Top Ten Fantasy Novels That Have Gay People In Them

There are basically several ways authors can address gayness in fantasy novels. They are as follows:

1. No one is gay, ever.

2. Someone goes through a classic coming out story arc. In the case of fantasy novels, probably they get magic powers in there somewhere. Glitter and fairies, etc.

3. Someone says, “So I like this lady now.” All her friends shrug, and then maybe yell at her for making out with her girlfriend during the zombie apocalypse.

Guess which one happens most frequently.

The following is a list of fantasy novels* that fall somewhere between tangentially gay and really, really gay. They all fall under “read this immediately.”

Santa Olivia, by Jacqueline Carey

Santa Olivia is basically a combination of werewolves and comic book heroes and adorable young gay girl love and vandalism and genetic engineering and government conspiracies and unlikely outcomes and boxing. Also the writing is superb, and if you usually shy away from YA because you don’t like the tone or whatever, you still have no excuse for not reading this book. It is number one on this list for a reason.

Carey is also the author of the Kushiel’s Legacy series, which is definitely not YA, and which is extraordinarily well-written epic fantasy that takes place in an alternate Europe. While the main character’s love interest for most of the series (so far) is a dude, her antagonist / lover / the person who is actually equal to her is a woman. Oh yes: this book also has female characters as both pro- and antagonist. How do you feel about that, Bechdel test.

Ash and Huntress, by Malinda Lo

I’ve written about Malinda Lo before and guess what, she’s still awesome. Here’s why: gay retellings of classic fairy tales that incorporate non-exoticized Asian cultural elements. For instance, here’s what Ash is about:

“In the wake of her father’s death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, re-reading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.

The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash’s capacity for love—and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.”

China Mountain Zhang, by Maureen F. McHugh

In the world of China Mountain Zhang, the United States has had a communist revolution following an economic crisis and China rules the world. You could describe it as being on the “scifi” end of “scifi/fantasy.” It also won the Lambda, the Hugo, the Tiptree, and the Locus awards, and was nominated for several other things that it probably should have won as well. Goodreads says:

“We enter a postrevolution America, moving from the hyperurbanized eastern seaboard to the Arctic bleakness of Baffin Island; from the new Imperial City to an agricultural commune on Mars. The overlapping lives of cyberkite fliers, lonely colonists, illicit neural-pressball players, and organic engineers blend into a powerful, taut story of a young man’s journey of discovery. This is a macroscopic world of microscopic intensity, one of the most brilliant visions of modern SF.”

Ammonite, by Nicola Griffith

This book is a planet of all women and they are somehow able to reproduce without men (sort of in the vein of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland but without the random essentialization of gender traits and pre-first wave feminism utopian setting). Also, it’s really good, and it won a Lambda Award. From Amazon:

“In Ammonite, the 1994 James Tiptree Jr. Award winner, the attempts to colonize the planet Jeep have uncovered a selective virus that kills all men and all but a few women. The remaining women undergo changes that enable them to communicate with one another and the planet itself, and give to birth to healthy, genetically diverse children. Marguerite Angelica Taishan is an anthropologist who realizes this phenomena and makes the decision to give herself up to the planet to uncover its mysteries.”

The Will of the Empress, by Tamora Pierce

Most of Tamora Pierce’s books are gender-bending rather than gay, and Pierce has basically created a sub-genre of girls dressing up as boys to join the military and/or go on adventures and/or generally kick ass (see also: Eon, by Alison Goodman; Graceling, by Kristin Cashore; Monstrous Regiment, by Terry Pratchett, which parodies books like Eon and Graceling; the Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld, etc). But there is a gay character in The Will of the Empress, and it’s absolutely not a big deal. She just ends up with this woman, and all of her friends are like, “why didn’t you tell us you liked girls,” and she’s all, “I didn’t really know,” and then they say “ok,” and that’s that. In other words: this is the future of gay in YA, the rest of the world just needs to catch up.

Dead Witch Walking, by Kim Harrison

Harrison’s series, of which Dead Witch Walking is the first book, is just generally fantastic. And the main character’s roommate is a lady vampire who’s in love with her (the vampire, like all the best not Twilight-y vampires, is bisexual). From Amazon:

“Rachel Morgan, witch and bounty hunter with the Inderland Runner Services, is one of the best at apprehending supernatural lawbreakers throughout Cincinnati, but when it comes to following the rules, she falls desperately short. Determined to buck the system, she quits and takes off on the run with an I.S. contract on her head and is reluctantly forced to team up with Ivy, Inderland’s best runner … and a living vampire. But this witch is way out of her league, and to clear her name, Rachel must evade shape-changing assassins, outwit a powerful businessman/crime lord, and survive a vicious underground fight-to-the-death … not to mention her own roommate.”

Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins, by Emma Donoghue

This book is a collection of classic fairy tales, retold with a queer or feminist (or both) perspective. Cinderella, with lesbians! Donkeyskin, with feminism! Beauty and the Beast, with lesbians! (Actually, Beauty and the Beast with lesbians is my absolute favourite). You really need to read this.

A Companion to Wolves, by Elizabeth Bear

This book does really interesting things with gender and masculinity of a gay-dude kind. It is also one of the books on this list that is definitively not YA, for those of you keeping track at home. From Publisher’s Weekly:

“The inhabitants of a cold and perilous world grounded in Norse/Germanic mythology depend upon the brutally violent wolfcarls, men who bond telepathically with huge fighting trellwolves, to protect them from monstrous trolls and wyverns from further north. When the northern threat suddenly intensifies, Isolfr, a young wolfcarl, and his wolf-sister, Viradechtis, a Queen wolf destined to rule her own pack, are thrust into key roles in their civilization’s desperate fight to survive. The meticulously crafted setting and powerful, often moving rendition of characters and relationships — human and nonhuman alike — result in a brutal and beautiful novel about the meaning of honor. Never blushing as they consider the ultimate sociological, sexual and moral underpinnings of a what-if often treated as coy wish-fulfillment fantasy, the authors have boldly created a fascinating world that begs further exploration.”

The Last Herald-Mage Series, by Mercedes Lackey

There’s an old series called Magic’s Pawn, Magic’s Promise, and Magic’s Price by Mercedes Lackey (her books in general are pretty gay-friendly, and there’s a gay lady couple in one of her other early series, set in the same world. Those books are Arrows of the Queen, Arrow’s Flight, and Arrow’s Fall, but those characters are in supporting roles) that has a gay male main character. He’s a great character and all three books deal with his horrible relationship with his father, as his father had suspected he was gay, hidden its very existence from him, and then disowned him (meanwhile, he’s one of the most powerful mages EVER and works for the king/government). From Amazon:

“Vanyel’s disdain for swordsmanship earns him an unexpected exile — at the High Court of Valdemar under the guardianship of his stern and implacable Aunt Savil, one of the legendary Herald-Mages. A young man’s painful discovery of his own immense talents and his true nature form the core of this richly detailed fantasy, the first in a new series set in the same world as “The Heroes of Valdemar.” Lackey’s talent for characterization lends depth to this coming-of-age adventure that will appeal to most fantasy readers.”

Anything Ever by Tanya Huff (and specifically the Keeper series)

Tanya Huff is a gay Canadian author and I could love her just for that. But that would be a waste, because there are so many other reasons to love her! For instance: lots and lots of kick-ass ladies. Yes, Tanya Huff is a tiny bit fluffy, but she’s really delightful. The first two books of the series focus on Claire, but in Long, Hot Summoning (Seriously! That’s the title!) the focus shifts to her younger and more powerful gay sister, Diana. From

“Being one of the Earth’s protectors is never easy, but when Claire the Keeper and Austin the cat find themselves in charge of the Elysian Fields Guesthouse Bed and Breakfast, all Hell breaks loose in the form of a gateway residing in the basement.”

*This was originally going to be a list of gay YA fantasy novels, but guess what, there aren’t that many of them.

**Extra special thanks to Jenna for book recommendations.

***Did I miss your favourite gay fantasy novel? Probably! Discuss.

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Ryan Yates

Ryan Yates was the NSFW Editor (2013–2018) and Literary Editor for, with bylines in Nylon, Refinery29, The Toast, Bitch, The Daily Beast, Jezebel, and elsewhere. They live in Los Angeles and also on twitter and instagram.

Ryan has written 1142 articles for us.


  1. Also, “Protector of the Small” by Tamora Pierce was the SHIT. Bomb diggity. Read that shit A MILLION times. Sexy woman, strong arms, kicking ass and chit chatin’ with the birdies, yes please!

    • Of course, we don’t have a bookstore around here any more and my library has none of these except Will of the Empress, and that only because it’s a later book in a popular long-running series. Understaffed and underfunded library in a conservative part of the county–we get screwed a lot in this department.

    • KEL!!!! She is the best, I don’t care if everyone else loves Alanna and Daine, she gets her shit done with hard work and determination and occasionally punching people. She is awesome.

      • iawtc. Kel is by far my favourite Tortall heroine although I love the Circle books and the Protector quartet about equally. She’s so so so great.

      • Kel is the shit. I love that series and I keep trying to get my gf to read it. I CAN’T BELIEVE I HAVEN’T READ THAT TAMORA PIERCE BOOK. I love Tamora Pierce. On my b-day list now.

        • It’s circle of magic, with Briar, Daja, Triss and Sandry. It’s not set in Tortall. I like Circle of Magic well enough but I think Tortall is a better universe overall.

