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River Song in Doctor Who

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Back when she was first written, River Song was amazing. Rock solid, sexy, super smart, ruthless (you’ll not a recurring character trait of which I approve) yet compassionate, not afraid to call the Doctor out, which most folk are too scared to do. Excellent range in hallucinogenic lipstick.

Jasha in Tanith Lee’s The Blood of Roses

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A bit of a blast from the past, but Jasha is one of my favourites. She’s canny and sly, she’s driven and she is highly pragmatic. She’s also brave and bold. And there is a scene where she is burned as a witch ... and dives into the sea and comes out alive and unharmed, more herself than ever. This is one of Lee’s stranger novels, and Jasha one of her stranger (but compelling) characters.

Geneviève Dieudonné in Kim Newman’s novella Red Reign 


Geneviève was a revelation when I first read this book (admittedly, the whole thing was), but a vampire who wasn’t evil? Who kept herself apart from the Transylvanian menace that Dracula had brought to London? Who worked as a doctor and was trying to solve the Jack the Ripper murders? Amazing.

General Leia Organa, Star Wars 

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Proud, smart, tough, never backs down. Ruthless. When all the men in her life ran away coz things got too hard, who kept it together? Raised a kid? Was instrumental in destroying the Empire? Kept a rebellion ticking over? And let’s not forget that she actually managed to pull off the hairy earmuff look with aplomb.  

Maika Halfwolf, Monstress

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Marjorie Liu’s graphic novel (with artwork by the amazing Sana Takeda) is one of the most astonishing things I’ve read in a very long time, and Maika is one of my very favourite characters. She’s a weapon, she’s lost, she’s dangerous to friend and foe alike. She’s so powerful that the demon that lives inside her eventually goes “Holy crap, I need to work out how to get along with you because, damn, you’re scary.”

Lieutenant Nyota Uhuru, Star Trek

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Groundbreaking in so many ways. Clever, dignified, calm. Happy to disobey orders in the interest of a good cause (like saving Spock). Nichelle Nichols played the character with grace and charm, and she could deliver more shade with the flick of an eyebrow than would seem possible. An amazing role model on and off screen.

Shuri, Black Panther 

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Smarter than EVERYONE, funny and cool. You know you want her to be your best friend forever (and not just coz she knows where Bucky Barnes is staying). Solutions? That girl’s got them. There’s no problem she cannot solve, not even the ones Tony Stark creates. Fierce, loyal, and creates amazing weapons and accessories.

The Witch Bride in Cassandra Khaw’s “These Deathless Bones”

Photo credit: art by Sam Weber

I was lucky enough to read an early draft of this story, and Cass’s protagonist blew me away with all the stuff I love about re-imagined fairy tale heroines. Bold, bold, as bold as she damned well pleases, unashamed and with her own agenda. Gruesome and gorgeous and unapologetic.

Zoë Washburne from Firefly

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She’s tall, she’s tough, she’s loyal but she doesn’t take any crap whatsoever. Capable, smart, and a fine markswoman. Will shoot Jayne Cobb if required.  Tells Captain Tightpants when he’s being an idiot.

Ellen Ripley, Aliens

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Think about everything Ripley’s been through, yet she still doesn’t crack. She has a couple of natural wobbles, but she keeps on going. Plus: flamethrower. Plus: in the fourth one, yeah, the one everyone but me hates? She’s the monster’s mother, she’s even more dangerous than before ... If I ever needed a role model, Ripley would be the one for me ...

Of course there’s also Sarah Connor, General Okoye, Buffy Summers, Dana Scully, Xena, Binti, Vanessa Van Helsing, Selene ... I’ll stop now ...

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