I always have it stuck in my head that 2019 was THE year for queer science fiction. Many of my now favorite series started that year and there were some LGBTQIA+ standalones that I love too. Don’t get me wrong, the years after and especially this year (2022) followed up with more amazing science fiction books with queer characters but I always felt like there are a lot less than in 2019, that the focus right now is more on fantasy (I also have theories why that is, but that is a topic for another post).
As fantasy seems to be getting more hype than science fiction, especially this year, and to also maybe prove myself wrong, that it’s not as “bad” as I think, I sat down and looked at what queer science fiction titles are releasing in 2022 and quickly decided to make another list, highlighting my favorite of all science fiction subgenres: space operas / books set in space.
Queer Space Operas Releasing in 2022
Seven Mercies (Seven Devil s#2) by Laura Lam, Elizabeth May
(summary of the first book)
When Eris faked her death, she thought she had left her old life as the heir to the galaxy’s most ruthless empire behind. But her recruitment by the Novantaen Resistance, an organization opposed to the empire’s voracious expansion, throws her right back into the fray.
Eris has been assigned a new mission: to infiltrate a spaceship ferrying deadly cargo and return the intelligence gathered to the Resistance. But her partner for the mission, mechanic and hotshot pilot Cloelia, bears an old grudge against Eris, making an already difficult infiltration even more complicated.
When they find the ship, they discover more than they bargained for: three fugitives with firsthand knowledge of the corrupt empire’s inner workings.
Together, these women possess the knowledge and capabilities to bring the empire to its knees. But the clock is ticking: the new heir to the empire plans to disrupt a peace summit with the only remaining alien empire, ensuring the empire’s continued expansion. If they can find a way to stop him, they will save the galaxy. If they can’t, millions may die.
Azura Ghost (The Graven #2) by Essa Hansen
(summary of the first book)
Caiden’s planet is destroyed. His family gone. And, his only hope for survival is a crew of misfit aliens and a mysterious ship that seems to have a soul and a universe of its own. Together they will show him that the universe is much bigger, much more advanced, and much more mysterious than Caiden had ever imagined. But the universe hides dangers as well, and soon Caiden has his own plans.
He vows to do anything it takes to get revenge on the slavers who murdered his people and took away his home. To destroy their regime, he must infiltrate and dismantle them from the inside, or die trying.
Bluebird by Ciel Pierlot
Three factions vie for control of the galaxy. Rig, a gunslinging, thieving, rebel with a cause, doesn’t give a damn about them and she hasn’t looked back since abandoning them three years ago. That is, until her former faction sends her a message: return what she stole from them, or her twin sister will die. Rig embarks on a journey across the galaxy to save her – but for once she’s not alone. She has help from her network of resistance contacts, her taser-wielding librarian girlfriend, and a mysterious bounty hunter. If Rig fails, trillions of lives will be lost – including her sister’s. But if she succeeds, she might just pull the whole damn system down around their ears. Either way, she’s going to do it with Panache and Pizzazz.
Sisters of the Forsaken Stars (Our Lady of Endless Worlds #2) by Lina Rather
(summary of the first book)
Years ago, Old Earth sent forth sisters and brothers into the vast dark of the prodigal colonies armed only with crucifixes and iron faith. Now, the sisters of the Order of Saint Rita are on an interstellar mission of mercy aboard Our Lady of Impossible Constellations, a living, breathing ship which seems determined to develop a will of its own.
When the order receives a distress call from a newly-formed colony, the sisters discover that the bodies and souls in their care—and that of the galactic diaspora—are in danger. And not from void beyond, but from the nascent Central Governance and the Church itself.
Returning Heroes (The Galactic Captains #6) by Harry F. Rey
(summary of the first book)
Captain Ales is a lonely smuggler at the galaxy’s Outer Verge, and the last of his people. He’s been trying to move on from a life of drugs and meaningless sex, but finding love in this forgotten corner of the galaxy is difficult.
When he’s sent on a mysterious smuggling mission to a world under siege, he’s enticed by promises of the domination he craves. But soon Ales finds himself entwined in a galactic power struggle that could cost him everything.
