Queer Space Adventures that are Out Of This World
Who doesn’t love a good space adventure, amirite? They’ve always got the best elements of storytelling: character, community, and a problem to solve. And to some extent they’ll even have a bit of fun! (Some more than others.)
In the modern era, we’ve got two key archetypes of what makes a space adventure: Hard Science Fiction (AKA Star Trek) and Space Opera (AKA Star Wars). Hard Sci Fi digs into the details of space travel and interplanetary communications, often exploring concepts of colonization and consumption. The space adventures in these stories often include quieter battles, often including one group or person addressing some element of people’s lives that could change for the better. Think Lilith’s Brood or The Martian. Space Opera, on the other hand, is Fantasy In Space. The science is a little wobbly, there are galactic monarchies and empires, and the battle is against the Big Bad who might be oppressing all beings across many galaxies. We’re talking Dune elements of grandeur. There are people who like one or the other; but both are pretty awesome, and there are some great people doing super interesting things in the sci-fi world.
And then, you make it queer, and nothing else matters, because that’s the best thing an author can do to make their story even more attractive. (If they’re doing it right and respectfully, obviously. And works by queer authors are often going to feel more authentic than those that aren’t by queer authors, but there’s still some fun to be had. Wait and see.) The queerness of a space adventure doesn’t have to involve a romantic relationship between central characters, but sometimes that makes it all the more fun — well, for me anyway.
No matter what kind of queer space adventure you might be looking for, you should find something worth your while in this list!
The 5th Gender by G.L. Carriger
Tristol lives on a human space station, even though he himself is not human. He mostly spends his time people-watching and admiring a handsome human detective. When a ship of beings from a reclusive and xenophobic society dock at the station, hoping to get help to solve a murder — an event that is so rare to them, they don’t even have a word for it — he and the detective have to work together to figure it out…because Tristol is one of them.
The Kindred by Alechia Dow
Joy and Felix are Kindred. They have a mental bond that only they share, which gives them an intimacy like no other. And yet, they’ve never met. Joy is a commoner and Felix a royal; their pairing is a societal norm but their love for each other is not. When the pair end up having to escape their planet due to an assassination attempt, they find themselves stuck on Earth.
The Genesis of Misery by Neon Yang
In Misery’s world, their special power could indicate that one is a saint or in danger of going voidmad. They have that power, and are not certain which direction their mind will go, especially since their mother has already been taken by the madness. But when two warring factions want to use Misery as their pawn, they must figure out how to survive with their mind intact.
Escaping Exodus by Nicky Drayden
Some might tell you that this is an exciting interstellar love story between two women of different castes. Others might say this is a very…gooey story. Both would be right. These two women are both part of a society that inhabits a somewhat alive beast that can carry them across space. They use the beast’s resources and then move on to the next beast. (They are basically a human sized virus, I guess?) But things don’t always go as planned.
Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston
Who wants a space heist with found family that is also a retelling of the Dreamworks Anastasia? Because that’s what this book (and the second in the duology, Soul of Stars) will give you. Ana is an orphan whose oldest friend is an android named D-9. She’s part of a ragtag space family who doesn’t always participate in legal galactic activities. But this is Anastasia, so of course, there’s lots of other stuff happening.
The Citadel of Weeping Pearls by Aliette de Bodard
This novella is one of many set in de Bodard’s Universe of Xuya, and is full of all the things that she does best. There is the titular citadel, which has vanished. There is time travel, in which an engineer seeks to go back to the height of its power. There is imperial intrigue and personal drama. There is the bigger universe and the need for interpersonal communication. It’s not very long but really firmly establishes this piece of Xuya.
August Kitko and the Mechas from Space by Alex White
There are space robots coming to destroy humanity and the world has decided to go out with a bang. And in Gus Kitko’s case, that banging happens on a piano. But one of the mechas that was supposed to kill him saves him instead. Now it’s just Gus and the space robots, off to save humanity.
On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
If you’re into graphic novels, this one is a thick-but-quick story in two timelines of a pair of teenagers trying to work out where they belong and who they are. It’s a combination of coming-of-age, found family, mystery, and adventure story, and I promise you’re going to cry.
An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
The HSS Matilda is a vessel organized like the Old South when it comes to rank and class. Aster is one of the lowest ranking people there, among the darker-skinned sharecroppers treated like less than human, and is in the newest of many generations of people whose lives have been imposed upon in this way. The last of humanity is all trapped together on the way to the Promised Land…which probably doesn’t exist? I don’t know, it’s all very dark and depressing, which is a different tone from most of the books on this list.
Queer space adventures can be exciting and ridiculous, or darker and heartbreaking. Or somewhere in the middle. The main characters’ (or their friends’, family’s, and societal) gender and sexual identities could have a central purpose and connection to the story, or they could instead inform their personality and actions without being the story. They could be Important Stories or a fun romp across the galaxies. Either way, we love them to the Moon and back.