      • Becca, Kel and Ali are my FAVOURITES.

        Also, Pierces new series has lesbians and a transgender character and there’s another person who’s kinda mentioned cause Becca had a thing for him and he turned out to be gay and she’s like “meh, whatever”. And I think Kara is bisexual?

        • I have been really shitty and stopped reading after Kel’s arc ended. I bought the first Becca book but never read it >.< Clearly this is something I need to work on

      • I thought I was the only person in the world who loves Kel more than Alanna or Daine. Kel doesn’t have any powers, she just gets want she needs done through PUSH-UPS. keladry definitely got me through middle-school.

        • She definitely got me through middle school too :D I always thought she was better because she didn’t have magic or some super powerful destiny to fall back on. She was just a normal person who got shit done through perseverance, yo.

  2. Thank you so very much! You also name some of my favorites, Carey’s, Lo’s, and Bear/Monette’s. I also recommend Ellen Kushner’s the fall of kings, POINT OF HOPES and THE PRIVILEGE OF THE SWORD!

    • You’re welcome!!!

      (I feel like I need to say something else but everything I can think of is far too squee-y.)

  3. I forgot to say AMMONITE is also one of my favorites. How many SF novels, besides having a gay hero (a rare thing in the 90s, when it was published), has the science depend on recycling of sewage. Absolutely fascinating and worth every award it got!

  4. I bought Malinda Lo’s Huntress but I haven’t started yet. It will now be moved to the top of the pile of books that I have to read

  5. Oooooh I want lesbian fairy tales right now please.

    And Will of the Empress was totally helpful to me as a 14-year-old struggling to come to terms with myself…I mean I reread that book several times just for the gay parts, without admitting to myself that’s what I was doing.

    • I’m so honored!

      And we don’t always know why we’re reading stuff–we just know we have to. What’s important is that it’s there to be read, which is why I woke up and began to work more with LGBT characters. Luckily, other writers aren’t as slow to learn as I was. ;-)

      • ^radiogirl, I reread that scene in The Will of the Empress SO MANY TIMES. I thought the reason I was so fascinated was just that I didn’t know gay people in real life….>.<

        Then later when I started to sort of figure out what was going on, it helped that I could tell myself things like, "WELL TAMORA PIERCE SAYS IT'S OKAY." So thank you <3

        also, Alanna was my first crush.

  6. So Fey: Queer Fairy Fiction. The Poison Eaters and Other Stories. Tithe. Valiant. Ironside. Indigo Springs. Blood and Iron. Waking the Moon.

  7. im mostly excited because:
    1. im 21 but i love teen novels so much, i admit it
    2. you mentioned charlotte perkins gilman. i love her. i also love you.

  8. Will of the Empress! Ammonite! Ash!

    I was going to comment and complain if you were missing any of them, but you weren’t. So yay! I love when AS reads my mind.

  9. Sooo, there’s this other book called Wolfcry written by that chick Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. It’s part of a series, but the rest of that series isn’t gay. But it’s still a good series.

  10. Mercedes Lackey OMG!
    I read all of the Heralds of Valdemar books in college and I still own them (these are books that I’ve taken with me through move after move and across the country because they hold a special place in my heart). I just re-read the Last Herald Mage trilogy last month. I love the way she uses homosexuality in her books…there are characters in her books that just happen to be gay without them having to be some token gay stereotype (zomg just like real life?). I totally love that she did this back in the late 80’s before there were gay people on mainstream TV/etc. Love is love and that’s how she writes it.

    So glad you included this on the list!

      • Oh yes…at the peak of my Mercedes Lackey phase (before youtube) I somehow managed to find some of these on the internet!

  11. I am such a sucker for YA fiction
    Ash and Huntress are fantastic novels.
    Also Amazon’s 1-Click for Kindle books is dangerous, I can spend so much money before even realizing.

    • I couldn’t agree more. I once spent an entire (small) paycheck for books on Amazon. I felt smarter after reading all those books but damn was I broke.

  12. Also I love love love when AS writes about books. I’m always looking for recommendations for books. Keep ’em coming!


    I.E. YOU/THIS LIST ARE FLAWLESS. Good job. I have nothing to add. (Except there are totally lesbians in Pratchett’s Monstrous Regiment!) (And also everyone should read Mission Child also by Maureen McHugh although it’s more genderqueer than gay.) (Oh, OK, and Fledgling by Octavia Butler which is more … very … um, I don’t know. But it’s good.)

    Thank you for reccing Santa Olivia! I read the first three Kushiel books at then ran out of energy for billion-word mediaeval BDSM epics but I might just run out and pick that up.

    • I have to grin crazily every time someone mentions Pratchett novels; Monstrous Regiment was a particularly fine one as well. Kudos! :D

    • Billion-word medieval BDSM epics???? What the fuck have I been doing with my life???

