Diversify Your Sci Fi With These 11 Books!
The world is diverse. Your reading should be too.
Diverse Science Fiction Books
If you're anything like me, you're tired of status quo science fiction with cis straight white ablebodied male protagonists. Characters outside of what's considered the norm have always interested me a lot more than the status quo, so I'm really excited to share with you a few diverse science fiction books I love and a few I'm really looking forward to!
Sci fi, along with fantasy, is really the perfect vehicle for diverse books because they often delve into real world social issues like racism, poverty, and war. Good science fiction tells the reader something about the world, something they perhaps already know but through a different lens.
I had a difficult time finding sci fi books featuring disabled and trans protagonists, but I don't plan to give up and want to write about them soon because their voices are important too. I'm disabled and don't think I've ever read a book in which the person's disability wasn't immediately "cure," leaving me with the feeling there was something wrong with me. No one of any race, gender, orientation, ability level, and more should feel that, which is part of what makes good diverse representation in science fiction so important!
1. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
Octavia Butler's books are all wonderful, so it only seemed fitting to include Parable of the Sower on the list. In the book, Lauren Olamina lives on the outskirts of Los Angeles with her family. Behind the safe walls of their sanctuary, they try to salvage what remains of civilization. It's difficult with because Lauren has been cursed with hyperempathy, something that makes her feel the pain of others. Then fire destroys everything and her family is killed, forcing Lauren out beyond the walls with just a few other refugees. They head north where there is safety, "along the way conceiving a revolutionary idea that may mean salvation for all mankind."
2. Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
The climate apocalypse has left most of the world under water, but Dinétah, a former Navajo reservation, is reborn. And once again, the gods, heroes, and monsters all walk the land. Supernaturally gifted, Maggie Hoskie hunts monsters. A girl goes missing and Maggie uncovers something much scarier than even she could have anticipated. Reluctantly, she enlists the help of medicine man Kai Arviso. Together, they must look to the ancient legends for help, battle witchcraft and deteriorating tech all while trading favors with tricksters. When Maggie uncovers the reason behind the killings, she will be forced to confront her past, or die trying.
3. At the Trough by Adam Knight
Jennifer Calderon is the perfect student in a world where there are no more teachers or classrooms. Instead, she "she watches her video modules, plays her edu games, and never misses an answer." She lives in the Plex, a mile-wide apartment building filled with corporations and brands to fill any whim. But one day, Jennifer's "foul-mouthed, free-spirited, 90's-kitsch-wearing girlfriend" Melody changes everything by introducing Jennifer to a former teacher who teaches them what they're no longer taught in school: poetry, critical thinking, and human connection. EduForce catches on and will do anything for conformity, forcing Jennifer to make a decision about what is important to her and if she's willing to sacrifice for it.
4. Salt Fish Girl by Larissa Lai
Larissa Lai's Salt Fish Girl is one part magical realism, one part soft science fiction. Two stories across time are woven together across time and place: Nu Wa is a shapeshifter living in nineteenth-century China, while Miranda lives behind a walled city in the Pacific Northwest. Miranda lost her mother and is now haunted by her lingering presence, some of which include "odd tokens reminiscent of Nu Wa." She just may be infected by the Dreaming Disease, something that makes past stream into present.
5. After the Fall by Robin Summers
The plague hit, taking with everyone Taylor Stone cared about. Now she keeps to herself with just one destination in mind. She runs into a group of survivors who offer her food and shelter. Taylor is glad to take what she needs and plans to take off right away, but they have a place called Burninghead Farm filled with a group of people who have figured out a way to make it word. There she meets Kate, someone who makes Taylor realize her heart isn't quite as numb as she originally thought.
6. The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson
In 1804, a group of women gather on the Caribbean island of Saint Domingue, now called Haiti, to bury a stillborn child. Mer, a lesbian midwife and healer, leads the women in lamentation, unintentionally drawing Ezili into the physical world. Ezili is the Afro-Caribbean goddess of love and sexual desire. Ezili uses Mer's body to travel across time and space, and later inhabits Meritet, an enslaved Greek-Nubian sex worker in Alexandria and Jeanne, a biracial dancer and mistress to Charles Baudelaire in 1880s Paris. These three women are bound together by both Ezili and the salt road of "their sweat, blood, and tears," completely unaware of the goddess' presence in their lives.
7. The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun Hutchinson
Believe it or not, Elena Mendoza is the result of a virgin birth. Scientifically, it's called parthenogenesis, but that doesn't explain how she heals her crush, Freddie, after she gets shot. Or how David Combs, who shot Freddie, gets sucked up into the clouds. Or the girl on the front of the tampon box talking to Elena. More and more weird things continue to happen around Elena until the only logical conclusion is that "that the world is actually coming to an end, and Elena is possibly the only one who can do something about it."
8. The Tiger Flu by Larissa Lai
Peristrophe is a "starfish," someone able to regenerate organs and limbs, which she uses to help ensure her clone sisters' survival. Someone from Salt Water City infected with a strange flu visits, infecting Peristrophe and killing her. Her lover Kirilow travels to Salt Water City to find another starfish, discovering a pandemic. She meets Kora who wants nothing more than to save her family. But Kora won't abandon her family and, before Kirilow can confince her, they get kidnapped to use as test subjects for a terrifying new technology.
9. Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
Gideon is ready to abandon her "life of servitude and afterlife as a reanimated corpse," packing up her sword and a few choice items for her daring escape. However, bone witch Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and Gideon's childhood rival, is on her tail. Harrowhark needs Gideon's sword if she's to pass the Emperor's trial and become immortal. Without Gideon's sword, the Ninth House will die, but sometimes, things are better off dead.
10. War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi
In 2172, both climate change and nuclear disaster have have destroyed the planet. Lucky folks now live in the space colonies. In Nigeria, war is everywhere, fought with mechs and bionic limbs and artificial organs to help protect from radiation. Their lives have been filled with violence and unrest, yet sisters Onyii and Ify dream of something more. And they'll fight a war to get it.
11. The Deep by Rivers Soloman
Inspired by the song "The Deep" from Clipping featured in This American Life's episode on Afrofuturism, Rivers Soloman's book of the same name is about the descendants of pregnant African women thrown off the slave ships who now dwell in the ocean. Their traumatic past is too painful to remember, so Yetu, the historian, remembers for them. Yetu remembers it all for them, and it's destroying her. She escapes to the surface world to escape it all and finds the world her people left behind. On the surface she'll discover their past, their future and, if they're to survive, they'll have to remember.