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Gay Science Fiction

Science Fiction as a genre was not originally sexual—in fact, by some standards it was a bit puritanical. And, Sci Fi was definitely oriented toward a male audience. However, in the last several decades Sci Fi has evolved and it has embraced the possibilities speculative fiction offers, meaning authors of Sci Fi can, and do, create new cultures with imagined genders, different sexual relationships, different social structures surrounding sex, and even completely different sexual acts. Gay, lesbian, bi are terms that are relevant in the current cultural moment for humans on Earth. Sci Fi takes place in the future and speculates alien worlds where the cultural norms are different, so these terms may not be used in the book, but these identities are still a part of the story.

There are two general approaches to Gay and Lesbian Sci Fi. The first is to feature characters who are homosexuals. The second is to create world that is dominated by homosexuality—in this instance, the characters are not necessarily homosexual. These are generalizations and when stories begin to involve alien worlds and species, the stories, development of social norms, and gender politics tend to get more interesting and complicated.

Other Features of Gay Science Fiction

  • Level of Real Science

    Variable. This sub-genre is not defined by the type and depth of science it features. It is defined by its social and cultural constructs. Authors are free to decide how much real science they want to include.

  • Level of Grand Ideas/Social Implications

    High. Oh you better believe it. Even including a character who is homosexual evokes social commentary—and generally speaking the stories that are identified as Gay or Lesbian Sci Fi do far more than casually reference non-heterosexuality. Sci Fi is a genre that pushes boundaries, especially social ones so it's no surprise that Sci Fi has a sub-genre that explores sexuality—the bigger surprise is that it doesn't do it more.

  • Level of Characterization

    High. In this sub-genre characters are nuanced, they have depth, and there is diversity, which makes for an interesting and engaging cast of characters.

  • Level of Plot Complexity

    Variable. Because this sub-genre is at its best when its character driven and time is spent on world-building plot may take a bit of a backseat—but it doesn't always and it doesn't have to.

  • Level of Violence

    Variable. Gay and Lesbian Sci Fi isn't inherently violent, but violence is possible depending on the story the author wishes to tell.

Related Science Fiction subgenres

  • Erotica Science Fiction. They're both about sex, and you can absolutely have Erotica that is gay or lesbian—they are natural complements.

  • Social Science Fiction. Much of Gay and Lesbian Sci Fi is also Social Sci Fi because it offers commentary on social norms and gender politics.

Popular Gay Science Fiction Books
  • 1 A Door Into Ocean

    By Joan Slonczewski. Part of the Elysium Cycle, this novel features an ocean world populated by women who have developed their society based on life sciences and sharing. The culture and biology of the world are well developed.

  • 2 The Female Man

    By Joanna Russ. The book intertwines the lives of four women who live in parallel worlds—when they meet it is their views on gender roles that startle one another.

  • 3 Triton

    By Samuel R. Delany. Also called Trouble on Triton: An Ambiguous Heterotopia, this novel is about utopian society at war with our own Earth and explores gender roles and sexual expectations.

  • 4 Holdfast Chronicles

    By Suzy McKee Charnas. Holdfast is a post-apocalyptic world with a community of white men who blame the disaster on women, liberals, and persons of color—most of whom are dead. There are a few white women left though, who are needed for breeding. Breeding for the men is a duty, not a pleasure.

  • 5 The Fortunate Fall

    By Raphael Carter. The narrator of this novel is a whale in a technological future society. There is no privacy, not even your own thoughts, and homosexuality is a crime.

  • 6 The Lefthand of Darkness

    By Ursula K. LeGuin. So what happens when humans are hermaphroditic until they're in heat? A classic of Sci Fi.

  • 7 The Gumshoe, the Witch, and the Virtual Corpse

    By Keith Hartman In this debut novel that crosses genres with a bit of wit and flair, society has fragmented (Wicca, Native, Baptist, etc.) and the gay gene has been found, and interestingly enough all young gays are Catholic. Features 11 narrators.

  • 8 China Mountain Zhang

    By Maureen F. McHugh. This award winning novel is set in a 22nd century that is dominated by Communist China. In a world where deviance is punished by exile to a Martian colony, the protagonist is gay.

  • 9 The Dark Light Years

    By Brian Aldiss. This comedic novel asks the question: just what does it mean to be civilized? It features gay characters and gender-shifting aliens.

  • 10 2312

    By Kim Stanley Robinson. Society has spread across the solar system. The society is nonbinary and gender and sexuality are thought of fluidly. In this year, 2312, a sequence of events will force humanity to confront its past, present, and future.