The best books in the emerging genre of neuroqueer speculative fiction

Why am I passionate about this?

My first passion, as a youngster, was speculative fiction—stories and comics that set the imagination ablaze with visions of wondrous possibilities and impossibilities. Later, my experiences of being queer, transgender, and autistic led me to an academic career in which I helped create the field of Neurodiversity Studies and something called Neuroqueer Theory (which is what you get when you mix Queer Theory and neurodiversity together and shake vigorously). These days I’m back to writing fiction, including the urban fantasy webcomic Weird Luck, and I’m thrilled to find myself part of an emerging wave of neuroqueer speculative fiction. Here are some of the best so far...


I wrote...

Neuroqueer Heresies: Notes on the Neurodiversity Paradigm, Autistic Empowerment, and Postnormal Possibilities

By Nick Walker,

Book cover of Neuroqueer Heresies: Notes on the Neurodiversity Paradigm, Autistic Empowerment, and Postnormal Possibilities

What is my book about?

Neuroqueer Heresies is a collection of my shorter writings on neurodiversity. In it, you’ll find: the series of influential articles I wrote between 2011 and 2016 which helped to shape the neurodiversity movement and the field of Neurodiversity Studies; new commentary, explaining how I came to write those articles and what’s changed since; a bunch of new, never-before-published pieces, inspired by the questions I’ve most frequently been asked in my years of leading classes and trainings on neurodiversity; and a brand-new, longer piece entitled “A Horizon of Possibility,” my definitive and accessible introduction to Neuroqueer Theory.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Hoshi and the Red City Circuit

Nick Walker Why did I love this book?

Autistic minds are uniquely suited to interface with 26th-century computers. Has this led society to appreciate autistic people? Of course not! Instead, they’ve been turned into a caste called Operators, enslaved computer programmers denied human rights. But this is starting to change, and recently-liberated Operator Hoshi Archer has a new life as a private investigator. Her latest case? A serial killer who’s ritually murdering Operators. Dora Raymaker vividly describes autistic experience in a way that no non-autistic writer could, and it was profoundly moving for me to read a book written from the viewpoint of a character whose sensory processing was so much like my own. On top of all this, Hoshi and the Red City Circuit is a gripping can’t-put-it-down detective thriller!

By Dora M. Raymaker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hoshi and the Red City Circuit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Due to their unique neurology, only the enslaved Operator caste can program the quantum computers that run 26th century Red City. When three of the caste are ritually murdered, it's up to private investigator Hoshi Archer—herself a recently liberated Operator—to help the police solve the case. Things get complicated when one of the victims turns out to be Hoshi's ex-girlfriend, and power-hungry bureaucrats and old rivals stir up new problems. An immortal, amoral alien may even be involved. To unwind the plot to take over the city, Hoshi must decipher a deadly computer program and learn to communicate with the…


Book cover of Wallflower Assassin

Nick Walker Why did I love this book?

Seriously, I’m not exaggerating, and I say this as someone who’s read all the works of Philip K. Dick: Wallflower Assassin is without exception the weirdest, wildest, most psychedelic, and gleefully anarchistic book it’s ever been my pleasure to encounter. Our narrator, Jack, has near-total amnesia, induced by a trauma he can’t remember (because amnesia). He’s stumbling randomly between alternate universes, stalked and manipulated by agents of the sinister Reality Patrol. Oh, and he’s not in his own body––his mind has somehow been transferred into the body of a deadly former Reality Patrol assassin named Max. And Max’s mind is still in there, too, disoriented and annoyed at Jack’s presence... And all of this only just begins to scratch the surface of how weird it gets.

By Andrew M. Reichart,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wallflower Assassin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Wallflower Assassin follows a confused killer on a kaleidoscopic journey through a series of half-familiar worlds. Uncertain of the cause of his chaotic interdimensional travels, fleeting hints from his uncanny intuition suggest he is at the mercy of some unseen foe. As he drifts between drug-hazed parties and scenes of horrific violence, he gradually pieces together parts of the scheme against him, until he uncovers the dreadful secret behind it all…. This second edition includes all-new original illustrations by Skinner, Michael Bukowski, Lenka Simeckova, Builtfromsketch, Brandon Kawashima, Euan Boyd, and Mike Bennewitz.


Book cover of The Outside

Nick Walker Why did I love this book?

The Outside is a gripping sci-fi novel with a queer autistic protagonist, written by an autistic author who perfectly conveys the flavor of autistic thinking. This one’s set far in the future, in a galaxy-spanning theocracy ruled by powerful artificial intelligences that have set themselves up as gods. Scientist Yasira Shien has developed a brilliant new energy drive. The problem? Turns out the drive taps into an extradimensional reality called the Outside, which, true to its name, exists outside ordinary spacetime—and which is capable of spilling over catastrophically into the material world. Highly original world-building blended with classic space opera. Compelling characters and a plot that had me hooked all the way. Oh, and it’s the first book in a trilogy!

