I just learned that the ALA awarded Tamora Pierce the Margaret A. Edwards award for her Song of the Lioness quartet (Alanna) and the Protector of the Small quartet (Keladry). It doesn’t say this on the website, but it’s probably for her being generally awesome as well.
The thing I love about all of her books is that her female characters are strong and proud of who they are regardless of other people’s judgments. It’s sometimes hard to do that, even as an adult. She was committed to making books about strong young women who exist in the world as humans well before many of her peers in the fantasy world.
I think it’s relatively easy to think of really amazing sci-fi and fantasy off the top of your head if you read it at all. However, finding sci-fi and fantasy with strong women in it gets a little more difficult, and finding female protagonists that interact with other women and exist as beings unto themselves gets harder.
When I set the challenge to find sci-fi and fantasy that featured women who weren’t fan service, sidekicks, or the only woman in the book, I thought it would be relatively easy and definitely fun to research. After all, sci-fi and fantasy are making a comeback and there are so many great new books published every year. What we found instead is that even now it’s hard to find books written about women who exist as actual people. It’s easier in Teen fiction, but I think there’s more of a push and purpose in that area to make sure that young women and girls have people to look up to.