5 Queer/Feminist Sci Fi Books for Summer (Slideshow)


Summer nights are perfect for stirring the imagination. Whether you’re camping beneath the stars or gathering on a rooftop to enjoy a dazzling fireworks display, it’s easy to let your mind wander to distant worlds and alien vistas. For book lovers, this means it’s time to indulge in some science fiction.

Say “sci fi” and many readers automatically think of classic authors like Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick and the late Ray Bradbury. While there’s no disputing the contribution made by these genre giants, science fiction (or speculative fiction, as it’s sometimes known in academic circles) includes as many different perspectives as there are planets in the universe. Here are a few of the best voices from the margins:


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Lilith’s Brood by Octavia E. Butler

After nuclear war ravages the earth, headstrong widow Lilith Iyapo awakens hundreds of years later aboard a bizarre alien spacecraft. She has been resurrected by the Oankali, a race that abhors violence and heals organic manner by manipulating genes within their own bodies. The Oankali have restored earth’s environment and Lilith has been chosen to lead the first colony of human survivors. But are the Oankali truly humanity’s rescuers or its captors? A startling discovery about the Oankali pits Lilith against her fellow humans — and her own children.

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Trouble on Triton: An Ambiguous Heterotopia by Samuel R. Delany

“Trouble on Triton: An Ambiguous Heterotopia” is a satirical, insightful look at class, race and gender roles through an imagined future utopia. Set against the background of intergalactic war, the story follows Bron Helstrom’s internal struggles with self and society, a conflict which ultimately leads him to change genders. A good introduction to Delany, who has contributed a strong queer voice to the sci fi genre.

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The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

Le Guin’s politically-charged novel tells of the lunar colony Anarres, a socialist utopia founded by the followers of philosopher-matriarch Odo. Anarres is a peaceful place without race, class or perceived differences in gender and sexual orientation. But as the colony ages, its residents begin to lose sight of their founding principles. Le Guin creates a nuanced, isolationist bureaucracy populated with thoughtful characters and cerebral conflicts, centered around the misfit physicist Shevek. Seeking knowledge, Shevek breaks the ultimate taboo — he visits the colonists’ home planet.

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The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

In the not-too-distant future, the United States has been dissolved and replaced by a terrifying right wing theocracy. Women have been stripped of their rights and freedoms, treated like possessions and assigned to various castes. For the women known as Handmaids, their identities have been reduced to breeding stock. They are impregnated by rich men, forced to carry the pregnancy to term and then to give up their babies to the father’s official wife. One Handmaid, Offred, narrates the history of this dystopia amid her own attempt to escape.

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The Female Man by Joanna Russ

One of the first openly gay writers in science fiction, Joanna Russ tells the story of four diverse characters in this classic novel: a 1970s feminist in our own reality, a librarian living in an alternate timeline where the Great Depression never ended, a woman from a future society inhabited only by other women and a strange female warrior on a planet where men and women are literally at war. As their stories intertwine, “The Female Man” cleverly explores gender identity, sexuality and the role of women in society.

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Md H.
Md H.5 years ago

Some science fiction is good why some is mediocre, but that's the same with any area of literature

Patricia H.
Patricia H.5 years ago

thanks for sharing

Lauren B.

Read all these many times! And what about Elizabeth Lynn?

char l.
Past Member 5 years ago

The late Jo Clayton belongs on this list, as well.

As far as the label "science fiction" goes, the space stuff, robot stuff - that's science fiction. The more societal plotted stories are better termed "speculative fiction", and that is exactly what I would call "A Handmaid's Tale". (Though it may turn out to be a prophecy instead of fiction if we can't turn this ship around...)

Claire M.
Claire M5 years ago

Everyone should read The Handmaid's Tale, and then realize just how close to its story some of our ultra conservatives speak in terms of their desired future.

Abbe A.
Azaima A5 years ago


RobynRobyn Brice
Robyn Vorsa5 years ago

The Handmaid's Tale is a modern classic.

Winn Adams
Winn A5 years ago


Duane B.
.5 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Sue H.
Sue H5 years ago

They all seem like good reads. I'm wondering why you felt the need to label them Queer/Feminist ?? A good read is a good read.