Jun 11 2013 11:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: Yes, I’m Talking About SFF Lesbians In Love Again

Alana Quick Ascension Jacqueline Koyanagi Scott GimandoBecause 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.

Liz Bourke needs to read faster. Her blog. Her twitter.

Robert H. Bedford
1. RobB
Ascension looks to have quite a bit going for it. The book (and the awesome cover) first came to my attention on Aidan Moher's blog.
Christopher Bennett
2. ChristopherLBennett
Not sure this is exactly what you're looking for, but my Tor novel Only Superhuman features a romantic subplot between two bisexual women, one of whom is the book's main character. And it's definitely treated as an unremarkable, normal part of the culture. I tried to avoid using labels like "lesbian" or "heterosexual" or whatever -- I figured that the culture would just take it for granted that different people have their own individual sexual tastes along a continuum and wouldn't see any need to divide humanity into formal categories on that basis.
Albert Clay
3. alclay
It's been a while since I last read it, but Trouble and Her Friends by Melissa Scott might be a suitable example.
4. juanito
The first Kushiel trilogy (Dart, Chosen, Avatar) heavily featured the relationship between Melisandre and Phedre. Um, they mostly just fuck and play games of court intrigue and murder... and they both end up marrying dudes (or something similar to it). But there was this whole subtext that they both took inordinate risks (the stakes being regime change, assassination, war, etc) and showed degrees of vulnerability otherwise hidden due to some degree of love between the two.

I dunno... does that count?
Colleen Palmer
5. arianrose
juanito @4 - The third trilogy (Namaah's ) features a love story between two bisexual women, and there is a rather satisfying emotional component to it.

That's fantasy, however, so may not apply here. It's also not THE central relationship.
Robert H. Bedford
7. RobB
I think you may have read T.C. McCarthy's Germline, but have you tried the second installment, Exogene? The book is written from the perspective of a genetically engineered/synthesized female super-soldier who is programmed with the idea she's killing for god.
8. Tim Noyce
Rule 34 by Charles Stross has several gay characters, the main protagonist inspector Kavenaugh being lesbian. The sexuality of the cast is varied and plays off the problems they face with intelligent spam robots and rampant digital printing creating new forms of pornography.
Jessica E. Subject
9. jsubject
I have two lesbian sci-fi romance short stories, Unknown Futures and Never Gonna Desert You.
~Jessica E. Subject
10. Lindsay Taylor
J. A. Pitts has the Sarah Beauhall books Black Blade Blues, Honeyed Words and Forged in Fire that feature a lesbian protagonist and her girlfriend as well as at least one other lesbian couple.

A. M. Dellamonica's brilliant Indigo Springs and Blue Magic have a lesbian relationship gone bad as a central plot point, although the main character is bisexual.

I'm also a big fan of L-J Baker's books and I particularly recommend Adijan and her Genie and Broken Wings. Adijan is a brilliant Arabian Nights style story with a flawed lesbian protagonist and Broken Wings creates a fascinating take on a faerie world (as in Tinkerbell type faeries) that's a lesbian romance as well as looking at the treatment of LGBT people across international borders.
11. Rachel Neumeier
If you don't mind branching out from SFF, then you might try THE BLUE PLACE by Nicola Griffith, if you haven't read it already. It's more a mystery/thriller, but it's more a character- and relationship-driven story than a plot-driven story. It's the first book of a wonderful trilogy; the whole trilogy is fantastic; my favorite is actually the second.
Liz Bourke
12. hawkwing-lb
Rachel Neumeier @11:

I've read Griffith's non-SFnal work: it is indeed a delight. With this post I was trying to stick to recent/forthcoming SFF, though. :)
13. Mely
Have you tried Tenea Johnson's Smoketown? I haven't read it, but it looks like it fits your criteria.
James Nicoll
14. JamesDavisNicoll
There's a lesbian romance in the misleadingly named Bodacious Space Pirates but it's between supporting characters Jenny and Lynn rather than involving the protagonist. Does drive a couple of episodes, though.
15. Susan Gabriel
Outstanding post. There's definitely not enough lesbian SFFR. Oh, there seems to be a lot if you're looking for erotic/erotica, and some of it's quite excellent. But just a adoring efforts or adoring elements? Challenging to find.The excellent top high high quality of content is excellent and the conclusion is good. i will follow this weblog. maintain up the excellent function.Susan Gabriel
16. Aine
Have you checked out Nora Olsen's Swans and Klons, a lesbian YA novel set in a world without men, where being queer isn't the problem, exploitation of clones is?

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