For an amazing (imho) Fantasy/sci-fi story with strong female protagonists you should check out Dust by Elizabeth Bear and it’s sequel <3
Hmmm AEON flux had promise but movie wise I wasn’t a fan.
Try Tamora Pierce, she writes fantasy lit with plenty of female main characters. And her books are excellent.
Apparently Tamora Pierce is a good go-to author for this, though I only heard of her myself yesterday. And I have a horrible feeling from looking at the the series details (nb: without reading any reviews or the books themselves) that they may just be Lets Make The Heroes Female Because No-One Else Has Done It instead of I’ve Some Awesome Female Character Ideas Let’s Make A Story To Put Them In. And apart from that, you know what… I can’t really think of anything significant, beyond Buffy, who’s a slight touch of fanservice in the first place. I’ll have to go back to my bookshelf and have a scan, because that can’t be that true… can it?
My usual mainstays would be Pratchett and Miyazaki, but how applicable they are to this argument is very open to question. Stieg Larrson’s Millennium trilogy may be another, but as my mother stole my cheaply-bought copies and has yet to relinquish them, I’d hate to make a bad assumption (though as she’s halfway through book two, it may be safe to assume she’s found an identifiable protagonist… half (non-tech) nerdy half girly biology teacher btw). Twilight…. pthuh… seen enough of the deconstruction of Bella’s empty-shoes character to write it off as typical teen shmalz.
Where would, e.g. Tomb Raider, Underworld, Resident Evil, and (ur-example…) Alien etc feature in this argument do you think?
As for the whole-strip argument, I join you in bafflement. I know just as many girl-nerds as boy-nerds, and apart from one completely off the rails guy, the girls tend to out-nerd us quite thoroughly. And it’s not even a “thing”, it’s just who they are, we have fun with it when they geek a little too much about a particular TV show (Big Bang Theory is one current example) or whatever, but it otherwise seems … yknow … normal enough that it being absent from everyday media (count the F-geeks in BBT for a start) is sometimes rather glaring.
(Your two pals in the pink and purple tops could very nearly be the main “offenders” that I’m thinking of, too… the accidental likeness is quite scary, but for one needing to be more goth and the other with more jewelery and general trinkets. Won’t say which!)
bemused M-geek who’s just discovered your interesting, real-feeling and (am I allowed to say?) charming strip.
New reader here. I find myself admiring and occasionally giggling at your insightful works of art. I think I’m turning into a “Stop Paying Attention” Groupie. Wait this seems familiar. Dear Lord! Please say it isn’t so… I’m transforming… into… an interne… gollum!
For strong female SF/fantasy characters try the ‘Deeds of Paksenarrion’ by Elizabeth Moon – it is my favorite fantasy trilogy. She has also written a bunch of SF trilogies with female leads. They are mostly military, though, so if you don’t care for David Weber‘s Honor Harrington books they might not be to a good fit. Shari Tepper has written a bunch of good stuff with female leads as well – pretty much all her stuff except her first trilogy, in fact (which is excellent, but has a male lead), though I admit her writing tends to be story rather than character driven. There are the new supernatural romance authors, most of whom I abhore, though Patricia Briggs seems to be doing decent stuff. Don’t be dissing Tamora Pierce until you’ve read her stuff, please. And of course I should mention Mercedes Lackey, who actually was the first author that sprang to my mind in relation to the question…
I wish to put in my 2 cents about Tamora Pierce. I’ve read all of her books more than twice, as she is my favorite author. I hope to make this as unbiased as possible though. I consider all of her major characters to be well developed and well rounded. They work through their struggles realistically and I consider them to be very relate-able as long as you are close to or in the target age range of her books – mostly ‘tweens’ to teens.
Another couple of good authors to check out are Patricia Briggs and Kelly Armstrong. Both are more focused on the adult reader. Brigg’s has 2 major series and several singular books that each feature a strong, smart female lead. Armstrong has her “Women of the Otherworld” series where there are about 4-5 female leads, but each book features a different one. The books should be read in order to completely understand what is going on, but it’s not completely necessary.
I hope that anyone reads this finds this helpful.
P.S. I go to a major nerd college and their are girls out there that are as nerdy as the guys, sometimes more than the guys.
I love this! It’s so true!
As for good sci-fi or fantasy with strong female protagonists–I do think Tamora Pierce is good; she started in the 1980s and has done a lot of great work. Holly Black is also an amazing writer of strong females (read “Tithe” and “Valiant”). I’m sure there are more, I just can’t think of them right now.
