Speculative fiction is a massive genre that’s really more of a junk drawer for books than an actual genre. You can have sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and everything in between. It’s a fluid genre. Which makes trans fantasy books and sci-fi titles perfect for the trans community. Who better to write and be featured in books that are part of a genre that is constantly debated about what belongs in the category and what doesn’t, a genre whose definition changes depending on who is talking about it, where sometimes the best definition you have for it is “well, it’s NOT that…”
Unfortunately, it can be a little difficult to find these stories written by and featuring trans people. Sci-fi and fantasy have, historically, been a bit of a boy’s club. That’s in the process of changing, but that doesn’t mean that a spotlight is suddenly being shone on these works. But they’re there, and definitely worth reading, and luckily for you I’ve created an entire list of books for you to peruse, categorized between adult and young adult (because the trans identity is not adults-only) and between fantasy and science fiction, although the separation between the two of those tends to be more of an unlocked gate than a wall. Nonetheless, these are books you’ll enjoy.
Adult Trans Fantasy Books
The Black Tides of Heaven by Neon Yang
A silkpunk novella set in Not-Asia the way many fantasy novels are set in Not-Europe, Neon Yang creates an amazing world with an interesting magic framework and a system where everyone is genderless and have a choice in choosing their gender, if they want one at all. The story centers on a set of twins who with prophetic powers — one sees what could be while the other sees what would be. But there’s something rotten in the Protectorate, and a rebellious group called the Machinists are pushing back while the Tensors are trying to preserve the world order, and these two groups may destroy the twins’ relationship.
Starless by Jacqueline Carey
Khai was trained to be the shadow of the princess Zariya, her protector, and is about to step into that role when he discovers a secret that has been kept from him his entire life — he is a bhazim, born female and raised male. Which explains his conflicted feelings but creates more struggle: does he really belong to the Brotherhood that raised and trained him, and where does he fit in their society now? And that’s not even adding in the prophecy of a dark god rising, intent on total destruction. This book is absolutely gorgeous, full of wonderful prose and emotion, that will grab you on the first page with a story that feels like it belongs on a shelf next to the epics of old.
The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo
A high fantasy novel set in what could be Imperial China, The Empress of Salt and Fortune is a story within a story, telling the story of Empress In-Yo through the mouth of Rabbit, who was In-Yo’s handmaiden after being sold to the palace by her parents. It’s a novella, only about 112 pages long, but full of mythology and culture, moving feminism and rebellion, anger at a monarchy that cares only for itself. It really does not seem like a short story as you read it, and you walk away feeling like you just ate a full course meal, literarily speaking.
Maiden, Mother, Crone: Fantastical Trans Femmes Edited by Gwen Benaway.
Maiden, Mother, Crone is the very first anthology of short stories written entirely by trans femmes like Kai Cheng Thom, Casey Plett, Lilah Sturges, and Crystal Frasier, all with illustrations by Alex Morris. Here, you’ll read stories of trans femmes being heroes, sorceresses, and warriors, all fighting for good. There’s epic fantasy, stories full of D&D-esque shenanigans, fantasy noir, magic boarding schools, and the darker stories around residential schools, all of it trans and queer. There is bound to be at least one story in this anthology you’ll love, I guarantee it.
The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie
Take Shakespeare’s Hamlet, add in gods that play an active role in the story, make Horatio a trans man, and you’ll have The Raven Tower. Told through the eyes of the rock god Strength and Patience, you learn about the kingdom of Iraden, its ruler given power through the Raven’s Lease, power that is sustained via blood sacrifice. But the power keeps fading and there is a usurper on the throne. This is the world Mawat, the true ruler, and Eolo, his aid, live in and must figure out how to fix. This book is full of mythology and takes its time telling the story with the patience of a rock.
