Formidable Female Protagonists in Science Fiction Part 4

This week’s Formidable Female Protagonists contain both Nimue and Ofelia two of my favorite SF characters. It’s fun researching the list, I pick up new books to read all the time. I got 46 more protagonists to go and later today you will have the first FFP in Science Fiction TV. The females are carefully selected by me, their names written on paper, folded and put in one of two bowls, one for new-to-me and one for read-by-me. I then select four read and one new-to-me and write about them.  I am open to suggestions for more females to include.

Here is the list, read about them below.

  1. Ofelia Fulfarres – Nest Guardian (Elizabeth Moon)
  2. Bella Lind – Icon at the End of Time (Alastair Reynolds)
  3. Helva – The Ship Who Sang (Anne McCaffrey)
  4. Nimue Alban – Mind of a Dead Starship Captain (David Weber)
  5. Rowan – Steerswoman (Rosemary Kirstein)

Ofelia Fulfarres – Nest Guardian

Book: Remnant Population (1996)
Author: Elizabeth Moon
Publisher: Baen
Genre: Science Fiction | First Contact

Meet one of my very best dearest friends, sorry books.

Meet Ofelia Fulfarres, she is a mature woman past childbearing who never got a chance to make something of herself. The setting is the one town on a company owned colony. She lives with her obnoxious son Barto and his wife Rosara in town when we learn that the company lost the franchise to the planet. All colonists have to leave. Ofelia has had enough and decides to stay when the others leave. I love to listen to Ofelia’s thoughts and to see her planning to stay behind.

She avoids the last shuttle and she is left all alone. The only human left on the planet. Ofelia can now live her own life as she like. It feels so liberating to read about it all. I want to be there all alone too that’s how wonderful it reads.

Half a year or so later the colony’s radio comes alive with human voices again. It’s the new company with a shipload of settlers. They don’t know Ofelia is down there, and their plan is to settle their colony closer to the equator on the grass plains there, far away from the old colony. They land and start to clear the area with heavy machinery when unknown aliens with knifes and spears attack and kill them all, to the last man, woman and child. While Ofelia listen to it all on the radio. Ofelia gets the scare of her life and she can’t talk to the ship before it leaves because the colonist realigned the communication satellite to the new colony.

Being all alone doesn’t feel safe anymore for Ofelia. She lives her life in fear now, in fear of the killers that lives somewhere on the planet. She starts to see dangers here and there.

One rainy stormy night she makes contact …

And that’s when the real story begins :-) Read it!

Elizabeth Moon has a real knack for lovable characters especially when it comes to formidable old ladies. Remnant Population is a very personal first contact story told from both Ofelia’s point of view and the aliens. It is intense and both the aliens and Ofelia act in believable ways that makes sense to the reader. It is in my opinion one of the best first contact stories ever and it should be a good story to start with if you are new to science fiction because it’s so character driven while providing most of the allure of the genre.

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Bella Lind – Icon at the End of Time

Book: Pushing Ice (2005)
Author: Alastair Reynolds
Publisher: Gollancz
Genre: Science Fiction

This is true Space Opera. It starts in the far future when humanity has conquered the stars and inhabit thousands of planets. Senator Chromis Pasqueflower Bowerbird proposes a program to memorize Bella Lind, the hero that started it all. Then it shifts back to 2057.

Rockhopper is a nuclear powerd mining ship, one of many that fuel earth’s space economy with a steady stream of comet raw material. Bella Lind is the captain of an elite crew of 150 or so. They call their work Pushing Ice.

So when Janus, one of Saturn’s ice moons breaks orbit and heads for the stars, Bella and her crew are the only ones that can reach it in time before it leaves the solar system.

The mission is voluntary and most of the crew is behind it. But the company has lied to them and faked their fuel situation. It is a suicide mission; they will not be able to return after reaching Janus. But SvetlanaBella’s best friend and the ships chief engineer starts to suspect the truth. Bella confronts her former lover who is the CEO of the company but due to lack of proof she decides to continue the mission. This leads to a break with Svetlana.

