As a proudly autistic reader, I’m always on the lookout for autistic characters in the books I read, and autistic authors whose work I can pounce on. Here is a non-exhaustive list of some of my favourites!
(Also, petition to rename Autism Acceptance Month as Autism Appreciation Month, which is what I initially misread it as!)
Books with Autistic LeadsThe Outside (The Outside, #1) by Ada Hoffmann
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Science Fantasy
Representation: Sapphic autistic MC, F/F or wlw, genderfluid PoV character
Autistic scientist Yasira Shien has developed a radical new energy drive that could change the future of humanity. But when she activates it, reality warps, destroying the space station and everyone aboard. The AI Gods who rule the galaxy declare her work heretical, and Yasira is abducted by their agents. Instead of simply executing her, they offer mercy – if she’ll help them hunt down a bigger target: her own mysterious, vanished mentor. With her homeworld’s fate in the balance, Yasira must choose who to trust: the gods and their ruthless post-human angels, or the rebel scientist whose unorthodox mathematics could turn her world inside out.
I’ve reviewed both of these, but the TL;DR version is that they’re a mashup of sci-fi and quantum physics and magic, and they’re amazing.
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Autistic MC, bisexual MC, bisexual MC, M/M/F
“But these are vital aspects of marriage. If one cannot discuss them, what's the use in meeting at all? It's like trying to decide what you'll have for dinner without mentioning food.”
Wisteria Vasilver does wish to marry. Truly. But though she lives in Paradise, arranging a match is full of traps and pitfalls for the unwary ... or perhaps just for her.
Nikola Striker, Lord of Fireholt, expects he'll wed -- someday. But not now, and never to a rich icicle of a woman like Miss Vasilver. No matter how much his parents might want the match, or his house might need her dowry. Besides, he has his own problems -- most of them people who need his help as a mind-healer.
Lord Justin Comfrey, Viscount of Comfrey, would be more than happy to help Striker with his financial troubles, and not just to ensure that Miss Vasilver's dowry doesn't tempt Striker into marriage. If only he could find some way to make his proud, stubborn friend accept the money!
Can three people of such different temperaments ever find their way to a more perfect Paradise?
This is a big, long slice-of-life + romance novel about an autistic woman becoming involved with two men who are already lovers – in a world where there are giant speaking cats, some people have psychic abilities, and humans are aware they come here from another planet. For all that it’s functionally a regency romance setting, as the cover suggests. It’s a lot of fun; it opens with the autistic character presenting her maybe-suitor with a proposed marriage contract that covers everything from household finances to extra-marital affairs – perfectly sensible, in my opinion!
Genres: Fantasy, Horror
Representation: Autistic MC
Practical, unassuming Jane Shoringfield has done the calculations, and decided that the most secure path forward is this: a husband, in a marriage of convenience, who will allow her to remain independent and occupied with meaningful work. Her first choice, the dashing but reclusive doctor Augustine Lawrence, agrees to her proposal with only one condition: that she must never visit Lindridge Hall, his crumbling family manor outside of town. Yet on their wedding night, an accident strands her at his door in a pitch-black rainstorm, and she finds him changed. Gone is the bold, courageous surgeon, and in his place is a terrified, paranoid man—one who cannot tell reality from nightmare, and fears Jane is an apparition, come to haunt him.
By morning, Augustine is himself again, but Jane knows something is deeply wrong at Lindridge Hall, and with the man she has so hastily bound her safety to. Set in a dark-mirror version of post-war England, Starling crafts a new kind of gothic horror from the bones of the beloved canon. This Crimson Peak-inspired story assembles, then upends, every expectation set in place by Shirley Jackson and Rebecca, and will leave readers shaken, desperate to begin again as soon as they are finished.
Gothic supernatural horror sound like your thing? Then The Death of Jane Lawrence should do nicely! This starts off as another ‘let’s get married in a reasonable manner’ story but rapidly becomes something…very much Else. I promise, whatever you’re expecting, this will surprise you!
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: Bi/pansexual autistic MC
As one of the only remaining autistics in the universe, Xandri Corelel has faced a lot of hardship, and she's earned her place as the head of Xeno-Liaisons aboard the first contact ship Carpathia. But her skill at negotiating with alien species is about to be put to the ultimate test.
