Formidable Female Protagonists in Science Fiction by Decade

I think we can learn something from how protagonists change over time. That’s why I have divided the ones in this series into decades. This is my analysis.

Themes in science fiction change over time and follows or sometimes precedes the society around us. Early female protagonists in science fiction are often written in reaction to the male dominance in the field. One should probably also note that the preconception is that SF is read by teenage boys with raging hormones thus the sexy female protagonist.  I don’t know the actual numbers but research show that more women read than men which might explain the success of the urban fantasy genre that has grown out of ‘chick lit’ romance. It might also explain the rising popularity of the steampunk genre even if I think there is more to it than that. Most literary things happens as a reaction to real worlds events or movements; equal rights struggles, wars, terrorism, jihad, global warming, internet, social media etc. I think in parts steampunk is a reaction to the clean, chromed, rectangular, functionalistic and technological society of today. Beauty, curves and brass are the new black.

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The new decade is still young but Steampunk is on the rise.


The noughties is the decade of the war against terrorism and social media. Romance moves into Urban fantasy which becomes a major genre.  Ecology becomes a theme in many novels. The feminist themes have almost disappeared.


This is the decade of the Internet revolution. Cyber punk heroines and military leaders are big this decade. Cyber punk is easily explained and the military leaders is probably due to authors coming out of the US military with experiences from the fights in the Middle East.


The eighties was a decade of economic progress and elitism. The decade of the Yuppies. Female protagonists become more complex and at the same time more spread inside the different sub genres of science fiction.

AIDS put a plug in the sexual revolution for most authors but not Heinlein.

Romantic science fiction enter the scene? (Cordelia)

Some of the heroes here is in my opinion just like men (Nicole, Ripley). Ripley is awesome but to most parts it is her doing things like any male hero would.


The seventies is the decade of the Gasoline Crisis in my recollection. Feminist fight for equality might also have been a large part of the seventies. I remember that my mother started to work something my dad was not totally happy with at first. The protagonists here are leaders which is new.


The sixties are the decade of the Hippies, the Vietnam war, sexual revolution and women’s liberation. Anne McCaffrey wrote Restoree, which is her debut novel, in anger that there was no female protagonists in science fiction. Is this the decade women stopped being the damsels in distress?


The list have no female protagonists first published during the fifties? Is there none? Isn’t this the period of the pulp novels? They usually have females on the cover and a guy with a ray gun.


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