SF/F books that feature lesbians as main characters?
July 12, 2010 6:02 AM   Subscribe

Please help me find fantasy and science fiction books that feature lesbians as main characters.

They need to specifically be fantasy and science fiction, although within that constraint anything else goes. I have already found some recent books by Jane Fletcher, L-J Baker, and Shea Godfrey that fit the bill, as well as Nicola Griffith's work in the 90's and some classic fare such as When It Changed by Joanna Russ, but I need to find a good deal more. Work you can recommend as being good is a huge plus.
posted by kyrademon to Writing & Language (43 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Though it is a YA series, Daja from the Circle of Magic series (and later, the Circle Opens) by Tamora Pierce is lesbian. Daja's a good character, but it bothered me that she was the most "butch" of the three girls depicted (one works with thread and sewing, one works with weather, and one is a blacksmith. Guess which one is the lesbian...).
posted by ChuraChura at 6:07 AM on July 12, 2010

At the moment I can only think of two: Gossamer Axe by Gael Baudino, and either The Dancers of Arun or The Northern Girl by Elizabeth Lynn. I'm afraid I don't have copies of the latter two to check which one fits the bill.

You might want to see if you can track down any of Baudino's other books, since I believe most of her work features gay and lesbian characters. It's been years since I read any of them, though, so I could be wrong about that.
posted by Janta at 6:18 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

There's Elizabeth Bear's Jacob's Ladder trilogy that starts with Dust and continues with Chill. The final book, Grail, comes out next February.
posted by lilac girl at 6:23 AM on July 12, 2010

SM Striling's Island In The Sea Of Time series.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 6:34 AM on July 12, 2010

I also was going to mention Gossamer Axe, which I thought was absolutely awful but in a fun way. It was very fanfic-y, as if someone said to themselves, "I love rock music, and Celts, and magic, and lesbians ... oooh, I'm totally going to write a book where all those things are AWESOME!" (Apparently I am in a minority, amazon reviewers mostly love it.)

In "Circle of Magic" (which I really enjoyed), I believe Lark and Rosethorn, the children's "housemothers" are also lesbian.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:40 AM on July 12, 2010

Tavore Paran from Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen series . . . though here acceptance of the character's lover being female is pretty much universal, it's not really presented as a major plot element in itself. Same-sex relations in Erikson's fantasy seem to all be presented in this matter-of-fact way - not sure if this mismatches what you're looking for.
posted by protorp at 6:47 AM on July 12, 2010

Perido St Station by China MiƩville has a lesbian character, Derkhan Blueday. She's not the absolute main character but there are chapters from her perspective.
posted by jzed at 6:52 AM on July 12, 2010

Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy - Not strictly lesbian per se, but great gender/intersex themes.
posted by wowbobwow at 6:59 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Women On Fire series by Plaidder has a lesbian protagonist (both the pro and the con is that there's no real publisher, it's just a zip file--but it's still good). There are some sample chapters on the website.
posted by phoenixy at 7:00 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Lesbian? Not entirely clear, but "Houston, Houston, Do You Read" by James Tiptree Jr. (aka Alice B. Sheldon), is about a cloned female society - no men.
posted by plinth at 7:01 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's been some time since I read most of these, but in addition to Nicola Griffith I am remembering:

- Melissa Scott - Dreamships, Dreaming Metal, Trouble and Her Friends, and maybe Night Sky Mine as well (she has many others I haven't read, but these are ones I read and liked)
- Geoff Ryman's The Child Garden
- Joanna Russ's 70s classic The Female Man (intense literary 1970s radical feminist sf)
- John Varley's Titan series (Titan, Wizard, Demon) - sf, despite the titles

These are all books I enjoyed a lot.

You might also look through the Lambda award winners.
posted by aught at 7:03 AM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Ursula K. LeGuin's The Telling
posted by dinty_moore at 7:08 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, and Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett is a bit more subtexty / genderqueer but the implication is there.

Also for those that haven't seen it, Nicola Griffith's latest short story It Takes Two was pretty awesome.

Also also, I found this blog recently which you might find of interest: I'm going to Krackenburg ("In December of 2009, I resolved to read at least 54 books that were either a: works of science fiction by female authors, or b: not in English. ")
posted by jzed at 7:11 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

oops messed up the link
posted by jzed at 7:13 AM on July 12, 2010

StarShipSofa had an awesome story by Nicola Griffin a while back (pdf version)... based on that she may be worth checking out.
posted by Artw at 7:18 AM on July 12, 2010

Or what jzed said...
posted by Artw at 7:18 AM on July 12, 2010

Oh! Also, Breathmoss, available on the internet, featuring a society where polygamous lesbian relationships are the norm.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:19 AM on July 12, 2010

Mercedes Lackey's fantastical series (I was too young to figure it out when I first came across them ;p) but all her books have this undercurrent

An interesting alternative is also the Ursula K Le Guin's Left Hand of Darkness for its look at gender in an unusual manner
posted by infini at 7:25 AM on July 12, 2010

Daughters of the North, by Sarah Hall (originally released in Britain as The Carhullan Army). Dystopian near-future, but I'd count it as SF.

Are Buffy comics too obvious, or not enough of a true book for you? There's the Season 8 series, and the Willow-Tara "Wannablessedbe" one-off.
posted by sigmagalator at 7:49 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Look through the Tiptree Award winners. "Lesbian" is...let's say more specific than what you'll typically find there, but it's good stuff. I love Black Wine, which won in 1997, and the author's other novel, A Paradigm of Earth.
posted by clavicle at 7:58 AM on July 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

I love Black Wine, which won in 1997, and the author's other novel, A Paradigm of Earth.

In case clavicle doesn't come back to mention the author's name for Black Wine and A Paradigm of Earth, it's Candace Jane Dorsey.

