9+ Sapphic Science Fiction and Fantasy Books

In 2020, Linda Riley created Lesbian Visibility Week (itself an extension of Lesbian Visibility Day, founded in 2008) for more time to discuss the L in LGBTQ+. As “gay” has become shorthand for the LGBTQ+ community as a whole, lesbian and queer women are also caught up in hateful backlash and laws. In a notice for the lawyershe wrote:

I am a proud cis lesbian and a proud trans ally. But many members of the LGBTQ+ community were beginning to equate cis lesbians with transphobes, which is fundamentally wrong. 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 connotation associated with this word. That’s why, during Lesbian Visibility Week, we celebrate and center all lesbians, cis and trans, while showing solidarity with all LGBTQ+ women and non-binary people.

To celebrate this week and his take on 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 romantic subplots mean that to some extent this turns into spoilers (according to the book). We just won’t tell you how it ends, which varies from story to story.

The Chana Porter ooze (Image: Soho Press)

A mix of searing social commentary and speculative fiction, Chana Porter’s fresh and sharp 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 following a gentle, yet groundbreaking invasion by an alien entity called The Seep. Thanks to The Seep, everything is connected.

Capitalism is falling, hierarchies and barriers are breaking down; if something can be imagined, it is possible. Trina and his wife, Deeba, live blissfully under the utopian influence of The Seep – until Deeba begins to imagine what it might be like to be reborn as a baby, giving her the chance to have a even better life. Using Seeptech to make this dream a reality, Deeba transitions into a new existence, leaving Trina devastated.

Heartbroken and driven into an alcoholic frenzy, Trina follows a lost boy she meets, embarking on an unexpected quest. In her attempt to save him from The Seep, she will face not only one of his most ardent devotees, but the terrifying void that Deeba left behind. A strange new elegy of love and loss, The ooze explores grief, alienation and the pain of moving on.

Pagan (Vol. 1-3) by Natasha Alterici

Heathen (Vol. 1-3) graphic novel by Natasha Alterici.  (Picture: Vault Comics)
(Vault Comics)

Exiled from her village for kissing another woman, the Viking warrior Aydis sets out to destroy the god-king Odin and end his oppressive rule. Along the way, she is joined by mermaids, immortals, Valkyries, and the talking horse, Saga.

WOMEN. WARRIOR. VIKING. BANISHED. THE GODS MUST PAY. Aydis is a self-proclaimed viking, warrior, outcast and pagan. Aydis is the friend of the talking horse Saga, the savior of the immortal Valkyrie Brynhild and the fighter of demons and fantasy monsters. Aydis is a woman. Born in a time of war, suffering and the subjugation of women, she is on a mission to end the oppressive rule of the god-king Odin.

The future of another timeline by Annalee Newitz (Image: Tor)

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 his friends hide the body. This murder sets Beth and her friends on a path of escalating violence and revenge as they realize that many other young women around the world also need protection.

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 easy as changing a person or an event. And just when Tess thinks she’s found a way to make a montage that actually sticks, she encounters a group of dangerous travelers determined to stop her at all costs.

The lives of Tess and Beth become intertwined as war erupts across the timeline – a war that threatens to destroy time travel and leaves only a small elite group with the power to shape the past, the present and the future. Against the vast and complex forces of history and humanity, is it possible for the actions of a single person to reverberate throughout the timeline?

Dreamer (Vol. 1 – 3) by Grace Ellis and Shae Beagle

Moonstruck (Vol. 1 – 3) by Grace Ellis and Shae Beagle (Image: Image)

Werewolf barista Julie and her new girlfriend go on a date for a close-up magic show, but everything goes wild when the magician casts a gruesome 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 in the all-new magical coffee-laden adventure for all ages from Lumberjanes creator Grace Ellis and talented newcomer Shae Beagle.

Rin Chupeco's world without tipping (Image: Harperteen)

A world divided between day and night. Two sisters who must unite him. The author of The Bone Witch launches an epic YA fantasy duology perfect for fans of fury born.

Generations of twin goddesses have long ruled Aeon, until a sister’s betrayal split their world in two. A Great Abyss now divides two realms: one shrouded in eternal night, the other scorched under an ever-scorching sun.

While a sister rules the frozen fortress of Aranth, her twin rules the silted golden city, each with a daughter by her side. Now these young goddesses must embark on separate, equally dangerous journeys in hopes of healing their broken world. No matter the sacrifice it takes.

(Little Brown and company)

In the tradition of The thousand and One Nightsa beautifully illustrated tapestry of folk tales and myths about the secret heritage of storytellers in an imaginary medieval world.

In Migdal Bavel’s Empire, Cherry is married to Jérôme, a villain who makes an evil bet with his friend Manfred: if Manfred can seduce Cherry in a hundred nights, he can have his castle – and Cherry. What I do 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 Storytellers, will distract Manfred by regaling him with a compelling tale every night for 100 nights, keeping him at bay. These tales are beautifully represented here, touching on themes of love and betrayal, loyalty and madness.

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan (Image: Little, Brown Books for Young
(Little Brown Books for Young Readers)

In this richly developed fantasy, Lei is a member of the paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class of Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of seeing her mother abducted by royal guards to an unknown fate still haunts her. Now the guards are back and this time it’s Lei they’re looking for – the golden-eyed girl whose supposed beauty piqued the king’s interest.

During weeks of training in the opulent but oppressive palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm befitting the wife of a king. There, she does the unthinkable: she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes entangled in an explosive plot that threatens her world’s entire way of life. Lei, still the wide-eyed peasant girl at heart, must decide how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.

Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson (Image: Del Rey)
(Del Rey)

Multiverse travel is finally possible, but there’s only 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 was cut short on a total of 372 worlds.

On this dystopian Earth, however, Cara survived. Identified as an outlier and therefore a perfect candidate for multiverse travel, Cara is snatched from the wasteland. Now, what once marginalized her has finally become an unexpected source of power.

She has a beautiful apartment on the lower levels of the wealthy, walled town of Wiley. She works – and shamelessly flirts – with her handsome but aloof manager, Dell, as the two women collect off-world data for the Eldridge Institute. She even occasionally leaves town to visit her family in the wasteland, though she struggles to feel at home in both places. As long as she can keep a cool head and stay out of trouble, Cara is well on her way to citizenship and safety.

But trouble finds Cara when one of her eight remaining doppelgangers dies under mysterious circumstances, throwing her into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and her future in ways she never could have imagined – and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not only her world, but the entire multiverse.

Orange Tree Priory by Samantha Shannon (Image: Bloomsbury)

A divided world.

A kingdom without heirs.

An old enemy awakens. The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unmarried, Queen Sabran Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her kingdom from destruction, but assassins are closing in on her doorstep.

Ead Duryan is an underdog at court. Although she has achieved 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 her whole life to become a dragon rider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.

Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to negotiate, and the forces of chaos awaken from their slumber.

Honorable Mentions

Again, we separated our honorable mentions because we always strive to be inclusive and don’t want to bombard you with the same books all the time. These SFF novels have been mentioned or spotlighted over the past year and a half, but here’s your nudge reminder to check them out!

(featured image: Vault, Tor and Del Rey)

The Mary Sue may have advertising partnerships with some of the titles and/or publishers on this list.

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