Books

Diversity In Fantasy/Science Fiction: Why It’s Important & 40 Book Recommendations

We need diversity in all genres of YA, and across the board in media. This is a well-known fact, and if you don’t believe in it…I’m not sure my blog is the place for you. In this post, I’ll be focusing on why we need diversity in the genres of science fiction and fantasy specifically.

Fantasy and sci-fi are two of the most read genres of YA. Most teenagers have read books like The Hunger Games or Harry Potter. Those genres are also extremely non-diverse: most stories feature white, cishet, able characters. It’s a fact that both science fiction and fantasy are mainly diverse. Slowly, the number of diverse SFF (science fiction & fantasy) books is growing, but every SFF book should be diverse.

In a fantasy or sci-fi world, even if it’s based on or in our own, the author creates the rules of the world, so they can add as much-or as little-diversity as they want. Why, then, are we seeing the same non-diverse stories over and over? If an author can create fictional races, why can’t they include POC or LGBTQ+ characters? It’s not difficult, especially because diverse characters are not other beings. You have to come up with a completely new thing to write a character like an elf, and that’s not the case for writing diverse characters. So why do we see more elves than LGBTQ+ characters in SFF? Especially if the book is science fiction, and can still use all the terms we do today, there is no excuse for not having diversity in fantasy or science fiction.

You might be understanding why I wholeheartedly support adding more diversity to fantasy and science fiction.

We need diversity in both fantasy and sci-fi for the same reasons we need diversity in all other genres. But we also need it for even more reasons.

-to show POC teens that they can save the world, too.

-to show LGBTQ+ teens that they can do just as much as cishet ones.

-to show teens with anxiety that they can kick ass.

-to show disabled teens that they belong in as many stories as as able teens do.

-etc.

Our marginalized teenagers deserve to see themselves represented in every book, including fantasy and sci-fi. Marginalized characters can battle monsters and traverse worlds and go to space just like any other character, so why isn’t that reflected in science fiction or fantasy?

And less important, but still: Our privileged teenagers need to see that they are not the most important people in this world. There are a lot of different people across the world, and everyone should be focused on expanding their worldview. Books do help with that.

Imagine, for a second, if your favorite sci-fi or fantasy book had more diversity. (If it already does, I am very happy. I know mine do.) Imagine The Hunger Games if Katniss used a wheelchair or had anxiety. Imagine Throne of Glass if Celaena was queer. Imagine Harry Potter if Hermione was black. They would be very different stories, but still just as interesting, if not more so.

Diverse Fantasy and Science Fiction Recommendations:

(Note: I’ve tried to keep this list free of problematic books, so please don’t comment and say, ‘Hey, you forgot to add this one!’ if you know it’s problematic. If you know a book is not problematic, mention it in the comments so others can find out about it.)

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

The Reader by Traci Chee

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Legend by Marie Lu

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie

On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis

Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis

Proxy by Alex London

We Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Unicorn Tracks by Julia Ember

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Iron Cast by Destiny Soria

Timekeeper by Tara Sim

The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine

Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee

Beyond the Red by Ava Jae

Truthwitch/Windwitch by Susan Dennard

Fate of Flames by Sarah Raughley

Prophecy by Ellen Oh

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

Serpentine by Cindy Pon

Huntress by Malinda Lo

Ash by Malinda Lo

The Blazing Star by Imani Josey

Dreadnought by April Daniels

Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza

Every Heart A Doorway by Seannan McGuire

The Diviners by Libba Bray

Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

This is just a small sampling of the diverse SFF books we have, so they are out there, but that number needs to grow. Diversity in science fiction and fantasy is so important, and something needs to change. Our SFF cannot keep looking like this.

Why do you think we need more diversity in sci-fi/fantasy? Do you read diverse SFF? What are your favorite books in that category? What books on this list have you read? What books-on this list, or off it-are on your TBR?

Thanks for reading!

Ava

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16 thoughts on “Diversity In Fantasy/Science Fiction: Why It’s Important & 40 Book Recommendations

  1. Gosh, that list of books is going to be so helpful for me. I really need to expand my reading when it comes to SFF (but basically every genre). Also, I agree with this post completely. And I have nothing really insightful to add because you said everything perfectly. So, thank you for such a lovely post!

    Molly @ Molly’s Book Nook

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  2. Read a few of these and more to add to my TBR list. Thanks!

    One that’s missing is Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, YA fantasy.

    *Spoiler**

    There’s a love triangle. Both the prince and princess are in love with Seraphina.

    Cheers

    Like

  3. This is an awesome list! Diversity across all genres is so important, it’s great to see so many listed in one post. Also, one I’ve read recently that has a gender-fluid main character is Mask of Shadows, it isn’t out yet, but you can find it on netgalley! I really enjoyed it.

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  4. Emailing this to myself for future reference! SciFi and fantasy are my favorite genres, and you are absolutely right that there should be more diversity! I’ve made 2017 my year of reading diverse books because I’m trying to make sure the diverse representation is good in my own book. I love the idea of Katniss being in a wheelchair! I’m totally blind myself, and I always get so angry whenever I see blind static characters who are there simply to give the main character some kind of insight, or blind static characters like the stereotypical blind beggar. Blind people are perfectly capable of being “key players,” and that isn’t represented enough! I’m currently writing about a blind hacker/malware analyst who ends up having a major role in the plot, and it’s sad to know that I can say with almost absolute certainty that my character is the only character like that.

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  5. Great list – I’m pretty sure I haven’t read any of those books! The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness is some great scifi with some solid gay rep, but not much else. My go-to for diverse people in scifi is books by Octavia Butler. I’m particularly fond of Wild Seed, which features an African (it doesn’t tell us precisely where she’s from) bisexual shapeshifter who occasionally lives as a man, but is usually a woman, as the man character. Kindred and Fledgling are also great reads! Kindred is an interesting take on forced time travel, where Fledgling is a scifi presentation of a vampire book. All great reads! =]

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  6. One book I’d highly recommend is “The Best of All Possible Worlds” by Karen Lord – particularly to those who enjoyed Becky Chambers “The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet” as it’s fantastic. I have a review of it on my blog, along with several other diverse SFF books (I also highly recommend Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor which is about aliens landing in Lagos)

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