The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > Cafe Society

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 05-10-2013, 07:36 AM
Sario Sario is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Scifi/Fantasy books with strong female characters

There's was a comment in the Pit about how most scifi/fantasy books seem to treat their female characters as a bit window dressing. I'm looking for some books that actually have women with personality. For example, I'm currently reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson. Also the Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher has several great female characters.
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 05-10-2013, 07:47 AM
Aspidistra Aspidistra is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posts: 2,975
For books with good female characters, choosing a book written by a woman is a pretty good rule of thumb. Doesn't always work (Ursula LeGuin, despite being a very fine writer, comes to mind) but if I consider all the books with female characters I really dig, most of them are written by women. CJ Cherryh, Lois McMaster Bujold, Katherine Kerr, Robin Hobb, Connie Willis, Julian May. I'm sure a few more will come to mind as soon as I've hit reply.

As far as male writers go - a lot of good male writers write strong female characters, but often they're kinda masculine strong female characters. IMO the test is to look at stretches of dialogue between two women - if a male writer can do that, he's really got it made. Dave Duncan is good at this. There are some other of my faves like Vernor Vinge or Iain Banks who have good female characters, but as soon as they start talking to another woman you notice the cracks. At least, I notice them.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 05-10-2013, 07:55 AM
Prof. Pepperwinkle Prof. Pepperwinkle is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
Location: Chateau Pepperwinkle
Posts: 17,974
Just a couple off the top of my head:

Cirocco "Rocky" Jones from Varley's Titan Series (and other ladies from Varley's books)
Friday from Friday by Robert Heinlein
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 05-10-2013, 08:01 AM
Cinnamon Imp Cinnamon Imp is offline
DramQueen
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Strathclyde, UK
Posts: 1,851
Everything by Sheri Tepper!
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 05-10-2013, 08:03 AM
Czarcasm Czarcasm is online now
Charter Member
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Beervania
Posts: 38,504
Pretty much everything from Mercedes Lackey.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 05-10-2013, 08:07 AM
Lynn Bodoni Lynn Bodoni is offline
Creature of the Night
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Fort Worth, Texas
Posts: 20,803
Barbara Hambly has some great female characters. I'm not fond of her Benjamin January series or the Dragonsbane sequels (Dragonsbane itself was great), but otherwise, I'm very fond of her work.

Elizabeth Moon's fantasies are wonderful. She's put out at least one and possibly two more books in the Paksennarion series recently. I'm not into her science fiction as much.

John Scalzi can write believable female characters that aren't stereotypes or tokens.

James H. Schmitz was using female characters half a century ago, such as Telzey Amberdon and Trigger Argee.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 05-10-2013, 08:09 AM
MrDibble MrDibble is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Cape Town, South Africa &
Posts: 14,384
Terry Pratchett
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 05-10-2013, 08:14 AM
StJoan StJoan is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Terry Pratchett, seconded. His Granny Weatherwax is one of the most inspiring female characters I have ever come across, as far as the fantasy genre goes. Nanny Ogg is not too bad either...
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 05-10-2013, 08:19 AM
Chronos Chronos is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: The Land of Cleves
Posts: 54,046
David Weber's Honor Harrington books come obviously to mind.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 05-10-2013, 08:19 AM
Prof. Pepperwinkle Prof. Pepperwinkle is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
Location: Chateau Pepperwinkle
Posts: 17,974
Quote:
Originally Posted by StJoan View Post
Terry Pratchett, seconded. His Granny Weatherwax is one of the most inspiring female characters I have ever come across, as far as the fantasy genre goes. Nanny Ogg is not too bad either...
And Death's granddaughter, Susan Sto Helit, is also a force to be reckoned with.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 05-10-2013, 08:24 AM
JohnT JohnT is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: San Antonio, TX
Posts: 13,841
Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion has a couple of "strong" female characters in Brawne Lamia and Meina Gladstone.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 05-10-2013, 08:35 AM
phouka phouka is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Seconding Barbara Hambly and Terry Pratchett. Also, Robin McKinley has very strong, very feminine characters, and she tends to do retakes on standard fairy tale fare.

