Trans and Nonbinary Characters, Neopronouns in SFF

In preparation for International Pronouns Day on October 16th, I previously wrote a blog post about lots of pronoun options and info, in English and in other languages.

This blog post is somewhat along those lines, in terms of being Pronouns-Day-Related. I wanted to have a list of SFF works by and about trans, nonbinary, and genderqueer folks. What follows is a somewhat annotated list of science fiction and fantasy that’s been published mostly in the past few years, hopefully with some teaser info while still avoiding most spoilers.

Take a look! Feel free to add more in the comments! I’m happy to hear about more of what’s out there! I’ve particularly been looking for stories whose characters use neopronouns, and haven’t found nearly enough. 🙂

Short Stories Available Online…

“The Frequency of Compassion” by Merc Fenn Wolfmoor is a story about an agender space explorer, Kaitlyn, meeting aliens for the first time. Kaitlyn’s AI, Horatio, is also a key character in the story. I’ll not spoil the rest of it for you, but I adored this when first published in Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction by Uncanny Magazine. That whole collection is pretty great, tbh. Merc also wrote “Now Watch My Rising” and “What Becomes of the Third-Hearted” and “How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps” (which, god, killed me), and several other stories that can be found on Merc’s website. 🙂

Nino Cipri has also got a lot of stories to choose from, but my favorite is a time travel story called “The Shape of My Name.” The main character is basically in a one-sided conversation with his mother about his transition and time travel experiences. Love it, even though the story also makes me sad. Similarly, “She Hides Sometimes” makes me sad, but for different reasons.

Bogi Takács has many stories featuring trans, queer, and/or nonbinary characters. “This Shall Serve As A Demarcation” is a story about a magical narrator who chooses a liminal life between land a sea, chooses to serve their (friend? partner? collaborator?) Enhyoron. I also super enjoyed “Four-Point Affective Calibration.” The narrator’s gender is not explicit in the story, but it’s such a great little story about someone preparing to talk to aliens. I love it.

“Nothing Is Pixels Here” by K.M. Szpara is an awesome take on unplugging from virtual reality. I don’t want to spoil the rest. K.M. also wrote “You Can Make a Dinosaur But You Can’t Help Me,” which got me allllll the way in my feelings about gender dysphoria and family members’ transphobia.

“Heat Death of Western Human Arrogance” by M. Téllez is a story I’m not even sure how to describe, but it’s fascinating and surreal and highly recommended.

Mimi Mondal’s story “Learning to Swim” addresses many things — racism, love, suicide ideation, and the bonds of chosen family. Mimi is a fabulous author and editor in science fiction.

“The Spy Who Never Grew Up” by Sarah Rees Brennan is a hilarious version of Peter Pan, with an intersex fairy named Ninja Star who uses zie/zir pronouns.

I kind of adore this short story “The Virtues of Magpies” from Yoon Ha Lee (of the Hexarchate books fame).

Phoebe Barton‘s story “A Square of Flesh, A Cube of Steel” in the Sept/Oct edition of Analog has a trans protagonist, as well. It’s not available to read online yet, but as soon as it is, I will update this post! One you can read online is One to Watch, so follow that link for now. 🙂

“The River’s Children” by Shweta Narayan is a gorgeous tale, despite its brevity. Sometimes, genderfluid people find each other and can just BE.

Meg Elison is a brilliant author of many things, including short stories that are available online. In particular, Meg’s story “Next of Kin” is a fascinating take on many trans folks’ dreams! I’ll just leave it at that. 🙂

A Complex Filament of Light by S. Qiouyi Lu is like a letter to a loved one who committed suicide. Main character uses they/them pronouns.

Did you know there’s an entire SFF magazine devoted to transgender and nonbinary voices? I didn’t! Vulture Bones is just that, however, and comes highly recommended!

Books (and even more books and comics behind the cut!) …

JY Yang‘s Tensorate series (which starts with The Black Tides of Heaven) is an epic fantasy story with a nonbinary main character, told by a nonbinary author. I love it.

Sarah Gailey’s River of Teeth novella and its sequel stories tell the story of  an American bayou taken over by savage wild hippos. Features a nonbinary main character, and is an awesome story with a surprisingly large amount of historical basis, in terms of the feral hippos!

Dreadnought (and sequels) by April Daniels are the epic story of Danny, a trans queer teen who is given superhero powers and promptly spontaneously changes shape to become the woman she was always destined to be. The problem is that becoming a trans girl with superpowers doesn’t solve all of Danny’s problems, and she makes several mistakes. (I’ve only read the first two books in this series, but they were amazing and I hope the third comes out asap!)

Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy is a book from 1976 which has a character whose pronoun is “per.” I’ve just ordered a copy of this book, and impatiently await its arrival!

