My Favorite SF/F Female Warrior Characters

Thursday’s announcement that the Pentagon has opened combat roles to women inspired me to list my favorite female warrior characters in scifi and fantasy books, tv, and film. These are the women, in no particular order, I’d want on my side in a battle.

First up is actually a group of women, the Guild of Renunciates, from Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover series. These women renounce their families and traditional female life in exchange for freedom. Not all are warriors, but those who are, effectively get the job done.

Holly Lisle’s Talyn must face her own inner darkness and make hard choices before using her enemy’s magic against them to free her people.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer was my first exposure to the kick-ass vampire slayer/hunter genre. Ah, the good ol’ days.

Samantha Carter from the Stargate franchise is an astrophysicist, engineer, and USAF pilot. She can calculate complex scientific formulas, jury-rig a solution using whatever is on hand, fight off the bad guys, and then fly everyone out without breaking a sweat. If only I could do even one of those things!

Eowyn of Lord of the Rings. I like the more-accessible film version of this character who disguises herself as a man to fight the final battle. When the Witch King boasts that no man can kill him, she shouts, “I am no man!” and then stabs and kills him.

In the Alien movie series,  Ellen Ripley (the human, not the clone) uses her intelligence and quick-thinking to square off against the superior killing-machine aliens. My favorite one-on-one movie fight is Ripley, in the “forklift” suit, yelling, “Get away from her, you bitch!” and just pounding on the alien queen.

There are times I want to just slap some sense into Kara Thrace (Starbuck) in the most recent Battlestar Galactica series. But there are few warriors as skilled and reckless and driven and cocky and friggin’ good at what they do. I want her at my back in a fight.

River Tam  in Firefly wavers from pleasantly sweet to eerily psychic to flat out crazy, but when it counts, this mere slip of a girl can single-handedly take down a room full of murderous killers. I’m down with that.

In the Underworld movies,  Selene is a Death Dealer who hunts down and kills lycans. As a vampire, she’s got the supernatural stealth and speed. But, honestly, that latex wardrobe has got to be uncomfortable.

Jane Yellowrock is the leather-wearing, motorcycle-riding, blade-and-gun-wielding rogue vampire hunter in Faith Hunter’s Skinwalker novels. She’s my latest favorite. As a matter of fact, a separate blog post featuring Jane may be in my near future.

Last, I’ll mention two women I’ve identified with most in the last few years because they are both mothers. I understand their motivations sooooo well.

I didn’t like Sarah Connor much in the first Terminator movie, but that changed in later movies and The Sarah Connor Chronicles on tv. This was a woman who was going to save her son and she learned to use weapons and got in shape and kicked butt. Don’t get in the way of a mama lion.

Torchwood’s Gwen Cooper is ferocious. She is intelligent and resourceful and when aliens or other bad guys mess with her country or family, she will go after them with everything she has. She. Will. Not. Stop. Particularly in the latest Torchwood miniseries, Miracle Day.

Who are your favorite female warrior characters?

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7 comments on “My Favorite SF/F Female Warrior Characters

  1. thepencilneck says:

    OK. So. I’m a GUY but…

    The woman that I love that you left off your list is Honor Harrington from David Weber’s Honor Harrington series. The books are not particularly well written but I love the characters and stories. The first books were the best because after time, she just accreted more and more skills and abilities and powers until she was a superwoman. But that vulnerable captain at the beginning of the series was an EPIC character.

    In comic books, I absolutely ADORE X-23. She’s a teenaged, female clone of Wolverine who was trained from an early age to be a killing machine and an assassin. She started off very, very evil. When she escaped from her creators, she spent some time on the street as a hooker and this just added to her emotional scarring. It didn’t help when the X-Men put her on a covert-ops squad and had her kill some more. But at her core, she’s a force for good. A very dangerous and uncontrollable force for good.

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    • E.K. Carmel says:

      Hey – guys are welcome here! And I love discovering new books and characters, etc. I’ve heard several people mention the Honor Harrington series, but I’ve never read it, and think it’s probably about time. X-23 sounds like an awesome character. Other than the movies, I haven’t experienced the X-men universe. I love characters that are shades of grey and she sounds like that. Thanks for commenting!

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  2. Ripley was originally meant to be a man, but was changed to make her seem less likely to succeed. sometimes gender is not what it seems. .

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  3. Phil says:

    Well we have a long tradition of Warrior Women in Britain (I blame Brittainia myself). My first experience of Warrior Women on TV S/F was Emma Peel and Tara King in “The Avengers” in the 1960s and 1970s. And of course, Purdey from the “The New Avengers” when they rebooted the show in the 1980s. Then there was Soolin from “Blakes 7”. And who could forget Leela from Dr Who, a companion of the Fourth Doctor. She was a wonderfully pure, uncomplicated character who lived by her warrior caste rules and would happily (and I mean A-Big-Smile-And-Singing-A-Song-Of-Victory Happy) kill anyone she considered an enemy.

    Popping across the pond, I did like Hilary Swinton’s Buffy and it’s a credit to Sarah Michelle Gellar’s acting that I genuinely loathe her version of Buffy. Having said that I thought Willow and Buffy’s sister were great characters.

    Talking of Willow, I thought Sorsha from the movie “Willow” was superb. In this same category, what about Valeria the Thief in “Conan the Barbarian”, Zula from “Conan the Destroyer” and, perhaps, Red Sonja

    I did like Samantha Carter but I prefered Vala Mal Doran as a more interesting character, although I don’t think she classifies as a Warrior Woman.

    River Tam, definately.

    Selene was definately eye candy but in the category of “Warrior Women Who Dress in Latex and Leather”, I’m afraid my vote goes to Trinity from the Matrix series who just beats Aeon Flux into second place

    And let’s not forget Milla Jovovisch’s contribution with Violet in”Utraviolet” and Alice in “Resident Evil”

    But I have left the best until last. The bestest Warrior Woman of them all was Nancy Thompson from the “Nightmare on Elm St” series: a woman who fought like a tigress against an incredibly powerful opponent on its own turf because she cared for her friends, her patients and finally her child.

    Thank you for reminding me of hours of amusement past

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    • E.K. Carmel says:

      Oh, such fantastic additions! I didn’t start watching Dr. Who until the 9th Dr., but Leela sounds deliciously Valkyrie-eque. How on earth could I forget Milla Javovich? My favorite of her characters, though, is Leeloo from The Fifth Element. And my eldest daughter, my horror aficionado, would agree with you 100% in your opinion of Nancy from The Nightmare on Elm Street series.Thanks, Phil, for commenting!

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