Formidable Female Protagonists in Science Fiction Part 22

I prefer female protagonists and this series of posts is homage to some of the most formidable female main characters in science fiction novels or series.

I am still taking suggestions, there is a list of the ones taken at the Index page.

If you wonder about the order, It is random.

I would like to thank you all for your suggestions; I love new books to read especially about formidable female protagonists. Here are this week’s.

  1. Sirantha Jax – Jumper (Ann Aguirre)
  2. Clarissa MacDougall – First Lens Woman (E. E. ‘Doc’ Smith)
  3. Elle Arroway – Believer (Carl Sagan)
  4. Jean “Jeanie” Pelham Roker – Collector of Grey Hairs (Charles Sheffield)
  5. Jackal Segura – a Hope (Kelley Eskridge)

Sirantha Jax – Jumper

Books: Grimspace (2008), Wanderlust (2008), Doubleblind (2009), Killbox (2010)
Series: Sirantha Jax
Author: Ann Aguirre
Genre: Romantic Science Fiction
Publisher: Ace

I read the two first books and although Jax is quite formidable I found her a bit on the ‘damsel in distress’ side. You can read my notes on Grimspace and Wanderlust.

  1. As the carrier of a rare gene, Sirantha Jax has the ability to jump ships through grimspace-a talent which makes her a highly prized navigator for the Corp. Then a crash landing kills everyone on board, leaving Jax in a jail cell with no memory of the crash. But her fun’s not over. A group of rogue fighters frees her…for a price: her help in overthrowing the established order
  2. Broke and unemployed, “Jumper” Sirantha Jax accepts a diplomatic mission for the government— only to find herself up against Syndicate criminals, man-eating aliens, and her own grimspaceweakened body.
  3. As the carrier of a rare gene, Sirantha Jax has the ability to jump ships through grimspace-a talent which makes her a highly prized navigator for the Corp. Then a crash landing kills everyone on board, leaving Jax in a jail cell with no memory of the crash. But her fun’s not over. A group of rogue fighters frees her…for a price: her help in overthrowing the established order.
  4. As a “Jumper” who navigates ships through grimspace, Sirantha Jax is used to kicking ass. So why is she suddenly chosen as an ambassador of peace?

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Clarissa MacDougall – First Lens Woman

Books: Triplanetary (1948), First Lensman (1950), Galactic Patrol (1950), Gray Lensman (1951), Second Stage Lensman (1953), Children of the Lens (1954)
Series: Lensman
Author: E. E. ‘Doc’ Smith
Genre: Space Opera
Publisher: Teck, Pyramid, Berkley, ibooks

The classic space opera, Lensman is a favorite from my youth.

The series opens in Triplanetary, two billion years before the present time. The universe has few life-forms, except for the elder race of our galaxy, the Arisians and few planets besides their native world. The Arisians, a peaceful race native to this universe, are already ancient at this time and have forgone physical needs in preference for contemplative mental power which they have developed and refined to an exceedingly high degree. The underlying assumption (based on then-accepted theories of stellar evolution) is that, while stars are common, planetary formation is very rare. Thus there are comparatively very few planets in the universe.

Into this universe, from an alien space-time continuum, the Eddorians come, a dictatorial, power-hungry race. They have been attracted to this universe by the observation that our galaxy and a sister galaxy (later to be named Lundmark’s Nebula, still later called the Second Galaxy) are passing through each other. According to an astronomical theory current at the time of writing Triplanetary (prior to the rehabilitation of the nebular hypothesis), this will result in a unique galactic formation of billions of planets and thus the development of life upon them. Dominance over these life forms would offer the Eddorians an opportunity to satisfy their lust for power and control.

Although the Eddorians have developed mental powers almost equal to those of the Arisians, they rely instead for the most part on physical power, exercised on their behalf by a hierarchy of underling races. They see the many races in the universe, with which the Arisians were intending to build a peaceful civilization, as fodder for their power-drive.

The Arisians, detecting the invasion of our universe by the Eddorians, recognize their rapacious, intractable nature. So they try to hide their existence from the Eddorians and then begin a covert breeding program on every world that can produce intelligent life, with the aim of producing a means to eventually destroy the Eddorian race. This they grasp that they cannot do by mental power alone, and they decide that much time is needed (during which Eddore must be kept ignorant of their plans) and new races must be developed which will better be able to breach the Eddorians’ mental powers than they themselves are. The new races, having done so, will naturally be better guardians of civilization than the Arisians can be, and so the Arisians’ role in the universe will be ended.