      TO AMAZON!!!!

      • I could not put the Kushiel series down. COULD NOT. I’m not sure there is anything better than an epic medieval fantasy novel combined with lots of kink.

  14. Did anyone ever read the Nightrunner series? They were, like. . .not actually that good, looking at them, and the queer sex always seemed kind of out of place, but I tore the fuck through them when I was fourteen.

  15. Gossamer Axe by Gail Baudino
    The Fifth Milenium Series by Shirley Meier & S.M. Sterling especially: Saber & Shadow and The Cage.
    Of course actual lesbian small press fiction: Katherine Forrest – Daughters of a Coral Dawn, LL Raand – Midnight Hunt & Blood Hunt, Merry Shannon – Sword of the Guardian. And don’t even get me started on lesbian pirates!!!


    love this list and will definitely be checking out Ammonite. thanks carolyn!

  17. Will of the Empress rekindled my faith in Tamora Pierce. I read her a lot as a teenager, but it always bugged me that in the Tortall books, characters would stand up for queer rights, but no the only characters who were ever stated to be queer were very minor (I think only one character is ever explicitly stated to be gay- a throwaway line about an already dead man’s life. Everyone else got the Dumbledore treatment). I annoyed me to have straight people discussing gay rights when there were no visible gay people in the story. So Will of the Empress kind of brought me back into the fold.

    A Companion to Wolves is pretty bad. I will give a book a lot of credit for having openly gay characters and questioning gender roles, but it was just really meh. It kind of reads like fanfiction. I’d replace it with The Steel Remains. Again, not the BEST fantasy novel ever, but pretty good.

  18. AUTOSTRADDLE. I literally stood in my library last week looking at the fantasy section thinking “I wish I knew which of these had gay ladies in them so I could be all over that shit”. AND HERE YOU ARE. How can this be.

  19. Ah, good old Tamora Pierce. I remember a lot of things in Will of the Empress disappointing me, but the way she handled that character’s coming out made me so happy. I read all of my Tamora Pierce books until they literally fell apart.

  20. My 2 cents, for the young and old adult alike:

    Jacqueline Carey has several awesomely sex-positive books (Kushiel’s Legacy and Naamah’s Legacy) set in a world where bisexuality is celebrated and seen as the norm. All but 3 books are about female leads. There’s tons of little historical fiction nuggets for history buffs, excellent character development, and tons of hot, kinky sex. Definitely one of my favorite series at the moment.

    Geoff Ryman and Gwyneth Jones have both written numerous queer, female leads and have a knack for punchy, engrossing short fiction. Ryman tends to get a bit too esoteric and postmodern in long form, but if you’re not thrown off by high science fiction, The Child Garden is an awesome book.

    Along with Ammonite, Nicola Griffith does a paints an gripping portrait of near-future London with tons of science-y goodness and mystery elements in Slow River.

  21. Okay, yes, very coming-out-y, but way back ten years ago there was a series by Lynn Flewelling about two gay men that was really well written – Stalking Darkness/Luck In the Shadows.

    She then followed it up with a complicated semi-trans-issue book kicking off with The Bone Doll’s Twin. Well worth the read. It may not be YA, but I totally read it while still at an age ending in -teen.

    • I didn’t initially read “The Bone Doll’s Twin” as about trans issues, but looking back on it, only my conservative education could have blinded me to it. Flewelling places a lot of emphasis on the main character having always been female (even if kept unnaturally male due to magic). In addition, it’s a land which can only be ruled by a woman (although otherwise patriarchal), and they seem to have a very Spartan attitude to gay men.

      May I also say that Tamora Pierce rules? I loved the gay romance in “The Will of the Empress” long before I realised my own tendencies towards lady-loving.

  22. Aww, Vanyel! I’d read and re-read and re-read that series even before I knew I was anything other than straight.

    • Me too! I think I’ve reread them at least once a year since I was 10 years old. Took me until I was 19 or so to figure out that my deep identification with Van had more than Mercedes Lackey’s excellent writing for a basis!

  23. I’ll put in Trudi Canavan’s Black Magician trilogy (and the prequel and sequels for that matter). Female main character who’s straight, but secondary male character who has a very interesting coming out story, with a lot of emphasis on the effects of a severely homophobic society.

    • Yes, definitely the Black Magician Trilogy!
      But, I have a question: what happened to Dannyl and Tayend?
      I never read the prequel or sequels because I heard they broke up and it pretty much tore my heart out so I thought I wouldn’t read the other books in the series. But now I’m suffering serious Canavan withdrawal symptoms… does Dannyl date ANYONE? And is Tayend happy?
      Thank you! :)

  24. Oh, and there’s a couple/three great books by a Canadian author, Jes Battis (starting with Night Child) with very much queer characters, set in Vancouver. CSI for the psychic/otherworldly set.

