The best books that reimagine LGBTQIAP+ representation in fantasy/sci-fi

Michael Barakiva Author Of One Man Guy
By Michael Barakiva

Who am I?

I'm a queer guy who loves speculative fiction. That hasn't been easy. The Disney villains of my childhood were all some kind of horrible LGBTQIAP+ stereotype (Ursula from The Little Mermaid literally modeled after a drag queen. Gaston, the muscle queen. Jafar, the effeminate manipulator...the list goes on and on). I recently watched the first season of Vox slack-jawed: the only queer representation was an effeminate, over-weight, makeup-ed, middle-aged queen lusting after a much younger straight character. Like many writers in the last few years, I'm trying to re-imagine speculative fiction with an array of LGBTQIAP+ characters in my upcoming contemporary epic fantasy YA book These Precious Stones.


I wrote...

One Man Guy

By Michael Barakiva,

Book cover of One Man Guy

What is my book about?

Summer school, a cute boy, and overbearing Armenian parents―what’s a guy to do?

Alek Khederian was looking forward to a relaxing summer. But when his parents announce that he’ll be attending summer school in order to bring up his grades, Alek is sure this experience will be just as hellish as his freshman year of high school. But he never could’ve predicted that he’d meet someone like Ethan.

The books I picked & why

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Dreadnought

By April Daniels,

Book cover of Dreadnought

Why this book?

I agreed to do this list because I wanted to promote April’s book so much. Seriously. If I could recommend it in every slot I would. Trans superhero dealing with her rage and powers in an alternative USA where superheroes are real? Yes, please. The writing is like so good that sometimes I type chapters of this book as a warm-up (and writing procrastination technique). I re-read it as a treat to myself as a way of surviving the pandemic.   


Elatsoe

By Darcie Little Badger, Rovina Cai (illustrator),

Book cover of Elatsoe

Why this book?

I encountered Darcie on the Cerebro podcast (a homo and his friends discuss the X-Men) and I was so taken by her insights, smarts, and obvious understanding of what makes a story tick. Elatsoe delivered on every one of those promises. Not only do you learn a ton about indigenous mythology, but the complexity and profundity of the world make it a must-read. Images so vividly depicted you can see why she’s such a good comic book writer also.  


Proxy

By Alex London,

Book cover of Proxy

Why this book?

This is one of those books where you’re like – the premise couldn’t possibly be as good as the execution.  And yet it is. The dystopic world in which Sid has to take the punishment for all of Knox’s behavior is so rich and dark and delicious it resonates as a class critique of our own world without even having to try. It’s a knock-out debut, and I can’t wait to jump into London’s Black Wings Beating, which is next on my Kindle.


Luck in the Shadows

By Lynn Flewelling,

Book cover of Luck in the Shadows

Why this book?

You gotta give props to Flewelling, who wrote a fantasy series with queer male protags in 1996! Just imagine – before Will & Grace, before Queer as Folk, before gay marriage was even a thing, she had the courage to write this deeply moving spy espionage fantasy book and the relationship between the noble rogue Seregil and his mentee/lover Alec was basically what I used as a model for every romantic relationship in my life. Also, the protag in my first two books was named Alek. Coincidence? I think not.


The Chosen and the Beautiful

By Nghi Vo,

Book cover of The Chosen and the Beautiful

Why this book?

Great Gatsby told through the POV of Jordan Baker, a queer, adopted Asian magician? Seriously, if I could’ve come up with this premise and written it, I would’ve. This is the kind of magical debut novel that makes you feel hopeful about how old stories can be repurposed in the most fascinating of ways, creating a dialogue between the classical and the contemporary that makes the world feel like a wonderful place.


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