YA Trans Fantasy Books
When The Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore
Sam and Miel are best friends, inseparable, even though Miel has roses growing form her wrist and not much is known about Sam before he and his mother came to town. Folks tend to avoid them, as they’re a bit odd. But folks avoid the Bonner Sisters, girls rumored to be witches, even more. But the Bonner Sisters have set their sights on Miel, convinced that the flowers growing from her wrist have a scent that will make anyone fall in love. This is an absolutely gorgeous book whose story is entirely driven by the characters and full of prose that makes you ache with nearly every sentence.
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
Jam’s mother is a painter, and when Jam is messing with one of her paintings one day and manages to get a drop of blood on a piece, a monster by the name of Pet is unleashed. Except this monster isn’t scary and horrific. Pet is there to help Jam, a Black trans girl, and her best friend Redemption get rid of a monster that the world around them insists doesn’t insist. This book will make you simultaneously be ridiculously proud of the kids in the book while also wanting to protect them, and make any teenager who picks it up feel a little less alone and have the bravery to fight when the adults are in denial. Trigger warning for child abuse being a part of this book: while never depicted, it is alluded to.
Peter Darling by Austin Chant
Yes, this is a Peter Pan retelling, one where Peter does go back to England because of Wendy. Because Wendy was him, once upon a time, before heading towards the second star on the right and heading straight on ’til morning. He had to leave Peter behind at Neverland, until he stumbles back upon it Neverland ten years later in the real world. Neverland isn’t the same, and it doesn’t seem to need him anymore. Except for Captain Hook, who missed having a rival. But when a too-real war breaks out between the Lost Boys and Hook’s men, Peter starts to move from being a rival to something…different. This is a truly fun read and incredibly sweet, fast paced and intense that will leave you, if you’ll excuse the pun, hooked.
The Brilliant Death by A.R. Capetta
The Godfather 2.0: This Time with Magic. Teo is a demi-girl, struggling against the Five Family’s tendency to minimize her due to her gender. When her family is in danger, she has to step up to save them. Which would be much easier if she was male. Enter the strega Cielo. This book is set in 19th century Italy, and comes complete with people being turned into inanimate objects, form changing witches, and just enough romance to fill out the edges of the book, as well as a beautiful running theme of how to come to terms with your identity.
Adult Trans Science Fiction Books
An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
This one is a little heavy, and important. Aster and her family are sharecroppers, considered less than human, aboard the vessel Matilda, a spaceship organized like the antebellum south. Aster, who is a little different, is regularly called a monster or a freak, and her mother’s death by suicide 25 years ago didn’t help matters. And then the ship’s sovereign dies, which uncovers questions about what is actually going on with the ship, along with a possible link to her mother’s death. Trigger warnings for racism and violence in this one, as it is about slavery and the horrors that entailed, so there is violence but it’s just enough to get the point across.
Kim and Kim Vol. 1 by Magdalene Visaggio, Eve Cabrera, Claudia Aguirre, and Tess Fowler
Take Tank Girl, mix in some Cowboy Bebop, add a dash of SyFy’s Killjoys, and you have this graphic novel. It is, by definition, a romp. This comic is, if you pardon my French, a fucking delight. It’s goofy and fun and very tongue in cheek while also not taking itself too seriously. Kim, a queer Latine woman, and Kim, a trans woman, are bounty hunter besties running out of luck when they come across a big score that gets them in far too much trouble than they were looking for. The balance between slow, meaningful moments and action is perfect, as is the art. There is a bit of dead naming involved, but it’s only for a couple of panels and to assist the point that the individual is not a great person.
American Hippo by Sarah Gailey
In 1910 the American government was seriously considering putting hippopotami in the Louisiana bayou. They wanted to use them as a ranch animal and use them for meat. Needless to say this didn’t happen. Thank God. But what if it had? That is where this book, a combination of two novellas, comes in. Unsurprisingly, ranching hippos did not go well, as they quickly turned feral and took over the bayou. So hippo wranglers, like Winslow Houndstooth and his crew of conners, outlaws, and assassins, are contracted to try and take the bayou back. This book is just straight up fun, with a cast of characters that are well rounded and interesting. Plus, hippo cowboys (hippoboys?). It doesn’t get better than that.
Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
Yoon Ha Lee’s debut novel in 2016, Ninefox Gambit is a deep space, time twisting space opera with multiple layers to the plot and subtle, but extremely unique, worldbuilding. It’s definitely one you want to read in one sitting, but it’s better to take your time with it. The main character, the disgraced captain Kel Charis, is possessed by the ghost of Shuos Jedao, forming a relationship somewhat like Star Trek‘s Trill. She needs his help to retake a fortress that fell to heretics, because if that fortress is not reclaimed the hexarchate falls with it. But Jedao was considered mad in his life, and if she’s not careful, Charis may become his next victim.
The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders
You may have read Anders’s other book, All the Birds in the Sky, or at least heard of it. This book is a complete 180 from that story. It’s slow and takes its time with the story. It’s set in two twin dystopian cities on the planet January. Sophie has been exiled from one, after taking part in a failed revolution. In the inhospitable dark she meets up with a group of like-minded fellow exiles, trying to survive. This book is full of rebels, alien ice lobsters, pirates, spaceships, smugglers, rich girls, and the investigation of how much weight social ideal can have before they start to break. You can also read our interview with Charlie Jane Anders about this same book here.
YA Trans Science Fiction Books
Dreadnought by April Daniels
Imagine being a young trans egg when the superhero Dreadnought drops out of the sky in front of you and with his last breath gives you his powers. That is the position Danny was in. Before, her only major worry was making sure no one knew she’s actually a girl. Now, she has to deal with a superhero on top of being outed by her newfound superpowers, her father trying to “cure” her, her best friend deciding that he’s entitled to date her, and other superheroes deciding what to do with her. All while trying to stop the first Dreadnought’s killer, a cyborg threatening human extinction. It’s an incredibly accurate book — beyond the superpowers — that is perfect for any young trans kid with a love of comic books and superhero stories.
Lizard Radio by Pat Schmatz
This book has been called several times as a love letter to gender nonconforming teens, and I have to agree. It’s set on a dystopian world where kids start out nonconforming until they’re sent to a place called CropCamp, where they are essentially indoctrinated into being good citizens. It’s not too bad for Kivali, our main character, though. She likes working in the fields, and actually is making friends. But CropCamp is still a government camp, and people are disappearing. But Kivali has a secret: she’s likely part saurian, and may one day save the world.
Chameleon Moon by RoAna Sylver
As the city burns, its people has been locked inside, left for dead while the police guard the edge to ensure no one leaves. This is where Regan, a stealth expert, and Evelyn, a revolutionary, live. But they’ve discovered a way to escape, and possible uncover some of the mysteries hidden in Parole as it crumbles into fire. This book is beautiful, with excellent characters, including one with severe anxiety and panic attacks, and despite being a dystopian sci-fi novel, it is brimming with hope. It’s definitely a book I would classify as “hopepunk.” If you’re trans, queer, and/or disabled, this is definitely the book for you.
Not Your Villain by C.B. Lee
Bells is living every trans individual’s dream by being a shapeshifter. The ability to change your hair length, not have to deal with a binder when you don’t want to, all dependent on how you’re feeling in the morning. And Bells was really into becoming a superhero, too, which is why it’s so crushing to become a villain. But the superheroes are part of a massive cover-up, and more serious evils are rising every day. Sometimes being bad is the only way to be good. This is another truly fun read, set in the same world as Not Your Sidekick, and almost the same storyline, just from a different point of view.
And if that still isn’t scratching your itch, or you want something more specific than what’s on this list, don’t forget to check out our TBR subscription service! With it, you’ll receive personalized recommendations for any request you submit, curated by our vary own bibliologists.