15 Queer Science Fiction Romances That Made My Geeky Heart Happy

   July 21, 2019    Comments Off on 15 Queer Science Fiction Romances That Made My Geeky Heart Happy

I grew up on reruns of Star Trek, and my resulting love for the genre has never let go. So crossing sci-fi with romance? Perfect for me. Here’s a list of my fave science fiction romance novels, novellas, and short stories. Superheroes, robots, machine-human hybrids, alien linguistics, immersive virtual reality, secret agents planning an interstellar heist, you can find all this and more in the list below.

It’s divided into three sections based on the main characters’ genders: gal pairings first, then mixed-gender queer stories (I only have one now, but I’m hoping to find more), and finally the guys.

Hope you find something amazing to read! And seriously, let me know if you have any suggestions, because I will always want more books like this.

Before we jump in:

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GALS WITH GALS

Silhouette by Robin Hale (Amazon / Goodreads)

When you are a bisexual genius scientist with a secret life supporting the city’s greatest superhero, you are NOT supposed to fall in love with the city’s greatest thief. Dr. Molly Fawn seems to have done just that, though. The Silhouette interrupted Molly during a heist, while Molly was on the opposite team helping Captain Commando, and the thief was just… so… pretty…

Lana, better known as her sexy criminal alter ego The Silhouette, never intended to fall for a superhero’s sidekick. Oh well. Now what’s a girl to do, especially when there are signs that something far more sinister than jewel heists may be happening in the city they both share?

I had a fun afternoon reading this. It’s clear Hale knows the genres she’s playing with, and the story is by turns charming and suspenseful. I would love to see some fan art of these gals.

Diversity note: Hale is bi.

Cinnamon Blade by Shira Glassman (Amazon / Goodreads)

I can’t summarize it any better than the blurb does: “Every time Cinnamon Blade, crime fighter making up for a bad past, rescues the sweet and nerdy Soledad Castillo from bad guys, the two women’s chemistry grows stronger. Now that she’s finally asked Soledad out, sparks fly — but is a normal date even possible in a city threatened by aliens and vampires on a regular basis?”

This adorkable, sexy F/F romance novella is a spin-off from Glassman’s Knit One, Girl Two in which two nerdy Jewish queer gals bonded over their mutual love of a (fictional) television show. Cinnamon Blade happens in the world of that show, so this is possibly the most geeky romance you could ever read. It’s endearing as all get out, the adventure parts are great, and one of the secondary characters has a superpower so unique and interesting I got temporarily distracted from the story – and I mean that in a good way. Bi rep, Latina rep, Jewish rep, it’s all here.

Diversity note: Glassman is bi and Jewish.

The Cybernetic Tea Shop by Meredith Katz (Amazon / GoodReads)

Robot romance FTW! Lovely, quiet novella about Clara Gutierrez, asexual lesbian technician, falling in love with Sal, the female robot proprietor of an old-timey tea shop. Sal is a rare remaining humanoid robot, since they were outlawed long before due to ethical concerns about their autonomy. Clara’s never met one before even though she works on the more limited Robotic Artificially Intelligent Synthetic Entities a.k.a. Raises. When Sal’s tea shop is attacked by anti-robot vandals, Clara helps Sal clean up, and a friendship is born.

Katz packs a metric ton of emotion into this story. Sal is still grieving her former owner/lover, and I actually teared up a couple of times while she wrestled with how to move on without losing what she valued from the past. Clara is adorably gentle in honoring Sal’s personhood, especially when Sal lets Clara help her with maintenance. The domesticity they fall into is so warm and reassuring, and the mutual declaration of affection is so delicate. I didn’t know what to expect going in, but this immediately got added to my list of favorite comfort re-reads.

Diversity note: Katz has a wife, though I don’t know how she self-identifies.

Rulebreaker by Cathy Pegau (Amazon / Goodreads)

Extremely slow burn F/F romance with a data heist on a mining planet in the future, and I was quite pleased with it. Liv Braxton, career con woman, infiltrates a corrupt mega-corporation to steal proof that they’re violating the law, so her crew can blackmail the company. Part of the job may be cozying up to powerful exec Zia Talbot in a sexytimes way. While Liv has always thought she was straight, the more time she spends with Zia, the less of a barrier that seems to using seduction as a tactic.