  25. After this list was posted this afternoon, I bought Santa Olivia, and I am now finished with it a few hours later. I literally couldn’t put it down, even while I was cooking dinner. What a great book! I’m excited to see a sequel featuring the same characters is coming out in November.

    • I am completely delighted by your comment / the fact you read it / liked it. I also can’t wait for November.

  26. Santa Olivia really rocks…it’s got a queer Latina protagonist who boxes, how rare/awesome is that for sci-fi/fantasy?

    Also I think Monstrous Regiment is possibly Terry Pratchett’s best book, and he’s quite prolific so that’s saying a lot.

    I liked Nicola Griffith’s other books better than Ammonite, to be honest; Slow River felt more realistically gritty, and her main character Aud in Stay and The Blue Place is a cool, complex, badass heroine.

  27. Love Tamora Pierce–yes her stuff is gender bending, which is great in its own right, but her queer character, which was an extremely pleasant surprise (third book with this char. in it, but first mention of liking girls), is refreshing and nothing less than expected with such an ally like Tamora Pierce. Check out the rest of her stuff–she and her partner Tim Liebe work on a graphic novel together, and her fantasy novels will always be my favorites. She has inspired me since 6th grade, and I can’t say enough good things about her and her work.

  28. I’m generally not a big fantasy fan, but I loved Graceling by Kristin Cashore so much. I’ll definitely have to check some of these out.

  29. Oh c’mon – no Pointsman? The Pointsman books (Point of Hopes and Point of Dreams) by Melissa Scott and Lisa Barnett have a gay protagonist and a bi protagonist, and a bunch of queer secondary characters, and the fictional world has civil unions. The protagonists are men, BUT.

    • I LOVE the Pointsman books. I don’t care if it is guys (witness my love of Kushner/Sherman.) It broke my heart when Barnett died.

  30. Read Jacqueline Carey’s books (Kushiel’s legacy) when I was 15 years old. They kinda opened my horizons at the time (also they introduced me to fantasy) :) Anyway thanks thanks thanks for this. I love fantasy, and I love queer stories, so this is an awesome list!

  31. Yay! new books to get.
    Also I suggest the site to everyone. I’ve had an account for a few months, but just started really using it and love it.

  32. I’m sorry but Malinda Lo’s Ash is one of the shittiest books I’ve read so far. I’m almost half way through with it and I just can’t take any more long drawn out descriptions of leaves and trees and forests and walks in the woods. Does it get any better, because it moves so fucking slowly. I know I’m supposed to support lesbian authors who ease lesbian things into YA/general fiction but goddamn, I hope the other books on your list are better reads.

  33. This list was great. When I was just starting my teens I read Huff’s Sing the Four Quarters and was struck both by it’s feisty bi leading lady and how wonderfully NBD sexuality was in the world she inhabited. If you haven’t yet, you should pick it up

  34. Wow, how incredibly depressing to see the Vanyel books called “old”. I suppose I am decrepit, then. On to my indubitably ancient recommendations, then. _Gossamer Axe_ by Gael Baudino. It has a near-immortal lesbian human protagonist, and a battle against an ancient Fae bard that is won by old-school heavy metal. Also, how could anybody pass up lines like “But I *am* gay, Boo-Boo. It’s for to save my lover that I need your help.” And always, always, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Renunciate books. I dunno, I have a hard time giving YA books, mostly because I’m a lifelong bibliomaniac and my early reading was not chaperoned, so my ideas of “YA” turn out to be a bit.. off. I read _Dune_ in 3rd grade and _Interview with a Vampire_ not too much later. (shrug)

  35. I’m another vote for “Gossamer Axe” by Gael Baudino. Love that book. Surprised that no one has mentioned:

    Tanya Huff’s urban horror/fantasy/occult investigation “Blood” series and it’s sequel the “Smoke” trilogy. There’s a bisexual vampire who gets a gay boyfriend in the Blood series and the gay boyfriend is the star of the “Smoke” trilogy. Also her stand-alone novel “The Fire’s Stone” has gay male main characters.

    Ellen Kushner’s trilogy “Swordspoint”, “The Privilege of the Sword”, “The Fall of Kings” has gay male leads set in a fantasy Renaissance style period.

    Robin Hobb’s “The Rain Wilds Chronicles” has a gay character who starts out very flawed but redeem himself. Her other trilogies set on the same world have an androgynous character who is in love with a man and disguises himself as a woman in one of the trilogies.

    Fionna Patton’s 4 “Branion” novels all have gay male characters as well as her “Warriors of Estavia” trilogy.

    Dianne Duane’s fantasy “The Tale of Five” trilogy have bisexual characters who all marry each other. Looks like they’re out of print but available as eBooks.

