Damsels Who Can’t Be Bothered to be Distressed

Death before Whining!

This started out as a spark off Tom Knighton’s post at According to Hoyt the other day. He wrote: “I don’t recall exactly who, but one of the better known authors of our genre once claimed that all people like me wanted in our books was, “Manly men doing manly things in manly ways.” Obviously, this was a snide way to say that I and people like me have no interest in female characters.”


Oh, now that I can breathe again (and need to sweep the floor. Ugh, dog hair!). I’ve known for a while that certain people have their noses so far in the air that it hinders their ability to see where they are going. Since it also seems to impede their ability to read, I have no fear that they will find this list and be scandalized. You see, I asked a question right after sharing Tom’s post. I asked it in two places that would be considered the ‘heart of darkness’ by those who claim we are misogynists. The Conservative Libertarian Fiction Alliance, and of course, Sarah’s Diner (’cause they think she’s a white Mormon male. I rest my case about where their noses are). What follows is a partial list of the day’s long conversation that was generated, mostly people who were enthusiastically sharing their favorites and recommending more. This isn’t something that took effort on my part, folks, I didn’t have to poke or prod. I stole the tagline from Baen, from their guidelines for the Fantasy Contest, because it amused me. It seems to have sparked a reaction from the people I was asking, too.

If this list isn’t enough for you, head over to the original post for something like 500+ comments, many recommending more good books. I’d pull them out, but frankly, like many of the women on this list, I haven’t got time. Places to go, things to do… The list is presented to you in no particular order. It is by no means complete. Please feel free to make other suggestions (or highlight some of these) in the comments. One thing folks around here do, we don’t tell people not to read something because it’s not ‘rightthink’ or it was written by a wrong person. We say ‘hey that was good! and you might like this one, too!’

You will note I have not discriminated. Male or female, the author’s gender, sex, or pigmentation matters not at all. These are characters who inspire their readers, we don’t care about the author. The story is the point.

Hopefully this will give you some strong women who aren’t afraid to take names and get the job done, without whining and resting on their laurels simply because they were born female. Women to Ride the River with.

ride the river

  1. Kendra from Freehold by Mike Williamson
  2. Modesty Blaise by Peter O’Donnell
  3. Princess Cimorene in Patricia Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles
  4. Seawolf and Shewolf by John Ringo
  5. Cally O’Neal by John Ringo
  6. Marion Alston and Swindapa by SM Stirling
  7. Kyri Vantage, Ariane, Madeline and Helen by Ryk Spoor (Balance Sword series, Arenaverse, Boundaryverse)
  8. Jirel of Jory by C.L. Moore
  9. Menolly by Anne McCaffrey
  10. April series by Mackey Chandler
  11. Moreta by Anne McCaffrey
  12. Friday by Robert A Heinlein
  13. Podkayne of Mars by RAH
  14. Wyoming Knott in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by RAH
  15. To Sail Beyond the Sunset by RAH
  16. Dorothy in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum
  17. Faye in the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia
  18. Susan and Lucy (and others) in the Chronicles of Narnia
  19. Telzy Amerberdon, Trigger Argee, and most especially the Witches of Karres by James Schmitz
  20. Mackensie “Mac” Santos from Nocturnal Origins by Amanda S Green
  21. Ashlyn Shaw by Sam Schall
  22. Eowyn from Lord of the Rings by Tolkein
  23. Meg from A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline LÉngle
  24. Moire from the Sequoyah Trilogy by Sabrina Chase
  25. Kendra from Fablehaven
  26. Raederle from the Riddle Master Trilogy by Patricia McKillip
  27. Paks from Deeds of Paksennarion by Elizabeth Moon
  28. Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Enghald
  29. Athena from Darkship Thieves by Sarah Hoyt
  30. Kyrie from the Shifter series by Sarah Hoyt
  31. Cordelia and Kareen, from Cordelia’s Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold
  32. Ekaterin, from Komarr by Lois McMaster Bujold
  33. Blood Red by Mercedes Lackey
  34. Mary Russell, series by Maurie R King
  35. Isabella from Dragontamer’s Daughters by Kenton Kilgore
  36. Amy Lynn, by Jack July
  37. Sabriel, Lyrial, and Abhorsen by Garth Nix
  38. Remnant Population by Elizabeth Moon
  39. The Ship who Sang by Anne McCaffrey
  40. Carla Punch from the Punch series by Erin Lale
  41. The Shield, Sword, and Crown Trilogy by Hilari Bell
  42. Barb Everson from Princess of Wands and Janea from Queen of Wands by John Ringo
  43. Kahlan and Cara by Terry Goodkind
  44. Belladonna Traycroft from the Pixie for Hire series by Cedar Sanderson
  45. Julie Shackleford from Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia
  46. Karrin Murphy from the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
  47. Kitai from Codex Alera by Jim Butcher
  48. Eve Dallas from JD Robb’s in Death series
  49. Mara Jade by Timothy Zahn
  50. Kathryn Dance series by Jeffrey Deaver
  51. Manana Shushurin from the Pius Trilogy by Declan Finn
  52. Honor Harrington by David Weber
  53. Bast from Council Wars series by John Ringo
  54. Tanya Desjani of the Lost Fleet Series
  55. Neeta Lyffe by Karina Fabian
  56. Fisher from Simon R Green’s Hawk and Fisher shorts
  57. Tinker from the Elfhome series by Wen Spencer
  58. Sarah Prine fron the Western Series by Nancy Turner
  59. Echo Sackett from Ride the River by Loius L’Amour
  60. A Fairy Tale by Shanna Swendson
  61. Alicia DeVries, In Fury Born by David Weber
  62.  Linn from Vulcan’s Kittens by Cedar Sanderson