While I’ve grown bored with Anita Blake, I do like the Merry Gentry novels by Laurel K. Hamilton. The sex gets a little bit freaky, but it’s a good read. Haven’t had a chance to start the Kushiel series by Jacqueline Carey.
Another good series is Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon. Lots of great characters, strong male and female characters, and rich historical detail.
Do superheroes count? For prose, Julie Kenner’s “Aphrodite” romance series is quite fun!
[quote]Apparently Tamora Pierce is a good go-to author for this, though I only heard of her myself yesterday. And I have a horrible feeling from looking at the the series details (nb: without reading any reviews or the books themselves) that they may just be Lets Make The Heroes Female Because No-One Else Has Done It instead of I’ve Some Awesome Female Character Ideas Let’s Make A Story To Put Them In.[/quote]
They’re not. At all.
I may be biased since they’ve been my favorite books since third grade and I owe a large part of who I am as a person and a feminist to those books, but then that kind of makes my point.
I agree with the above comment about Tamora Pierce. Ever since Jr. High I have really enjoyed her books. The writing is good and the characters believable. She has great female protagonists who I looked up to as role models in my younger days and today look to for inspiration.
MIRRORS EDGE! That game is the pinnacle of how to do a strong, good female protagonist!
Alien, Aliens… the rest you can take or leave. Ripley is an amazingly strong female character in both.
I for one am getting sick of both sides of the gender debate, but here’s a perspective that I heard elsewhere:
Boys were nerds before being a nerd was cool. Boys had to put up with shit for decades, until boys turned nerd culture into something acceptable/popular. Why WOULDN’T boys feel like they own it?
I think a lot of boys get irritated at nerd grrlz because they feel like the girls are trying to steal their thunder. Maybe instead of focusing on how you’re ‘qualified’ to be a nerd, or how ‘girls make nerddom better’ you should focus on how much you like nerd things and ignore your gender. Common interests are what bring people together, not speeches about inequality.
Check out Brandon Sanderson’s “Mistborn” Trilogy, if you haven’t already. Very strong female lead, and a great read.
I’ve been a Tamora Pierce fan for a decade now. The characters are well-developed, and she takes from real cultures for her stories. For example, remember all the women who dressed as men in the Civil War? Alanna does that. Daine gets run out of her hometown for being cursed. I’ve never heard of a man/boy being given the witch trial treatment. The story picks up when she runs away and someone discovers she really does have magic, which Alanna figures could be useful. Keladry’s is a story about role models (she wants to be like Alanna) and being “different” — she gets a lot of hazing for being the only girl to try for knighthood in the 10 years its been legal.
Her series for younger kids (the “Circle” books) are about a team of youngsters (3 girls, 1 boy) who save their town from pirates and various other things. One of them has a distinctly-feminine form of magic: she’s a stitch witch. Anything made of fibers/fabric, she can control. Gender roles aren’t strict though. One of the girls is a blacksmith, and the other is a umm…meteoroligical mage.The boy is a fan of making roses grow, particularly when their thorns can be useful in battle.
Lynn Ewing’s books are good too. She has teams of 4 teenagers working together to fight the forces of evil. They know they can’t vanquish it (the fight’s been raging forever), but their job is simply to keep it at bay.
To completely ignore the actual substance of the comic… is Samwise Gamgee really a good model for a stable and desirable significant other?
When I read this comic, the first thing that came to my mind is that this issue more or less stems from males having a majority in the geek demographic than the females, which would thus lead to more male archetype characters as well as male appeal. Then I felt really stupid, as I had completely failed to realize that basically half of the geeks/nerds I hang out with (if not more ) at my HS are girls, each with their various attributes and interests on the subject. As a male in high school, I never have seen female nerds or geeks as an infringement on my territory (although I do think their obsession with “The Doctor” is rather odd), but rather an opportunity and relatively meek hope to be understood by the opposite sex. The issue unto itself seems to had its roots in a time (40s through the early 60s) where women were more or less blocked by a “social firewall” from the land of the nerd, and managed to survive in this form factor for so long because the female demographic grew slowly (but steadily) over a period of time. With that being said, your line of work as a comic artist obviously puts you within the contact and perspective of older generations of nerds whom lived in (or in the remainder of) that social context. Perhaps its also a moot (albeit somewhat stereotypical) point that a good portion of lady nerds that work on Sci-Fi and fantasy stories do such through writing, and that the lack of vociferousness in that particular industry has perhaps muted the presence of girls as a whole in the world of the nerd. Nonetheless though, I think its more than apparent that the female demographic is growing, and as new artists replace the old, that we’ll definitely see a transition away from the “male dominance” perspective.
Does the Alien series count?
What about Xena?
