Bright Stars – My Favourite Women in SFF: Guest Post by Ginger Smith
Today, we welcome sci-fi author Ginger Smith back to the Hive. Before we get into her guest post about her Women in SFF influences, check out the blurb for novel The Rush’s Edge, available now from Angry Robot Books:
With the help of his commanding officer, a genetically engineered ex-soldier fights back against the government that created him and others like him to be expendable slaves.
Halvor Cullen, a genetically-engineered and technology implanted ex-solider, doesn’t see himself as a hero. After getting out of the service, all he’s interested in is chasing the adrenaline rush that his body was designed to crave. Hal knows he won’t live long anyway; vat soldiers like him are designed to die early or will burnt out from relentlessly seeking the rush. His best friend and former CO, Tyce, is determined not to let that happen and distracts him by work salvaging crashed ships in the Edge. But after a new crewmember—hacker-turned-tecker, Vivi—joins their band of misfits, they find a sphere that downloads an alien presence into their ship…
I love fandom.
Cons, gaming, books, movies, TV shows and science-fiction and fantasy toys are a big part of my life. The introduction to SFF came early when I was a kid: my dad’s stacks of 60’s and 70’s space operas were a portal to other worlds. I have to admit, the heroes I read about back then were mostly male, with some exceptions. These days female authors and characters are center stage in fandom and with good reason. There are great female characters to be found all across the spectrum of media available.
Here are a few of the many who inspired me.
One of the earliest female protagonists that motivated me to become a writer was the character Amberle in The Elfstones of Shannara [Terry Brooks]. I read this book somewhere between the ages of ten and twelve. In this classic fantasy, which is the sequel to the Sword of Shannara, Amberle Elessedil is a heroine who gives up her life to become a protector of her people by transforming into the Ellcrys, a magical tree that keeps the Four Lands safe from a demon invasion. (I would give a spoiler alert, but this book has been out since 1982, so the warning has already expired!) Amberle was one of the first female characters I ever encountered in a fantasy novel, and her sacrifice upset me so much that I burst into tears and cried upon finishing the book. Then, after I had dried my tears, I resolved to write my own novel where the protagonist would NOT die, and thus began my journey to become a writer. I actually wrote over 200 pages on that novel, and I still have it today. Thank you, Terry Brooks, for ripping out my heart with Amberle and inspiring me to tell my own stories.
Looking back on my influences, I would be remiss if I did not mention Princess Leia from Star Wars. I will not go on and on, however, because it’s not necessary. We all know what an icon she was. She showed girls and women that a female character did not have to be a helpless victim in science-fiction but could fire a blaster and choke out a Hutt just as well as a man.
Star Trek (the original series) was another epic sci-fi show with female characters that shaped my childhood. Some may argue that the show did not portray women and men as equals; however, I have to give the show credit for showing women serving in Starfleet right alongside men. Simply by having Lieutenant Uhura, Nurse Chapel and Yeoman Rand and the many other female characters on the show was proof to a young me that women had a place in sci-fi.
Sarah Connor in the Terminator movies is probably the epitome of the badass woman in science fiction. When she is targeted by the Terminator in the first movie of the series, she is a young waitress, living life and getting by as we all do. When the killing machine comes after her, everything she knows changes, and she’s thrust into an unfamiliar and dangerous world. Her mentor Kyle Reese reveals her future to her: she is the mother of John Connor, the head of the human resistance to Skynet and its cyborgs. It’s a heavy responsibility, but by the end, Sarah is up for the task.
In T2, as we all know, the T-1000 comes back to kill John Connor, but the real protagonist of the movie is Sarah. She has made an amazing transformation from timid waitress to skilled warrior. She is no longer just a mother figure, but a one-woman army with the mission to protect the future. Her escape from the psychiatric facility is one of my favorite action sequences. Throughout the movie, she becomes such a compelling character – more than just a mom or warrior. She’s a woman racing to meet the future and powerful enough to dare to change it. This had a profound effect on me.
And how can I get away from this topic without talking about The Expanse? I’m still in the process of reading the entire series, so I’ll concentrate my comments on the show. Here we have a host of strong female characters. When it comes to women on the show, Naomi Nagata is a great protagonist with a moving backstory as we see in season 5. Chrisjen Avasarala is a standout – a living paradox of contradictory features. She is elegant and always impeccably dressed, yet she has a sharp tongue and doesn’t take shit from anyone. She is politically ambitious but also turns introspective as we see later in the series.
Bobbi Draper, Camina Drummer and Clarissa Mao almost need no comment—they are great examples of the complex characters that make up the cast of the show. The best of the three for me is Drummer. She’s a no-nonsense Belter captain who knows how to get things done. I love her short temper and sarcasm, and after she appeared in Season 2, she became my favorite after Avasarala.
My last inspirational female character is Hera Syndulla from Star Wars Rebels. Hera, the daughter of resistance fighter Cham Syndulla, is great for so many reasons. She is a crack pilot and fabulous team leader, and when they’re not fighting, Hera is the mother figure that holds her team together with the help of fellow resistance fighter and Jedi Kanan Jarrus. At critical points in the show, she is there to help her teammates become the best versions of themselves. Hera is a natural leader, with a ready wit and huge heart. It’s no wonder I loved her from the very first episode.
All these characters have inspired me to become a sci-fi writer. Without them, it would have been hard to envision a future in The Rush’s Edge where female vats like Lane serve alongside male vats as equals, and where a green tyro like Vivi becomes a seasoned Edger. What other female characters will the future bring? Whatever science fiction or fantasy has in store for all of us, women are sure to be at the forefront, solving problems, fighting battles and discovering new worlds. And I think scifi is all the richer for it.
Thank you so much Ginger Smith for joining us for Women In SFF!
If you wanted to know more about Ginger’s debut novel The Rush’s Edge, follow the smart link to find your favourite retailer:
Ginger Smith has worked as a record store employee, freelance writer, bookstore assistant manager and high school teacher of English. In the past, she has played in many tabletop RPG groups and even run several of her own. She collects vintage toys, sci-fi novels and comic books, as well as mid-century furniture. She currently lives in the southern USA with her husband and two cats, spending her free time writing and watching classic film noir and sci-fi movies.