Because it’s a topic dear to my heart, today I’m returning to advocate in favour of more lesbianism. And as it happens, I’ve recently read a handful of novels that feature queer women in love—queer women in love where, within their science fictional or fantastic universes, this is an unremarkable, normal, ordinary part of the social and cultural background—and you know how much I enjoy that.
Ascension is a debut novel from an e-first imprint (Masque/Prime), due out in August of this year1. In it, author Jacqueline Koyanagi has given us an SFnal universe strongly flavoured by the mood of the working-class frontier. Alana Quick is a ship surgeon—a title which combines mechanic and engineer—who, along with her aunt, is barely getting by. Both of them suffer from chronic illness that quickly turns debilitating without access to medication. When a small independent ship comes looking for her sister—her wealthier, respectable-mystic sister—Alana seizes the opportunity it presents. Unfortunately for her, the ship she’s just chosen to stow away on has problems of its own, and neither captain nor crew are in any hurry to trust her.
Ascension has its flaws, and it’s clearly inspired by Firefly. But its characters are vivid and its pacing lively, and I am definitely in favour of more science fiction featuring lesbians, polyamory, and people with disabilities.
I’m on the fence about the lesbian romances of Cathy Pegau, Rulebreaker and Deep Deception (out of Carina Press): while advertised as skiffy, Pegau’s work lacks the eyeball-kick and techno-social worldbuilding I’ve come to expect in my science fiction. (Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.) They’re perfectly cromulent romances with imperfectly integrated thriller/mystery subplots, set in a “future” and on a planet that looks remarkably like a cross between the modern US and the late nineteenth century American frontier. Still, lesbians. Having relationships. One takes what one can get…
And sometimes what one can get is Barbara Ann Wright’s For Want of A Fiend (Bold Strokes Books), the sequel to 2012’s The Pyramid Waltz. The Pyramid Waltz was a lesbian fantasy romance whose happy ending got knotted up with magic and politics: For Want of A Fiend poses the question of what comes after the happy ending? Politics, magic, and national upheaval, of course. This is a flawed novel, whose worldbuilding is a bit naïve and whose structure is a little rough—and it rather stops instead of ending, although I hear the next installment is already in progress—but it’s not noticeably rougher than the majority of the midlist, and the normalising of queer relationships tilts the scales in its favour. I like Wright’s characters, and the central conceit of a noble royal family needing to keep a demon at the heart of their realm bound… it’s appealing.
This is, alas, too short a list for me to be filled with joy. Because I’m impossible to satisfy: give me one decent book featuring a lesbian relationship in a central role and I want five more. No, wait, TEN MORE.
So tell me about those books, people. Tell me where they are.
1In the interests of full disclosure: I’m one of Masque Books’ slush readers. Due to how Ascension was acquired, however, the first time I saw it was as an ARC directed to my attention as a reviewer.