Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Shocking news

From this article at The Bookseller: Fifty-one percent of women over 40 feel older women in fiction books tend to fall into clichéd roles, according to a new survey. 

I’m sure next we’ll see startling news that a majority of women from 20 to 40 feel that fictional women in this age group are frequently presented in cliched roles.

After that, perhaps we’ll be stunned to hear that teen girls consider that many teen girls in novels tend to fall into cliched roles.

After that, the guys can join in.

Can there be anyone, anywhere, who has somehow spent their life reading but is only now realizing that many characters, of all types, fall into cliched roles in fiction? What next, the shocking revelation that fictional characters are frequently wittier conversationalists and faster with pithy retorts than people in real life? That fictional characters experience death-defying adventure more frequently than is entirely plausible?

Anyway, the article goes on to push for more novels featuring female protagonists over forty, which would be nice, sure, but I’m not holding my breath considering the preeminence of YA right now.

Still, since we seem to have arrived at this topic: quick, let’s list off some female protagonists who are fortyish or above. These are in no order whatsoever other; this is just as I thought of them.

  1. Maskelle, from Wheel of the Infinite by Martha Wells
  2. Laura in In Arcadia by Andrea K Host
  3. Ista from Paladin of Souls by LMB
  4. Herris Serrano from Hunting Party by Elizabeth Moon
  5. Martha from Tea with the Black Dragon by RA MacAvoy
  6. Mama Jason in Mirabile by Janet Kagan
  7. Sennith in the Twelve Houses series by Sharon Shinn. She’s not yet in her forties, I don’t think, but she’s not some young girl either.
  8. Perhaps ditto for Torrin Kerr in the Valor series by Tanya Huff. I’m not sure she’s in her forties, but she’s certainly mature.
  9. Seraph in the Raven duology by Patricia Briggs.

Who else? Mature female protagonists; not just secondary characters. I’m sure I’m missing some. Who could go in that tenth spot?

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17 Comments Shocking news

  1. Pete Mack

    Cordelia Vorkosigan, though perhaps she isnt quite she isnt quite 40 in her duology? But she is way over 40 in _Vorkosigan Gratuitous Epilogue_.
    And yes, Maskelle is another great one.
    Jenny Casey, Elizabeth Bear’s eponymous series. She kicks serious ass, too, what with the bionic leg and all.

    Also: is there any interesting SF question about which the Vorkosigan series is not a possible answer?

  2. Mary Catelli

    The Clairvoyant Countess by Dorothy Gilman — shades into mystery, but the psychic powers are real and central

  3. Mary Beth

    I’ve just started EMPRESS OF FOREVER by Max Gladstone; I don’t have the precise age of his tech billionaire heroine yet but given that she’s described as only building her empire at 29, I’m pretty confident she’s at least in her early 40s before she gets yanked into space opera.

  4. Craig N.

    Is it cheating to include immortal characters like Arafel, Morgaine, or all those vampires I am morally sure are on the shelves?

  5. Elaine T

    How about Jenny Waynest from Dragonsbane, who may or may not be actually 40+ given medievaloid era life, but is certainly a mature women, not a young one.

  6. mona

    And there’s Tannie Maria from Andrew’s Recipes for Love and Murder, who must be 60 or so.

    Also Constance Kopp from Stewart’s Girl Waits With Gun. Just shy of 40 I think.

    Lady Trent is about 40 in the last book of that series.

  7. Evelyn M Hill

    Shocking news indeed.
    Kinda along the lines of Captain Renault’s remark:”I’m shocked—shocked—to find gambling’s been going on here.”

  8. Hanneke

    Mme Ramotswe from the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith, and several of Courtney Milan’s heroines (I think, I’ve only just started reading her, but at least one is an older widow).
    Harriet Vane is 39 when she first met Peter Whimsey, so by Busman’s Honeymoon she is well over 40.

  9. Jan

    Elizabeth Orme from the Saga of the Pliocene Exile by Julian May is in her mid-40’s.

  10. Rachel

    Lots of examples! That’s great!

    Craig, I don’t think that characters who fall into the category “immortal but look and act like they’re about 20” counts. That takes out a bunch of vampires and so on.

  11. Mary Catelli

    Jenny Waynest still has two small children. It’s possible she’s over forty, but the odds are against it.

    (I may be biased because the heroine of Sword and Shadow has two children that age and I know she’s under forty.)

    I note that among women that are older, “raising children” vs. “has raised children to adulthood, or is too old to have children.” creates an enormous difference in characters, and in many respects, the second group is easily to write stories about.

  12. Kathryn McConaughy

    Amelia Peabody in most of the series by the same name… although she does say that she lied about her age in some of the earlier books. A wickedly funny mystery series set in Egypt during the British Empire’s heyday.

  13. Ashbet

    Samarkar, from Elizabeth Bear’s Eternal Sky trilogy, is an EXCELLENT heroine over 40. Cannot recommend those books enough!

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