The best speculative fiction books for dismantling the patriarchy

Corin Reyburn Author Of Binary Stars
By Corin Reyburn

Who am I?

I’m a non-binary, neurodivergent, queer speculative fiction writer who loves a good revolution story—whether that’s a quiet, personal revolution, or a big, explosive overthrowing of the 1%. These books have helped me create my own odd fictional worlds as well as space for my psyche to survive in. I wanted to represent a variety of perspectives here from writers who are subversive, LGBTQ, BIPOC, and, for lack of a better word, brave. As a university writing teacher, I believe that the written word holds power and drives us closer to a utopia, or at least towards a more colorful future community where all are welcome and supported.

I wrote...

Binary Stars

By Kristin Yuan Roybal, Corin Reyburn (editor),

Book cover of Binary Stars

What is my book about?

VV is a biosynthetic android facing accidental electronic enlightenment. Jensun is a bigender, translucent creature who almost remembers a time when his people, the Arkena, weren’t subjugated.

Soon after Jensun is placed under VV’s supervision at mTac—the agricultural facility that provides food for the entire planet of Vox—a global frost threatens to destroy their crops. The two of them must find a way to stop this cataclysm, but it sure would be easier if VV would stop updating themselves with illegal software causing them to malfunction, and quit flirting with Jensun. And although Jensun may grudgingly find VV’s quirky glitches cute, that superiority complex of theirs makes them stardamned difficult to work with. But as the climate worsens, they’ll have to cling to their commonalities and see past their differences.

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The books I picked & why

The Fifth Season

By N. K. Jemisin,

Book cover of The Fifth Season

Why did I love this book?

If you haven’t read the first book in N.K. Jemisen’s highly acclaimed Broken Earth trilogy yet, you’re in for one hell of a treat. The first book I’ve picked up in a long time that engaged me to this degree, Jemisen’s world-building is stellar, unique, and most importantly, she crafts a fantasy landscape largely devoid of your typical Western kingdom-and-its-merry-knights tropes. Unapologetically full of direct metaphors on issues of race and gender, this book is destabilizing in the best way—queer, feminist, and magical, literally—featuring an original, complex magic system rooted in nature and matriarchal power. Plus, the way the narrative is written trusts the intelligence of its reader and keeps you guessing.

By N. K. Jemisin,

Why should I read it?

21 authors picked The Fifth Season as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At the end of the world, a woman must hide her secret power and find her kidnapped daughter in this "intricate and extraordinary" Hugo Award winning novel of power, oppression, and revolution. (The New York Times)

This is the way the world ends. . .for the last time.

It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world's sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun. It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter. It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester.

This is the Stillness, a land…

Her Body and Other Parties: Stories

By Carmen Maria Machado,

Book cover of Her Body and Other Parties: Stories

Why did I love this book?

Machado’s provocative short story collection gives us a dark, kaleidoscopic whirlwind of tales, from women literally disappearing into dresses to fat removed from a liposuction procedure haunting a woman’s house. Machado mixes horror, erotica, and science fiction deftly on these pages, with sharp, delicious prose detailing narratives of women who are queer, fat, mentally ill, and will be seen. The patriarchy should quake in the wake of Machado’s bold and singular voice.

By Carmen Maria Machado,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Her Body and Other Parties as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'Brilliantly inventive and blazingly smart' Garth Greenwell

'Impossible, imperfect, unforgettable' Roxane Gay

'A wild thing ... covered in sequins and scales, blazing with the influence of fabulists from Angela Carter to Kelly Link and Helen Oyeyemi' New York Times

In her provocative debut, Carmen Maria Machado demolishes the borders between magical realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism. Startling narratives map the realities of women's lives and the violence visited on their bodies, both in myth and in practice.


Geek Love

By Katherine Dunn,

Book cover of Geek Love

Why did I love this book?

