Each year, the number of queer sci-fi and fantasy releases seems to explode. Now there are too many LGBTQ speculative books to keep up with, which is a great problem to have! This year is no exception. Here is an incomplete list of queer SFF titles coming out in 2021 that many readers (myself included) are excited about.
2021 is set to give us many queer SFF gems right off the bat. Sapphic fantasy will dominate this winter, but an anticipated gay sci-fi is on its way, too. Urban, epic, and non-Western fantasy worlds are all coming in the first few months of the year.
The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry
In this historical fantasy with a f/f female bodyguard romance, a thief gets a job protecting a rich young lady from mysterious assassins. But she soon realizes this is a more dangerous job than she expected. She and the other bodyguards must team up against a mysterious, magical foe who seems to have allies everywhere.
Release date: January 12
This space opera features a m/m arranged marriage, interplanetary politics, and a murder mystery. When a tragedy hits, a prince and a scholar are rushed into a political marriage to quell tensions in the interplanetary Iskat Empire. However, once the tragedy is revealed as murder, not an accident, the two husbands must work together to uncover the truth — all while dealing with their growing feelings for each other.
Release date: February 2
A new novella is arriving from the award-winning author Aliette de Bodard. Fireheart Tiger is a romantic fantasy set in a pre-colonial Vietnamese-eque world, with a storytelling style of The Goblin Emperor meets Howl’s Moving Castle. It follows the quiet, thoughtful princess Thanh who has returned to her mother’s imperial court as a diplomat, only to cross paths with her first love — and the temptation of dangerous decisions.
Release date: February 9
A Dark and Hollow Star
This urban fantasy set in the magical underworld of Toronto includes fae, queer teens, and a serial killer. For centuries, the fae have lived among us, concealed by magic and bound by law to do no harm to humans. But a series of murders threatens to end this, bringing the destruction of the faerie and human worlds alike. Four queer teens must form a tenuous alliance to stop the mysterious killer. War is brewing between the Mortal and Immortal Realms — and these teens are running out of time.
Release date: February 23
Sweet & Bitter Magic
This debut fantasy follows a powerful witch who has been cursed with the inability to love, and a girl hiding her own dangerous magic. Both girls strike a dangerous bargain in order to save their queendom. But this bargain is tricky, and these two have a long, perilous journey ahead of them — that is if they don’t kill each other first.
Release date: March 9
Spring will bring the bulk of this year’s can’t-wait queer SFF. Get ready for a variety of adventures with all sorts of diverse characters, from the high seas to outer space, to rich worlds steeped in numerous cultures and histories.
Set in a North-Africa inspired fantasy world, The Unbroken features a romance between a female soldier and a princess, set on the backdrop of rebellion, espionage, and a crumbling desert empire. Probably one of the best advertisements for this book, however, is this tweet from the author:
cranky soldier: *on her knees*
cranky princess: *commands* Look at me.
cranky soldier: *looks*
cranky princess: ᵒʰ ᶠᵘᶜᵏ
— Cherae (@C_L_Clark) October 15, 2020
You can also read an excerpt of the first two chapters here!
Release date: March 23
In Deeper Waters
In Deeper Waters is a high-seas, coming-of-age adventure with pirates and a m/m romance, pitched as The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue meets Pirates of the Caribbean. Prince Tal has spent much of his life behind palace walls and is excited to tour his family’s kingdom for the first time. Just days into the journey, however, he is kidnapped by pirates and held ransom. His growing connection with a mysterious, roguish man may be his only chance of escape.
Release date: April 20
These Feathered Flames
This fantasy debut is a retelling of the Russian folktale “The Firebird,” and features a f/f enemies-to-lovers romance. Two twin heirs are given two different paths: One remains at court, to learn the skills she’ll need as the future queen; the other leaves to train with her magical aunt. Before their training is complete, the queen dies, and a new ruler must be crowned. The princess must discover who they can trust, who they can love — and who killed their mother.
Release date: April 20
In the Ravenous Dark
In this YA fantasy of secrets and palace intrigue, a blood mage reluctantly teams up with an undead spirit to start a rebellion among the living and the dead. According to the author, In the Ravenous Dark has a pansexual main character, a lesbian love interest, a polyamorous relationship, and numerous other forms of queer representation.
Release date: May 18
The Witch King
The Witch King is a m/m YA fantasy about a trans witch who must face his traumatic past and the royal fiancé he left behind, in order to save a fae kingdom. Wyatt, a witch from the world of Asalin, has fled to the human world. His fiance, the fae prince Emyr, has hunted him down, insisting they must marry now or risk losing the throne. As the witches face worsening conditions back home, Wyatt must decide what’s more important — his people or his freedom.
Release date: June 1
The Darkness Outside Us
Two sworn enemies are stuck on a spaceship together, with no rescue in sight. There are things about their situation that don’t add up, including lost memories, and evidence strangers have been on board. The two boys must figure out how to work together and trust each other in order to survive.
