In science fiction, we get to see characters who have feathers, scales, antennae, and more. The vastness of the universe presents an infinite variety of possibilities. That’s why it’s all the more satisfying to see diversity that represents the variety of people right here on Earth. For me as a writer, different viewpoints and experiences of life are what I strive to explore. And as a reader and movie-goer, those are the things that I love to vicariously experience.
This is a different kind of post from the norm. It’s really just a list, because I went looking for a list like it and couldn’t find one. So I set out to make one.
I asked around among my friends and followers for recommendations of books that feature diverse main characters. Some of these I’ve already read, and some of them are now in my to-be-read pile.
Please enjoy this list. I hope you find some new reads to inspire your imagination.
The Left Hand Of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin
This book features people who have no gender, or are both male and female. Given how binary our world is, it’s refreshing to see a book that presents something different.
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
Similar to Le Guin’s book, this title (along with the others in the series) challenges gender perceptions. The main character has difficulty differentiating between male and female. Therefore, her narrative arbitrarily assigns a “he” or “she,” forcing readers to confront their own biases and preconceptions, which is brilliant.
The Fringe Series by Rachel Aukes features a variety of ethnicities, as well as a main character who’s wheelchair bound. Additionally,there’s a lack of paternalism that isn’t of itself a plot device—it simply is.
People of Color Destroy Sci-Fi isn’t a book, but a particular issue of Lightspeed magazine that was written and edited by POC. There are short stories, flash fiction, and essays by people of color describing their personal experiences as writers and readers of sci-fi.
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor is a novella that, within its narrative, weaves in a lot of allegory for race relations. The main character is from a rich cultural background, and the prose is gorgeous.
Kindred by Octavia Butler is a time-travel book about a modern-day black woman who is pulled back and forth through time between the present and the antebellum South. It was actually hard to choose a title by Butler, as she’s a strong voice in science fiction, with many books to her credit.
The Girl In The Road by Monica Byrne is a gripping novel that features mental illness, black characters, and a lesbian relationship.
Joel Shepherd’s Spiral Wars series depicts post-Earth humanity as a species that has experienced a great deal of ethnic/genetic mixing.
Book of Sam by Ann Christy has a primary character with Down Syndrome.
Drew Avera’s Alorian Wars series features a pair of married men.
Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi has a trifecta in its protagonist. She’s black, a lesbian, and has a serious illness.
Iain M. Banks has a Culture series of books packed with fantastically diverse and sexually fluid characters.
Mike Resnick has written a series of short stories about a Utopian Kenya/Africa. Check out Win Some, Lose Some.
James Daniel Ross’s Radiation Angels series and Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn by Danielle Ackley-McPhail & Day Al-Mohamed both feature people of color.
Athena’s Daughters (Women in Science Fiction Volume 1) features short stories with a variety of diversity.
Felix R. Savage’s Sol System Renegades series features viewpoint characters who are Japanese, half-Japanese, and a Brazilian mestiza. There’s also a lesbian relationship.
Vincent Trigili’s Lost Tales of Power features a bi-species character.
James Herbert’s The Others has a main character with severe physical deformity.
The Poseidon’s Children series by Alistair Reynolds is based around Africa in space.
Hide No More by TJ Michaels has a black female protagonist in a romantic relationship with an Asian man.
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers has an omnisexual character, one that’s multiracial, one with dwarfism, two that are non-neurotypical, and a species that is born female and transitions to male later in life.
Robert J Sawyer’s WWW trilogy has a blind protagonist.
My own Dragonfire Station series—Translucid, Fragments, and the upcoming Coalescence—features a Japanese pansexual protagonist, a black captain, other pansexual characters, a species that has only one gender, and most of the people are some shade of brown. Oh, and there’s a species of people who’ve evolved from dinosaurs.
So if you’re a fan of science fiction, please check out these books. Hopefully they will inspire your imagination with all of the wonderful possibilities of what could be. Maybe you’ll even write a book that I’ll need to add to this list.