The book focuses to a large part on the conflict between Svetlana and Bella. That deep friendship can turn to extreme hatred.

The Rockhopper ends up slip streamed with Janus and heading for a mysterious alien cylinder some hundred light years from earth at 99% of light speed. Svetlana blames Bella and with a majority of the crew behind her they exile Bella while they try to survive on Janus.

But that’s only the first step of their travel. They are propelled at near light speed to a gigantic alien Meta structure in the far future. Someone is collecting civilizations at the end of time.

The circle closes both with the future history of Man as their memento reach Bella and with Bella’s and Svetlana’s friendship. It’s a truly epic story. The painful conflict between two good friends is so well told you can feel their anguish.

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Helva – the Ship who Sang

Books: The Ship Who Sang (1961), the short story Honeymoon appears in Get Off the Unicorn (1977)
Series: Brain & Brawn 1
Author: Anne McCaffrey
Publisher: Random house and more, there is
Genre: Science Fiction

First she has to deal with becoming a Brain, then a ship, then with being a human. Helva is a formidable young female.

The Brain was perfect, the tiny, crippled body useless. So technology rescued the brain and put it in an environment that conditioned it to live in a different kind of body – a spaceship

Here the human mind, more subtle, indefinitely more complex than any computer ever devised, could be linked to the massive and delicate strengths, the total recall, and the incredible speeds of space.

But the brain behind the ship was entirely feminine – a complex, loving, strong, weak, gentle savage – a personality, all-woman, called Helva . . .

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Nimue Alban – Mind of a Dead Starship Captain

Books: Off Armageddon Reef, By Schism Rent Asunder, By Herseis Distressed, A Mighty Fortress
Author: David Weber
Series: Safehold
Publisher: Tor
Genre: Military Science Fiction

In this universe the last colony of the human race hides from the genocidal Gbaba on the planet Safehold. The colonists’ minds are changed while in cold sleep and they wake to a medieval world governed by an artificial religion where the colony leadership has taken the roles as angels. Some of the crew set up a high tech enclave, but they are ruthlessly exterminated by orbital strikes, weapons still active today, striking any semblance of higher tech. Sympathizers set of a nuke at a summit, killing most of the leaders. The Church of God Awakening is set up in the following period.

Nimue Alban is an android with the mind of a long dead starship captain. Her human self sacrificed herself to become a second or third line of defense against the suspected treachery of the leaders of Humanity’s last colony. She wakes up 800 years later with a mission to restore civilization.

The fourth book A Mighty Fortress was published April 13. The fifth book, title unknown will be out in 2011.

The Safehold Series started with Off Armagedon Reef where Niume Alban wakes up, assess the situation decide to back the kingdom of Charis for their enlightened royal family and general inventiveness. After a sex changing morph she dons the identity of Merlin a Seijin warrior, save prince Cayleb of Charis from assassins, becomes his bodyguard and start to change the way they think.

The Church of God Awakening is lead by the greedy and power blind Group of Four who conspires to send a fleet to destroy Charis. They are defeated by the new and improved fleet of Charis Off Armagedon Reef.

In By Schism Rent Asunder the church retaliates and massacre Charis’ unarmed civilian traders and their families. Cayleb now king, retaliates by sending a fleet half way around the planet. He also makes peace with Chrisholm, falls in love with their queen Sharleyan and in their Marriage creates the New Empire of Charis, united against the rest of the world.

In By Hersies Distressed it is Charis turn to go on the offensive, invading the island princedom of Corisade. Charis get to show up their new and improved army and artillery before they defeat prince Hektor’s army. Hektor is killed by church assassins. His son and daughter flees to exile with thoughts of revenge on Cayleb who they believe killed their father.