Anne MacAffrey has some strong female characters, but they're written through a lens of 60s and 70s culture, so things like domestic abuse and spousal rape are taken as normal and not particularly objectionable.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 05-10-2013, 08:44 AM
silenus silenus is offline
Hoc nomen meum verum non est.
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: SoCal
Posts: 40,283
Weber, Pratchett, Heinlein on a good day.

Nanny Ogg rocks!
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 05-10-2013, 08:47 AM
muldoonthief muldoonthief is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: North of Boston
Posts: 7,140
David Drake's RCN series has several strong female characters, the top two of which are Adele Mundy, and her servant Tovera. They aren't what you'd call normal though - Tovera is a flat out sociopath who enjoys killing people, and Adele is an anti-social genius. Each has killed more people than they can count. Given that they're flat-out action novels, the sex of the participants isn't too relevant.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 05-10-2013, 09:02 AM
GuanoLad GuanoLad is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Sep 1999
Location: Where the wild roses grow
Posts: 19,660
Quote:
Originally Posted by StJoan View Post
Terry Pratchett, seconded. His Granny Weatherwax is one of the most inspiring female characters I have ever come across, as far as the fantasy genre goes. Nanny Ogg is not too bad either...
The Tiffany Aching books have barely any male characters in them at all.
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 05-10-2013, 10:46 AM
Isamu Isamu is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
It's probably harder to find a recent sci-fi/fantasy story without a strong female character.
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 05-10-2013, 10:59 AM
Chronos Chronos is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: The Land of Cleves
Posts: 54,046
Quote:
The Tiffany Aching books have barely any male characters in them at all.
Well, aside from the Baron's son, and the other love interest in the last one, and 99% of the Nac Mac Feegles, and her kid brother, and her father, and the Wintersmith, and...

Yeah, I'm not seeing that one.
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 05-10-2013, 11:16 AM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Western New York
Posts: 57,477
Several Charles Stross novels have strong female protagonists: the Merchant Prince series; Singularity Sky and Iron Sunrise; and Saturn's Children (arguably).
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 05-10-2013, 11:17 AM
Aizle Aizle is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Tanya Huff - The Confederation Novels
- Valor's Choice
- The Better Part of Valor
- The Heart of Valor
- Valor's Trial
- The Truth of Valor
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 05-10-2013, 03:35 PM
Airk Airk is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Lois McMaster Bujold with both the Sharing Knife series (Fantasy), and Cordelia's Honor (Sci-fi.). Cordelia may be my favorite heroine ever.

Also, Garth Nix with Sabriel. Not so much Lyrael from the following books though, IMHO.
Reply With Quote
  #21  
Old 05-10-2013, 04:28 PM
MrDibble MrDibble is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Cape Town, South Africa &
Posts: 14,384
Oh, and China Miéville has some strong female characters: Bellis from The Scar, Marge in Kraken, Avice in Embassytown.
Reply With Quote
  #22  
Old 05-10-2013, 04:41 PM
Ranger Jeff Ranger Jeff is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2013
never mind.

Last edited by Ranger Jeff; 05-10-2013 at 04:41 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #23  
Old 05-10-2013, 04:42 PM
Reepicheep Reepicheep is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: In the Utter East
Posts: 992
Ilona Andrews - a husband and wife team - have both the Kate Daniels books - where Kate is an extremely strong character, as well a the 4 book Edge which are a little more romancey than science fiction but still have nice strong female leads.

P. M. Griffin did a series called Star Commandos. She had a multi-year hiatus between the first 9 books, which are good, and the last 3 books which are excellent. Commando-Colonel Connor is a very strong woman.
Reply With Quote
  #24  
Old 05-10-2013, 06:32 PM
Infovore Infovore is offline
Confusing the polarity
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Somewhere fictional
Posts: 8,610
There are some good strong female characters in Jacqueline Lichtenberg and Jean Lorrah's Sime Gen series. Ambrov Keon and Mahogany Trinrose both have strong female protagonists. You pretty much need to read some other books in the series that don't have as many strong women to make sense of these, though, as the series is highly interconnected.
Reply With Quote
  #25  
Old 05-10-2013, 06:39 PM
Baker Baker is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Tottering-on-the-Brink
Posts: 14,407
S.M. Stirling's Nantucket trilogy has Marian Alston, a Coast Guard captain. Without her the people of Nantucket would most likely have gone down the tubes, or at least not done as well as they did.