Lilith’s Brood by Octavia Butler is about the interactions of the Oankali race and humans. Oankali have a third gender, people who help facilitate reproduction. This series is fucking amazing, honestly, in terms of themes — sexuality, race, xenophobia, and freedom.

Meg Elison‘s postapocalyptic “Road to Nowhere” series is an explicitly trans-inclusive dystopian future, although some pretty violent things happen to all women (and nonbinary folks) in the books. The Book of Flora, third book in the series, entirely focuses on the story of a transgender woman (and her genderfluid peeps) in this world. I love Meg, so I can’t be impartial about their books, but I can highly recommend them!

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin is a book in which many amazing things happen, honestly. Nahadoth is a godly character whose changing nature includes gender fluidity, which is why this book is on this list, but you should read all of Nora’s books because they are all amazing, anyway.

Provenance by Ann Leckie, like all of the books in the Imperial Radsch universe, has a fascinating take on gender. In Provenance, the world of the main character uses nonbinary pronouns to refer to people until they reach the age of majority and decide upon their pronouns and gender presentation for adulthood. I was a beta reader for this book, actually, and got a shout-out in the credits, something of which I’m eternally proud. I can honestly recommend all the Imperial Radsch books, though. The Ancillary series focuses on main characters whose cultures don’t express gender in a binary way, so when interfacing with cultures that use pronouns, the default pronoun is “she.” It’s kind of amazing to read.

Rivers Solomon’s book An Unkindness of Ghosts features an entire class of people who are unshielded (or improperly shielded?) from radiation and therefore develop gender fluidity. I read this book long enough ago that I don’t remember the specifics with regard to gender stuff, but I really enjoyed it and it made me think a lot, so I’d still recommend it now. Fair warning: the book is brutal in terms of how the main character, Aster, is treated. That much, I recall.

In The Future of Another Timeline, Annalee Newitz tells the story of a riotgrrl punk rocker who time travels to make a more feminist future, opposed by misogynist time travelers who maybe are the reason why abortion has never been legal in this timeline in the US? One of the time travelers in this book is nonbinary, at least one is a trans woman, and basically I am devouring this book while writing this post because I cannot put it down despite all the other deadlines I face. Highly recommended, because I trust Annalee and know this book will have the epic finish it is so clearly building toward.

This is a photo of me sitting in the red sand and reading Narrating Violence, Constructing Collective Identities: 'To Witness These Wrongs Unspeakable' by Giti Chandra.
This is a photo of me sitting in the red sand and reading Narrating Violence, Constructing Collective Identities: ‘To Witness These Wrongs Unspeakable’ by Giti Chandra.

I cannot tell you how long I’ve been reading Alexandra Erin‘s work, at this point, but suffice it to say I think the first work of hers I fell in love with was Tales of MU, while I was … still in high school? She just this summer published a new book of short stories, First Dates, Last Calls, which I utterly adore.

Margaret Killjoy wrote this book The Lamb Shall Slaughter the Lion, and it is mystical and creepy and radical and anarchist and I wish more people took care of each other the way people on the edges of society do in this book. Margaret is also just a kickass person, in general.

The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley has a main character, Taigan, who might use  any of three pronouns: she/her, he/his, or ze/hir. There are other named characters who use “ze” pronouns as well. I read this (and its sequel, Empire Ascendant) a few years ago, but really enjoyed it. If you, too, also adored this series, good news! You can preorder the third book now!

Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes just came out last month, and I haven’t read it yet, but I hear great things! It has a trans woman and space cats are literally herded on this adventure, so obviously, I’m in.

Hal Duncan’s Scruffians stories feature a trans boy throughout the series, and in one of the stories within A Scruffian Survival Guide, “The Waiftaker’s Daughter” features him as the main character. You had me at queer punk anarchist kickass teen heroes forming a community, mate.

I read Annex by Rich Larson the week it came out because I was lucky enough to be at the book release. Violet, a trans girl, and her gang of friends under 15 have to figure out how to survive, and then fight, after an alien apocalypse has taken over all the adults on earth. Definitely recommended.

Rescues and the Rhyssa by TS Porter is currently out of print due to the publisher folding this year, but I hope it’ll be back up in more affordable fashion soon! I really loved this book about a butch space captain and her gender-fucking, alien, fucking, badass crew.

I haven’t read this yet, but Trans Riot Liberty Brigade by LM Pierce was just recommended to me, about a dystopian future where intersex babies are very common and their parents get a license to have them surgically reassigned to a binary gender. “Illegal genitalia” is a phrase sure to pique my interest!

I also keep seeing recommendations online for Viscera by Gabriel Squailia, but I haven’t read this yet, either!

Collections…

Capricious, issue 9: Gender Diverse Pronouns was actually my inspiration for this entire post. I heard about this collection via Pat Murphy, and had to grab it. It’s still winging its way to me, but I love everything I’ve read by Nino Cipri and Bogi Takács, so I’m gonna go out on a limb and expect to love this collection entirely.

