Valentine’s Day has come again. And with it comes all the predictable, but no less hurtful, erasure of experiences outside the cultural ‘norm’. So I wanted to do a short series of posts recommending stories that feature identities which don’t usually register on the cultural landscape.
Really, this series could be endless. But I wanted to focus particularly on some of the less ‘mainstream’ identities of the LGBTQIA+ community. I’m aware that all of the identities included under the umbrella acronym suffer marginalisation, but I know that lists such as in this series do already exist for the, if you like, ‘headline’ identities. I want to do something for those people who receive even less acknowledgement and validity, who can’t just google ‘______’ characters in fiction’ and get an easy-to-reference result.
So in the week of Valentine’s Day, I’ll be posting rec lists for aromanticism, asexuality, demisexuality/demiromanticism, pansexuality/panromanticism and polyamory. I could do plenty more – and I have ideas for several more – but I want to keep this series short in order to make sure that all these lists are researched and resourced to the best of my ability. If you feel there’s an identity that I’ve overlooked, please do let me know! I’d love to expand this series if that’s something people would be interested in.
Once the whole series is posted, I’ll do a summary post linking them all together, which you will be able to click through to here.
So this is my list of polyamorous characters in fiction, with eleven recommendations. A disclaimer that I’ve only read one of these, so if I’ve included any with problematic rep by accident, I’d love to know so I can remove them.
Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi
Alana Quick is the best damned sky surgeon in Heliodor City, but repairing starship engines barely pays the bills. When the desperate crew of a cargo vessel stops by her shipyard looking for her spiritually advanced sister Nova, Alana stows away. Maybe her boldness will land her a long-term gig on the crew. But the Tangled Axon proves to be more than star-watching and plasma coils. The chief engineer thinks he’s a wolf. The pilot fades in and out of existence. The captain is all blond hair, boots, and ego . . . and Alana can’t keep her eyes off her. But there’s little time for romance: Nova’s in danger and someone will do anything–even destroying planets–to get their hands on her.
The spaceship captain is polyamorous.
Go Deep (All Out Vancouver book 2) by Leigh Matthews
As Cass contemplates the future of her relationship and what she really wants to do in life, Kate stumbles upon Scout, a fierce and flirtatious transplant to the west coast who is the spitting image of Cass.
Picking up where Cass left off, Scout is busy playing the field in the East Van queer softball league. But when Scout’s world collides with Kate’s, she has to face some difficult truths about love, life and family.
Can Scout and Cass finally figure out how to pitch past the 6th – how to go deep? Will Kate find a reason to move back to Vancouver and to trust Cass? And, most importantly, can Thunderpuss, everybody’s favourite outsized cat, fulfil his duties as ringbearer at a somewhat unorthodox wedding?
Characters in a polyamorous triad.
Chameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver
The city of Parole is burning. Like Venice slips into the sea, Parole crumbles into fire.
The entire population inside has been quarantined, cut off from the rest of the world, and left to die – directly over the open flame. Eye in the Sky, a deadly and merciless police force ensures no one escapes. Ever. All that’s keeping Parole alive is faith in the midst of horrors and death, trust in the face of desperation… and their fantastic, terrifying, and beautiful superhuman abilities.
Regan, stealth and reconnaissance expert with a lizard’s scales and snake’s eyes, is haunted by ten years of anxiety, trauma and terror, and he’s finally reached his limit. His ability to disappear into thin air isn’t enough: he needs an escape, and he’ll do anything for a chance. He joins forces with Evelyn’s family: the virtuosic but volatile Danae, who breathes life into machines, and her wife Rose, whose compassionate nature and power over healing vines and defensive thorns will both be vital to survive this nightmare. Then there’s Zilch, a cool and level-headed person made of other dead people, and Finn, one of Parole’s few remaining taxi drivers, who causes explosions whenever he feels anything but happy. Together, they have a chance.
Three polyamorous mums, definitely one other polyam character.
Forget Yourself by Redfern Jon Barrett
Blondee lives in a strange world without memories: just four walls, fifty huts and a hundred forgotten people. She came in with the food rations. Mind and body naked, like everyone. Now she lives in a triangular hut at the edge of everything. They say she was a thief – she has long fingers – and she certainly has a reputation for taking multiple lovers. But haunted by the ghost of a fat man and dreaming of a stone woman, Blondee knows she can reshape the world – she just needs to get the world to listen…
Polyam protagonist, but I’m pretty sure it’s not canon.
Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente
Between life and death, dreaming and waking, at the train stop beyond the end of the world is the city of Palimpsest. To get there is a miracle, a mystery, a gift, and a curse—a voyage permitted only to those who’ve always believed there’s another world than the one that meets the eye. Those fated to make the passage are marked forever by a map of that wondrous city tattooed on their flesh after a single orgasmic night. To this kingdom of ghost trains, lion-priests, living kanji, and cream-filled canals come four travelers: Oleg, a New York locksmith; the beekeeper November; Ludovico, a binder of rare books; and a young Japanese woman named Sei. They’ve each lost something important—a wife, a lover, a sister, a direction in life—and what they will find in Palimpsest is more than they could ever imagine.
Polyamory between lead characters, world of fluid sexuality.
Strong, united families are rarely portrayed in speculative fiction. They’re often dysfunctional, combative, self-destructive, or miserable, when they’re portrayed at all. This is especially true for non-nuclear and adoptive families, single parent families and families with no children, which are easy targets for invalidation.
And QUILTBAG families are almost never portrayed in speculative fiction, regardless of whether their families are loving or falling apart.
15 exhilarating stories of QUILTBAG families experiencing adventure, disaster, and triumph make up Fierce Family. They are families of any constellation: all sizes and configurations, families of choice as well as families by birth. They are caring and connected – when outside conflict arises, they come together to defend and aid one another. Fiercely, and without hesitation.
One short story has polyam space pirates and polyam space farmers.
Home at the End of the World by Michael Cunningham
From Michael Cunningham, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hours comes this widely praised novel of two boyhood friends: Jonathan, lonely, introspective, and unsure of himself; and Bobby, hip, dark, and inarticulate. In New York after college, Bobby moves in with Jonathan and his roommate, Clare, a veteran of the city’s erotic wars. Bobby and Clare fall in love, scuttling the plans of Jonathan, who is gay, to father Clare’s child. Then, when Clare and Bobby have a baby, the three move to a small house upstate to raise “their” child together and, with an odd friend, Alice, create a new kind of family. A Home at the End of the World masterfully depicts the charged, fragile relationships of urban life today.
Three people are in love with each other and they solve it by moving in together and raising a child.
Kushiel’s Dart (Kushiel’s Universe book 1) by Jacqueline Carey
The land of Terre d’Ange is a place of unsurpassing beauty and grace. It is said that angels found the land and saw it was good… and the ensuing race that rose from the seed of angels and men live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt.
Phèdre nó Delaunay is a young woman who was born with a scarlet mote in her left eye. Sold into indentured servitude as a child, her bond is purchased by Anafiel Delaunay, a nobleman with very a special mission… and the first one to recognize who and what she is: one pricked by Kushiel’s Dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one.
Phèdre is trained equally in the courtly arts and the talents of the bedchamber, but, above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze. Almost as talented a spy as she is courtesan, Phèdre stumbles upon a plot that threatens the very foundations of her homeland. Treachery sets her on her path; love and honor goad her further. And in the doing, it will take her to the edge of despair… and beyond. Hateful friend, loving enemy, beloved assassin; they can all wear the same glittering mask in this world, and Phèdre will get but one chance to save all that she holds dear.
Protagonist is promiscuous, has multiple lovers. Not explicitly polam but certainly a valid interpretation.
The Compass Rose (One Rose Trilogy book 1) by Gail Dayton
The legends of the Godstruck were just that – legends. Until, in an attempt to defend her people, Captain Kallista Varyl called on the One for aid and was granted abilities such as no one had seen in centuries. Now Kallista has been charged with a new destiny as one of the most powerful women in the land – but her power is useless if it cannot be controlled. Mastering her “Godstruck” abilities is the first step. The next, learning that she cannot unlock the secrets of the Compass Rose and defeat her nation’s enemy alone. And finally she must stop a demon-possessed king…
Group marriages with up to twelve people are the norm.
Inheritance (Adaptation book 2) by Malinda Lo
Reese and David are not normal teens—not since they were adapted with alien DNA by the Imria, an extraterrestrial race that has been secretly visiting Earth for decades. Now everyone is trying to get to them: the government, the Imria, and a mysterious corporation that would do anything for the upper hand against the aliens.
Beyond the web of conspiracies, Reese can’t reconcile her love for David with her feelings for her ex-girlfriend Amber, an Imrian. But her choice between two worlds will play a critical role in determining the future of humanity, the Imria’s place in it, and the inheritance she and David will bring to the universe.
As far as I can tell, love triangle solved by polyamory.
The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk
An epic tale of freedom and slavery, love and war, and the potential futures of humankind tells of a twenty-first century California clan caught between two clashing worlds, one based on tolerance, the other on repression.
This is the first book in the Maya Greenwood series.
Polyamory/pansexuality is the cultural norm.
And that’s the last post in the Valentines Series! As I said at the beginning, please do let me know if you feel I’ve missed something or someone out, I’d be delighted to do more posts in this series if that’s something people would be interested in.