Triplanetary incorporates the early history of that breeding program on Earth, illustrated with the lives of several warriors and soldiers, from ancient times to the discovery of the first interstellar space drive. It adds an additional short novel (originally published with the Triplanetary name) which is transitional to the novel First Lensman.

The second book, First Lensman, concerns the early formation of the Galactic Patrol and the first Lens, given to First Lensman Virgil Samms of “Tellus” (Earth). Samms is one side of the vast Arisian breeding program which will produce Clarissa MacDougal, the female half of the penultimate result of their breeding program. Moreover, along with Roderick Kinnison (a member of the other side, which will produce the male half), they are natural leaders as they are supremely intelligent, forceful, and capable. The Arisians, through the scientist Bergenholm (actually an Arisian entity appearing as a human, and who “invented” the interstellar drive), make it known that if Samms, the head of the Triplanetary Service which administers law enforcement to Tellus, Mars and Venus, visits the Arisian planetary system—and only if he visits the Arisian system—he will be given the tool he needs to build the Patrol he dreams of. That tool is the Lens. The Arisians further promise him that no entity unworthy of the Lens will ever be permitted to wear it, but that he and his successors will have to discover for themselves most of its abilities. They otherwise maintain a highly distant profile and refuse to talk to other beings, stating that they have given civilization the tool it needs to bring about a good future and that people should otherwise not have reason to contact them.

The Lens is a form of “pseudo-life,” created by the Arisians who understand life and life-force in a way no other race does. It gives its wearer a variety of mental capabilities, including those needed to enforce the law on alien planets and to bridge the communication gap between different life-forms. Thus, it can provide mind-reading and telepathic abilities while connected directly or indirectly to the skin of its user. It cannot be worn by anyone other than its owner, will kill any other wearer, and sublimates shortly after the owner’s death. Virgilia Samms, Virgil Samms’s daughter, is later told that there is a gender difference that renders the Lens more compatible with male minds and that only one woman will ever become a Lensman.

Using the Lens as a means to test quality and identify the very few exceptional individuals able to help him, Virgil Samms visits races in other star systems, recruiting the best of them and forming a Galactic Patrol of exceptional individuals from a wide range of species. Their opponents in turn are discovered to be a widespread civilization based around dominance hierarchies and organized crime. The leaders of this civilization are the Eddorians, but only the Children of the Lens, who must ultimately defeat these, know of their existence.

The series contains some of the largest-scale space battles ever written. Entire worlds are almost casually destroyed (see “Super-Science Weapons” below), while some weapons are powerful enough to warp space itself. Huge fleets of spaceships fight bloody wars of attrition. Alien races of two galaxies sort themselves into the allied, Lens-bearing adherents of “Civilization” and the enemy races of “Boskone.”

Centuries pass and eventually the final generations of the breeding program are born. On each of four planets, a single individual is born who realises the limits of his initial training and perceives the need to return to Arisia to seek “second stage” training, including: the ability to slay by mental force alone; a “sense of perception” which allows seeing by direct awareness without the use of the visual sense; the ability to control minds undetectably; the ability to perfectly split attention in order to perform multiple tasks with simultaneous focus on each; and to better integrate their minds for superior thinking.

As the breeding program reaches its ultimate conclusion, Kimball Kinnison, the brown-haired, gray-eyed second-stage Lensman of Earth, finally marries the most advanced product of the complementary breeding program, Clarissa MacDougall. She is a beautiful, curvaceous, red-haired nurse, who eventually becomes the first human female to receive her own Lens. Their children, a boy and two pairs of fraternal twin sisters, grow up to be the five Children of the Lens. In their breeding, “almost every strain of weakness in humanity is finally removed.” They are born already possessing the powers taught to second-stage Lensmen, with mental abilities from birth that are difficult to imagine. They are the only beings of Civilization ever to see Arisia as it truly is and the only individuals developed over all the existence of billions of years able finally to penetrate the Eddorians’ defense screens.

Undergoing advanced training, they are described as “third-stage” Lensmen, transcending humanity with mental scope and perceptions impossible for any normal person to comprehend. Although newly adult, they are now expected to be more competent than the Arisians and to develop their own techniques and abilities “about which we [the Arisians] know nothing.”

