Good Minds Suggest: Ann Leckie's Favorite Sci-Fi Women Protagonists

September, 2017
Ann Leckie

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Science fiction writer Ann Leckie is the author of the Hugo-winning novel Ancillary Justice, the first book in the beloved Imperial Radch trilogy.

Leckie is following up on that success with her new book, Provenance, about a young woman caught in an interstellar conflict as she makes a desperate bid to recover lost artifacts prized by her people.

"For a long time science fiction has had a reputation as a boys' club," Leckie says. "These days fantasy does, too, even though until fairly recently fantasy was considered more 'girly' than science fiction."

But women have played major roles in both genres from the beginning, and science fiction and fantasy stories aren't just about guys, says Leckie. Here are her picks for five fabulous science fiction and fantasy books with female main characters:

Meg Murry in A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
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"Meg is a misfit—at school and in her own family, who she's sure are all more beautiful and talented than she'll ever be. But when it comes time to rescue her father and save her little brother from evil, it's Meg who's got to step up. Meg is a great character, one who I suspect is very relatable for a lot of teenage girls."


Kel Cheris in Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
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"Captain Kel Cheris is tasked with saving the Hexarchate from the dangerous rebellion that threatens it. To help her do that, she's paired with centuries-dead general Shous Jedao. He's never lost a battle, living or dead, but he's famously unreliable—his last battle, before he died, he massacred even his own troops, and Cheris may or may not survive the association. She's a fantastic character, and this novel has deservedly been shortlisted for multiple awards in the past year."


Kai in Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone
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"Kai makes and maintains idols—artificially constructed gods who aren't really gods and who in the absence of real gods help investors control the soulstuff that powers nearly everything in the world of these books. Idols have all the benefits of gods without the inconvenient independence of will that gods might. When one of Kai's idols dies, Kai risks her own life to save it—and ends up uncovering a conspiracy that threatens her life yet again. Bonus: street urchin Izza, who is another important point-of-view character."


Lilith Iyapo in Dawn by Octavia E. Butler
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"Humanity has almost destroyed itself in nuclear war, when the alien Oankali arrive and put whoever remains into suspended animation until the planet is livable again. They choose pragmatic, determined Lilith to be among the first to return and introduce other surviving humans to the Oankali's project, which will ultimately mean the end of humanity. Lilith's dilemma—survival will mean betraying herself and other humans and ultimately becoming something alien—is a disturbing one. Read this one and then go on to read the rest of the trilogy."


Ariane Emory in Cyteen by C.J. Cherryh
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"The brilliant Ariane Emory, one of the most powerful people on Cyteen, is murdered. But she had already put in place a possible way to return from the dead—a clone will be born and carefully educated with materials prepared by Emory herself. The younger Ariane is as bright as her predecessor, but she's only a child, and she's surrounded by people who want to manipulate her, control her, possess her, or even kill her. She'll have to figure out what's going on, and find allies, fast. Oh, and figure out who killed the elder Ariane before they kill her, too. Cherryh was recently named a Grandmaster by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and this novel goes a fair distance toward explaining why."



Want more book recommendations from authors? Check out our Good Minds Suggest series.



Comments (showing 1-18 of 18) (18 new)

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message 1: by Peter (last edited Sep 08, 2017 12:57PM) (new)

Peter Tillman Thanks, AL. Good recos, and looking forward to your new book!

I like your blog posts here, too. And LOVE LOVE LOVE the Ancillary books. Just another Leckie fanboy.....


message 2: by Steve (new)

Steve Peaslee Great commentary, Ann. Meg Murry is one of my all-time favorites, also. I think you would see similarities between her and JoJo Mallory in The Camelot Puzzle by... Steve Peaslee. I have always been a shade more fantasy than sci-fi, but enjoy both immensely.


message 3: by Diane (new)

Diane Baker Fab comments and recos. Maria V. Snyder writes some great "girl-power" books, as does Michelle Sagara. Try at least her first "Cast in -----" books.


message 4: by Diane (new)

Diane Cithrin bel Sarcour in the Dagger and the Coin series is a favorite of mine.


message 5: by Greg (new)

Greg Hunt dont forget Lessa from Anne Mccafferty's Dragonriders of Pern series.


message 6: by Midas68 (new)

Midas68 Ya still pushing that "Womens are victims" divisive bull!!!
You said it yourself, Women have been in it since the beginning and the more you mention people say it's "A Man's Field" just sends the wrong message.