She's a go to character for three reasons, as she herself knew.

She's female, in a traditionally male job.

She's female, and black.

she's female, black, and lesbian.
Reply With Quote
  #26  
Old 05-10-2013, 07:21 PM
Lsura Lsura is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Back in the South, y'all
Posts: 6,443
Seanan McGuire's October Daye series (I assume her other work, but I've not read them(well, I read the Newsflesh series that she wrote as Mira Grant).

C.E. Murphy's Walker Papers series (again, I've read that series but none other).

Anything by Octavia Butler.

On the YA side, all of Tamora Pierce's work.
Reply With Quote
  #27  
Old 05-12-2013, 02:34 AM
Anduinel Anduinel is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
The Wolf series by Jane Lindskold. In addition to having a strong female protagonist (who gets to have flaws that are an actual hindrance), the series also boots a lot of the tropes I dislike in fantasy about animal characters and feral children. Links go to sample chapter on author's website.

- Through Wolf's Eyes
- Wolf's Head, Wolf's Heart
- The Dragon of Despair
- Wolf Captured
- Wolf Hunting
- Wolf's Blood
Reply With Quote
  #28  
Old 05-14-2013, 09:55 AM
Ann Hedonia Ann Hedonia is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
I think Peter F Hamilton writes the BEST female characters, especially in his Confederation novels. In addition to hating the "traditional" female stereotype I also hate the "strong woman who overcomes odds to become a starship captain" stereotype...........boring boring boring.

Hamilton's characters tend to be ordinary women thrust into extraordinary circumstances. Take. Araminta, the main character in the Void Trilogy. She's a young divorced woman trying to start a real estate development business....and rather scornful of the religious cult that is inundating her planet.....when she accidently becomes the star player in the cult's quest.

I often say his great female characters are what makes him my favorite author.
Reply With Quote
  #29  
Old 05-14-2013, 10:08 AM
Tethered Kite Tethered Kite is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.
Reply With Quote
  #30  
Old 05-14-2013, 10:25 AM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Schenectady, NY, USA
Posts: 35,353
Susan Calvin was the central figure of Asimov's I Robot stories.

Sister Light, Sister Dark and White Jenna by Jane Yolen

The Female Man and most everything else by Joanna Russ.

James Morrow's Only Begotten Daughter

Staroamer's Fate and its sequel Syron's Fate (both soon to be republished by Fantastic Books).
__________________
Author of Staroamer's Fate and Syron's Fate, now back in print.
Reply With Quote
  #31  
Old 05-14-2013, 11:15 AM
Left Hand of Dorkness Left Hand of Dorkness is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 1999
James SA Corey's two books--Leviathan Wakes and Caliban's War--have some good female characters. The latter especially has some great scenes between two women in traditional male roles: the female marine and the female political bureaucrat. They're great fun.
Reply With Quote
  #32  
Old 05-14-2013, 11:29 AM
Gyrate Gyrate is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2000
Philip Reeve has some real winners.

Hester Shaw from the Mortal Engines books is brutal and amoral, and she's the protagonist; it's the male love interest, Tom Natsworthy who is the sunshiney, optimistic, has-to-be-rescued half of the couple. And Fever Crumb from the prequels is pretty tough too.

I'd also mention Gwyna from Here Lies Arthur, the young girl telling the story - she and "Myrddin" are playing a dangerous game of politics in Arthurian Britain.

