Six Great Heroines of SFF: Part 1
On Friday 1 April, I posted on the Supernatural Underground (where I post on the first day of every month, incidentally) about “Three Fabulous Moms of SFF”—the moms in question being Jessica (in fact, not Atreides, although she was the concubine of one Atreides and mother of another) from Frank Herbert’s Dune; Briar Wilkes from Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker; and Jenny Waynest from Barbara Hambly’s Dragonsbane.
Even at the time, I thought that I should also do a post on my own personal heroines (i.e. characters, not writers) of SFF. And then when I did the “So—Is Epic Fantasy Misogynist?” series of posts earlier in the month I indicated in a comment that I was “… planning two “Top Six” posts for both SFF heroines and heroes.” (As an author, I’m also going to restrict the list to books, by the way, not film or tv—so alas, no Buffy just yet—although that could be a later post. )
So—here goes: here are the first 3 of my top six heroines of SFF (and just for added fun, in alphabetical order):
A is for Miss Agatha Heterodyne of Phil & Kaja Folio’s Girl Genius graphic novel series—comprising Romance, Adventure and Mad Science [SFF Genre: Steampunk)
So why do I like Agatha? Firstly, she’s a really fun character, as well as independent, creative and with a can-do attitude (especially to mad science.) Like Buffy, she’s into rescuing as opposed to waiting around to be rescued, despite a life of wild adventure (and did I mention the mad science?) Mostly though, although Agatha is really a “spark” par excellence in the best steampunk style, she comes across as a very “ordinary girl”, with strengths and weaknesses, foibles and failings—which definitely makes her a character I can relate to.
When I think about great heroines of SFF, Dianora is always one of the first names to spring to mind. Here’s the thing: traditionally, women were either non-existent in SFF or existed primarily as background characters and/or ‘the love/sex interest’, (depending on the type of story being told.) As that began to change, women-as-heroine have tended to become superheroes, either in the guise of butt-kicking chicks in chainmail (alternately in stilettos-with-katana in paranormal urban fantasy) or as powerful magic wielders.
Dianora is neither warrior nor mage, in fact she is a gentle personality who has no superpowers at all—and yet for me, she is one of the most compelling characters I have encountered in fiction. The reason Dianora compels is because of who she is rather than what she can do. She is caught between conflicting loves and loyalties that eventually doom her, and which may, on the surface, make her seem like a weak character—but I never felt that when I read the book. I knew Dianora was strong, because the path she walked through the terrible conflict that beset her was that of being true to herself—and she did it with dignity, pathos and grace.
E is for Eowyn from JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: [SFF Genre: Epic/High Fantasy)
OK, now I’m going to crib, just a little, from what I said about Eowyn in So—Is Epic Fantasy Misogynist? Part 2—The Lord of the Rings since I don’t think I could re-say it any better:
Eowyn is the sword-wielding chick par excellence, but I also remember how very real she always seemed to me as a teenager: the way she felt trapped within her limited role and aspired for more; her crush on Aragorn (what teenage girl wouldn’t understand that?); but also the fact that she challenges the limited choices on offer to her because she is female and chooses to follow her own path. And because she does so, she is the right person in the right place at the right time to do something vital for the positive outcome of the story.
Ultimate sword-wielding heroine she may be, but in the end Eowyn also chooses life over death and healing over the sword. In the context of a book where the values of civilization and peace, learning and healing and gardening, are set above the sword for all characters, this is not a sign of weakness but of growth and strength of character.
I’ll be back tomorrow with the second half of my personal “Six Great Heroines of SFF.” But in the meantime, who are yours? And why?