It’s a brass bikini, not gold…..gotcha!
check out Shadowgirls webcomic, Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, Meridian a short lived CrossGen comic, and Girl Genius by the Foglios.
The Hunger Games! Katniss is more epic than any guy in the series and she’s the main character. Read them. Love this comic by the way, excellent stuff. And Hermione kinda counts as a heroine too, technically. Lisbeth Salander in the millennium trilogy is pretty bad-ass/scary at times, so she counts. oh, and the Abhorsen trilogy, cry of the icemark, and the uglies series all have girls as the main characters and are all epic. and a show that has female characters who kick more ass than guys is Avatar: the last airbender, though the main character is a guy. Amazing show, great animation. Do not watch the live action movie, though. It’ll kill your brain. Anywho, random rant over, sweet comic
Sorry for the late comment, I just found this webcomic, and I love it.
Alas, I fear that y’all are missing some great books with female protagonists, so heres a “short” selection from my spreadsheet (yeah, I know ;] ):
Elizabeth Moon – The Deed of Paksenarrion
Garth Nix – Sabriel
Ilona Andrews – Magic Bites
Lois McMaster Bujold – Paladin of Souls, Shards of Honor
Martha Wells – Wheel of the Infinite
Michelle Sagara – Cast in Shadow
P. C. Hodgell – Godstalk
Many “sci-fi/fantasy stories with primary female protagonists” exist in print and you can even find some on television, but, for some reason, the people who turn them into Hollywood movies almost invariably do a bad job of it. Case in point: The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, book one of the His Dark Materials trilogy. Good book, but the movie wasn’t really all that good and it ended up being a financial failure.
You are wrong about Tamora Pierce. Please, feel free to read her books and then judge
To tahrey in defense of my childhood favorite author:
She wrote more about female characters for the reason she could identify with them more(there are also male protagonists but the focus is the female’s mind). Aside from that she did a lot of work for young girls when she was younger. I’ve read several different books with female protagonists and her characters are far less… whiney.. than most of them. As an adult, some of the books are difficult to get into but as a child they were great and imaginative. My suggestion as a start series if chosen to try was the one I started with; The Immortals series.
As far as the rest of the rant goes, I’m not feminist. If I had a choice I would certainly game with guys instead of girls. Males, to me, are far more entertaining and easy going.
Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen by Garth Nix — kick ass female protagonist(s), dark humor, and plenty to be nerdy about!
Also, Tamora Pierce is great for ages 10-15, but still contains enough romance to be questionable. The Circle of Magic series are better than the Tortall books, although Alanna and Keladry both kick some serious ass from time to time. Still, I’d go for Garth Nix first.
Love the Beverly Crusher reference!
(Also, my fave female sci-fi protagonists: Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor – not literary, but definitely badass.)
Try “Trouble and her Friends” by Melissa Scott.
BOTH of the main characters are female hackers, up against a (mostly male-driven) criminal plot and an unpleasant government regulatory regime directed at hackers.
BONUS: Both are lesbians, and they used to be a couple before they parted ways.
BONUS II: They’re friends with male hackers, and they work together a lot more realistically than in other fiction. You don’t get that whole “I’m just here to provide a romantic foil for the male lead” vibe.
I liked it a lot. You’ll probably like it. You might have to order it online, I Haven’t seen it on the shelves in a while…
Nerd culture isn’t really better with women – at least not on average. If you feel alone and ostracized it doesn’t help you in any way if there is 1 woman for every 10 men in your social environment, if anything you’ll feel more lonely.
I can’t believe no one has mentioned Cirocco Jones of the Gaea trilogy by John Varley.
Now SHE is a kick-ass female sci-fi/fantasy protagonist.
Check her out.
Oh and btw your comics totally effin RULE.
Diane Duane wrote the “Young Wizards” series; a collection of books following thirteen year old Nita Callahan as she grows as a wizard and a person (and also later, her yonger sister’s discovery of magic). It’s a modern fantasy series, and quite interesting. I think at one point there’s a planet which is a computer – they gave it robots, I think. There’s also selkies involved at some point, which is always a plus in my book. I haven’t read them in a while, but I certainly do recall enjoying them!
Karen Healey wrote “Guardian of the Dead,” a fantastic gothic fantasy/horror/adventure story where the protagonist is female, but whose journey really follows the classic hero’s story, rather than the more typical heroine’s story (“I am going to do something awesome becuase I am awesome.” instead of “I am going to do something awesome BECAUSE I AM FEMALE. GIRL POWER.” or “I am going to do something awesome DESPITE MY FEMININITY WHICH OFTEN PRESENTS UNIQUE FEMALE OBSTICALS WHICH I WILL OVERCOME BECAUSE I AM A GIRLY AWESOME GIRLY GIRLY GIRL”). It is absolutely amazing, and I totally and wholeheartedly reccommend it.