    Elisabeth A. Lynne’s fantasy trilogy and sci-fi novels all have gay and lesbian characters as leads. Her work is mostly out of print these days but well worth hunting through used bookstores to locate.

    Laurie J. Marks’ “Elemental Logic Saga” has lesbian characters but is sadly out of print as well.

    Nancy Springer’s “Metal Angel” is about a guardian angel who becomes a gay male rock star. I think it might be out of print these days too.

  36. I’ve read and liked several of these (Carey and Pierce are two of my favorite authors) and have added several others to the my list to get and read.

    It’s a tad on the “fluff” side, but if you haven’t read Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series (begins with Soulless) you really ought to. Steampunkish, comedy of manners, romance set in an alternate Victorian England where Vampires (politics) and Werewolves (armies) keep the British Empire going. Very funny and well written. Several central gay and lesbian characters, though the main romance is not.

  37. Oh, and how could I have forgotten Patricia Brigg’s Mercy Thompson books? (Mooncalled first book in series). Ok, I know, why — the gay characters are somewhat tangential. Still, you’ve got a gay werewolf who’s number three in the pack and the main character’s best popcorn and bad movies night friend, and an all around decent guy.

  38. It’s hard for me to tell if I am more excited about all the YA SF with queer ladies or the fact that Tamora freaking Peirce commented on Autostraddle. Both raised my heartrate, I can assure you.

  39. I’m saddened, but not one bit surprised that only books written by female authors made this list…of course, that’s probably because no one can name a really smashing fantasy novel by a male author with any kind of main gay characters (unless it’s a straight-man-fantasy depiction of lesbian lovers).

    I’m working on changing that…but gee, for someone reason, no one will publish me unless I make my protagonist straight and cisgendered…hm. Curious.

    • “of course, that’s probably because no one can name a really smashing fantasy novel by a male author with any kind of main gay characters (unless it’s a straight-man-fantasy depiction of lesbian lovers).”

      He does fall a little into the latter category and I’m not WILD about his work, but the Island in the Sea of Time series by S M Stirling (aka the Nantucket books) qualifies (one of the protagonists is a lesbian who marries a very nice girl. And they don’t die, it’s actually pretty amazing from that standpoint.) They’re technically science fiction but IMO are way less sciency than, say, China Mountain Zhang, which is actually 100% science fiction.

      I’m sure there must be men who have written about men out there but I can’t come up with any, although I haven’t read any Samuel Delany and some of his work must qualify (SF again though).

      • SM Stirling’s books confound me. I am very easily entertained by the pleasant minutia of sustaining an existence off the grid (see also: ‘My Side of the Mountain’) but on the other hand his politics and his view of the world really irritate me. I think he has an inflated opinion of how awesome a world without tech would be–remember the diabetic couple who just peacefully died and let everyone have their stuff? notice how we never see anyone whose quality of life was significantly improved by technology ever again?–and his colonialism-would-be-so-much-fun attitude gets past being in-character for a book and goes into being too gross to ignore (‘Conquistador’, ew.)

        • >I think he has an inflated opinion of how awesome a world without tech would be–remember the diabetic couple who just peacefully died

          — I’m diabetic myself, and in that situation, would simply die. That’s what happens without the meds if you’re severely diabetic; you go into a coma (messy details) and then die. Believe me, I know.

          >and let everyone have their stuff?

          — If they’re dying, should they burn it or something? That seems rather selfish.

          >notice how we never see anyone whose quality of life was significantly improved by technology ever again?

          — in that setting, all the people who need higher technology to live are just dead, and therefore off the stage.

          (Disaster stories are generally about survivors; dead is boring as a p.o.v, for the most part.)

          Everyone else kvetches occasionally about how hard everything is and about things they miss (no deep-dish pizza… no more tampax…) but get on with their lives as best they can.

          >and his colonialism-would-be-so-much-fun attitude

          — fun for some people, perhaps; the ones on the other end of the stick aren’t so enthusiastic, IIRC.

    • “I’m saddened, but not one bit surprised that only books written by female authors made this list…of course, that’s probably because no one can name a really smashing fantasy novel by a male author with any kind of main gay characters (unless it’s a straight-man-fantasy depiction of lesbian lovers).”

      Challenge accepted.
      Richard Morgan’s The Steel Remains has already been mentioned.
      Then there’s Hal Duncan’s epic time/reality bending Book of All Hours series which has two gay protagonists and in some ways centres around their love story.
      I haven’t read it (though I enjoy his mystery books), but Josh Lanyon’s Strange Fortune would qualify.

      SF-wise There’s also New Model Army by Adam Roberts, which is this utterly brilliant exploration of the internet’s facilitation of direct democracy through the idea of crowd sourcing a non-hierarchical mercenary army. It’s somewhat cheering to see a straight male writer use a gay narrator.

