9+ Exciting Sapphic Sci-Fi & Fantasy Stories To Read in Celebration of Lesbian Visibility Week
In 2020, Linda Riley created Lesbian Visibility Week (itself an expansion of Lesbian Visibility Day, founded in 2008) for more time to discuss the L in LGBTQ+. While “gay” has become the shorthand for the LGBTQ+ community at large, lesbian and queer women also get caught up in hateful backlash and legislation. In an opinion for The Advocate, she wrote:
I am a proud cis lesbian and a proud trans ally. But many in the LGBTQ+ community were beginning to equate cis lesbians with transphobes, which is fundamentally untrue. I wanted to help create a narrative that shows once and for all that the vast majority of cis lesbians are inclusive. We are intersectional. We want to remove any negative connotations associated with that word. So this is why during Lesbian Visibility Week, we celebrate and center all lesbians, both cis and trans, while also showing solidarity with all LGBTQ+ women and nonbinary people.
In celebration of this week and her vision for it, I’ve put together a list of sapphic science fiction and fantasy (SFF) books and graphic novels. Coming from the Greek poet Sappho (born on the island of Lésbos), “sapphic” is shorthand for attraction between women. Many of these stories were written (and illustrated) by cis women and included cis-lesbian romances. However, books by trans writers and artists are also included.
Please note that these SFF stories including sapphic characters and romance subplots means that, to a degree, this veers into spoilers (depending on the book). We just won’t tell you how it ends, which varies from story to story.
The Seep by Chana Porter
A blend of searing social commentary and speculative fiction, Chana Porter’s fresh, pointed debut explores a strange new world in the wake of a benign alien invasion.
Trina FastHorse Goldberg-Oneka is a fifty-year-old trans woman whose life is irreversibly altered in the wake of a gentle–but nonetheless world-changing–invasion by an alien entity called The Seep. Through The Seep, everything is connected.
Capitalism falls, hierarchies and barriers are broken down; if something can be imagined, it is possible.Trina and her wife, Deeba, live blissfully under The Seep’s utopian influence–until Deeba begins to imagine what it might be like to be reborn as a baby, which will give her the chance at an even better life. Using Seeptech to make this dream a reality, Deeba moves on to a new existence, leaving Trina devastated.
Heartbroken and deep into an alcoholic binge, Trina follows a lost boy she encounters, embarking on an unexpected quest. In her attempt to save him from The Seep, she will confront not only one of its most avid devotees, but the terrifying void that Deeba has left behind. A strange new elegy of love and loss, The Seep explores grief, alienation, and the ache of moving on.
Heathen (Vol. 1-3) by Natasha Alterici
Exiled from her village for kissing another woman, viking warrior, Aydis, sets out to destroy the god-king Odin, and end his oppressive reign. Along the way she is joined by mermaids, immortals, Valkyries, and the talking horse, Saga.
WOMAN. WARRIOR. VIKING. OUTCAST. THE GODS MUST PAY.Aydis is a viking, a warrior, an outcast, and a self-proclaimed heathen. Aydis is friend to the talking horse Saga, rescuer of the immortal Valkyrie Brynhild, and battler of demons and fantastic monsters. Aydis is a woman. Born into a time of warfare, suffering, and subjugation of women, she is on a mission to end the oppressive reign of the god-king Odin.
The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz
1992: After a confrontation at a riot grrl concert, seventeen-year-old Beth finds herself in a car with her friend’s abusive boyfriend dead in the backseat, agreeing to help her friends hide the body. This murder sets Beth and her friends on a path of escalating violence and vengeance as they realize many other young women in the world need protecting too.
2022: Determined to use time travel to create a safer future, Tess has dedicated her life to visiting key moments in history and fighting for change. But rewriting the timeline isn’t as simple as editing one person or event. And just when Tess believes she’s found a way to make an edit that actually sticks, she encounters a group of dangerous travelers bent on stopping her at any cost.
Tess and Beth’s lives intertwine as war breaks out across the timeline–a war that threatens to destroy time travel and leave only a small group of elites with the power to shape the past, present, and future. Against the vast and intricate forces of history and humanity, is it possible for a single person’s actions to echo throughout the timeline?