By Ada Hoffmann,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Outside as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Autistic scientist Yasira Shien has developed a radical new energy drive on board The Pride of Jai that could change the future of humanity. But when she activates it, reality warps, destroying the space station and everyone left inside.

The Gods declare her work heretical, and Yasira is abducted by their agents. Instead of simply executing her, they offer mercy if she'll help them hunt down a bigger target: her mysterious, vanished mentor.

With her homeworld's fate in the balance, Yasira must choose who to trust: the Gods and their ruthless post-human angels, or the rebel scientist whose unorthodox mathematics…


Book cover of We Won't Be Here Tomorrow: And Other Stories

Nick Walker Why did I love this book?

Transgender anarchist author Margaret Killjoy’s collection of short speculative fiction stories, We Won’t Be Here Tomorrow, is a stark contrast to the dazzling high-tech fantasies and cinematic adventures of my first three recommendations. Most of these stories are set in disturbingly plausible and not-at-all-distant futures, and veer into the territories of dark fantasy, gritty dystopianism, and atomspheric horror. No interplanetary space opera here; Killjoy’s protagonists are earthbound, anarchistic outcasts and misfits struggling to survive on the edges of society or in society’s ruins, in worlds gone unfathomably strange. And Killjoy writes it all beautifully, with a clarity of description that often left me stunned by its simple poetic power. This one’s for you if you like your speculative fiction close to the bone.

By Margaret Killjoy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked We Won't Be Here Tomorrow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Death cults, queer love, and the end of everything.

 

Spaceships, man-eating lesbian mermaids, swords, spears, demons, ghouls, thieves, hitchhikers, and life in the margins. Margaret Killjoy’s stories have appeared for years in the science fiction and fantasy magazines both major and indie. Here, we have collected the best previously published work along with brand new material. Ranging in theme and tone, these imaginative tales bring the reader on a wild and moving ride. They’ll encounter a hacker who programs drones to troll CEOs into quitting; a group of LARPers who decide to live as orcs in the burned forests of…


Book cover of Liminal

Nick Walker Why did I love this book?

Okay, I’m bending the rules just a little bit here. We’re not supposed to include our own books on this list—and this isn’t my book, but I am one of the three co-editors. No list of essential neuroqueer fiction would be complete, though, without mention of the annual Spoon Knife neuroqueer lit anthology. Spoon Knife accepts fiction of all genres, plus some short memoir and poetry; anything goes, as long as the editors deem the content and style to be sufficiently neuroqueer (and each volume has a different team of editors). I picked Volume 5 for this list because it’s a volume that ended up including a lot of speculative fiction. Pieces by 24 authors, all wildly different from each other, each one a strange little neuroqueer gem.

By Andrew M. Reichart (editor), Dora M. Raymaker (editor), Nick Walker (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Liminal as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Tales of thresholds and transitions, entry points and crossings-over, states of in-betweenness, things that lurk at the edges of memory or awareness or reality. This fifth volume of the Spoon Knife neuroqueer lit anthology features mind-expanding, genre-bending work from 24 authors:Alice Beecher • Allyson Shaw • Alyssa Gonzalez • Alyssa Hillary • Amara George Parker • Andrew M. Reichart • Athena “Tina” Monday • Brett Gaffney • Brianna Bullen • Cody Goodfellow • Craig Laurance Gidney • David Robinson • Dora M. Raymaker • Jessica Goody • Lucas Scheelk • Margaret Killjoy • Nick Walker • Noley Reid • Orrin…


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Sea Change

By Darlene Marshall,

Book cover of Sea Change

Darlene Marshall Author Of Sea Change

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Romance Reader Regency Romance Fan History Buff SF & Fantasy Fan

Darlene's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

David Fletcher needs a surgeon, stat! But when he captures a British merchantman in the Caribbean, what he gets is Charley Alcott, an apprentice physician barely old enough to shave. Needs must, and Captain Fletcher takes the prisoner back aboard his ship with orders to do his best or he’ll be walking the plank.

Charley Alcott’s medical skills are being put to the test in a life-or-death situation, Charley’s life as well as the patient’s. Even if she can save the American privateer's brother there will still be hell to pay—and maybe a plank to walk—when Captain Fletcher learns Charley…

Sea Change

By Darlene Marshall,

What is this book about?

High Seas, #1

David Fletcher needs a surgeon, stat! But when he captures a British merchantman in the Caribbean what he gets is Charley Alcott, an apprentice physician barely old enough to shave. Needs must, and Captain Fletcher takes the prisoner back aboard his ship with orders to do his best, or he'll be walking the plank.

Charley Alcott's medical skills are being put to the test in a life-or-death situation, Charley's life as well as the patient's. Even if she can save the pirate's brother there will still be hell to pay--and maybe a plank to walk--when Captain Fletcher…


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