    • Try Samuel R. Delany. Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand (the first SF novel with with a gay protagonist) is brilliant, beautifully written thought provoking and really gets at the vastness of space.
      Hero by Perry Moore is funny and exciting YA about a gay superhero. Also he has an interesting, complicated relationship with his father.
      Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray is totally fantasy (magic portrait!) and totally gay (Basil/Dorian/Henry love triangle!)
      Gay dudes do write gay sff. Just not as many.

  40. I do want to call attention to Ellen Kushner’s The Fall of Kings, Swordspoint, The Privilege of the Sword.

    Elizabeth Lynn’s Tornor books, especially The Northern Girl.

    Samuel Delany’s epic Return to Nevèrÿon series.

    Elizabeth Bear’s Carnival, The Promeathean books (Blood & Iron, Whiskey & Water, Ink & Steel, and Hell and Earth). Bear is a mistress of genderfuck, perhaps a by product of being “raised by wild lesbians). Bear is a majorly fabulous writer and can tell a story.

    I think her sequel to A Companion to Wolves, A Reckoning of Men is out now; both were written with Sarah Monette, whose fantasy trilogy Mélusine, The Virtu and The Mirador has a gay male protagonist.

    Laura Mixon’s brilliant lesbian SF Glasshouses; really super book, hard sf with a dyke heroine. Also Burning the Ice.

  41. Tanya Huff also wrote a quartet of high fantasy books (Sing the Four Quarters, Fifth Quarter, No Quarter, and The Quartered Sea) in an incredibly queer world where basically everyone is bisexual. Except for the lesbians, who are lesbians.

    Also, has anyone mentioned that her wife, Fiona Patton, also writes gay fantasy? Because she does! \o/

  42. I would not recommend Kim Harrison’s Hollow series. The main character Rachel and the bi Vamp Ivy do NOT hook up at all. Rachel only has relationships with men, and it’s sad seeing Ivy being insanely devoted her without anything coming from it. Actually, I blame the author whose main fanbase is homophobic. Anyways do not read if you want to have your heart break over and over gain for Ivy.

  43. Gosh! Santa Olivia is awesome… just what I needed right now – kinda a mix of Billy Elliot, Jane Eyre and The golden compass (so far at least) – LOVE IT!

  44. This list is amazing, especially for including China Mountain Zhang, one of the best SFF books, like ever.

    One series that everyone reading this post/these comments NEED to check out is the Elemental Logic series by Laurie Marks ( These are seriously the best, and queerest, fantasy novels I have ever read, plus their politics are lefty and the characterization and worldbuilding are both fabulous. The series follows a bunch of characters, most of whom are gay or queer (the world seems to flip that 90/10 split the other way), focusing on a two ladies in love, Zanja and Karis. Both of them are deeply flawed badasses and have one of the most tender and believable relationships I’ve read in genre.

    The first two books came out from Tor, and I believe are out of print (libraries are your friend!). Small Beer Press (Kelly Link’s press) will be bringing them back into print, I think, and have published the third book in the series, Air Logic. It’s criminal these aren’t as well known as they should be. Check them out.

    Also, a good place to look for gender-bending and often queer SFF is to check out the list of works that have won the James Tiptree Jr. award (, which is awarded to the work that best “explores or expands” ideas of gender. And if you want a book about a science fiction writer who was also pretty queer, check out Tiptree’s biography, called James Tiptree Jr: The Double Life of Alice Sheldon. Got a lot of great writeups in mainstream and genre press when it came it, and it’s fantastic.

    PHEW. Feelings, I have them.

  45. I first realized I was gay when I read “The Last Herald-Mage” series at age twelve. Just re-read it this summer, a decade later, and it holds up pretty damn well–Lackey doesn’t shy away from the gay (Vanyel has sexy, sexy lovahs; there’s a nice arc across the three books as his fam comes to grips with him being a homo), but nor does she make it the central element of Vanyel’s character, and she also has lovely strong lady characters around every corner. Also, all the gays in her books are really good-looking, just like in RL! So glad you’re recommending this series, it’s certainly worth a read (and one of the best series set in the Velgarth universe).

    “Will of the Empress” was nice, but I was always a little disappointed that Sandry wasn’t the gay one, I think I had a teeny crush on her once upon a time.

    Also…”Ash” was kind of boring. Maybe “Huntress” is better?

    • I first read “The Last Herald-Mage” when I was 10 or 11, I think. It took me until I was 19 to figure out WHY I identified so much with Vanyel, but those books were SOO important to my sense of what it meant to be queer. Yay for early positive image of teh gayz! I’m still super attached to those books; I brought them and the first Harry Potter with me to Paris for my junior year abroad & have been using them for comfort reading. :)

      Also, “Huntress” is approximately 20 million times better than “Ash.” Much better plot movement, character development, everything. I’m glad I read it first, otherwise I don’t think I would have gotten to it!