The romance was a wee bit underdeveloped for me, but I loved Liv’s all-in feelings once she realized her heart was at the point of no return. The secondary characters in Liv’s criminal crew, particularly her mother and her ex-husband, are richly developed. I also particularly appreciated how much Liv ends up bonding with her fake job as Zia’s assistant. Her career up to now has been crime, but she surprises herself by how satisfying it is to work hard and kick ass. Both women eventually have to own up to the consequences of their bad choices, and I really liked how neither of them offer the other absolution, but instead support for the process of realizing they did wrong and must change.

MIXED-GENDER QUEER SHIPS

Relaunch Mission by Robyn Bachar (Amazon / Goodreads)

Strong start to a trilogy of diverse sci-fi romance. This book pairs bisexual female black privateer Captain Lindana Nyota with her male ex-lover who did her wrong, ex-aristocrat intelligence officer Lieutenant Gabriel Steele, as they’re sucked into a conflict over a new weapon that the three rival human powers in space all want.

What I enjoyed about this: (1) In this book, it’s normal to be queer, it’s normal to be a person of color, it’s normal to have grown up in an Islamic culture, and it’s normal to have lasting mental health problems from serving in combat. Those people are centered, instead of being on the edge of a white, straight, heterosexual and mostly male cast. (2) Conspiracy at the highest levels! Betrayals! Secrets and lies! This is totally my thing. (3) Women kicking SO MUCH ASS. More than one in the same story! And they are all friends.

It’s sci-fi action movie popcorn in the best possible way.

Diversity note: Bachar is bisexual.

GUYS WITH GUYS

Programming by M. Arbon (Amazon / Goodreads)

Fun little sci-fi M/M short story that pairs an ambitious television writer with a human-machine hybrid sex worker in a battle of wills.

Lewis is an introvert in a future society where your social score is important in landing jobs. Lewis hires Cam to pose as his boyfriend, but hacks Cam’s code to keep anything physical from happening, because fake relationship. Cam’s curious to see if he can change Lewis’s mind, though… and the ensuing verbal struggle during their faux dates is amusingly clever and sexy, with a growing affection between the two. So charming, and so much story in such a short work! I liked it even better when I read it a second time.

Both of the short stories I’ve read by Arbon have been so wonderful that they’re now an auto-buy author for me.

Diversity note: Arbon uses they/them or she/her pronouns.

The Spires of Turris by Christine Danse (NineStar Press / Amazon / Goodreads)

I adored this M/M space archaeology sci-fi romance and I can’t wait for the next book! Dr. London Wells has an unexplained gift. He can easily learn any language, including dead languages from past civilizations found as humans have explored the galaxy. The book opens with London alone on a mission, finding something mysterious… and then falling and losing consciousness. When we next see him, mostly recovered and back home, he doesn’t remember what happened.

It’s such a fascinating structure for the book, where the reader has more information than the narrator! London preps for another mission (with his boss insisting he take a research assistant who happens to be a very attractive man grumble grumble) but he’s uneasily co-existing with the knowledge that something happened on his last mission, if only he could get those memories back. The new mission goes sideways, of course, and wow I wish the next book in this series were already out. Virtual reality, academic politics and rivalries, kidnapping, fighting for survival on an alien planet, relics of another civilization, all that good stuff, and I want more.

I’m not normally a fan of teacher-student romances, because it’s so rare that the power differential is addressed in a way that works for me. It’s not handled super-fabulously here, to be honest, with London acknowledging the issue and objecting, and Chas saying he doesn’t care. But I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt and see how it unfolds.

Liberator by Shelley B. McPherson (Amazon / Goodreads)

The author is a personal friend, but I bought this with my own money, and it helped me get started reading and loving romance. Thanks Shelley!

Liberator is a time travel romance about a bisexual Jewish grad student from the 1980s, David Adler, who is thrown back to 1941. There he meets Jim Wysynski, a young man who hasn’t yet realized he’s gay. As World War II looms, the two enlist together and become lovers.