The Anmerilli, a notoriously reticent and xenophobic people, have invented a powerful weapon that will irrevocably change the face of space combat. Now the Starsystems Alliance has called in Xandri and the crew of the Carpathia to mediate. The Alliance won't risk the weapon falling into enemy hands, and if Xandri can't bring the Anmerilli into the fold, the consequences will be dire.
Amidst sabotage, assassination attempts, and rampant cronyism, Xandri struggles to convince the doubtful and ornery Anmerilli. Worse, she's beginning to suspect that not everyone on her side is really working to make the alliance a success. As tensions rise and tempers threaten to boil over, Xandri must focus all her energy into understanding the one species that has always been beyond her: her own.
ALIEN ANTHROPOLOGIST! Honestly, do you really need to hear anything else?! This is one of the first books I ever reviewed for Every Book a Doorway, and it’s still one of my favourites!
Representation: Autistic MC
Fourteen-year-old Taver didn't know he was a nobleman's bastard until his real father died. Eleven-year-old Elaku has always known she was the bastard daughter of the same nobleman - and the Empress's Witch. When the two siblings meet in the Empress of Timbra's palace, neither is aware that treachery and war threaten their home - and that they must rely on their magic, their wits, and each other to have any chance of victory.
Empress of Timbra made it onto my Best of the Decade list, which should tell you everything you need to know, really. Don’t be put off my the age of the MCs; this is one of those books self-publishing exists for, because it doesn’t fit neatly into an age-range at all. I can attest that grown-ups will absolutely adore this as well as younger readers – it’s much more complex than it looks at first!
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: Autistic, intersex Black MC
Odd-mannered, obsessive, withdrawn, Aster has little to offer folks in the way of rebuttal when they call her ogre and freak. She's used to the names; she only wishes there was more truth to them. If she were truly a monster, as they accuse, she'd be powerful enough to tear down the walls around her until nothing remained of her world, save for stories told around the cookfire.
Aster lives in the low-deck slums of the HSS Matilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South. For generations, the Matilda has ferried the last of humanity to a mythical Promised Land. On its way, the ship's leaders have imposed harsh moral restrictions and deep indignities on dark-skinned sharecroppers like Aster, who they consider to be less than human.
When the autopsy of Matilda's sovereign reveals a surprising link between his death and her mother's suicide some quarter-century before, Aster retraces her mother's footsteps. Embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer and sowing the seeds of civil war, Aster learns there may be a way off the ship if she's willing to fight for it.
An Unkindness of Ghosts does not play nice, but it’s unquestionably a masterpiece that greatly rewards those who can stomach the horrific cruelties inflicted upon Astra and her people.
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Autistic Black sapphic MC
The water-breathing descendants of African slave women tossed overboard have built their own underwater society—and must reclaim the memories of their past to shape their future in this brilliantly imaginative novella inspired by the Hugo Award nominated song “The Deep” from Daveed Diggs’ rap group Clipping.
Yetu holds the memories for her people—water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners—who live idyllic lives in the deep. Their past, too traumatic to be remembered regularly, is forgotten by everyone, save one—the historian. This demanding role has been bestowed on Yetu.
Yetu remembers for everyone, and the memories, painful and wonderful, traumatic and terrible and miraculous, are destroying her. And so, she flees to the surface, escaping the memories, the expectations, and the responsibilities—and discovers a world her people left behind long ago.
Yetu will learn more than she ever expected to about her own past—and about the future of her people. If they are all to survive, they’ll need to reclaim the memories, reclaim their identity—and own who they really are.
Inspired by a song produced by the rap group Clipping for the This American Life episode “We Are In The Future,” The Deep is vividly original and uniquely affecting.
Another one by Rivers Solomon, but I couldn’t possibly exclude it! This is a shorter novel about merpeople descended from the pregnant Africans thrown overboard by slavers, and it just gets better after that already-amazing premise.
Genres: Fantasy, Portal Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Autistic POV character, asexual aromantic brown MC, sapphic MC, secondary trans characters, F/F
Saffron Coulter is back on Earth, but even so, nothing is easy. Struggling with the victimising expectations of her friends and family and threatened with a stay in psychiatric care, Saffron has to make a choice: to forget about Kena and fit back into the life she s outgrown, or pit herself against everything she s ever known and everyone she loves. Meanwhile in Kena, Gwen is increasingly troubled by Leoden s absence and his plans for the captive worldwalkers, while Yena, still in Veksh, must confront the deposed Kadeja. What is their endgame? Who can they trust? And what happens when Leoden returns?