And for laughs there's the steampunk Larklight trilogy; one of the main characters, Myrtle, tries to be a prim and girly Victorian lady but to her dismay persists in being competent in dangerous situations.
Reply With Quote
  #33  
Old 05-14-2013, 11:31 AM
robardin robardin is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Flushing, NY
Posts: 4,293
Brandon Sanderson's awesome "Mistborn" trilogy has a female main (Vin) who is strong in every sense of the word :-) Interestingly, he has a blog that diaries the writing process and keeps earlier drafts of work for public view, and this character had originally been male - making Vin a young woman somehow is just the right touch.

For a while you could download a novella of his for free called "The Emperor's Soul"' an excellent quick read that also has a strong female central POV.
Reply With Quote
  #34  
Old 05-14-2013, 11:40 AM
detop detop is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aizle View Post
Tanya Huff - The Confederation Novels
- Valor's Choice
- The Better Part of Valor
- The Heart of Valor
- Valor's Trial
- The Truth of Valor
Don't forget her Vicki Nelson from the Blood books
Reply With Quote
  #35  
Old 05-14-2013, 11:48 AM
BlinkingDuck BlinkingDuck is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2000
I have a soft spot for Warrior's Wings series

http://www.amazon.com/Silver-Wings-W...rior%27s+wings

Independent author and military SF but has a strong female lead that is still female, not a male character with a female name.
Reply With Quote
  #36  
Old 05-14-2013, 11:52 AM
BlinkingDuck BlinkingDuck is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2000
Quote:
Originally Posted by Isamu View Post
It's probably harder to find a recent sci-fi/fantasy story without a strong female character.
http://www.amazon.com/Swarm-Star-For...arforce+series

This is like a blast from the past...strong male character who outsmarts and outfights against vast odds - is always right - never makes a mistake and has several 'strong' female characters who seem to exist soley to throw themselves at the lead male character.

Very cliche, very juvenile...but WELL DONE IMO .

Reply With Quote
  #37  
Old 05-14-2013, 12:44 PM
Amara_ Amara_ is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
I concur with

-C. J Cherryh (be warned that she writes broken characters)
-Lois McMaster Bujold. I didn't get into the Sharing Knife but her Chalion and Barrayar series have realistic women
-Terry Pratchett
-Tanya Huff - Confederation.
-Ilona Andrews - Kate Daniels. Her other series also has strong women but I didn't like it as much.
-The Jane Lindskold referenced above but it's more a feral, female character.
-Garth Nix. Sabriel is a beautiful book.

I disagree with Susan Calvin. She's nominally female but (IMO) is a cardboard cutout. I've read a couple of Heinlein and his women, again IMO, tend to be male fantasies of women.

I'm adding several authors to my list based on this thread.
Reply With Quote
  #38  
Old 05-14-2013, 01:00 PM
Morbo Morbo is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: 123 Fake Street
Posts: 9,067
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrDibble View Post
Oh, and China Miéville has some strong female characters: Bellis from The Scar, Marge in Kraken, Avice in Embassytown.
What I came in to mention. Also Deeba from Un Lun Dun and Natasha from King Rat.

Also Teela Brown from Ringworld, and Podkayne of Mars of course.
Reply With Quote
  #39  
Old 05-14-2013, 03:24 PM
araminty araminty is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by Airk View Post
Also, Garth Nix with Sabriel. Not so much Lyrael from the following books though, IMHO.
I disagree completely! Yeah, Lirael starts out kind of whiny and helpless, but that's the whole point of her coming of age story - she comes into her inheritance and accepts her role. I think the adult Lirael of the third book is a great role model.
Reply With Quote
  #40  
Old 05-14-2013, 04:41 PM
Trinopus Trinopus is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: San Diego, CA
Posts: 10,051
It's worth noting that Jack Vance, toward the end of his career, finally did manage to write a book with a strong, believable, likeable, competent female protagonist. For MOST of his career, his female characters were space princesses and other nonentities. But in Ecce and Old Earth, second book in The Cadwal Chronicles Trilogy, the character Wayness Tamm marks a breakthrough success in Vance's writing.
Reply With Quote
  #41  
Old 05-14-2013, 07:09 PM
John DiFool John DiFool is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
C. J. Cherryh's Morgaine series.
Reply With Quote
  #42  
Old 05-15-2013, 12:34 AM
Lynn Bodoni Lynn Bodoni is offline
Creature of the Night
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Fort Worth, Texas
Posts: 20,803
Quote:
Originally Posted by Amara_ View Post
I concur with

