Transgenderism in Speculative Fiction

While gender fluidity, nonbinary identities, and other trans issues have become much-discussed topics in recent years, writers of speculative fiction have been exploring these subjects for decades. Here are just a few renowned titles that have opened our minds while blurring the boundaries between masculinity and femininity.

Orlando – Virginia Woolf (1928)
(Available with your Livingston Library card in print, as an ebook, or as an audiobook)
In addition to writing seminal feminist works like A Room of One’s Own and Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf penned this satirical history of English literature as seen through the eyes of a poet who lives for centuries, and eventually changes from a man into a woman. (It’s also the topic for the next meeting of our “Unstuck in Time” virtual book club, which you can register for here.) 

The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K. LeGuin (1969)
(Available with your Livingston Library card in print, as an ebook, or as an audiobook)
This novel, which won both the prestigious Hugo and Nebula Awards in 1970, tells the story of a diplomat’s mission on a planet whose inhabitants are androgynous, and can change from male to female, and back again.

Lilith’s Brood – Octavia Butler (1987-1989)
(Available with your Livingston Library card in print or as an ebook)
This epic trilogy, formerly titled Xenogenesis, examines the complexities of gender (as well as race and species) in a story about humans who are genetically modified by super-intelligent aliens following a nuclear war. 

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms – N.K. Jemisin (2010)
(Available with your Livingston Library card in print and as an ebook)
The debut novel by three-time Hugo Award winner Jemisin involves a struggle between humans and enslaved gods– including a trickster god named Nahadoth who can shapeshift and change gender. 

2312 – Kim Stanley Robinson (2012)
(Available with your Livingston Library Card in print)
Winner of the 2013 Nebula Award for Best Novel, this story imagines a future where Earthlings now live on planets and moons throughout our solar system– and where gender & sexuality are just as expansive. 

Ancillary Justice – Ann Leckie (2013)
(Available with your Livingston Library card in print)
Winner of both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novel of 2013, this space opera takes place in a universe that does not distinguish people by gender, and follows a nonbinary protagonist.

Mirror Empire – Kameron Hurley (2014)
(Available with your Livingston Library card in print)
Hugo Award-winner Hurley’s first book in her “Worldbreaker Saga” is set in a world with numerous gender-fluid characters, and where various cultures recognize multiple gender identities.

Joe, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian

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