This is the second book in a duology and you should definitely read book one first, although the autistic character is only a PoV in Tyranny. This is portal fantasy for those who want their portal fantasies racially and sexually diverse, not straight and white and Christian; the wouldbuilding is phenomenal, and Tyranny is actually even better than the first book, An Accident of Stars. Not to be missed!
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Achillean MC with ADHD, autistic achillean MC
The year is 1764, and following a glowing recommendation from his last employer, Henry Coffey, vampire, takes on a new personal secretary: young Theophilus Essex.
The man is quite unlike any secretary - or any man, for that matter - that Henry has ever met.
'Heart of Stone' is a slowly unfolding period romance between a vampire and his inimitably devoted clerk: lushly depicted in flowing, lovingly appended prose, we follow the slow understanding these two men grasp of one another, and the cross of their two worlds into each other's.
Henry Coffey, immortal and ever-oscillating between periods of delighted focus upon his current passion project, is charming, witty, and seems utterly incapable of closing his mouth for more than a few moments; in contrast, Theophilus Essex is quiet and keenly focused, adopting an ever-flat affect, but as time goes on, he relaxes in his employer's presence.
Craving resounding intimacy but with an ever aware of the polite boundaries for their situation, Coffey and Essex perform a slow dance as they grow closer to one another, and find themselves entangled.
Heart of Stone is a low-stakes, slow-burn romance between a vampire with ADHD and his autistic secretary, and it’s absolutely perfect – especially if you’re looking for something sweet, slow and soothing, rather than a the-fate-of-the-world-is-at-stake story!
Genres: Horror, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Sapphic autistic MC, bisexual MC, Hawaiian, Deaf, Latine POV characters, character with chronic pain
Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy.
Now, a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.
Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the waves. But the secrets of the deep come with a price.
One of the leads in Mira Grant’s mermaid-horror novel is autistic – and there’s a ton of other rep too. I love how casual Grant (aka, Seanan McGuire) is about diversity, how she writes stories that just naturally happen to have all kinds of people in them. This one is definitely horror, but it’s ridiculously good and clever and inclusive horror!
Genres: Horror, Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: Gay trans MC, gay autistic MC, secondary BIPOC + queer cast
Published on: 7th June 2022
Prepare to die. His kingdom is near.
Sixteen-year-old trans boy Benji is on the run from the cult that raised him—the fundamentalist sect that unleashed Armageddon and decimated the world’s population. Desperately, he searches for a place where the cult can’t get their hands on him, or more importantly, on the bioweapon they infected him with.
But when cornered by monsters born from the destruction, Benji is rescued by a group of teens from the local Acheson LGBTQ+ Center, affectionately known as the ALC. The ALC’s leader, Nick, is gorgeous, autistic, and a deadly shot, and he knows Benji’s darkest secret: the cult’s bioweapon is mutating him into a monster deadly enough to wipe humanity from the earth once and for all.
Still, Nick offers Benji shelter among his ragtag group of queer teens, as long as Benji can control the monster and use its power to defend the ALC. Eager to belong, Benji accepts Nick’s terms…until he discovers the ALC’s mysterious leader has a hidden agenda, and more than a few secrets of his own.
A furious, queer debut novel about embracing the monster within and unleashing its power against your oppressors. Perfect for fans of Gideon the Ninth and Annihilation.
One of the main characters in Hell Followed With Us is an autistic sharpshooter who bucks so many of the stereotypes that I Cannot Even. He’s both the maybe-love interest and the only character other than Benji to have PoV chapters, and I love him.
Hell Followed With Us isn’t out yet, but you can read my review here to learn more about it!
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Brown cast, gay MC, bisexual/demisexual autistic-coded MC, secondary pansexual character, secondary asexual nonbinary character, tertiary nonbinary characters, queernorm world
Published on: 30th August 2022
“A delicious tangle of romance, fealty, and dangerous politics.”—Tasha Suri
The Goblin Emperor meets "Magnificent Century" in Alexandra Rowland's A Taste of Gold and Iron, where a queer central romance unfolds in a fantasy world reminiscent of the Ottoman Empire.
Kadou, the shy prince of Arasht, finds himself at odds with one of the most powerful ambassadors at court—the body-father of the queen's new child—in an altercation which results in his humiliation.