I’m a reader who appreciates having her heart grabbed and wrenched, and this book absolutely delivers. The growing affection between David and Jim is adorable, but it’s intermixed with all kinds of pain in both the past and present. (Jim-in-his-60s “meeting” David at a university party before David is hurled back in time, and it’s clear he’s heartbroken, but we don’t yet know why. David stranded in the past, never to see his family again.) These guys face a lot of obstacles both separately and together. The combination of love and various kinds of grief is perfectly balanced, and the overall vibe is “lovers destined for each other, pulled apart by forces they can’t control.”

This is the first of a planned series, so the end of the book isn’t happily ever after yet. I know that’s a dealbreaker for some people, but I’m quite confident we will get the rest of the series and it will end perfectly.

Diversity note: McPherson is queer.

The Emperor’s New Clothes: An Interstellar Heist by Aldous Mercer (Amazon / Goodreads)

Combine a heist story with divorced spies in space (who never stopped loving each other but neither is going to admit that first), and you get this seriously fun sci-fi romance.

Galactic agent Royce Ree and his aristocratic ex-husband Les are thrown together on planet Baldessh during Ree’s mission to steal another civilization’s impeccable sense of style. Ree’s on his last chance after one too many failed missions, and Les has an Imperial chip in his head assigning him to steal the Baldesshi FTL drive, which would mean war. That would all be complicated enough, but as they’re extracting, Baldessh is invaded. It only gets more complicated from there.

I love almost everything about this, from the way Ree and Les fall back into professional sync immediately, to the passionate tension between them, to the sentient pets/familiars of Baldessh, to the mindblowing complexity of the heist that, once revealed in all its glory, made me want to immediately re-read the book so I could see all the pieces falling into place. My only complaint is with the overabundance of hyphens. Seriously. Too many.

My recommendation: Buy, read, laugh, place hand over heart and sigh at the HEA, and join me in wishing Mercer would write further adventures of Ree and Les. ‘Cause I would totally read that.

Junk Mage by Elliot Cooper (Amazon / Goodreads)

I really like this fun science fiction + fantasy short story about a pansexual technomancer, Quillian, who crash lands on a planet full of criminals while late for his new job. The parts he needs to fix his ship are in a junkyard guarded by cyborg Hunter, who really doesn’t want to hurt Quillian, but will if he has to. Very regretfully. Because he’s starting to think the technomage is kinda cute. Unfortunately, Hunter’s evil witch boss isn’t similarly charmed.

Cooper does a great job with worldbuilding in a very short piece, and bites off exactly the right amount of plot for the story. It’s a meet cute with potential, basically, and it’s just delightful. I wouldn’t hate it if Cooper returned to these characters in a longer piece.

Diversity note: Cooper is a bi trans man.

The Border by Kim Fielding (Dreamspinner Press / Amazon / Goodreads)

Thoughtful romantic short story about learning to hope again after war and loss. Sergeant John Peterson was disabled due to injury in a years-long civil war that’s currently on hiatus during peace negotiations. Now he guards one side of an isolated railship border crossing between the opposing territories, isolated and depressed. He’s crankily mystified by the actions of his counterpart on the other side. Is that guy really starting a garden in the fenced-off strip that buffers the two territories? When John is injured and meets First Lieutenant Thomas Fellowes, he finds man who’s seen just as much pain and horror as John, but who’s found a way to move forward. There’s an attraction between them, sure, but almost more importantly Thomas is someone who can both empathize with John and model connection and optimism.

Just enough worldbuilding here to carry the emotional story, and Fielding is skilled at crafting short stories where the plot and character development are exactly the right size for the length of the piece. This is a comfort re-read for me, and it doesn’t get old.

Meatworks by Jordan Castillo Price (Amazon / Goodreads)

A gritty love story (that may not quite be a romance, but close enough) set in a world where robotics are the main technology, about a self-destructive blue collar gay guy sloowwwly getting his shit together for probably the first time in his life. Desmond wasn’t okay before he lost his arm in an accident and ended up with a robotic prosthetic. Desmond is really not okay now. At a government mandated support group, he meets Corey. Corey is young, gay, brash, flirtatious, extremely skilled with his own prosthetic arm… and he wants Desmond, who can barely stay sober for a day, won’t even read his mail, and can barely operate his arm. Nor does he want to.

