Book List, Books

Strong Women in Science Fiction: Book List

Ok, it’s not just books. It is, however, just science fiction so far as I can tell. I knew if I opened it up to fantasy as well, it would become unmanageable, so I may follow up with a second list if there is interest.  As it is, I’ve got over 60 names on the list! As someone commented, it might have been shorter to come up with a list of books that didn’t have strong female main characters

One of the top suggestions for strong women in SF, this is a classic read for anyone.

The point was to come up with a list of women who aren’t in search of a husband, who are self-rescuing princesses, damsels that can’t be bothered to be distressed. I have done a similar list a few years back, but this one was just SF. I posted the request in a handful of fan groups and on my Wall in facebook, since I know that’s the best way to accumulate a lot of fandom involvement. Several hundred comments and suggestions later… I created a spreadsheet. I wound up going with a rough vote sorting to rank the female characters, making each mention a ‘vote’ on the spreadsheet. This is not perfect, and doesn’t properly represent every vote, because facebook delenda est. However, it is representative, and it’s a fun list for those who enjoy reading about women who shoot back and don’t wait on someone to come and get them… most of the time. 

You can see the whole list here. I’m only putting the names which received more than one mention in this post, as it gets cumbersome. 

Honor Harrington On Basilisk Station  David Weber 16
Friday Friday Robert Heinlein 13
Faith and Sophia Smith Black Tide Rising series John Ringo 12
Telzey Amberdon and Trigger Argee TnT, Telzey Amberdon James Schmitz 11
Alicia DeVries In Fury Born David Weber 8
Lessa (and others) Pern Series Anne McCaffrey 8
Torin Kerr A Confederation of Valor Tanya Huff 8
Catherine Blackwood Her Bother’s Keeper Mike Kupari 7
Cordelia Naismith Cordelia’s Honor Lois McMaster Bujold 7
Zoe and River Firefly   7
Athena Sinistra Darkship Thieves Sarah Hoyt 6
Hazel Stone Rolling Stones Robert Heinlein 6
Podkayne Podkayne of Mars Robert Heinlein 6
Ripley Alien   6
Adele Mundy (and Tovara) RCN Series David Drake 5
Dana “Comet” Parker The Hot Gate John Ringo 5
Heris Serrano Hunting Party Elizabeth Moon 5
Jaina Solo and Tenel Ka Star Wars (books)  Karen Traviss 5
Kendra Pacelli Freehold Michael Z Williamson 5
Kristine Longknife  Kris Longknife Mike Shepherd 5
Kylara Vatta Vatta series Elizabeth Moon 5
Empress Star Glory Road Robert Heinlein 4
Jiltanith Dahak Series David Weber 4
Killashandra Crystal Singer Anne McCaffrey 4
Clarissa MacDougall Lensman EE “Doc” Smith 3
Jirel of Joiry Jirel of Joiry CL Moore 3
Leia Organa Star Wars (movies)   3
Nicole Shea First Flight Chris Claremont 3
Ofelia Remnant Population Elizabeth Moon 3
Samantha Carter Stargate SG-1   3
Sassinak Sassinak trilogy Anne McCaffrey 3
Signy Mallory Downbelow Station CJ Cherryh 3
Wilma Deering Buck Rogers   3
Commander Susan Ivanova Babylon 5   2
Eliza Baroque Cycle Neil Stephenson 2
Helva Ship who Sang Anne McCaffrey 2
Kyrie Draw One in the Dark Sarah Hoyt 2
Maleen, Goth, and the Leewit Witches of Karres James Schmitz 2
Miri Robertson Liaden Series Sharon Lee and Steve Miller 2
Moira Sayres Sequoyah Sabrina Chase 2
Sarah Connor Terminator   2
Barbara Richards Walking on the Sea of Clouds Gray Rinehart 2

Header art is “Elevator Out of Order” by Artof Justaman

A note about my methods: I don’t usually include self-nominated books. I didn’t include my own work on this list, although I was very flattered to see it nominated on one of the threads. I do spend hours working on these that I’m not spending on writing, so if you feel moved, there’s a tip the author paypal button in the sidebar. 

For more book lists, click here, and always, enjoy reading! I love books, and it makes me happy to spread the joy. 

19 thoughts on “Strong Women in Science Fiction: Book List

  1. I think another issue is most of us reading the threads were trying to come up with women who hadnt already been mentioned So in my case most if not all of the single mentions qualified and I would have ‘liked ‘ if I realized it was a vote thing .

    1. I did the voting thing because I wanted to rank the choices – these lists can get huge, so i try to filter them down to a size where they aren’t daunting to scroll through forever.

      1. May want to compile a “daunting” list, along with dates. So when the progs try the “for the first time a STRONG FEMALE LEAD” or whatever you can bury them under the list of names. ๐Ÿ˜€

  2. Only problem I have with the list is that these are all recent.

    Published in the year 1928 (written between 1915 and 1921) – The Skylark of Space – Dorothy Vaneman and Margaret Spencer. Okay, they didn’t go looking for trouble, but when Dorothy absconds with the .45 automatics out of Perkins’ suit, she (and Margaret) obviously know how to use them. Direct quote from Margaret to Perkins – “Now listen. Call me names any more and I’ll start shooting.One name, one shot; two names, two shots; and so on. Each shot in a carefully selected place. Go ahead.”