Kristine Kathering Rusch in a essay of a book she edited for Baen, said it best in her Collection from people of a certain Gender(Guess which one) She was the most awarded writer at a time in SF and was holding writing workshops and said that a wannabe writer told her that women don't write Science Fiction, and she not only told her that she was a multi-award winning writer, And That most of the big editors(Who dictate what stories are accepted) were women(and are the majority today)
And then she told the person that said this "I'm a writer and you are here at my writing worshop to learn from me, a woman.

The real clincher that shows this victim-hood status is that the person stating this was also a Woman(What the hell, not only all that other Bullcrap she said, but she also signed up to a science fiction class to learn how to write it.

This is so common with the pay gab myth today. If you believe what Hillary was pushing than you bought into the divisive I'm a victim propaganda the left was selling(part of which helped her and the left lose by the way) If you listen to real feminists(Women who are strong and don't play the victim) they do not lie about it, They tell you the actual numbers are not 73 cents on the dollar, they tell you it's 93 cents, because they don't play a victim and say that if another gender works longer hours than their own gender, plus many other factors, that she thinks they should be paid evenly. WHAT, I mean if women did get paid evenly it would be Sexist against Men for Gawds Sakes, As he works longer hours.

And not to mention that Lekie not only won the highest award but there are lots of people that think she won it because of gender politics(based on the false assumption of Rape Culture and Pay Gap)

One more last bit of advice, in this most free of nations, If you win the game and still want to play the identity politics, Don't be surprised when Men start to do the same. You saw them do this in Charlottesville and obviously the so called tolerant ones could not stand it.

I'm telling you these obvious truths so we don't have to create a world white Whites and Men have no choice but to start joining groups based on Race or Sex just to compete against being labeled something evil they probably aren't.

P.S> Just because all the media groups, Google, Yahoo, play this divisive counterproductive game for supposed puppet masters of conquer and divide. Doesn't mean you have to lower yourself to the level that they want you at.

Here if you still don't understand then just change your pronoun of choice to White or Male(or the evil Both) and remember they are saying it should be interchangeable today, And see how you would like it.

Good luck against the Sheep Makers, Again there are no Sheep in America people unless you make yourself one.

Let the Hate begin...


message 7: by Chicagomel (new)

Chicagomel I'd add several Star Wars storylines. Mara Jade, Jaina Solo, Tenel Ka, Tahiri...Leia of course...don't ever let anyone tell you Star Wars didn't have strong women all along.


message 8: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Browne Rock on, Ann--glad to see some CJ Cherryh in your selections. I've already pre-ordered Provenance--Becky


message 9: by Cathleen (new)

Cathleen Pierce I'm so glad you mentioned Cyteen. One of my favorite books!


message 10: by Valerie (new)

Valerie Mellerop The Gunnery Sargeant Torin Kerr series by Tanya Huff is one of my favorites. Her aliens are interesting and the twist the stories take is amusing and I just plain like her main character.


message 11: by William (new)

William Superb, Thank you!


message 12: by J.S.McGOWAN (new)

J.S.McGOWAN Hi I have just had my first Fantasy novel published - and I can honestly say it was thanks to strong imaginative women ( mother and grandmother)that I have a vivid imagination. All through history women were channelers of energy related to spirit and healing and many of them paid dearly for it ---------they wield the sword of power in my book.


message 13: by Steve (new)

Steve King As the list is about female characters, you should have Jean Johnson's books in there. Superbly written tales with several strong female characters


message 14: by Pk (new)

Pk No hate at all. Love it. In 2017, I wish there were more who thought that way.


message 15: by Priscilla (new)

Priscilla King Nice to see these new recommendations. Two more I've remembered for 30-40 years are Anne McCaffrey's Menolly in "Dragon Song" et seq., and Suzette Haden Elgin's Responsible of Brightwater in "Twelve Fair Kingdoms" et seq. (Actually all McCaffrey and Elgin novels have fairly strong female characters, even when the protagonists are male.)

What do people here think of Lois McMaster Bujold's characters?


message 16: by Nimore (last edited Sep 28, 2017 03:38AM) (new)

Nimore If anyone wants to read a SF series with good (and interesting) female (and male) characters and an interesting story line, then I'd recommend G. S. Jennsen's Aurora Rising series. It really deserves to be more popular than it is right now; she's a great writer.


message 17: by Paul & Mary (new)

Paul & Mary Ross Did nobody mention Connie Willis? Start with the Domesday book, you'll be knocked out.


message 18: by Karen (new)

Karen Cleary All Seanan Macguire's books feature strong women characters, she's one of the best contemporary fantasy writers today. Tanya Huff's Summoner series is one of my favourites. Lucy Hounsom's Starborn trilogy features a young girl becoming a very strong woman, with interesting support characters.

(Octavia Butler writes thinly disguised Christian propaganda & is incredibly boring, IMO)


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