Geek Love subverts the American dream in the best and most disturbing way, outlining the “horror of normalcy” in a story about parents who run a carnival and literally breed their children to be circus freaks, from conjoined twins to a girl with a pig tail to Arturo the Aqua boy—complete with flippers. These children of the carnival take pride in their freakishness, in their unusual bodies, though the story takes increasingly dark twists and turns that will make you unable to put it down…I became so engrossed in it during my initial read that I stayed up till 3 a.m. to finish it…thoroughly captivated, horrified, and wanting more.

By Katherine Dunn,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Geek Love as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A National Book Award Finalist: This 'wonderfully descriptive' novel from an author with a 'tremendous imagination' tells the unforgettable story of the Binewskis, a carny family whose mater- and paterfamilias have bred their own exhibit of human oddities. (The New York Times Book Review)

The Binewskis arex a circus-geek family whose matriarch and patriarch have bred their own exhibit of human oddities (with the help of amphetamine, arsenic, and radioisotopes). Their offspring include Arturo the Aquaboy, who has flippers for limbs and a megalomaniac ambition worthy of Genghis Khan, Iphy and Elly, the lissome Siamese twins, albino hunchback Oly, and…

Too Much Flesh and Jabez

By Coleman Dowell,

Book cover of Too Much Flesh and Jabez

Why did I love this book?

The only male author on this list, Coleman Dowell’s Southern Gothic tale is included because it contains some of the most nuanced writing of female characters I’ve ever encountered. Too Much Flesh tells the narrative of a well-endowed farmer named Jim, his petite wife Effie, and a young man, Jabez, whose mutual obsession with Jim leads to, well, something of a frenetic climax. A story within a story, the tale is told to us by a “spinster schoolteacher” (the book was published in 1977), Miss Ethel, who channels her sexual repression into this story of the farmer.

Neither Miss Ethel nor Jim’s wife, Effie, come across as one-dimensional—they feel and act like real people on the page. Dowell himself was gay and deftly handles this queer narrative in a way that is somehow both quiet and stunning, and makes an interesting case study for the time period and genre. And although it’s not strictly speculative fiction, there is enough question of the realism of the story that I think allows for its inclusion here.

By Coleman Dowell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Too Much Flesh and Jabez as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Coleman Dowell's "Southern Gothic" is a novel about sexual repression. Miss Ethel, a spinster school teacher, decides to write what she calls a "perverse tale" about one of her former students, a Kentucky farmer named Jim Cummins. Endowing him with unnaturally large genitals, she spins a tawdry tale of his frustrated relationship with his petite wife. Expressing all the bitterness of "an old woman's revenge," Miss Ethel's tale is nonetheless a sensitive depiction of rural life in the early years of World War II.Dowell's masterful use of the tale-within-a-tale to explore psychological states makes "Too Much Flesh and Jabez" a…

Book cover of The Black Tides of Heaven

Why did I love this book?

As a fellow genderqueer/non-binary Asian writer, I’m happy to champion the first in Neon Yang’s Tensorate series. A YA novella set in a non-Western fantasy landscape, this book tackles issues of gender identity and choice head-on, introducing us to a society where children are referred to individually using they/them pronouns, and can select one of the binary genders when they come of age or chose to remain non-binary. We see the world through the eyes of twins Mokoya and Akeha as they come into their gender expressions and their powers in a feudal, monastic society largely reminiscent of those found in Asian history.

By Neon Yang,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Black Tides of Heaven as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Joyously wild stuff. Highly recommended." ―The New York Times

One of the 100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time, according to Time Magazine

A Finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards for Best Novella

The Black Tides of Heaven is one of a pair of unique, standalone introductions to Neon Yang's Tensorate Series, which Kate Elliott calls "effortlessly fascinating." For more of the story you can read its twin novella The Red Threads of Fortune, available simultaneously.

Mokoya and Akeha, the twin children of the Protector, were sold to the Grand Monastery as infants. While Mokoya developed her…

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Interested in the patriarchy, twins, and psychokinesis?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the patriarchy, twins, and psychokinesis.

The Patriarchy Explore 61 books about the patriarchy
Twins Explore 55 books about twins
Psychokinesis Explore 13 books about psychokinesis

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