The greatest women of science fiction and fantasy . . .that is tough to decide. And that’s using my personal favorites, not the entirety of speculative fiction literature. And without considering movies or television. I decided to pretend those aren’t a thing while writing this post in order to stick solely with books (which are always better), and it was still hard.
But, narrow I did. So in honor of Women’s History Month and as a belated International Women’s Day celebration, these are my favorite heroines of literary sci-fi and fantasy (not including characters from my own stories, because I’m not that desperate for attention).
These powerful women are arranged roughly in the order of which I was introduced to them.
- Eowyn, from The Lord of the Rings
Eowyn was my first hero, back in elementary school. Some parents will read Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast to their kids at night. My dad read The Lord of the Rings. This resulted in me dressing up as Eowyn for Halloween when I was seven, before The Two Towers was released in theaters. Needless to say, nobody knew who I was supposed to be. Uncultured heathens.
Anyway, Eowyn makes this list because she decided she wasn’t going to sit back and relax while her family risked their lives in a war. She basically said fuck it and took out the Witch-king of Angmar, then helped her brother rule a war-torn kingdom. How many other shield-maidens can put that on their resume?
- Hermione Granger, from Harry Potter
If Rowling is queen, then Hermione’s the crown princess. She’s been one of my generation’s defining role models for girls, and it is worlds better than Cinderella or *shudders* Bella (seriously, there are so many reasons to hate Twilight, but the massive blow it’s dealt to feminism is big numero uno).
The reason so many girls like me jumped on the Hermione bandwagon is because she’s the career-driven bookworm so many of us are. And more to the point, she says that that’s OK. It’s OK to be passionate, to share your intelligence with others, and to punch Draco Malfoy in that pouty little face of his.
- Catti-Brie, from The Legend of Drizzt
The Legend of Drizzt is an epic fantasy series set in the Dungeons and Dragons universe. Drizzt is a dark elf (or “drow”) who leaves his corrupt underground society for the slightly less corrupt surface world. Among other people, he meets a human girl named Catti-Brie, who was raised by dwarves.
Catti-Brie’s story is an interesting one. We first meet her when she’s a young girl, and she’s one of the few people who accepts Drizzt with open arms. (Drow have a very bad reputation, to the point where Drizzt gets chased out of every other town with pitchforks.) She’s a stubborn, compassionate girl who convinces everyone else to more or less tolerate Drizzt.
Later, when she grows up, she becomes a kick-ass sword-wielding warrior who fights monsters and demons. As you do in D&D.
- Annabeth Chase, from Percy Jackson
Similar to Hermione Granger, Annabeth’s greatest strength is her intelligence, and the fact that she’s not afraid to use it. Which makes sense; Percy Jackson is an urban fantasy where the Greek gods are still alive and well, and Annabeth is the daughter of Athena, the goddess of wisdom.
What’s great about Annabeth is that she is technically the weakest person on whatever team she’s on, especially in Heroes of Olympus when she is one of seven demigods. She can’t control the weather, turn into animals, raise the dead, or anything glaringly magical. And yet, her authority goes absolutely unquestioned. She’s always the one with the plan. She’s the one who can utilize everyone’s strengths and weaknesses to get the advantage. Everyone else knows it, and none of them are stupid enough to question it.
If she’s not ruling the globe by age thirty, I’m going to be very disappointed.
- Lt. Riza Hawkeye, from Fullmetal Alchemist
Fullmetal Alchemist is a manga (and anime) about alchemists. In a world where people can mold weapons of mass destruction out of the sidewalk, Riza Hawkeye makes her mark with a few pistols and the odd rifle. She’s the right-hand woman of Colonel Mustang, a relationship that is very much big-brother, little-sister. (Yay, no romantic subplot!)
Normally, such relationships set my teeth on edge, because they give the girl/woman no story of her own and no authority. Hawkeye is not at all like that. She has continuous impact on an otherwise male-centric story, which the other characters recognize and acknowledge. Even though the military is such a boys’ club, she is in fact the perfect soldier.
[Editor’s note: Christina finishes her list tomorrow — stay tuned for the rest of the list . . . what other five literary heroines will make it?]