This week's guest is Mary Fan, co-editor of the brand new Brave New Girls. The anthology collects science fiction stories featuring "brainy young women who use their smarts to save the day". That is to say: it not only brings readers a whole pack of awesome role models, but they're also clever stories featuring brains over brawn.
All proceeds from Brave New Girls are being donated to a scholarship fund set up by the Society of Women Engineers, so buy with confidence - you're not just reading about bright futures, you're helping make them. With no further ado, we'll hand over to Mary...
It’s no secret that there aren’t a lot of women in science and tech, both in the real world and in fiction. Which is a shame, really. There’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem around this issue—are techy women not depicted in sci-fi because they’re rare in real life, or are they rare in real life because girls don’t see themselves depicted in those roles and therefore don’t pursue those careers? The fact is, pop culture is a powerful influencer, especially on girls and teenagers. And the scary thing is, your career is dictated by decisions you make as an impressionable kid (think about it… the college major you pick at age 19 determines whether or not you’ll become a research scientist).
While there are plenty of ladies in sci-fi, they’re usually not put in the science and tech-based roles. The scientists, hackers, engineers, etc. are usually guys. But every so often, you’ll stumble upon a character that makes you go, “Yes! More of her, please!” Here are five brainy sci-fi ladies who use their smarts to save the day:
Kaylee from Firefly
Joss Whedon’s short-lived and most excellent sci-fi show, Firefly, starred a ragtag team of space cowboys living on the fringes of an advanced interplanetary society. But while Captain Reynolds barks the orders, it’s cheery young mechanic Kaylee who keeps the starship flying. An exceptional engineer with who’s sharply attuned to machines, Kaylee finds inventive and ingenious ways to keep the ship operating even when resources are thin and danger’s closing in.
Agent Simmons is a biotech genius and one of the most important members of the S.H.I.E.L.D. research division. The agency’s job is to protect the people, and her job is to give them the means to do so by inventing specialized equipment and compounds, often on the fly.
A prodigy who earned two PhDs as a teenager, Simmons originally joined the S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy of Science and Technology to get answers to millions of questions. Whenever her team encounters a dangerous substance, she’s the one they depend on to whip up the serum to save the day.
Cinder from Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles
After a terrible accident left her dependent on cyborg limbs and implants to survive, Cinder found herself living with a resentful stepmother. To repay her “debt,” she uses her knack for mechanics to set up a booth and fix everything from gadgets to robots. When she learns that the evil queen of a rival nation aims to kill her prince, Cinder risks everything to warn him and ends up using her technical expertise to escape the queen’s clutches and fight for her people.
Dr. Calvin is the chief robopsychologist at US Robots and Mechanical Men, Inc. in Isaac Asimov’s iconic short story series. After spending years learning about cybernetics and robotics at top institutions, she constructed positronic brains with predictable responses and used her know-how to study how robotic minds work. While she also works in human psychology, her chief interests lie in artificial intelligence.
Samantha Carter from Stargate SG-1
An ancient piece of alien technology would baffle most people, but not Sam Carter. With a PhD in theoretical astrophysics and a quick mind for all things science, Sam is one of the people responsible for making the Stargate—which transports people to worlds across the stars—operational. As she and her team explore unknown alien worlds, she frequently uses her scientific know-how to find explanations and solutions to get SG-1 out of trouble.
Who are your favourite techy women from science fiction movies, books or TV?