Release date: June 1
Girls at the Edge of the World
This f/f YA fantasy debut tells of a world bound for destruction in an apocryphal flood, where only a few are chosen to survive. Natasha is a member of the court’s Royal Flyers, a lauded fleet of aerial silk performers, and she is hell-bent on survival. Unbeknownst to her, Ella, her newest recruit, is driven less by her desire to survive the floods than her thirst for revenge. And Ella’s mission could put everything Natasha has worked for in peril.
Release date: June 8
The Jasmine Throne
From the author of Empire of Sand comes a sapphic, enemies-to-lovers story about morally gray lesbians, set in an Indian-inspired fantasy world. A captive princess and a maidservant in possession of forbidden magic become unlikely allies on a dark journey to save their empire from the princess’s traitor brother.
Release date: June 10
Ace of Spades
Ace of Spades is a f/f YA debut that has been described as Black queer dark academia, or according to the author, “Gossip Girl and Get Out, but gay.” The only two Black students at a very white, elite school face an anonymous bully in this twisty thriller that grapples with institutionalized racism, educational gatekeeping, and the intersections of being queer and Black.
Release date: June 10
Three exciting queer SFF releases have been on my radar for summer 2021, each quite different from the other. Works of sci-fi, horror, and historical fantasy are all queued up to make a major splash.
The All-Consuming World
In The All-Consuming World, a diverse team of dangerous women and former criminals — all half-clone, half-machine — get back together to rescue a missing comrade. However, the highly-evolved AI controlling the universe mean to stop them and kill them.
Release date: June 22
The Taking of Jake Livingston
Get Out meets Danielle Vega in this horror/thriller debut from Ryan Douglass with a gay Black protagonist. Jake is one of the only Black kids at a prep school, but he isn’t sure which is worse: Being at the mercy of racist teachers, or being able to see the dead, as he is forced to watch ghosts relive their last moments on a loop. But things get worse when one ghost, a former school shooter, develops special, sinister plans for him.
Release date: July 13
She Who Became the Sun
Mulan meets The Song of Achilles in this epic alt-history debut with genderqueer characters and gay relationships. Set in reimagined historical China, it follows a peasant girl who disguises herself as a boy to escape her prophesied fate and become a monk. She soon learns to do whatever it takes to survive — and to pursue greatness.
Also, many people on Twitter and Goodreads started freaking out over this book after an early reader tweeted this about it:
i mean like. there’s history/war/exquisite pacing/gorgeous writing, etc, but there’s also a moment when the prince orders his finest general to kneel and the general replies, his voice low, “would you like me to?” and whew, you will learn some things about yourself
— Alix E. Harrow (should be offline) (@AlixEHarrow) July 21, 2020
It looks like She Who Became the Sun and The Unbroken are two queer reads of 2021 with iconic kneeling scenes, and we’re here for it!
Release date: July 20
Not many books coming out this fall have covers or pre-orders yet, and our information on them is limited. But we still have enough tantalizing rumors to be thrilled about a few queer SFF coming our way.
This sapphic fantasy about magical heists and take-no-shit heroines is perfect for fans of Six of Crows and The Lies of Locke Lamora. An intriguing one-sentence description of the book has been floating around Goodreads:
A team of queer criminals who are the best at what they do come together to pull off an impossible job and against all odds start to care about each other, all while scheming to betray each other.
Release month: September
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Iron Widow is set in an alternative sci-fi world inspired by Chinese history and East Asian mythology with giant mecha, monsters, and a pilot set on revenge — and crushing the patriarchy. Rumor also has it that this book takes the trope of the love triangle into a fresh direction: Instead of having to “choose” between two romantic options, the hero ends up in a queer polyamorous relationship.
Release date: September 28
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Speaking of Iron Widow, we had a discussion with the author, Xiran Jay Zhao, about how to get cultural representation right in our December Chai & Cocktails panel. Watch the whole thing here!
Go Marching In
Go Marching In is a cyberpunk, dystopian Western from Tamsyn Muir, the author that brought us “lesbian necromancers in space” (AKA Gideon the Ninth and its sequels). According to the author, this book is the first in a “novella series featuring Teresa Santos: a world-weary gunslinger who’s stopped hoping to escape Earth before it melts, and all the women who, for reasons unexplained, loved her.”
Release date: Fall (Month TBA)
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Bonus: City of Reckoning
I don’t know how “anticipated” my own book is, but I can’t make a list of queer SFF coming out in 2021 without mentioning that my queer fantasy debut comes out this year, too!
City of Reckoning follows a diverse group of warriors who enter a war, only to wonder if they’re fighting for the wrong side. These include a winged girl seeking revenge against a powerful politician, and an elite wolf-accompanied warrior secretly plotting rebellion as she is forced to fight for her enemies. The book features several queer POV characters, and world-building loosely inspired by ancient Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean.
Keep an eye out for the cover reveal in a few months and the launching of pre-orders. Meanwhile, you can add the book to Goodreads.