In many ways, this book is about the pain of ending relationships that just don’t work to make room for growth. Desmond lost his arm while trying to impress a homophobic, manipulative friend he’d had a long-term crush on. Desmond and his ex, Jim, who is his social worker as the book begins (horrible idea!), had broken up before the accident but could never manage to disentangle from each other emotionally – and they both struggle to do it even after Desmond begins seeing Corey post-accident. The way Price writes it, you almost don’t want them to, because it’s clear they both really care for each other even though what’s between them is quite broken and they need to move on.

The whole thing is messy and painful and very realistic. Corey’s reaction is heartbreaking, especially in one scene where he repeatedly hands Desmond the wrong kind of tool while helping him with car repairs, as a message, and Desmond totally misses it. When Desmond finally gets it, though, his return gesture is beautiful and so very HIM. Fixing things with Corey requires that he finally step up and engage with his own life, so he does, in his own way.

Not the easiest book to read because Desmond spends so much time on self-sabotage, but that makes it even more satisfying when he finally gets on track.

Diversity notes: Corey is Jewish, though it doesn’t play much of a role in the story aside from briefly highlighting Jim’s past as a Nazi, which he has renounced. Corey has ADD, though again, not a focus of the story.

The Mnevermind Series by Jordan Castillo Price (Amazon / Goodreads)

Another strong pick from Price is this near-future M/M trilogy revolving around immersive virtual reality experiences known as mnems. Daniel Schroeder, 45, owns and operates a mnem shop. He lives with his father, who has brain damage from a mnem Daniel wrote. Daniel runs a mnem for a client and sees something that shouldn’t be there – a hot guy, actually. Daniel’s own creation? A real person who’s figured out how to hack into mnem sessions? Because this is a romance novel, it’s Door #2, and the dude is Elijah Crowe, divorced autistic mnem teacher and technical hotshot.

You have to read all three books for Daniel and Elijah’s story. Books 1 and 2 are told from Daniel’s POV, whereas Book 2 is from Elijah’s. These guys are up against a lot: Elijah not having previously considered he might be gay, Daniel’s guilt over his father’s injury, an attack on Daniel’s business, Elijah’s scary coworkers and dangerously unprofessional therapist, and more.

Neither character is perfect, they both have baggage and really struggle to connect, but they both keep trying. Despite the science fiction angle, it’s a much more reality-based romance than many, and I found it profoundly satisfying.

El Presidio Rides North by Domashita Romero (out of print as of August 2019, I’ll update this when it’s republished
/ Goodreads)

If you said this was the M/M romance version of the movie Zombieland, you wouldn’t be wrong, and I mean that in the best possible way.

It’s the post-apocalypse, and a young man we’ll come to know as Gaga is saved from zombie death by an older man we’ll come to know as Mercury. El Presidio is the name of the RV-turned-battle-wagon Mercury drives. It’s not a high-action zombie tale, but undead do get dispatched, and along the way Gaga and Mercury find out that maybe a little human connection is what could make the end of the world worthwhile. Fun, sexy, sweet at times, and I’d love a sequel.

Diversity note: Romero is bi and nonbinary, using she/they pronouns.

Murmuration by TJ Klune (Dreamspinner Press / Amazon / GoodReads)

A reality-twisting sci-fi / romance blend set in a small mountain town in 1954 between bookstore owner Mike Frazier and his crush Sean Mellgard, who works in the diner down the street. It’s almost impossible to describe the book further without spoilers, because it’s so precisely constructed to feed out its secrets to the reader at the right pace. From the first page, you know something bizarre is happening, but I lost count of the number of times I turned to C-Man while reading this and said “Seriously, what the f— is happening in this book?!” In a good way. I was absolutely compelled to find out what happened next, and also reluctant to turn a page because I was afraid! In a good way!

What is happening in this book ended up punching me in the heart multiple times, and I’m really not sure I could ever read it again without crying, but I’m so glad I read it, both as a science-fiction fan and a romance fan.

Diversity notes: One main character is bi. Klune is a gay asexual man.

And that’s the list of my fave (so far) science fiction romance novels and shorter works. If you have any reading suggestions, let me know, and as always, if you found this post helpful, please share it!