The Circus Infinite by Khan Wong
Hunted by those who want to study his gravity powers, Jes makes his way to the best place for a mixed-species fugitive to blend in: the pleasure moon. Here, everyone just wants to be lost in the party. It doesn’t take long for him to catch the attention of the crime boss who owns the resort-casino where he lands a circus job. When the boss gets wind of the bounty on Jes’ head, he makes an offer: do anything and everything asked of him, or face vivisection. With no other options, Jes fulfills the requests: espionage, torture, demolition. But when the boss sets the circus up to take the fall for his about-to-get-busted narcotics operation, Jes and his friends decide to bring the mobster down together. And if Jes can also avoid going back to being the prize subject of a scientist who can’t wait to dissect him? Even better.
Adrift in Starlight by Mindi Briar
When set adrift in the universe, some things are worth holding onto. Titan Valentino has been offered a job they can’t refuse. Tai, a gender-neutral courtesan, receives a scandalous proposition: seduce an actor’s virgin fiancée. The money is enough to pay off Tai’s crushing medical debt, a tantalizing prospect. Too bad Aisha Malik isn’t the easy target they expect.
Under Unfortunate Stars by Ren Hutchings
Fleeing the final days of the generations-long war with the alien Felen, smuggler Jereth Keeven’s freighter the Jonah breaks down in a strange rift in deep space, with little chance of rescue—until they encounter the research vessel Gallion, which claims to be from 152 years in the future.
The Gallion’s chief engineer Uma Ozakka has always been fascinated with the past, especially the tale of the Fortunate Five, who ended the war with the Felen. When the Gallion rescues a run-down junk freighter, Ozakka is shocked to recognize the Five’s legendary ship—and the Five’s famed leader, Eldric Leesongronski, among the crew.
But nothing else about Leesongronski and his crewmates seems to match up with the historical record. With their ships running out of power in the rift, more than the lives of both crews may be at stake…
Vows of Empire (The Bloodright Trilogy #3) by Emily Skrutskie
(summary of the first book)
Ettian’s life was shattered when the merciless Umber Empire invaded his world. He’s spent seven years putting himself back together under its rule, joining an Umber military academy and becoming the best pilot in his class. Even better, he’s met Gal—his exasperating and infuriatingly enticing roommate who’s made the academy feel like a new home.
But when dozens of classmates spring an assassination plot on Gal, a devastating secret comes to light: Gal is the heir to the Umber Empire. Ettian barely manages to save his best friend and flee the compromised academy unscathed, rattled that Gal stands to inherit the empire that broke him, and that there are still people willing to fight back against Umber rule.
As they piece together a way to deliver Gal safely to his throne, Ettian finds himself torn in half by an impossible choice. Does he save the man who’s won his heart and trust that Gal’s goodness could transform the empire? Or does he throw his lot in with the brewing rebellion and fight to take back what’s rightfully theirs?
August Kitko and the Mechas from Space by Alex White
Jazz pianist Gus Kitko expected to spend his final moments on Earth playing piano at the greatest goodbye party of all time, and maybe kissing rockstar Ardent Violet, before the last of humanity is wiped out forever by the Vanguards–ultra-powerful robots from the dark heart of space, hell-bent on destroying humanity for reasons none can divine.
But when the Vanguards arrive, the unthinkable happens–the mecha that should be killing Gus instead saves him. Suddenly, Gus’s swan song becomes humanity’s encore, as he is chosen to join a small group of traitorous Vanguards and their pilots dedicated to saving humanity.
Ion Curtain by Anya Ow
For decades the UN and the Russian military have navigated a tense interstellar Cold War.
Lieutenant Kalina Sokolova is aide to Counter-Admiral Kasparov, the major strategist for the Russian Navy. She is also an elite spy working for the UN. She is tasked with watching the Counter-Admiral, and assassination is not out of the question.
Solitaire Yeung is a corsair, a scavenger, a pirate. In the heart of a destroyed Russian battleship, his salvage crew makes an explosive discovery: the brain of the ship’s top secret artificial intelligence. And against their better judgment, they take it and run.
