Recommended Reading: Bisexual/Pansexual Characters in SFF

Fantasy and science fiction offers a space to imagine new worlds and new possibilities, and to challenge established or assumed norms. And yet it is still relatively uncommon – although not as rare as it used to be – to find explicit bisexual and/or pansexual representation in SFF.

In media and literature, bi/pan erasure still takes place, and such identities are still often hidden behind vague phrases like ‘it’s complicated’. The words ‘bisexuality’ or ‘pansexuality’ are used even by bisexual and pansexual characters themselves. It can be hard to find the representation you’re looking for as a reader, when everyone seems to approach the issue sidelong!

For this Pride Month, we wanted to share a list of recommendations for science fiction and fantasy books with bisexual and pansexual representation. All books in this list feature bi/pan main characters, alongside queer relationships and in certain cases, queer worldbuilding.

The image shows the cover of Zaoraid Cordova's novel 'Labyrinth Lost'. The lower half of coveris taken up with an upturned face which is covered in make up to resemble a dia de lost murtos skull. They have an orange flower in their hair .Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova
Labyrinth Lost is a young adult urban fantasy inspired by Latinx culture and myth, following Alex, a bruja (or witch) who hates her own magic. When Alex tries to banish her own magic, she banishes her family from the world instead, and must go on a quest to rescue them. This book queers the typical YA love triangle trope, with Alex choosing between brujo Nova, and her female friend Rishi.

The image shows the cover of Malinda Lo's novel 'Adaptation'. The cover is split into 1 third white (this is the top) and 2 thirds green. In the white third a face with pale skin and wet slicked back hair rises up out of the green third. The green thrid is made too look like rippling water on which the face is reflected.

Adaptation by Malinda Lo
Adaptation is a young adult science fiction novel, in which teenage girl Reese struggles with strange dreams and conspiracy theories after a strange apocalyptic event known as the “June Incident”. In another queer adaptation of the YA love triangle, Reese finds herself torn between her childhood friend David and a mysterious newcomer, Amber Grey.

The image shows the cover of Sarah Rees Brennan's novel 'In Other Lands'. There are 2 pencil sketches of mermaids, only the tail is visible on the one on the left, the one on the right is rendered completely. Across the pencil sketches the title 'In Other Lands' is written in bright blue capital letters. In Other Lands by Sarah Reese Brennan
In Other Lands is a magical coming-of-age story that plays with the tropes of portal fantasy and magical boarding school stories. We follow the main character, Elliot, from the age of 13 to adulthood, over the course of his education in the magical world of the Borderlands. During this time, Elliot also comes to terms with his own bisexuality, and is explicitly identified as bisexual on page.

The image shows the cover of JY Yang's novel 'The Red threads of Fortune'. The cover is take up by a figure in a grey robe riding a mytical multicoloured creature. The Red Threads of Fortune by Neon Yang
Neon Yang’s Tensorate novellas are a wonderful exercise of queer worldbuilding, taking place in a secondary world where same-sex relationships are normalised, and children are considered gender neutral until they come of age and choose how they wish to identify. The second novella in the series, The Red Threads of Fortune, also features Sanao Mokoya, a protagonist in her forties who is attracted to multiple genders.

The image shows the cover of A.J. Hackwith's novel 'the Library of the Unwritten'. The cover looks like page of a book, the centre there is a dark hole and the page has been torn out ward, one arm crreps round the corner of the hole on the left handside.The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith
The Library of the Unwritten follows Claire, the Head Librarian of the Unwritten Wing—a space in Hell where all the stories unfinished by their authors reside. When a Hero escapes from his book and goes in search of his author, Claire must track down and capture him. Claire is a witty and intelligent heroine – she also identifies on-page as pansexual.

The image shows the original cover art for Ellen Kushner's novel 'Swordspoint'. The image is rendered in mostly washed pastel colours. int he centre of an ornate archway, as part of a cirty, stand two figures one is looking directly out of the cover - their pale hair is blowing in the wind, the one of on the left is facing them. The are wearing ornate and flowing clothes.Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner
Swordspoint is a fantasy of manners, based around the court intrigues and political machinations of a secondary world. It is also one of the main classic fantasy texts that readers associate with bisexual rep. The normativity of bisexuality within Kushner’s worldbuilding, as well as the romance between two bisexual main characters, Richard St. Vier and Alec, means that many readers consider this one of the first examples of bisexuality in fantasy.

The image shows the cover of Aliette de Bodard's novel 'In the Vanishers' Palace'. The cover is renders in blues and greens with a large Loong (chinese dragon) head in the baground. In the foreground and centre of the image there is a female figure mid jumping posture. They are wearing a pale cream and orange tunic, and peach trousers.In the Vanisher’s Palace by Aliette de Bodard
In the Vanisher’s Palace is a Beauty and the Beast fantasy retelling that also blends in futuristic, dystopian aspects of science fiction worldbuilding. When scholar Yên is sold to Vu Côn, she becomes governess to her two children from a previous relationship. Vu Côn is bisexual and also… a dragon.

The image shows the cover of Catherynne M Valente's novel 'Space Opera'. The title Space opera is outlined in bright neon blue over a background of outerspace. On the centre of the cover overlapping the title is a discoball which has been made to look like a planet by the addition of 2 neon pink orbiting rings. Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente
Space Opera’s premise is simple: Earth must compete in an intergalactic talent show of song and dance, in order to determine whether humans deserve to be recognised as sentient and to take a place among the stars. As if a universe-wide version of Eurovision wasn’t queer enough, Earth’s representative musician, Decibel Jones, is identified on-page as pansexual.

The image shows the cover of Kristin Cashore's novel 'Jane Unlimited' The cover is a meltalic prismic style set of reflections in purples, silves and turquise. The title is rendreed in silver grey in the top hald and the authors name in the same style in the bottom half.Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore
When Jane arrives at Tu Reviens, a house belonging to her rich acquaintance Kiran Thrash, a single decision she makes results in five different stories, that span multiple genres including science fiction and fantasy. Jane is bisexual, and the novel’s ‘multiverse’ plot structure allows you to see the outcome of her interactions with various love interests.

The image shows the cover of Becky Chamber's 'To be Taught if Fortunate'. The cover is rendered in oranges, yellows, reds and browns and shows an alien landscape akin to the grand canyon but with multiple suns and planets int he sky.To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers
Becky Chambers is a go-to author for those looking for queer characters and queer-norm science fiction worldbuilding. This novella, following four astronauts during a period of space exploration, is narrated by Ariadne, a bisexual woman.



This article was brought to you by Emma French in association with Promotions.

Emma is a PhD student, D&D enthusiast, and slave to two very spoilt cats, Jester and Vex. You can find her on twitter @howlsmovinglib.

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