I recommend them both too.
posted by aught at 8:24 AM on July 12, 2010

Best answer: This list might help; personally I recommend Octavia Butler.
posted by obliquicity at 8:28 AM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

In young adult, check out ASH by Malinda Lo. It's a retelling of Cinderella in which she falls for the huntress instead of the prince.
posted by changeling at 8:38 AM on July 12, 2010

This is perhaps a bit of a minor spoiler, but Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey. I loved the book, and a little bit of my love for it is for this aspect of it (which was unexpected). It's very light sci-fi, but I feel does very much belong in that category.
posted by quirks at 9:10 AM on July 12, 2010

Battlestar Galactica (the newer version) has a relationship between two important, though not really "main" characters, in the second season (explored in a movie called Razor that aired between the second and third seasons). Certainly great TV, although I remember hearing some gay/lesbian bloggers were not really happy with the portrayal. I personally (as a straight person) thought the relationship was just as healthy as most others on the show, which is to say, not very.
posted by lunasol at 9:24 AM on July 12, 2010

Sorry, my wording was a bit confusing. The two characters in the relationship are women. They are important to the action of the second season, though the relationship is not explored until Razor.

Shouldn't post before I've had coffee.
posted by lunasol at 9:26 AM on July 12, 2010

Oh, and you said "books." Goddamit.

/goes to make coffee.
posted by lunasol at 9:27 AM on July 12, 2010

How about Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series? Specifically, the Renunciates books. (Even more specifically, I'd dis-recommend the third one.)

It's about a band of women warriors, several of whom are lesbians and all of whom are definitely devoted to their fellow women. The main character starts out married to a man but then ends up romantically involved with one of the Renunciates; I can't recall whether there are any explicit identity declarations, but it's, you know, very YAY WOMEN POWER RAH RAH FEMINISM. I liked it, but I think it depends on how much lesbian feminism is palatable to you (and how much you like MZB's writing in general). It also ought to make sense without having read the rest of Darkover.
posted by sineala at 9:32 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

What do you guys think, would The Gate to Women's Country by Sheri Tepper count? The men do impregnate but wives are women
posted by infini at 10:01 AM on July 12, 2010

2nding Trouble and Her Friends by Melissa Scott; the two main characters are lesbian ex-lovers. I remember liking it as a gritty cyberpunk romp years ago.
posted by mediareport at 10:23 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

I liked, the Steel Remains
, which is told from the viewpoint of three characters, one being a lesbian. She's not the most prominent character, but she plays a fairly significant role.
posted by kylej at 10:33 AM on July 12, 2010

The Gaea Trilogy (Titan, Wizard, Demon) by John Varley has a major lesbian character. Not the mainest main character, but she's pretty important. It's been a while since I read the series, but I also seem to recall that the female-only "coven" was a lesbian community (sort of a minor plot point, and comes late in the series, though).
posted by Quietgal at 10:35 AM on July 12, 2010

IIRC - Fortunate Fall by Raphael Carter.
posted by cindywho at 11:25 AM on July 12, 2010

Janta: "and either The Dancers of Arun or The Northern Girl by Elizabeth Lynn. I'm afraid I don't have copies of the latter two to check which one fits the bill."

_The Northern Girl_ has lesbians. _Dancers of Arun_ has gay men in it, and the main relationship in the book is...challenging. They are part of the same series, all of which are worth reading.
posted by QIbHom at 11:53 AM on July 12, 2010

In Fire Logic by Laurie Marks, lesbian sex saves the world!

Nicola Griffith's books Ammonite and Slow River... oh, right, you mentioned those. Still, I might as well leave the links.
posted by asperity at 1:27 PM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was never quite clear what was going on in the Renunciates third book. Both Magda and Jaelle marry the same dude at different times, then are legally an official couple while still having babydaddies father their kids, and Magda is still involved with Camilla... wha?

Jacqueline Carey tends to feature a lot of bi women in the Kushiel/Naamah series (hardly anyone seems to prefer one gender only). I particularly liked the relationships the main character had with women in Naamah's Kiss, even though she's equally as involved with men too at other times.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:51 PM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

How about Sally M Gearhart's lesbian separtist classic The Wanderground?
posted by tallus at 1:57 PM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Someone mentioned Nicola Griffith, but don't forget her partner, Kelley Eskridge.

The Tiptree list is an excellent resource.
posted by sdn at 5:52 PM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Hadra books by Diana Rivers. Don't know how easy it is to find the earlier ones.

The Emoria books by Mindancer (C.A. Casey).

Banshee's Honor by Shaylynn Rose.

Iron Rose Bleeding by Anne Azel.

Meghan Brunner's Faire Folk books.

Alex Mykals' Adeptus books. Two have been published; I think three have been written.

And although it hasn't been published (yet), I recommend Fletcher DeLancey's Without a Front.
posted by worldswalker at 6:38 PM on July 12, 2010

jzed: "Perido St Station by China MiƩville has a lesbian character, Derkhan Blueday. She's not the absolute main character but there are chapters from her perspective."

Depending on what aspect of lesbianism you're after - It also has an entire race, the khepri, who mate with males for procreation but make love with females for pleasure.
posted by Gordafarin at 9:31 PM on July 12, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! This has been tremendously helpful.
posted by kyrademon at 5:42 AM on July 13, 2010

Mercedes Lackey has several books with gay / lesbian protagonists. If I recall correctly the Vows and Honor trilogy's main characters are lesbians.
posted by rjs at 10:35 AM on July 13, 2010

Mercedes Lackey did indeed feature lesbian and gay characters in many of her books, but Vows and Honor feature heterosexual warrior women. (None of her books have a lesbian as a main character.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 2:16 PM on July 19, 2010

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