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. Here’s a list of my fave science fiction romances. Superheroes, robots, machine-human hybrids, alien linguistics, immersive virtual reality, secret agents planning an interstellar heist, post-collapse environments, 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 I love), and finally guys with 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
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.
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 identifies.
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.
Diversity note: Pegau is bi/pan.
Is it cheating to include my own novella on a list of what I love? Apologies if so, but Elsenna and her princess have such a special place in my heart (even after rounds and rounds and rounds of editing). Here’s the blurb:
“The bodyguard is a traitor. The princess is her one true love. And the revolution is almost here.
Elsenna Hazen left spaceport security and ended up a royal bodyguard. She should have known better than to fall in love with a princess. It’s been two years since one ill-advised kiss in the garden pulled them apart. With uprisings in the streets, the nervous princess transfers Elsenna back into her service. Her Highness has no idea Elsenna is leaking data to the revolutionaries bent on overthrowing the princess’s oppressive father.
Now Elsenna wakes up each day wondering what will happen first: her own execution, or that of the woman she could never stop loving. When rebel attacks escalate and the king plans retaliation, Elsenna discovers that the fights for her love and her life are one and the same.”
Diversity note: The princess is blind. I’m bi/pan.
MIXED-GENDER QUEER SHIPS
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A 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.
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.
El Presidio Rides North by Domashita Romero (out of print as of August 2019, I’ll update this when it’s republished
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.
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!