes themselves as “a queer Jewish genderfluid alien grateful to be embodied in human form.”
In addition to her work as a playwright, their 2020 novel The Seep was a 2021 Lambda Literary Award. In a utopian, post-first-contact future, barriers and hierarchies have been destroyed by a force called ‘The Seep.’ But the transformative powers of The Seep lead to personal heartbreak when Trina’s wife, Deeba, elects to be reborn as an infant.
Sam J. Miller
Sam J. Miller writes sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, most of which he says is “gay as heck.”
His 2017 novel The Art of Starving won the Andre Norton Award for Best Young Adult Novel. His 2018 John W. Campbell Award-winning adult novel Blackfish City is a climate fiction story set on an Arctic island that’s suddenly visited by a mysterious, whale-riding woman.
Carmen Maria Machado
Her Body and Other Parties
Carmen Maria Machado is the author of celebrated short story anthology Her Body and Other Parties, and the genre-redefining memoir In the Dream House.
The latter depicts an abusive lesbian relationship, using speculative fiction tropes like fairy tales and dystopias to explore domestic abuse from a queer perspective that’s often overlooked.
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Featured photo: (From left to right) Charlie Jane Anders, Nicola Griffith, Samuel R. Delany, Joanna Russ, and Nalo Hopkinson via Wikipedia
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that "All the Birds in the Sky" won the Hugo, rather than the Nebula. The Portalist regrets the error.