The UN wants it, and the Russians want it back, but they’re not the only ones hunting it. An even more powerful foe grows in the darkness of space. Now all of humanity has to fight to survive…
Fault Tolerance (Captain Eva Innocente #3) by Valerie Valdes
(summary of the first book)
Captain Eva Innocente and the crew of La Sirena Negra cruise the galaxy delivering small cargo for even smaller profits. When her sister Mari is kidnapped by The Fridge, a shadowy syndicate that holds people hostage in cryostasis, Eva must undergo a series of unpleasant, dangerous missions to pay the ransom.
But Eva may lose her mind before she can raise the money. The ship’s hold is full of psychic cats, an amorous fish-faced emperor wants her dead after she rejects his advances, and her sweet engineer is giving her a pesky case of feelings. The worse things get, the more she lies, raising suspicions and testing her loyalty to her found family.
To free her sister, Eva will risk everything: her crew, her ship, and the life she’s built on the ashes of her past misdeeds. But when the dominoes start to fall and she finds the real threat is greater than she imagined, she must decide whether to play it cool or burn it all down.
Nona the Ninth (The Locked Tomb #3) by Tamsyn Muir
(summary of the first book)
The Emperor needs necromancers.
The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.
Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead nonsense.
Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth, first in The Locked Tomb Trilogy, unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as skillfully animated as arcane revenants. The result is a heart-pounding epic science fantasy.
Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.
Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will be become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.
Of course, some things are better left dead.
The Genesis of Misery (Nullvoid Chronicles #1) by Neon Yang
This is the story Misery Nomaki (she/they), a nobody from a nowhere mining planet. Misery has abilities they shouldn’t though: they can bend the will of stone, a dangerous magic that only “saints” are said to have. These abilities lead Misery to the center of the Empire, where rumors spread that Misery is the next Messiah, and where those in power seek to use Misery to win a terrible war.
Amid a nest of vipers, Misery grows close to a rebellious royal, Lady Alodia Lightning, and decides to embrace the legacy the prophecies speak of. True or false, for better or worse, Misery Nomaki will be the Ninth Messiah.
Ocean’s Echo by Everina Maxwell
Rich socialite, inveterate flirt, and walking disaster Tennalhin Halkana can read minds. Tennal, like all neuromodified “readers,” is a security threat on his own. But when controlled, readers are a rare asset. Not only can they read minds, but they can navigate chaotic space, the maelstroms surrounding the gateway to the wider universe.
Conscripted into the military under dubious circumstances, Tennal is placed into the care of Lieutenant Surit Yeni, a duty-bound soldier, principled leader, and the son of a notorious traitor general. Whereas Tennal can read minds, Surit can influence them. Like all other neuromodified “architects,” he can impose his will onto others, and he’s under orders to control Tennal by merging their minds.
Surit accepted a suspicious promotion-track request out of desperation, but he refuses to go through with his illegal orders to sync and control an unconsenting Tennal. So they lie: They fake a sync bond and plan Tennal’s escape.
Their best chance arrives with a salvage-retrieval mission into chaotic space—to the very neuromodifcation lab that Surit’s traitor mother destroyed twenty years ago. And among the rubble is a treasure both terrible and unimaginably powerful, one that upends a decades-old power struggle, and begins a war.
Tennal and Surit can no longer abandon their unit or their world. The only way to avoid life under full military control is to complete the very sync they’ve been faking.
Can two unwilling weapons of war bring about peace?
(Set in the same universe as Winter’s Orbit.)
The Last Hero (The First Sister #3) by Linden Lewis
(summary of the first book)
First Sister has no name and no voice. As a priestess of the Sisterhood, she travels the stars alongside the soldiers of Earth and Mars—the same ones who own the rights to her body and soul. When her former captain abandons her, First Sister’s hopes for freedom are dashed when she is forced to stay on her ship with no friends, no power, and a new captain—Saito Ren—whom she knows nothing about. She is commanded to spy on Captain Ren by the Sisterhood, but soon discovers that working for the war effort is much harder when you’re falling in love.
