Gender-bending Novels

Science fiction writers are often able to rework our understandings of our own world's norms through building different worlds with unique traits. Here are a few books where authors played with traditional gender constructs and created new genders and gender pronouns, featured genderless characters, or were chronicled by a narrator without a distinguishable identity. 

Up against it by M. J. Locke

In this debut novel written by a professional engineer and set on the asteroid colony Phocaea, a group of space-born high-school students amuse themselves by hacking matter compilers to produce dancing skeletons, using their rocket-bikes to salvage methane ice shrapnel that flies away when the colony brings in a big (and vital) rock of the stuff, and figuring out how to avoid the ubiquitous surveillance motes that are the million eyes of 'Stroiders, a reality-TV show that spies on the colonists' daily lives for entertainment back on Earth. Then the brother of one of the young men is killed in a freak accident. The accident reveals that the colony is facing a water crisis. Jane, the resource-management specialist in charge, discovers that the accident and the crisis were probably arranged by the Martian crime syndicate, which wants to control the colony. And then there's this rogue AI from somewhere . . . . Thrills, action, real characters that you come to care about, and a true sense of what it would be like to live in a space colony Locke has given all these. Here's hoping to see more books from this writer.--Murray, Frieda Copyright 2010 Booklist

A New York Times bestseller and winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards, Dreamsnake is the haunting, critically acclaimed novel of an extraordinary woman and her dangerous quest to reclaim her healing powers. When the healer Snake was summoned, she traveled the blasted landscape with her three serpents. From the venom of two of them, she distilled her medicines. But most valued of all was the alien dreamsnake, whose bite could ease the fear and pain of death. When the dreamsnake is killed, Snake's powers as a healer are all but lost. Her only hope of finding another dreamsnake lies in a treacherous journey to the far-off Center City, where Snake will be pursued by two implacable followers: one driven mad by love, the other by fear and need.

The left hand of darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

An official from an interplanetary federation is called in to arbitrate peace on a planet whose inhabitants are technically advanced, androgynous, and have telepathic powers.

Lizard radio by Pat Schmatz

Fifteen-year-old bender Kivali, who was deposited on Earth as an infant by mysterious saurians, must discover her true identity in a futuristic society run by an all-powerful government.

The only ones : a novel by Carola Dibbell
Also available in: e-book

"Inez wanders a post-pandemic world, strangely immune to disease, making her living by volunteering as a test subject. She is hired to provide genetic material to a grief-stricken, affluent mother, who lost all four of her daughters within four short weeks. This experimental genetic work is policed by a hazy network of governmental Ethics committees, and threatened by the Knights of Life, religious zealots who raze the rural farms where much of this experimentation is done. When the mother backs out at the last minute, Inez is left responsible for the product, which in this case is a baby girl, Ani. Inez must protect Ani, who is a scientific breakthrough, keeping her alive, dodging authorities and religious fanatics, and trying to provide Ani with the childhood that Inez never had, which means a stable home and an education" --.

Ancillary justice by Ann Leckie

The only novel ever to win the Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke Awards and the first book in Ann Leckie's New York Times bestselling trilogy. On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest. Once, she was the Justice of Toren - a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy. Now, an act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with one fragile human body, unanswered questions, and a burning desire for vengeance.




If you are interested in reading more books that use or discuss gender in non-traditional ways, check out books nominated for James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award, "an annual literary prize for science fiction or fantasy that expands or explores our understanding of gender."