Here’s a post by James Davis Nicholl at tor.com: Five sword-wielding women in SFF.
To which my immediate response, without reading the post, is: Five? Good heavens, man, couldn’t you instantly come up with ten? Is there a shortage of swordswomen in SFF? I hardly think so.
Well, let’s see which five Nicholl picks and then add five more.
Revolutionary Girl Utena by Be-Papas and Chiho Saito
I’ve never heard of that. Here’s his description:
Most modern schools ignore the role of swordplay in teenaged life. Not so at one school, Ohtori Academy, which is featured in Be-Papas and Chiho Saito’s Revolutionary Girl Utena manga. Dueling is a longstanding custom at the academy. Students fight to win the hand of lovely and passive Anthy. …
Oh, it’s like a manga version of a reality show? The Bachelor, with swords? Ugh, terrible setup, no appeal for me at all. Who wants to win a “lovely and passive” lover? Passivity is hardly an appealing quality! Again, ugh.
Cold-Forged Flame by Marie Brennan
Never read it — in fact, I don’t recall hearing about it. I really liked the Lady Trent series, really did not care for the Onxy Court series, who knows about this one? If any of you have read it, please comment.
Tomoe’s Story by Stan Sakai
This is another comic. I don’t know anything about it, but it does bring to mind Tomoe Gozen, the series about the historical figure of the same name. The novels are by Jessica Salmonson. I’m not sure why Nicholl thought of the comic before the novels, because the series was pretty impressive. Too tragic for me, in the end, but still impressive.
Steel by Carrie Vaughn
This one sounds pretty fun:
In Carrie Vaughn’s Steel, fourth-rate fencer Jill Archer tumbles off her boat during a family vacation near Nassau. She hits the water in the 21st century; she is pulled out during the Golden Age of Piracy. Luckily for the teen, Captain Marjory Cooper offers Jill the choice between signing on as a pirate or remaining a prisoner.
Daughter of Mystery by Heather Rose Jones
Margerit Sovitre is astounded when she finds herself heir to the vast fortune of her wealthy godfather Baron Saveze. He has also bequeathed Margerit her very own armin. “Armins” are whos, not whats; they are personal bodyguards. Saverze’s armin is young Barbara, who is unpleasantly surprised, since she’d expected to be freed when the baron died. Serving a jumped-up bourgeoise turned aristocrat wasn’t in her plans.
I read the sample, but I haven’t read the full novel. I did like the sample, though, and will most likely get the full book one of these days.
Well, these are remarkably little-known swordswomen given the plethora of well-known choices and Nicholl’s broad knowledge of the field. Also, these are all fantasy, which is of course expected, but then don’t say “SFF,” say “Fantasy.” I can think of at least one swordswoman in a science fiction world, though. Two. Let’s start with those and then pick some of the lower-hanging fruit.
Swordswomen in SFF, an extended list:
6. Bel in Rosemary Kirstein’s Steerswoman series
7. Mary in Point of Honor by Dorothy Heydt
8. The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner
9. The Paksennarion series by Elizabeth Moon
10. Alanna in the Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce
That’s ten. It was too easy. Let’s add another fve:
11. Winter in The Shadow Campaigns series by Django Wexler
12. Both Harry and Aerin, in McKinley’s Damar duology.
13. Éowyn in The Lord of the Rings
14. Del, in Tiger and Del by Jennifer Roberson
15. Taizu, in The Paladin by CJC
I could go on forever! Stopping at five was ridiculous! Granted, writing a little tidbit about each one would take some time, but still.
Okay! My very favorite swordswoman in SFF may be . . . um . . . good heaven’s, I don’t know . . . so many of the women above might be my favorite, and probably were at one point in my reading history. I really love Harry and Aerin and Paks and Winter and Taizu! I think I would have to throw a dart at a dartboard to pick a favorite.
If I missed YOUR favorite swordswoman in SFF, add her to the list in a comment, please!