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The 10 Most Kick-Ass Sci-Fi Heroines

S. Zainab Williams

Executive Director, Content

S. Zainab would like to think she bleeds ink but the very idea makes her feel faint. She writes fantasy and horror, and is currently clutching a manuscript while groping in the dark. Find her on Twitter: @szainabwilliams.

This post on the most kick-ass sci-fi heroines is sponsored by Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld.

Three years ago an event destroyed the small city of Poughkeepsie, forever changing reality within its borders. Uncanny manifestations and lethal dangers now await anyone who enters the Spill Zone. The Spill claimed Addison’s parents and scarred her little sister, Lexa, who hasn’t spoken since. Addison provides for her sister by photographing the Zone’s twisted attractions on illicit midnight rides. Art collectors pay top dollar for these bizarre images, but getting close enough for the perfect shot can mean death—or worse.

When an eccentric collector makes a million-dollar offer, Addison breaks her own hard-learned rules of survival and ventures farther than she has ever dared. Within the Spill Zone, Hell awaits—and it seems to be calling Addison’s name.

My favorite Sci-Fi characters tend to be female–and, perhaps, ruthless. When worlds and civilizations are at stake thanks to some critical event ripped from the headlines of tomorrow, a woman’s gotta do what she’s gotta do. Sometimes that means confronting aliens, using superpowers to take down corporations, or calling the robot hounds. These kick-ass Sci-Fi heroines have the courage and the dynamism to do all that and more.

Tan-Tan from Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson
Because young Tan-Tan Habib lives in an alternate version of her home, the Caribbean-colonized planet of Toussaint, and because this version is home to convicts, including her truly reprehensible father, Tan-Tan is forced to make some dire and violent choices early in life. Pregnant and living in fear at home and in Junjuh Village–where torture and death by hanging are casual tools of justice–Tan-Tan’s story is one of fighting back, surviving against all odds, and finding power as the legendary Robber Queen.

Rose and Sarah from The Regional Office is Under Attack! by Manuel Gonzales

I couldn’t decide which of these two heroines gets the award–or which is a hero and which a villain–so I chose both! There’s Rose, the young, super-powered assassin leading an ambitious attack against the Office, and Sarah, a loyal, dare I say possessive, robot-limbed employee and lit fuse of the Office. Each has their own cause and each fights tooth and nail to protect it, standing center stage in some of the most adrenaline pumping fight scenes I’ve read. Among a host of superhero demigod types, these women made The Regional Office is Under Attack! the action-packed thrill ride it is.

Binti from Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Some of us get knock-kneed at the idea of moving out of state for college, but when Binti gets accepted to an intergalactic university, she bolts from home, family, and all she’s known to board that space ship. And then when the Meduse, an alien race at war with humans, hijack the ship, Binti basically goes Ripley and escapes certain death. Okay, maybe more like Ripley the ambassador. But don’t assume that tempering warfare with empathy will hurt Binti’s reputation for heroism. Would you approach a throng of murderous alien pirates? Me neither.

Y.T. from Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

Y.T. loves her mom and makes questionable deals with the Mafia. Such is life for a 15-year-old skateboarding courier in a privately-run future Los Angeles. Hiro Protagonist may be the story’s obvious headliner, but I’d say Y.T. is an equal partner in taking down that pesky narcotic virus that’s infecting users of the Metaverse and leaving them brain damaged. She does, after all, have to go up against the massive, unbridled, bloodthirsty hired killer, Raven. But she is a fierce and tiny warrior, so no bigs.

Alana from Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Alana is the sort of person who brings to mind that age-old story of the mother who bench presses a car to save her child. She may be a tad hot-headed and impulsive, but this winged woman of Landfall is on the run, in love with a man from the wrong side of the battle, and out to protect her newborn. Her sharp wit and aggressive nature can’t be beat when it’s about surviving an intergalactic war and protecting the fam.

Lauren Olamina from Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
Lauren Olamina is a hyperempath–she perceives the mental and emotional states of others. Lauren’s abilities help her found a religion in her small community, but when she loses everything to a security breach and enters the greater, chaos-driven world, she doesn’t retreat. Against the backdrop of racial and religious stigma, Lauren persists, rebuilding her community, and her religion, Earthseed.

Captain Kel Cheris from Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
Captain Kel Cheris would do anything for redemption, including retaking the Fortress of Scattered Needles and partnering with the undead. Along with the unstable tactician Shuos Jedao, Kel lays siege to the Fortress, waging her life against those of the heretics within and possibly risking it by trusting Shuos. A woman on a wildly dangerous mission, Kel isn’t afraid of the horrors lurking in the dark.

Breq from Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
Revenge is best served cold and by a kick-ass Sci-Fi heroine (AI?). You wouldn’t want to be around when someone like Breq finds out her starship crashed thanks to treachery by the empire she was built to serve. She’s not here to dance around danger; she’s going straight to the top to battle it out with the Lord of the Radch herself. And if literally being a starship isn’t kick-ass, I don’t know what is.

The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet by Becky ChambersRosemary from The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
It’s all about interstellar adventures with the crew of the Wayfarer and its clerk, Rosemary. It takes a certain kind of person to take on a whole new identity and escape infamy by joining a cosmopolitan crew aboard a wormhole-building ship. Don’t be fooled by her title. There’s more to her story than organizational and multi-tasking skills. Like Binti, Rosemary comes up clutch with hijackers, handling those Akarak pirates like a pro.

Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I’m not trying to leave out Katniss. Her abilities as a kick-ass heroine fighting the Capitol fill the pages of three books. The price of dissent is steep in the dystopian North America of the trilogy, but Katniss isn’t playing that game. Well, she is, actually, but she’s doing it her way–firstly, volunteering in her sister’s place in a televised fight to the death, and, ultimately, inspiring the oppressed districts by defying the tyrannical Capitol with bow, arrow, and chutzpah.