What We’ve Come to Expect From Heroines in Science Fiction
This Week on The NewberyTart Podcast
Each week on NewberyTart, Jennie and Marcy, two book-loving mamas (and a librarian and a bookseller, respectively), read and drink their way through the entire catalogue of Newbery books, and interview authors and illustrators along the way.
On today’s episode, Jennie and Marcy talk about the finalist of the 1971 Newbery Medal for excellence in American children’s literature, Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Engdahl.
From the episode:
Marcy: Since I started reading what I consider to be better science fiction, the tone of the book leaves me thinking it could be a little better, even if it might not necessarily be true, but it just falls in that category. Does it make sense the association?
Jennie: I think that we’re both talking about prejudices we have when it comes to books as we approach them and what we enjoy versus what we have been exposed to in the past. I think that makes total sense. I’m just like, Elana should be with a knife in her teeth and she should be hanging from the rafters.
Marcy: You want her to be Zoe from Firefly.
Jennie: I was thinking more Ripley.
This is a really great discussion about what we’ve come to expect from heroines in sci-fi!
Marcy: Which is ironic because this is probably one of the building blocks that got us to where we are to the ones that we wanted.
Jennie: I think it’s really good that we take some time and look at this and hopefully bring it to some new new readers.
Marcy: I have nothing but gratitude for the innovators who gave us any main characters, much less ones who rebelled in even any small ways and accomplished things and were characters who had agency. In this case, literally, even if they make bad choices sometimes, which people do. It’s still totally necessary to get us to where we are now, where we have so many choices and so many great female characters. We wouldn’t be here without those.
Sylvia Engdahl is the author of ten science fiction novels, and published a nonfiction book, The Planet-Girded Suns: The Long History of Belief in Exoplanets. She has also worked as a freelance editor of nonfiction anthologies for high school students. She is a strong advocate of space colonization, curating a widely-read space section of her website and the website www.spacequotes.com, which contains quotations about why humankind must expand into space.