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Wednesday 5: Five Scifi Heroines

February 1, 2012

This week’s list is inspired by the anniversary of A Wrinkle In Time, and the New York Times piece that points out, before A Wrinkle In Time, there really wasn’t a science fiction heroine anything like Meg Murry. Meg’s adventures got more young women tuning into science fiction, the article argues, and maybe inspired their attention to math, science and physics in a larger sense.

Here are five adventuring women I see following Meg’s spirit of inquiry and bravery. Well, four, and one recommendation from a friend who’s read Ursula K. LeGuin. (I keep trying, and I can’t do it…)

1. A relative newcomer to the scene, Katniss Everdeen, of The Hunger Games series. We take her bow ad arrow fierce loyalty and pragmatism for granted today. But it was not always so easy to imagine a female character displaying so much strength and bravery.

2. I absolutely cannot pick just one strong female character from Spider Robinson’s Callahan series. There’s Lady Sally, commanding, wise, insightful, and earthy. Or her daughter Mary, a blacksmith. Even the extremely odd construct of Arethusa Quigley, a set of telepathic twins. Callahan’s universe is full of smart, empathetic female characters. I’m particularly impressed by the way they take ownership of, and delight in, loving and respectful sexuality.

3. Festina Ramos, first seen in Expendable, by James Alan Gardner. This is the first in a series, where the setup is sort of a riff on the Star Trek  redshirt trope. In this 25th century world, ugly or disfigured people are the first line of explorers to a new world– in case they die (it’s thought to be less wrenching for the crew to lose its ugly members first.) Festina Ramos is resourceful and has a wickedly caustic narrative voice. Raises all sorts of interesting feminist lines of thought, about beauty and agency. In a good adventure tale.

4. I have trouble picking just one example from Connie Willis’ novels, as well. Kivrin Engle in The Doomsday Book or Polly and Merope from Blackout and All Clear  Both are intense historical adventures that cast female characters in key adventuring roles.

5. Here’s a placeholder for Ursula K. LeGuin. ChrisL recommended adding The Tomb of Atuan to the list. And I have not read it. I keep almost-reading LeGuin. I know she’s a stunning writer. And I get a little extra buzz from the fact that she’s the daughter of an anthropologist, A.L. Kroeber. I’ve tried! but I haven’t gotten into her books, yet.

What other women of science fiction should be on this list?


Also, it’s been too long since I reread A Swiftly Tilting Planet, one of my favorites by Madeleine L’Engle.


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