-C. J Cherryh (be warned that she writes broken characters)
-Lois McMaster Bujold. I didn't get into the Sharing Knife but her Chalion and Barrayar series have realistic women
-Terry Pratchett
-Tanya Huff - Confederation.
-Ilona Andrews - Kate Daniels. Her other series also has strong women but I didn't like it as much.
-The Jane Lindskold referenced above but it's more a feral, female character.
-Garth Nix. Sabriel is a beautiful book.

I disagree with Susan Calvin. She's nominally female but (IMO) is a cardboard cutout. I've read a couple of Heinlein and his women, again IMO, tend to be male fantasies of women.

I'm adding several authors to my list based on this thread.
The thing about Calvin and Heinlein's women is that they were actually more believable than the female characters in most SF/fantasy at the time. Yes, as bad as they were, at least they had more than a couple of brain cells in their heads, and they weren't simply love interests. It's like reading Kipling...when we read his work through today's eyes, we see how racist and sexist they are, you have to read the stories through yesterday's eyes if you're reading for enjoyment. I think that you have to give Asimov and Heinlein credit for trying to write female characters that were actually people, even if they didn't manage to do so.
Reply With Quote
  #43  
Old 05-15-2013, 12:44 AM
The Second Stone The Second Stone is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2008
CJ Cherryh. I'm not so sure her characters are strong as they are among the best characterizations I have read. Both male and female, but primarily I remember her female characters, as it's been a few decades since I read SF. Her characters are as complete as first rate literature. Loved them.
Reply With Quote
  #44  
Old 05-15-2013, 02:30 AM
Zebra Zebra is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
William Gibson has several.

Molly from Neuromancer

My fav was Cayce Pollard from Pattern Recognition. (I love that book)
Reply With Quote
  #45  
Old 05-15-2013, 03:14 AM
TonySinclair TonySinclair is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2012
How could this thread have gone five minutes without mention of Game of Thrones, and the rest of the Ice and Fire series?
Reply With Quote
  #46  
Old 05-15-2013, 08:20 AM
Molesworth 2 Molesworth 2 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2011
Julian May had some pretty strong female characters in her writings. Although she possibly undermined that by making several male members of the Remillard family the most memorable characters I've ever read about in Sci-Fi.

And by that I mean Marc and Jon Remillard in particular.

I mean... Holy fuck. Those scenes she writes about when those two phenomenal brothers took walks along the river... Jon "Jack the Bodiless" and Marc "The Angel of the Abyss" before Jon's infant body became riddled with cancer and the brothers became sworn enemies...

Gonna have to read those books again soon.
Reply With Quote
  #47  
Old 05-15-2013, 08:54 AM
Chronos Chronos is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: The Land of Cleves
Posts: 54,046
It occurs to me that nobody has yet mentioned the Harry Potter books. Sure, the protagonist is male, but nobody would ever accuse Hermione of being a helpless damsel in distress. Nor Luna Lovegood, and while Ginny did need rescuing once, she's gotten herself out of more trouble than she's gotten herself into. All of the adult women seem to hold their own pretty well, too.
Reply With Quote
  #48  
Old 05-15-2013, 07:11 PM
Maeglin Maeglin is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
I really like C.S. Friedman and some of her female characters are magnificent. Jamsia Shido in This Alien Shore is particularly memorable. In Conquest Born is a badass novel and its female protagonist does not disappoint.
Reply With Quote
  #49  
Old 05-15-2013, 09:17 PM
urban1a urban1a is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Denver, CO
Posts: 843
Priscilla "Hutch" Hutchins in the Academy Series by Jack McDevitt was an excellent strong female character (heroine).

Bob
Reply With Quote
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 07:44 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright © 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.