The key discovery comes when they try mind-merging, which they have not tried since before their various third-stage trainings, and discover that this is completely changed. No longer are they simply five beings in mental contact as before. Now they discover they can merge their minds into a hive-mind, to effectively form one mental entity, a being with incalculable abilities called the Unit. The Arisians call this the “most nearly perfect creation the universe has ever seen” and state that they, who created it, are themselves almost entirely ignorant of almost all its higher powers.

The Children of the Lens, together with the mental power of unknown millions of Lensmen of the Galactic Patrol, constitute the Arisians’ intended means to destroy Eddore and make the universe safe for their progeny species. The Galactic Patrol, summoned to work together in this way for the first time in its existence, contains billions of beings who in total can generate immense mental force. The Children of the Lens add their own tremendous mental force to this. As the Unit gather, they focus all power onto one tiny point of the Eddorians’ shields. Thus attacked with this incalculable strength and precision, the Eddorians’ strongest shields finally, after billions of years, are destroyed and the Eddorians with them.

The Arisians, with their child races successful and safe, remove themselves from the Cosmos in order to leave the Children of the Lens uninhibited in their future as the new guardians of Civilization.

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Elle Arroway – Believer

Books: Contact (1985)
Author: Carl Sagan
Genre: First Contact
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, Pocket, Arrow, Legend, Orbit

It is a good contact story and I have read the book.

It is December 1999, the dawn of the millennium. A team of international scientists is poised for the most fantastic adventure in human history. After years of scanning the galaxy for signs of somebody or something else, this team believes they’ve found a message from an intelligent source–& they travel deep into space to meet it. Pulitzer Prize winner Carl Sagan injects Contact, his prophetic adventure story, with scientific details that make it utterly believable. It’s a Cold War era novel that parlays the nuclear paranoia of the time into exquisitely wrought tension among the various countries involved. Sagan meditates on science, religion & government–the elements that define society–& looks to their impact on & role in the future. His ability to pack an exciting read with such rich content is an unusual talent that makes Contact a modern sci-fi classic.

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Jean “Jeanie” Pelham Roker – Collector of Grey Hairs

Book: The McAndrew Chronicles (1983)
Author: Charles Sheffield
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Tor, Baen

Both protagonist and author are new to me. This is more of a short story collection but it sounded so interesting that I included it anyway.

Presenting the space adventures of Arthur Morton McAndrew, space-time expert and scientist extraordinaire, and his long-suffering companion, spaceship skipper Jeanie Roker. Jeanie first met McAndrew on a routine run to Titan and quickly learned he was a genius of the caliber of Newton or Einstein. When McAndrew invented a space drive that let frail humans survive hundreds of gravities of acceleration, he disappeared while testing it, and Jeanie had to find him, using a trail of cryptic messages he had left behind.

That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, in spite of the gray hairs that Jeanie began accumulating as a result of McAndrew’s impractical nature and his talent for getting himself into trouble with much more practical villains, such as…

  • A mass-murderer of several million people
  • A highly-placed government official whose life McAndrew saved, but in an embarrassing way, and who consequently wants to kill both him and Jeanie
  • The ruler of a slower-than-light spaceship that left Earth a long time ago, giving it time to develop some very strange customs by the time McAndrew and Jeanie visited it.

And there are still more adventures of this spacegoing odd couple in The Compleat McAndrew

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Jackal Segura – a Hope

Books: Solitaire (2002)
Author: Kelly Eskridge
Genre: Feminist Science Fiction
Publisher: Eos

New to me but it sounds interesting.

Jackal Segura is a Hope: born special and raised to a life of responsibility and privilege as a powerful symbol of a fledgling world government; destined for greatness. In a few months she will take up her role in the global administration, sponsored by the massive corporate entity that houses, feeds, employs and protects her and everyone she loves. And she’s just discovered that everything she believes, everything she is, is a lie.

Then in a few short moments of horror and catastrophe, Jackal is a Hope no longer. She has become a pariah and a murderer, a person with no community, no future, disconnected from the world. She enters an experimental program designed to inflict the experience of years of solitary confinement in a few short months-virtual confinement in a sealed cell within her own mind, grief-stricken and alone, until the day her demons come out to play.

Then she’s back in a world she no longer knows, branded and despised, struggling to make her way in a strange country. Now she has a chance to rediscover her life, her love and her soul — in a strange place of shattered hopes and new beginnings, called Solitaire.

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