Other than that there’s, what, Captain Janeway? On Star Trek Voyager? Who, yeah, maybe she’s not the BEST Captain, but she’s a pretty damn good one. If I were stranded in the Delta Quadrant, I could think of worse people to lead, y’know? And even though a lot of her plotlines involved OH POOR JANEWAY IT MUST BE SO HARD TO NOT HAVE A MAN HERE YOU CAN DATE A HOLOGRAM or something along those lines, she was still strong, decisive, level-headed, determined, and absolutely devoted to her crew. Also, for all the flack she gets for just being fantasy fuel and eye candy, I genuinely find myself facinated by Seven of Nine’s journey from the Collective back to humanity. The main criticism my fellow man- and lady-geek friends have for Seven is that her plotlines sort of take over the later seasons of Voyager, making it feel less like the ensemble drama that characterizes Star Trek, and more like “The Seven of Nine Show,” which is really a problem with pacing, I think. If that’s what you’re watching for in the first place, then wa-hey!
There’s always Anne McCafferey’s stuff. Pern is of course what she’s known for, and I think there’s a few series set in that world that have female protagonists (something about a girl Harper sticks in my mind), but I don’t own any of them and it’s been a while since I read them, so I couldn’t give any solid recs. She’s written other stuff though, a whole slew of short stories set in the REST of space – stories about human minds piloting ships and space colonization and sci-fi cinderella stories. I’ve got one anthology: “The Girl Who Heard Dragons,” which is smattered throughout with sories containing female protagonists or a strong female presence. One of my favorites which really sticks with me and which I frequently re-read is “A Quiet One,” wherein a skinny, sheltered city-girl who’s devoted her life to studying equine science and the intricacies of animal husbandry goes out west to break horses and ready them for space travel, proving her true grit along the way. Another one, “A Sleeping Humpty-Dumpty Beauty” follows a trauma surgen during a space war as she puts a coma-bound ‘humpty-dumpty’ patient back together again. In fact, as I’m looking through the book to refresh my memory, there’s really too many stories to detail here; suffice to say that this particular book is definately worth picking up.
(I’ve bookmarked this page for future reference – this reading list should last me all year! Thanks, everybody! )
Can’t believe no one mentioned Tanith Lee! She is a very prolific British author and her main characters are usually female. The Birthgrave is awesome fantasy and Silver Metal Lover as well as Biting the Sun are fantastic sci-fi.
And… Octavia Butler??? Underrated author! Come on people, get off the beaten path!
Wow, the listing of books here is Great!I am going to look into a lot of them. I just found it strange, “His dark materials” was mentioned, but not “The Secret Texts” Series By Holly Lisle. I thought it deserved mention, give it a whirl, could be fun.
We’re all thinking it but someone had to say it; Beverly Crusher’s uniform was blue!
No mention of Patricia C. Wrede? Her Cimorene from the Dealing with Dragons series is still my hero…after all these years. Witty, non-conformist, and very very cool.
It’s much easier to find female protagonists in YA fantasy, it seems. Not sure why that is.
Besides Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy, as per above, I’d also strongly recommend Liar, by Justine Larbalestier. Then there’s always the classics: Alice, Peter Pan and Wendy, and The Wizard of Oz.
So I guess the frightening question for me is ‘Why are female protagonists often disappearing once they’re grown up?’
Whenever I see those Lia’s gold bikinis the TV series friends is all I think of. There is some story about it on there.
I second the Hunger Games.
Yes, I’m a year late. No, I don’t care.
Brandon Sanderson, and not just his Mistborn Trilogy. Everything of his I’ve read has featured strong, vibrant female characters.
What is this silliness? Beverly Crusher isn’t command staff, she is a medical officer, her uniform should be blue or teal.
And to whoever was saying that Janeway was a good captain, she was a borderline sociopath, constantly breaking the prime directive and putting her crew in pointless danger.
I like your comic, but there’s one problem: Beverly Crusher wears a blue uniform. The Trekkie inside me was screaming about it, so I had to comment on it. Sorry.
Hey, WeirdAtheistGirl, you can see Beverly Crusher wearing red uniform.
Hummm… i’d say katniss everdeen as well…
I know I am late to the discovering of this strip! One thing, I am pretty sure the gender neutralish Droids were the heroes of Star Wars. The Jedi and Sith were just dangers they had to face, not really heroes or villains. It could in fact be argued that besides them Leia is the hero. Well that is how I saw it.
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