  46. I thought Huntress was better than Ash.

    Another suggestion: The Princess Series by Jim C. Hines. A kickass re-imagining of Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty (who is a lez), who are kind of like a medieval Charlie’s Angels.

  47. Pingback: Geek Media Round-Up: September 21, 2011 – Grasping for the Wind

  48. Last Herald Mage ftw. I cannot tell you how important that series was to queer 11 year old me. I find parts of it glaringly emotionally immature now, but the overall story is great. (I rediscovered all the music based on it the other day, too. That was a trip.)

  49. i just got an email saying that the book [kissing the witch] i put on hold at the library is in. i can’t even wait!

  50. Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner features a bisexual main character. Swordspoint also by her features two males as the main couple. The Fall of Kings, same author, centers around a gay couple.

  51. Great list, and great follow up comments to add to it!
    I too like the Laurie Marks Elemental series…got me through a rough patch last year, that is for sure!
    A long time ago, when I was young(er)–which means that many of you were wee babes– I read a not so great book about a woman River Pirate, and I have NO frakking idea what it was called. I remember that as a mass market paperback it was huge…and even though it wasn’t all that great, I have wanted to read it again. Any thoughts chicas?

  52. Lisa Spangenberg
    September 17, 2011 at 2:38 pm Permalink Reply

    >Elizabeth Lynn’s Tornor books, especially The Northern Girl.

    — THE NORTHERN GIRL has some awesome writing in it. The first chapter is a tour-de-force; it’s -hard- to make someone going to the market and buying a fish interesting, but Lynn manages it.

  53. Guys, guys, guys. A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing (trilogy)–really really good young adult fantasy! And I won’t reveal who the lesbian character is because it’s a spoiler but her story is amazing and basically her incredible bad-assery and sexiness was part of what made me realize I’m bisexual when I read these in middle school. Because I talked about my “girl crush” on her so much that I realized, hmm maybe this is just a plain old full-blown “crush.” Seriously, go read them! :)

  54. Kushiel’s Dart! You did list Jacqueline Carey (because she’s fantastic) but K.D. is just phenomenal. It’s not one character, it’s basically all of them. The book is super sex-positive. No one even has to say it, homosexual and bisexual flings happen constantly in the book and no one bats an eye!

  55. Always a good idea to something entirely new a chance… Try out my newly-published epic, Elven road trip across a fantastic planet rich with quirky characters, foul language, substance abuse and a multithread storyline across generations. Trippy promo videos on YouTube. What do you think? It’s 120,000 word story…

  56. OKAY if any of you have not read Sherwood Smith’s “Inda” series YOU NEED TO RIGHT NOW. She portrays basically the full spectrum of sexualities in the 4 books in the series with refreshing honesty and oh god I’m getting worked up just thinking about it. She goes through the point of view of a young boy realizing he’s gay and eventually accepting that part of him, she has an older gay couple that are completely committed to each other and have one of the strongest relationships in the series, and she even has a character who uses sex as a way to show his friends how much he loves them even if he doesn’t ‘love’ them and, seriously, how often do you get a well-written character like that? Sex is dealt with so well in this series and is shown to mean something different to each character, just as it does in real life to each person. I love this series so much, but I’ve only come across a few people on the internet who have read it, and I know no one in real life who has even heard of it apart from my friends hearing my constant praise for it all the time.
    I really enjoyed Sherwood Smith’s other books as well, but I don’t recall any of them including prominent gay characters.

  57. Pingback: Sex Fantasy Novels | Real Estat

  58. Great list! Very glad to see Ash by Malinda Lo on there; it’s a beautifully written book.
    I’ve got two recommendations (they aren’t fantasy novels but they are both brilliant and life-changing): Carol by Patricia Highsmith, and More Than This by Patrick Ness.

    Patrick Ness’s book is very sic-fi with a gay protagonist. It’s a very confusing (in a good way), thoughtful, mind-boggling book that will have you either crying or screaming about how amazing it is!
    It’s a very hard book to describe because it is so many things! It would appeal to anyone who has ever wondered if there’s more to life.

    Patricia Highsmith’s novel is beautiful and, like all of her novels, a thriller.
    Thankfully, Carol is less of a phycological crime than her others. Carol is a page-turner about two women in the 1950s who develop a surprising (due to the vaguely homophobic time period), relationship. Complications change their relationship for an almost heart-shattering ending that only is revealed on the very last page. The novel is very unpredictable, quite like Highsmith was herself. However, when it was first written, it was one of the first (perhaps the first), lesbian novel to end happily.

  59. How about the Nightrunner series by Lynn Flewelling? I love them, read them several times, the characters are endearing and there are several story archs going through the seven books. She also wrote another series in the same world about a girl who was raised as a boy, and kinda deals with transgender-like issues. Also really good.

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