Since this is the last day of Women’s History Month, I spent a little time thinking about my favorite female characters from sci-fi and fantasy. While I could unleash a pretty long list, here I just want to share three characters who really inspire me. They’re the kinds of characters I want to create in my own fiction, and even though they’re fictional, they’re people who make me excited to be alive and want to do amazing things like they do.
Kira Nerys (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
She is probably my favorite Star Trek character ever. One of the leads from Deep Space Nine, Kira Nerys is a Bajoran liaison officer coming from a planet that has just been through a harrowing occupation by another alien race, the Cardassians. She used to fight in the Bajoran Resistance.
What I love about her is that she wants to put her planet back together. She wants her people to heal. But she also has to wrestle with her own past. There’s always the potential for prejudice against Cardassians, after all that the Bajorans went through at their hands. There are some emotional episodes that show her dealing with Cardassians, and she harbors a lot of anger borne from the trauma she’s been through as well as her own passionate personality. Nobody could accuse Kira Nerys of being a wallflower.
She’s also religious, which is a rarity in science fiction I watch or read. I like how well-rounded that makes her character. She’s a soldier, an ambassador, and someone with a deep dedication to her faith. It’s a source of strength for her — yet her nature doesn’t let her automatically defer to any religious leader, as she frequently has words with a religious leader (Kai Winn) she does not fully trust or get along with.
I see Kira Nerys as someone who lives life exactly how she wants to. I like that she has romances at different times — sometimes with people you would least expect. She’s also full of contradictions. She has a lot of fire in her, yet that also makes her extremely compassionate. She’s religious but it only makes her more open-minded in many ways. For instance, she becomes extremely close with Odo, a shapeshifting alien who some don’t trust or understand. She also carries and gives birth to the baby of her friends when they need her help. It’s pretty amazing, seeing how she tries to understand others and help wherever she can. It gives her a very interesting life throughout the Deep Space Nine series, and I draw inspiration from her passion and confidence.
Sirantha Jax (Grimspace books)
Sirantha Jax is the lead in Ann Aguirre’s sci-fi romance series Grimspace. I’ve already written a lot about these books and how much I love the lead character. That’s because Sirantha is incredibly inspiring.
She’s a jumper, which means she has a gene that enables her to navigate through grimspace. (That’s basically like hyperspace.) It’s a glamorous occupation. She used to be a party girl — a celebrity of sorts — and she fell in love with her pilot.
But at the start of the novel series, she’s in prison after her entire crew crashed and died — including her lover. Over the course of the series, she joins a group of rebels, shaves her head, becomes an ambassador on an alien planet, falls in love with a grisly soldier who can read minds, and becomes best friends with a shapeshifting, insect-like alien (one of the best characters ever, in my opinion!).
She has an Angelina Jolie thing going to me (that might sound funny, but that’s how I think of it) — a wild past, but at some point she became grounded and started doing amazing, good things. I love that she has both sides to her. Even though she’s digging into her 30’s in the books, dealing with the wisdom and limitations of getting a little bit older, she’s also as sarcastic and impatient as she’s ever been. Perhaps my favorite trait from her is that she’s so open-minded. I love seeing her encounters with aliens and how she really tries to see things from their perspective.
I guess her past, along with her impudence, make her very realistic. She’s not perfect — not even close. And she falls in love with someone who’s not perfect either. It’s not her first romance and it’s not out of a storybook. It’s a great series if you’re into sci-fi, and Sirantha is one of the most fun, messed-up, and exhilarating characters to read about.
Lara Croft (Tomb Raider)
I haven’t played all of the classic Tomb Raider games. As cheesy as the Angelina Jolie movies are, I used to be crazy about them. I knew the character was gratuitously designed for the male gaze, but nevertheless I loved the idea of this adventurer who kicked ass to get at the historical artifacts she was so nerdy about.
Then I played the Tomb Raider reboots by Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix, and Lara Croft finally made sense to me. She finally felt real. In the new video games, you learn how Lara becomes the skilled adventurer she is. You see how she is forced to survive on her own for the first time, and you watch her confidence grow as she overcomes new dangers and challenges. In Rise of the Tomb Raider, she has much more agency than she did in the original reboot, as she carries on her father’s legacy no matter what others say about it or her.
What I love about Lara Croft here is that she could be you or me. Sure, she has awe-inspiring skills that let her survive bear fights, hunt with precision, and basically dodge bullets. Those are not things I would want to go through. However, she has to talk herself through things. (I love these pep talks.) She shivers in the cold. Sometimes she sounds dumbfounded that she made it through something. This vulnerability makes her feel more real than ever, and it’s surprisingly easy to step into her shoes in these scary situations. I don’t just root for her — when I play the games, I feel like I am her. That’s pretty cool.