Lito val Lucius climbed his way out of the slums to become an elite soldier of Venus but was defeated in combat by none other than Saito Ren, resulting in the disappearance of his partner, Hiro. When Lito learns that Hiro is both alive and a traitor to the cause, he now has a shot at redemption: track down and kill his former partner. But when he discovers recordings that Hiro secretly made, Lito’s own allegiances are put to the test. Ultimately, he must decide between following orders and following his heart.
The Stars Undying by Emery Robin
Princess Altagracia has lost everything. After a bloody civil war, her twin sister has claimed not just the crown of their planet Szayet but the Pearl of its prophecy, a computer that contains the immortal soul of Szayet’s god. Stripped of her birthright, Gracia flees the planet—just as Matheus Ceirran, Commander of the interstellar Empire of Ceiao, arrives in deadly pursuit with his volatile lieutenant, Anita. When Gracia and Ceirran’s paths collide, Gracia sees an opportunity to win back her planet, her god, and her throne…if she can win the Commander and his right-hand officer over first.
But talking her way into Ceirran’s good graces, and his bed, is only the beginning. Dealing with the most powerful man in the galaxy is almost as dangerous as war, and Gracia is quickly torn between an alliance that fast becomes more than political and the wishes of the god—or machine—that whispers in her ear. For Szayet’s sake, and her own, Gracia will need to become more than a princess with a silver tongue. She will have to become a queen as history has never seen before—even if it breaks an empire.
The Red Scholar’s Wake by Aliette de Bodard
Xích Si: bot maker, data analyst, mother, scavenger. But those days are over now-her ship has just been captured by the Red Banner pirate fleet, famous for their double-dealing and cruelty. Xích Si expects to be tortured to death-only for the pirates’ enigmatic leader, Rice Fish, to arrive with a different and shocking proposition: an arranged marriage between Xích Si and herself.
Rice Fish: sentient ship, leader of the infamous Red Banner pirate fleet, wife of the Red Scholar. Or at least, she was the latter before her wife died under suspicious circumstances. Now isolated and alone, Rice Fish wants Xích Si’s help to find out who struck against them and why. Marrying Xích Si means Rice Fish can offer Xích Si protection, in exchange for Xích Si’s technical fluency: a business arrangement with nothing more to it.
But as the investigation goes on, Rice Fish and Xích Si find themselves falling for each other. As the interstellar war against piracy intensifies and the five fleets start fighting each other, they will have to make a stand-and to decide what kind of future they have together…
The Reinvented Heart
What happens when emotions like love and friendship span vast distances ― in space, in time, and in the heart?
Science fiction often focuses on future technology and science without considering the ways social structures will change as tech changes ― or not. What will relationships look like in a complicated future of clones, uploaded intelligences, artificial brains, or body augmentation? What stories emerge when we acknowledge possibilities of new genders and ways of thinking about them?
The Reinvented Heart presents stories that complicate sex and gender by showing how shifting technology may affect social attitudes and practices, stories that include relationships with communities and social groups, stories that reinvent traditional romance tropes and recast them for the 21st century, and above all, stories that experiment, astonish, and entertain.
Queen (Hidden Earth Trilogy #1) by J.S. Fields
Nobody leaves Queen. On the tidally locked planet, a vulva and an authority problem are the only immigration requirements. Emigration is banned.
Ember spends her days cruising Queen’s endless sand dunes, hunting sand pirates and wallowing in memories of her dead wife. After an ambush, Ember is dragged to the pirate camp and learns her wife’s biggest secret—before her death, she’d joined the pirates, built an illegal spaceship, and plotted to leave the planet.
Ember, Nadia, and the sand pirates must take back the planet and expose the corrupt New Earth mining. Taming giant beetles, wrestling stinkhorn fungi, and enlisting Queen’s rabbit population in a high-stakes aerial battle are just part of the hijinks that will determine Queen’s fate as a galactic player, as well as the futures of all its conscripted inhabitants.
The newly minted outlaws must also grapple with Queen’s narrow concept of “womanhood” and where trans and intersex people belong in its future.
20 books set in space with LGBTQIA+ rep releasing in 2022. Not too bad, isn’t it? That’s more than one book to read each month this year, almost two even! Not to forget that this is just a sub-genre and there are other queer science fiction books coming out this year.