87 thoughts on “Damsels Who Can’t Be Bothered to be Distressed

  1. Taizu from “The Paladin” by CJ Cherryh

    She may be a little nuts, but she’s just totally kool.

  2. Don’t know how I managed to forget this one:

    Alicia DeVries from “Path of the Fury” by David Weber

    1. IIRC “Path of the Fury” and _In Fury Born_ are two versions of the same story. Cedar has it as # 61, but yeah, we may have missed it in the Grand Listing over at AtH.

      And what’s funny is how little time it took for so many people “driving by” to come up with so many characters, books, and authors! So much for the “don’t like fiction with strong/interesting women characters” meme.

      1. Yeah, but I didn’t participate, which must be misogyny rather than a shortage of time and energy. I skip around a lot, so I totally think Tinker, Jamethiel, and Miyuki Shiba are men.

    1. The question was, the list was generated by other people. I usually crowdsource these things as I know I will forget stuff that ought to be included. I’m now working on a companion list, too.

      “Ok, everyone! I’m working on the companion list to Damsels. Now, I’m looking for a few Good Men: looking for Male, heroic main characters, no cads, no anti-heroes wanted. Basically, if you’d let your daughter date him, give me a name, the book title, and the author. This list will go up on Monday. Oh, yes… and it should be published after about 1990. I suspect I won’t get nearly as many names as we did for Damsels. Thanks!”

      1. Yanno, that’s a good point… an awful lot of the recent male characters I can think of have been cads and anti-heroes, or at least too unreliable to put my faith in, were they live humans here and now.

      2. Despite the fact that he’s a twisty little weasel, he does keep his promises, and he is honourable. So, yes, (Bujold’s) Miles Vorkosigan gets my vote, even if, as a mother in law, I’d be tempted to strangle him now and then.

        Kit in Darkship Thieves (Hoyt), too. Although he’s not so twisty as just working on early curmudgeonhood, just like Lom in Pixie Noir ( CedarSanderson).

        Wolf Who Rules Wind (Wen Spencer’s Elfhome series) and Leo (Eight Million Gods.) Now, granted, if my daughter dated them, she’d want to strangle them from time to time, while I would just laugh and laugh, and say “That’s what you get for dating a man who is as stubborn as you!” (I’m assuming here that a theoretical daughter would inherit either her mother’s stubbornness or her father’s. G-d help us all if she got a full measure of both parents.)

        Charles Cornick (Patricia Brigg’s Alpha and Omega series) and Adam (her Mercy Thompson series) are some of the better men in the “is it urban fantasy or paranormal romance?” genre

        And, aside from the high probability of getting her hurt or dead because he can’t keep himself out of trouble, Harry Dresden (jim Butcher) is better man than he thinks he is. I’d worry, but at least she’d be with a good man. Okay, I’d worry, buy her another gun, and a vacation at Gunsite, the bondurant professional driving course, whatever it takes.

          1. You can generate a good list by looking at the men who partner with the women in your list above. After all, a good strong woman needs a good strong man for a partner, not a cad or a spineless wimp, and she wouldn’t tolerate an antihero.

            For example, you listed Fisher of Hawk & Fisher – Hawk is a good man for the paired list.

          2. Men that would be good companions for the women listed……….
            I nearly wrote Conan because he’s the king of Heroic Fantasy. But he also was an anti-hero before there were anti-heroes.

            So, here’s an incomplete list:
            1. Saukendar, “The Paladin” C.J. Cheryhh
            2. Neal Elfward, “Once A Hero”, Michael Stackpole
            3. Chareos, “Quest for Lost Heroes”, David Gemmel
            4. Rick Galloway, “Jannisaries”, Jerry Pournelle
            5. Croaker, “The Black Company”, Glen Cook
            {all of the above suffer confidence crisis’ that get resolved after meeting their ladies}
            6. Garrett, The Tunfairre series, Glen Cook
            {a lovable loser that can’t seem to shake his confidence problem}
            7.Athelstane King, “The Peshawar Lancers”, S. M. Stirling
            8. Dilvish, “Dilvish the Damned”, Roger Zelazny
            9. Retief, several shorts and a couple of novels, Keith Laumer
            10. Indiana Jones, {four movies}

            1. Oh, I forgot. Since the Sacketts are fair game:

              Tyrel Sackett “The Daybreakers”, Louis L’Amour
              William Tell Sackett, several Sackett novels that L’Amour did

            2. Having read all of the Howard Conan stories, I can’t agree that Conan was an anti-hero. [Smile]

              Conan wasn’t always a “nice guy” but I always saw the “anti-hero” as a bad guy who was “just better” than his opponents.