We have also learned that there is an Order inside the church that knows the truth about Safehold, that their religion is a fake and that suppression of scientific methods and innovation have been built into their society by the former colony founders. Now Cayleb, his wife and a few others know the truth. The brothers have an elaborate procedure before approving any new member and they are frankly scared of the rapid changes.

There is yet another group, the Circle, inside the Church that doesn’t know the truth, but they oppose greed and corruption inside the church. But they have been betrayed by one of their own when A Mighty Fortress starts. The only question is when the Inquisition will strike

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Rowan – Steerswoman

Books: The Steerswoman (1989), The Outskirter’s Secret (1992), The Lost Steersman (2003), The Language of Power (2004)
Omnibus: The Steerswoman’s Road (2003, book 1-2)
Author: Rosemary Kirstein
Series: Steerswomen
Publisher: Del Rey, Random house
Genre: Science Fiction

This was recommended to me and sounds intriguing, a world that isn’t what it seems, similar to Safehold but its own. Science and technology as magic I can’t wait to find out what kind of formidable Rowan is.

The Steerswoman’s Road

If you ask, she will answer. If she asks, you must reply. A steerswoman will speak only the truth to you, as long as she knows it—and you must do the same for her. And so, across the centuries, the Steerswomen— questioning, searching, investigating—have slowly learned more and more about the world through which they wander. All knowledge the Steerswomen possess is given freely to those who ask. But there is one kind of knowledge that has always been denied them: Magic.

When the steerswoman Rowan discovers a small, lovely blue jewel of obviously magical origin, her innocent questions lead to secret after startling secret, each more dangerous than the last—and suddenly Rowan must flee or fight for her life. Or worse, she must lie.

With every wizard in the world searching for her, Rowan finds unexpected assistance. A chance-met traveler turned friend, Bel is a warrior-poet, an Outskirter, and a member of a barbaric and violent people. Or, so it would seem.

For Bel, unknowing, possesses secrets of her own: secrets embedded in her culture, in her people, in the very soil of her homeland. From the Inland Sea to the deadly Outskirts, surrounded by danger and deceit, Rowan and Bel uncover more and more of the wizards’ hidden knowledge. As the new truths accumulate, they edge closer to the single truth that lies at the center, the most unexpected secret of them all. . . .

The Lost Steersman

The steerswoman Rowan has learned that Slado, a mysterious wizard, has secretly been working spells of incredible power. Both the Inner Lands and the Outskirts are now threatened by his Magic – and before the destruction becomes too great to reverse, Rowan must find Slado so that he can be stopped. But how does one stop the most powerful man in the world?

In the seaside town of Alemeth, the Annex holds centuries of steerswomen’s journals. They may contain clues to Slado’s location, but combing through them would take more time than Rowan has to spend. Then she encounters a lost friend: Janus, one of the few rare steersmen. But Janus quit the order without explanation. Now the bright, beloved companion of Rowan’s student days has become a man dominated by dark moods and even darker secrets.

When sleepy Alemeth transforms into a place of chaos, terror, and sudden death, Rowan wonders if all the secrets are connected. The shocking answer will change the steerswoman – and her world – forever.

The Language of Power

The steerswomen were seekers, collectors of knowledge, and whatever they learned was free for the asking. The wizards also had knowledge– the knowledge to command nature itself–but they jealously guarded their dark wisdom. The two groups have been at odds for centuries:

They do not agree, they do not converse, they do not associate.

Now the steerswoman Rowan has uncovered evidence that the master wizard, Slado, is conjuring dangerous spells in shadow, devastating the distant lands called the Outskirts and changing the course of the world. Rowan has no choice: Slado must be stopped . . . if he can even be found.

Following a dubious clue, Rowan and her friend Bel, an Outskirter, have come to the city of Donner, seeking answers from the past for a danger in the present. But the secrets go deeper than Rowan had ever imagined, compelling her to wonder: What if all this time she has been asking the wrong questions?

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