To prove his loyalty to the queen, his sister, Kadou takes responsibility for the investigation of a break-in at one of their guilds, with the help of his newly appointed bodyguard, the coldly handsome Evemer, who seems to tolerate him at best. In Arasht, where princes can touch-taste precious metals with their fingers and myth runs side by side with history, counterfeiting is heresy, and the conspiracy they discover could cripple the kingdom’s financial standing and bring about its ruin.
Again, A Taste of Gold and Iron hasn’t been released yet, but you definitely need to preorder it because it’s literally perfect. And although I’ve not heard anything official on this, I read Evemer as being on the spectrum, which is truly awesome because I’ve never come across an autistic character in a fantasy like this before!
Books By Autistic Authors
(Other than those already mentioned!)
Genres: Fantasy, Secondary World Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Trans MCs
Wind: To match one's body with one's heart
Sand: To take the bearer where they wish
Song: In praise of the goddess Bird
Bone: To move unheard in the night
The Surun' do not speak of the master weaver, Benesret, who creates the cloth of bone for assassins in the Great Burri Desert. But Uiziya now seeks her aunt Benesret in order to learn the final weave, although the price for knowledge may be far too dear to pay.
Among the Khana, women travel in caravans to trade, while men remain in the inner quarter as scholars. A nameless man struggles to embody Khana masculinity, after many years of performing the life of a woman, trader, wife, and grandmother.
As the past catches up to the nameless man, he must choose between the life he dreamed of and Uiziya, and Uiziya must discover how to challenge a tyrant, and weave from deaths that matter.
Set in R. B. Lemberg's beloved Birdverse.
You really need to check out all of the Birdverse stories, but this is the first book in the series and a pretty wonderful opening. Two trans elders go on the same quest with different goals, in a world where you can transition with magic and weave flying carpets (if you know the right profound weave)! I’d recommend reading the short story Grandmother-nai-Leylit’s Cloth of Winds first, because it directly precedes the events of Four Profound Weaves, but you can read it online for free here!
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists, Science Fantasy
Representation: BIPOC + queer cast
“Locus Award winner Lee (Phoenix Extravagant) takes on the folktale form in a collection of 25 gorgeous, magical stories, tiny jewels of worldbuilding that tap into mythic themes to feel somehow both ancient and delightfully fresh… The result is breathtaking in its playful grace." —Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review
Enter a world of magic and myth, where foxes fall in love and robots build their own dragons. In The Fox’s Tower and Other Tales, New York Times bestselling author Yoon Ha Lee crafts together short and moving stories of love, adventure, magic, and nature. With poetic language and intricate world building, readers will be whisked away to a different adventure with every new story. Full of fascinating creatures and LGBT+ romances, this flash fiction collection combines the classic with the contemporary in Yoon’s captivating style.
This is a truly exquisite collection of tiny but breathtaking stories, many of them queer and all of them delightful. Dragons, witches, and even unicorns abound, and it’s quickly become one of my go-to books when I’m feeling down. One of my very favourites.
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Science Fantasy
Representation: Black sapphic MC with chronic pain, polyamory, F/F
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.
Another favourite is Ascension, in which a Black woman with a chronic illness stows away on a spaceship and is drawn into a world-ending conspiracy. Koyanagi’s writing is fabulous, and it’s hard not to love the mix of fantasy with sci-fi!A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe (The Salvagers, #1) by Alex White
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Science Fantasy
Representation: F/F, queernorm world
Boots Elsworth was a famous treasure hunter in another life, but now she’s washed up. She makes her meager living faking salvage legends and selling them to the highest bidder, but this time she might have stumbled on something real–the story of the Harrow, a famous warship, capable of untold destruction.
Nilah Brio is the top driver in the Pan Galactic Racing Federation and the darling of the racing world–until she witnesses the murder of a fellow racer. Framed for the murder and on the hunt to clear her name, Nilah only has one lead: the killer also hunts a woman named Boots.
On the wrong side of the law, the two women board a smuggler’s ship that will take them on a quest for fame, for riches, and for justice.
What if you could have spaceships and magic? That’s basically the premise of this incredible trilogy where a ragtag band of misfits have to work together to prevent a conspiracy that would turn some truly monstrous people into gods. These books are some of my top faves and I recommend them every chance I get – and regret nothing!
I hope you found something new to love in this list, and feel free to drop recs of your own in the comments!