Fantasy/ sci fi with strong female characters?

Maybe I’ve been reading the wrong books, but it seems that I have read many books whose main female characters have either been wussy damsels in distress or horrible bitches. I’m looking for some fantasy and sci fi books with female characters who are neither of those two. Robin McKinley’s female protagonists are consistently what I mean in this regard. Her women are tough but I have never yet wished one of them was real solely so I could slap her.

I have read the Belgariad, the Malloreon, Belgarath the Sorcerer, and Polgara the Sorceress. I like Polgara and Poledra. Most of the rest of the women in those books, however, are either too nicey-nice or too bratty. Ce’Nedra comes to mind.

If you intend to rib me about what I read, please do it gently.

You can find some in YA fantasy/sci-fi (I like YA fantasy better than regular fantasy sometimes). Just off the top of my head:

The books written by Tamora Pierce, including: Song of the Lioness series, Wild Magic series, Protector of the Small Series and others.

Mercedes Lackey’s Talia in the Arrow’s of the Queen* series is one that I think of as a strong heroine. Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy has several strong women that I don’t want to slap.

I’ve read the Abhorsen books and I concur. Thanks for the recommendations. Most of the McKinleys I have are YA.

You are reading the wrong books. Just off the top of my head, I suggest you try:

The Hyperian Cantos by Dan Simmons, for Brawne Lamia.

Neuromancer by Wiliam Gibson, for Molly Millions.

The Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, for Catelyn Stark (and many others).

Anything by Guy Gavriel Kay.

Anything by Roger Zelazny.

Incidentally, the first poster to mention Robert Jordan gets a kick in the mouth.

All righty. I’ll print out this thread before I go to the library.

What’s your objection to Robert Jordan? I’ve heard of him but never read any of his books. I’m almost inclined not to do so, since so many people mention them. I’m kinda perverse that way.

Anything by Sherri S. Tepper, who’s one of my all-time faves.

I would suggest just about anything by Anne McCaffrey, though in particular her Pern series. Her female characters are strong, but never bitches (unless, of course, you’re not supposed to like them).

Another set of books by a female author whose name escapes me is a trilogy (Trade Pact universe? I can’t remember the name)–1000 words for Stranger, Ties of Power, and To Trade the Stars. Not sure if it’s what you want, but I thought I’d mention it. As a side note, you’ll also see some well developed ETs there as well.

The 'Empire" series by Raymond Feist has one the more believable yet strong female characters in serious fanstasy.

And of course on the comedy side you really can’t go past Terry Pratchett’s ‘witches’ novels or the later ‘death’ novels for likable yet strong female characters.

Lois McMaster Bujold’s Paladin of Souls is good. I’d also echo the recommendation of Terry Pratchett; you might try Lords and Ladies or Maskerade.

The later books in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series have stronger female characters, as the author kind of discovered feminism part way through the series.

Marion Zimmer Bradley is highly recommended, particularly for The Mists of Avalon, and Bernard Cornwell for his Arthur series. Both are retellings of the King Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot mythos, and I enjoyed them both. Note that Cornwell’s books aren’t female-centric in the way Mists is, but I did enjoy his reimagining of Guinevere.

In addition, I second the Guy Gavriel Kay recommendation. And, if you want to crossover into sci-fi, may I recommend Friday by Heinlen?

I, too, am going to print this out, pocket it, and bring it on my next library visit. Thanks for the thread, Harimad-sol.

Elizabeth Moon’s Paksenarrion trilogy, starting with Sheepfarmer’s Daughter, is good.

I’ll second the McCaffrey suggestion… I’ve heard that she actually started writing because she felt that there weren’t enough strong and confident female figures in sci-fi and fantasy-type books. Though she doesn’t take it to a feminazi extreme, of course, and has created some incredibly cool male characters as well… F’lar, master robinton, Piemur, Jaxom, F’nor, and Sean spring to mind instantly just from the pern books.

Also some of her more hard sci-fi… the planet pirates books… (Commander Sassinak and Lunzie Mespil,) Crystal singer (Killashandra,) and talents among the stars (Rowan, Damia, and so on) also have great woman characters.

Let’s see, what else… some of Isaac Asimov’s later foundation books aren’t too bad… I heard someone say that four out of the seven main characters in ‘Foundation’s edge’ are female… I can’t quite work out how that works… the security minister of terminus (male) and the elder of gaia Dom (also male) have to be more important characters than the bitchy councillor of the second foundation… but anyway, some of them are good. Mayor Harla Branno, for instance, is kind of a bitch, but the kind of bitch that I can’t help but admire… she plays hardball better than all of the guys, and pretty much always manages to outwit trevize every time they meet.

In the fantasy vein, I’ll suggest Diane Duane’s ‘young wizard’ series even though it’s a little on the juvenile side… I’ve just discovered these and I love them… Nita and little sister Dairine are both great characters, and some of the best wizards in the books.

Came in here to mention these two. Read them. They are good

These are by Julie Czerneda - she’s got 7 or 8 books out…

Or try the ‘Vatta’s War’ books by Elizabeth Moon - maybe not the most original books, but they’re well done.
And Maxine McArthur’s Time Future and it’s sequel, Time Past as well.

All pretty good, although I didn’t like the ending of the second in the Moon series - even if it does set up interesting possibilities for further volumes.

If you want straigh SF I heartily recommend David Weber.
The Honor Harrington series is based around a female protagonist (very strong woman) and her career in a Space Navy based around the old British Navy kinda thing. Lots of space battles and technobable if you’re into it.
Heck, pretty much all the books Ive read by him have strong (as in non damsel in distress) females in em.

John Varley’s Gaea trilogy (Titan, Wizard and Demon comes to mind. Lots of strong female characters, some human, some not, like Gaea herself.

forgot to mention, you can get the first 2 books of the Honor Harrington series free on the baen web site, if you want to take a peek. (On basilisk station is the first book in the series).

I’ll second the McCaffrey, Lackey and Pierce books. I like Lackey’s Elemental Master’s series as well, there’s three books in so far with the newest one being Phoenix and Ashes. That one is set during WWII (the time period’s vary) with a very cinderella-like theme running through it, only Ellie doesn’t wait for her ‘prince’ to save her she pretty much saves herself.

I’ll have to think more on this.