    Not to mention the Osnomian Crown Princess, Sitar, who could give Faith Smith a run for her money as “Miss Walking Arsenal.”

    Okay, just scrolled up again, at least the Red Lensman is on the list – but she came quite a bit later; 1941, so Doc was probably working on Second Stage Lensman in 1939 or 1940.

  3. Hi, thank you VERY MUCH for showing my cover art for Friday. Here is the story behind it. I am an artist who lives in a small, remote mountain town called Julian, which is far up in the mountains above San Diego. I can say that I did meet Robert and Ginny many years ago when I was a young university student, in San Diego. The price to meet him was to donate one pint of blood. So, that filtered out a lot of fans and I spent all afternoon one day with Ginny and Robert (along with Ted Sturgeon.) Of course, I had no idea at the time that I would be illustrating the cover in the future for the book Friday, one of my favorites. I cheerfully and with great interest bought and read every single Heinlein book as an adult, the day they were released. I started my fandom as a kid, reading all the juveniles in the early and mid sixties, and then graduated to Stranger in a Strange Land and all the books that followed. How did I get this gig? Well, a few months ago I illustrated the cover of a horror/suspense novel for author Mike Baron. Comic fans may know his name from his award winning Nexus and Badger comic series, but he has also written Flash, Punisher, Batman, and Star Wars comics. Some time ago he moved into novels as well. That book caught the attention of the RAH publisher and the RAH estate and RAH’s agent, and I was invited to submit a cover. The offer was simple: “do a cover, whatever you want, and if we like it, we will buy it.” It took me three weeks of solid work. The first work was carefully, oh so carefully, reading the book again. Then I reflected on previous covers. The Whelan cover knocked me out when it was released, and I loved it so much I wrote M.W., and bought a print that he signed for me, and I spent a fortune framing it up museum quality. But the concept of putting Friday in a jump suit (she wears things other than jump suits in the book) bothered me. Also, showing her as courier (run, lady run) bothered me. After all, she was a COMBAT courier. So, I decided to put her on the Ell-Five right after she has her first kill of the book. That way I could have a clear SF theme but be faithful to the flavor of who Friday was as a strong, feminist character. I refrained from making Friday “sexy” or “hot” in a way that would demean the character and reduce her great strength of a person into well, a mere hottie. I also wanted to modernize the character. The book is now out in HARDBACK (wow) and paperback at Amazon. —Rod Underhill, illustrator of the Friday new edition. (Oh, now that this one is done, I am ready for more cover work, please. Tell a friend?)

    1. It’s a good cover! Bright, bold colors, which I like because it seems a lot of SF covers are trending toward muted color palettes. I also do cover art and design, so I appreciate the good stuff.

      1. Thank you. I often work in eye catching colors because I want the cover to stand out on the stands, as it were. I do not know what the Heinlein’s would have thought, but since the RAH estate and estate agent liked it, that was very nice for me.

    2. A nit to pick – Friday’s first kill happens on Earth, not L5 – as she is leaving the Beanstalk terminus in Kenya.

      On the other hand, you made a very good choice there – and illustrated that a cover does not have to be a slavish depiction of a scene in the book. (In fact, most covers that work well are not.)

      What you did clearly establishes the book as science fiction – with a very dangerous female protagonist. Well done. Sure to engender at least a few more Children of Heinlein.

      1. Yes, I was aware that the first kill happened on Earth. I made the decision to alter that for artistic satisfaction. The Estate and Agent and Publisher approved that change. Such is art.

        1. As I said, better the way you did it – I would imagine that the terminal for the Beanstalk would look pretty much like, say, one of the terminals in JFK or other major airport. Definitely wouldn’t have conveyed “science fiction.”

          1. Yes, you quite accurately point out the issue I faced. How would I “SF” up the ground station of the Beanstalk in Kenya? I made some compromises. However, while it may not be clear, the Earth I illustrated actually shows Africa facing the station, it is just, well, mostly covered up by stuff. However, I refrained from using the North American angle etc, as it were. (I wondered how many people would (accurately) point out the error, good on you for being so knowledgeable about the book.) With the Kenyan Station being on the top of a mountain, I guess I could have shown some flying APVs or something, but, well, I thought space was the place. Some other ideas I briefly played with included having Friday being attacked at the farm…being on a space liner….being on a boat on the river when all hell breaks loose…but I discarded those pretty quickly. Meanwhile, the hardback edition (!) came yesterday and it is swell, and it uses a slightly different set up for the cover….and looks cool.

            1. On screen, I had to squint to be sure that was even Earth in the background. Although that could be my eyes, too, these days. The little detail was a good idea, though.

              I can only think of one other major point that might have worked – when Friday takes out the assassin after the Chief of California. Futuristic buildings could have signaled “SFnal.” You made much the best choice, though, IMHO.

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