A close up of the cover art from Nghi Vo's The Chosen and the Beautiful featuring a young Vietnamese woman with a stylish 20's bob looking down.

more genre fiction by people who aren’t cis white dudes

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  • Almost a year ago, I posted a list of genre fiction by folks who aren’t cis white dudes and since then I’ve read over 100 books so I feel like I probably have a bit more to say on the subject.

    Read any list of suggested novels in genre fiction – specifically science fiction, fantasy and horror – and you’re likely to see a list of the usual faces. I don’t believe in the Great man theory of literature any more than the Great man theory of history, and it seems very odd that we associate science fiction with near identical looking white guys when the first science fiction novel was written by a goth teenage girl who (maybe) lost her virginity on her mothers’ grave.

    Literary history is far weirder than we give credit for.

    But there are so many good books – ones I haven’t even read yet but that come to me as highly recommended by people whose opinion I value – that are made by writers who are not white, male and cisgender.

    This list is, by no means, exhaustive. After all, this is the second such list I’m making. If you are looking for more books like this, I think the best resource you can use is the Twitter user proyearner, who is an eloquent evangelist for books such as these.

    Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo

    A queer Southern Gothic novel about the unintentional thrall of legacy, and what you leave behind when you’re gone – both the material goods and the skeletons in your closet. This is billed as a novel that purports to be about “Appalachian street racing and academic intrigue” and while that is fairly accurate, for me what sticks is the relationship between all of these young men who can’t seem to clearly communicate with the people they love until it’s too late.

    The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo

    2021 has been the year of the Great Gatsby adaptation as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work entered the public domain at the start of 2021. There is a lot of interest in whether Nick is gay or not, but Nghi Vo chooses instead to focus on socialite Jordan Bake. In The Chosen and the Beautiful Jordan is a queer, Vietnamese adoptee who like the rest of the world has a touch of magic to her. The Jazz Age is already rich and sumptuous and Vo’s dialogue takes advantage of that and crafts a memorable character that you want to see more of.

    Everyone on the Moon is Essential Personnel by Julian K Jarboe

    There is no better way to describe this book – one of my favorites of 2020 – than the description it gives itself: a short story collection of “body-horror fairy tales and mid-apocalyptic Catholic cyberpunk.” There are still tales from this collection that stick with me, almost a calendar year out of reading this book. It definitely falls more into the realm of science fiction than most of the other books that I’ve listed here, and if you’re looking for something to read in one long sitting or a collection of smaller sized chunks to read in a few moments, there is nothing better than a short story collection like this one.

    Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

    A young adult novel that combines Pacific Rim with a reimagining of China’s only female Emperor (and featuring a fully actualized polyamorous relationship), Iron Widow is like Saturday morning cartoons mixed with a certain level of grotesque gender roles. Young women are sacrificed as “wives” in service of the men who pilot monstrous mech-like creatures to battle the aliens that exist outside the Great Wall. The whole story is an adventurous reimagining of popular science fiction and fantasy tropes.

    Did I leave something out? Please feel free to let me know on Twitter at @barelyconcealed, I am always looking for more books to read. If you’re interested in reading any of these books, please check out our Bookshop – this is an Affiliate Link.

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