Strong Women in Sci-Fi and Fantasy-- now with clothes!

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. For adults, we’re still catching up. When we applied the Bechdel test to our favorite sci-fi and fantasy books, some came up short. We also didn’t want sidekicks; only heroines were allowed.

This weekend, a few of us from DPL are presenting a panel on strong women in sci-fi and fantasy at the Denver Comic Con. We’ll talk about why it was so hard to find books that fit the bill and some books and trends that we’re super excited about. If you’re going to be there, we’re presenting on Saturday, June 1 in Room 103 at 10 a.m. I guarantee that at least one of us will be giddily bouncing around like a crazed squirrel. We’re doing a host of other panels as well. Check out these great posts about the Weird West, GLBT Superheroes, and Steampunk!

Here's a link to our booklists: Heroines in Sci-Fi and Fantasy for adults and Strong Young Women in Sci-Fi and Fantasy for teens and upper level kid readers.

Written by extra medium on May 31, 2013


Kate B. on June 1, 2013


Wonderful post! Thank you.

extra medium on June 2, 2013


I'm glad you enjoyed it! We had an amazing crowd at the panel and I have a bunch of suggestions from the audience that I'll add to the booklists in the coming days.

Joel Bass on June 12, 2013


Great post - thanks for putting this together!

I'll pitch in a couple of my favorites, which I think fit the bill... "Graceling" by Kristin Cashore, and "Eyes of Crow" by Jeri Smith Ready. Both really excellent, and both featuring strong female leads.


I loved Graceling! Kristin Cashore is one of my favorite authors. I've never heard of Eyes of the Crow, however, so I'm looking forward to reading it when it comes in for me.

Thanks so much for your comment. We created bookmarks for both teen and adult fiction- next time you're in the library, pick one up!

IKL on July 4, 2013


Sheri S. Tepper has some great female heroins in her books. My favorite novel of hers is Raising the Stones.

Anonymous on October 2, 2013


Hmmm, I disagree with this post, and I'm not talking only about the clothes part. Sci-fi has always pushed societal norms beyond the limits, and I feel there have always been strong women in Sci-Fi.

The first thing that jumped to my mind was Weaver's Ripley in Alien - granted cinema, and not very old, but the original alien is hailed as one of the master piece Sci-Fi movies, and the strong heroine lead spanned a franchise alive and kicking decades later.

just my 2 cents. :)

wrouzer on January 3, 2015


I couldn't agree with you more that there should be more books written featuring strong female protagonists.

As an author of YA fiction, I tried to fill in this gender gap by creating a paranormal/Sci/fi action adventure novel featuring a strong, witty and often stubborn female protagonist.

The title of my book is: Run Holly Run. She does have a tendency to run all right, but not away from danger and instead toward it in order to solve mysteries and help other people in danger.

To catch a glimpse of her character the first couple chapters are displayed in the "Look Inside The Book" feature on Amazon's book page.

Anonymous on November 26, 2015


The best book I've read lately with a kick-ass chick is The Adventures of Crazy Liddy but nobody seems to have heard of it but me.

Leave a comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.