Speaking of Bogi, eir short story collection Trans Space Octopus Congregation is now out from Lethe Press, so I’ve just gone ahead and clicked the order button there, as well!

Charlie Jane Anders is someone I’m honored to call my friend and whose stories I treasure. Charlie Jane writes amazing books, but she was first known for her short stories, including “Six Months, Three Days,” which won the Hugo award in 2012. She’s recently published the collection Six Months, Three Days, and Five Others, which I highly recommend. 🙂

I love that No Man of Woman Born by Ana Mardoll lists trigger warnings and neopronoun pronunciation guides with each story. I love that the stories themselves subvert and upend tropes. I basically love everything about this book, which centers trans and nonbinary characters entirely.

The stories and vignettes in Indexing and Indexing: Reflections by Seanan McGuire feature a trans character, Gerry Marsh. I read these long ago enough that I can’t remember the details, but that’s because I read them so quickly! I’ll put them back on my TBR pile asap.

A People’s Future of the United States features stories by several queer, nonbinary, and transgender authors and characters. The book starts right out with a stellar story by Charlie Jane Anders. I don’t want to give too much away, but several of the stories completely blew my mind with the future their trans characters were working toward. Highly recommended. I’ve actually bought this book six times because I so often give it to friends…

If you know about the “X Destroy Y” themed books, you might know that you need to read the three “Queers Destroy Y” books: Queers Destroy Science Fiction, Queers Destroy Fantasy, and Queers Destroy Horror.

There are now three years worth of Transcendent anthologies: One, Two, Three! These books are collections of trans scifi stories, and I somehow didn’t know about them before looking around for this post, but I am ordering the heck out of them right this moment!

I’d also never heard of NineStar Press before looking around for more books with nonbinary and trans characters, but it turns out NineStar has an entire selection of nonbinary books, so I’m totally linking to that, here! Once Upon a Rainbow is a collection of queer fairy tales with at least one enby character, which is how I found them.

Finally, the collection Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy from Transgender Writers looks great. I’ve also heard good things about Maiden, Mother, Crone: Fantastical Trans Femmes. I’m running out of ways to say that I didn’t know about a book before trying to put together this post, but I didn’t know about these two either, and I’m super psyched to read them when they arrive!

Comics…

The Lumberjanes are amazing – five girls (one of whom is trans) and a nonbinary character who adventure forth from Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types.

My internet-friend Caelyn Sandel wrote Glimpses From Elsewhere as a collection of microfictions with illustrations, and Growth has a fantastic concept: “My Roommate Used Her Superpowers Near Me and Now I’m Transforming Into Something Weird That Totally Isn’t What I’ve Always Secretly Wanted.” Check them out!

Elastigale is an Elastigirl/Stratogale alternate universe comic with some amazing side stories, one of which includes the Incredibles adopting a trans girl into their family.

On a Sunbeam is the story of the queer found family of Mia, a nonbinary person. I haven’t read it yet, but it comes incredibly highly recommended by a trusted source. 🙂

Wicked Hero by Adrian Malmgrem also comes highly recommended, as a trans-inclusive comic/lecture combo written by a queer nonbinary trans artist. I’ve thrown a little cash toward the project in Patreon, and look forward to seeing more of the art!

Kill Six Billion Demons is a comic that requires some content warnings, so I’m linking to the page describing those rather than the comic itself. That said, I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read of the archive so far.

As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gillman is a fantastic comic about a queer 13-year-old girl, the only Black camper stranded in a rather white Christian camp, with a trans girl as one of the other characters in the story. It’s not really SFF unless you consider Christian practice and mythology to be fantasy, but I must include this link. You need to read it.

Okay, I told myself I would only have scifi and fantasy in this post, but I do want to shout-out two nonfiction books that are (in my opinion) incredible: Born Both by Hida Viloria (an intersex Latinex American author, and founding director of the Intersex Campaign for Equality), and Gender Outlaw by Kate Bornstein (who self-describes as a nonbinary transfeminine diesel femme dyke).

Obviously, no blog post can be comprehensive. I hope this much helps, however! It’s just … nice to see oneself in stories, eh? Feel free to add more info and recs in the comments! 🙂

This is a photo of me sitting on the Great Wall of China, reading A People's Future of the United States.
This is a photo of me sitting on the Great Wall of China, reading A People’s Future of the United States.

 


2 thoughts on “Trans and Nonbinary Characters, Neopronouns in SFF

  1. I have some comics to recommend!
    Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe – an amazing memoir about figuring out eir gender identity and asexuality.

    The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang – a prince who sneaks out at night as the fashionable Lady Crystilia.

    Widdershins by Kate Ashwin (can be read online here: https://www.widdershinscomic.com/) – one of the main characters in Chapter 8, Hangman’s Knot, is a trans girl, and there are a number of other queer characters.

    Like

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