Moonstruck (Vol. 1 – 3) by Grace Ellis and Shae Beagle
Werewolf barista Julie and her new girlfriend go on a date to a close-up magic show, but all heck breaks loose when the magician casts a horrible spell on their friend Chet. Now it’s up to the team of mythical pals to stop the illicit illusionist before it’s too late.
The first chapter of the brand new, all-ages magical coffee-laden adventure from Lumberjanes creator Grace Ellis and talented newcomer Shae Beagle.
The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco
A world split between day and night. Two sisters who must unite it. The author of The Bone Witch kicks off an epic YA fantasy duology perfect for fans of Furyborn.
Generations of twin goddesses have long ruled Aeon–until one sister’s betrayal split their world in two. A Great Abyss now divides two realms: one cloaked in eternal night, the other scorched beneath an ever-burning sun.
While one sister rules the frozen fortress of Aranth, her twin rules the sand-locked Golden City–each with a daughter by their side. Now those young goddesses must set out on separate, equally dangerous journeys in hopes of healing their broken world. No matter the sacrifice it demands.
The One Hundred Nights of Hero: Graphic Novel by Isabel Greenberg
In the tradition of The Arabian Nights, a beautifully illustrated tapestry of folk tales and myths about the secret legacy of female storytellers in an imagined medieval world.
In the Empire of Migdal Bavel, Cherry is married to Jerome, a wicked man who makes a diabolical wager with his friend Manfred: if Manfred can seduce Cherry in one hundred nights, he can have his castle — and Cherry.But what Jerome doesn’t know is that Cherry is in love with her maid Hero. The two women hatch a plan: Hero, a member of the League of Secret Story Tellers, will distract Manfred by regaling him with a mesmerizing tale each night for 100 nights, keeping him at bay. Those tales are beautifully depicted here, touching on themes of love and betrayal and loyalty and madness.
Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
In this richly developed fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class of people in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards for an unknown fate still haunts her. Now, the guards are back and this time it’s Lei they’re after — the girl with the golden eyes whose rumored beauty has piqued the king’s interest.
Over weeks of training in the opulent but oppressive palace, Lei and eight other girls learns the skills and charm that befit a king’s consort. There, she does the unthinkable: she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens her world’s entire way of life. Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.
The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson
Multiverse travel is finally possible, but there’s just one catch: No one can visit a world where their counterpart is still alive. Enter Cara, whose parallel selves happen to be exceptionally good at dying–from disease, turf wars, or vendettas they couldn’t outrun. Cara’s life has been cut short on 372 worlds in total.
On this dystopian Earth, however, Cara has survived. Identified as an outlier and therefore a perfect candidate for multiverse travel, Cara is plucked from the dirt of the wastelands. Now what once made her marginalized has finally become an unexpected source of power.
She has a nice apartment on the lower levels of the wealthy and walled-off Wiley City. She works–and shamelessly flirts–with her enticing yet aloof handler, Dell, as the two women collect off-world data for the Eldridge Institute. She even occasionally leaves the city to visit her family in the wastes, though she struggles to feel at home in either place. So long as she can keep her head down and avoid trouble, Cara is on a sure path to citizenship and security.
But trouble finds Cara when one of her eight remaining doppelgängers dies under mysterious circumstances, plunging her into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and her future in ways she could have never imagined–and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not just her world but the entire multiverse.
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
A world divided.
A queendom without an heir.
An ancient enemy awakens.The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction–but assassins are getting closer to her door.
Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.
Across the dark sea, Tané has trained all her life to be a dragonrider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.
Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.
Again, we’ve separated our honorable mentions because we always strive for inclusivity and don’t want to bombard you with the same books all the time. These SFF novels were mentioned or highlighted in the last year and a half, but here is your nudge nudge reminder to check them out!
- Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki (Please, y’all, this is one of my favorite books this year!)
- The Unbroken by CL Clark
- The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri
- She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan
- This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar
- The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo
(featured image: Vault, Tor, and Del Rey)
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