              Conan may not have been “nice” but was never IMO a “bad guy”.

              After all he gets thrown into prison because his “lover” betrays him (for another guy) but after he escapes he punishes her by dropping her into a pile of manure instead of killing her. [Smile]

              1. I agree for the most part, but it depends on your definition of anti-hero. The Conan of Howard is distinct from the Conan of the franchise writers in the eighties, Jordan, Maddox, etc.

                Howard’s Conan comes down from the north, and his adventures carry him across much of the Hyborian world. When he arrives in civilization, he’s a teenager, by the time he’s the king of Aquilonia, he’s in forties. He’s left a trail of broken hearts and broken heads across the world.

                I may have misinterpreted things {happens, I’m old now}, but I thought I saw a reference to being willing to allow one’s daughter to date the male character.

                I had three daughters, and as long as they were in my home, I wouldn’t have allowed them near Conan. {grin}

                1. The Broken Heads is fair enough (although many heads may deserved being broken), but the “Broken Hearts” doesn’t seem correct. IIRC most the women Conan “loved and left” seemed to have been women of “negotiable virtue” with the remainder being “I’ll have sex with you (Conan) if you do this job for me”. Of course there was Belit, who got herself killed.

            3. Conan an antihero? What?

              Not in the original Robert E. Howard stories, as I remember. Though I’ll allow that almost anything may have gone on in the tediously extensive pile of ghostwritten “Conan” ouvre.

              Now, COHEN the Barbarian was a straight-up hero…

              1. And all the Jewish Pratchett fans I know thought Cohen was hilarious. Wholesale destruction indeed.

        1. Bahzell Bahnakson, by David Weber…. but of course he’s already claimed by a missing entry from the Damsels, Leanna Hanathafressa.

          1. Well, if you’re bringing up Bahzell, there’s his friend Brandark. To the best of my knowledge, Brandark hasn’t been caught yet. [Smile]

            Your daughters will be safe with Brandark, but your ears might not be if Brandark starts singing. [Evil Grin]

      3. For that one, I think MCA Hogarth would be a particularly good source. Sensitive, kind, heartfelt and wise beyond his years? The Calligrapher from the Aphorisms of Kherishdar! Jahir and Vasith’h, psychic xenotherapist platonic True Loves, are both steadfast and loyal and true in addition to all their individual good qualities. Claw from Spots the Space Marine is wounded strength and intelligence and outreach in badass power armor…

        And this is four people who are main characters in three universes, and skip all of the “good from an alien point of view” possible entrants.

        It’s not that I can only consider Hogarth’s men–to start, I’m sparing a thought or two for Conrad Mursk from Wil McCarthy’s The Wellstone, who’s impetuousness falls to a later realization of responsibility–but to be certain, she makes a lot of awfully good men. 🙂

  3. A slight variation of this is in my book, Bloody Eden. The character Megan Hernandez is taken, goes through hell, but she just won’t break no matter what the bad guy puts her through.

  4. Mild Spoiler. I’m reading the eARC of David Weber’s Sword Of The South. There’s a character who is a villain (but appears to be heading toward goodness) who definitely will never be a “damsel in distress” even if she become one of the good guys.

    1. Lots of them in David Weber books.

      Have to get the shopping done this morning, I’ll compile a list for later; after some research, I am *horrible* with names. I’ve had some of those “Sarah ? Hoyt” moments, and I’m not even a writer (yet)!

      1. I have that problem too. Names? People have names??

        Also, the better the book, the less I remember of it. Great for re-reading, not so great for identifying ’em.

        So it’s the good ones I won’t remember for any sort of list; if I remember the book right offhand, it’s probably because it annoyed me.

  5. Candy Smith-Foster, Emergence, David Palmer
    Frances Brown Healy, Alice Healy, Enid Healy, Verity Price, Shelby Tanner, Sarah Zellerby, essentially all the females in the Cryptid series by Seanan McGuire.
    Anita Blake and Merry Gentry in numerous books by Laurell K. Hamilton
    Merit, Chicagoland Vampire series, Chloe Neill
    Kacey J. Bathlick and Tamara Wilson, combat chopper pilots, Kildar series, John Ringo

    1. Yes, but I would leave the Kildar, Mike Harmon, off of the “men my daughter should date list.” I have read and reread the Kildar series, and it is not the series I suggest as a starter when someone asks about reading John Ringo.

      There are any number of women for the list from Ringo’s other series.

      I did not see any women from the Lensman, or The Skylark of Space series? Or did I just miss seeing them.

      1. The thing is, that character would be the first to admit that you don’t want your daughter to date him.

        That makes him far, far better than some of the chuckleheads I just know my daughter will bring home. :/

        1. I don’t worry about my daughter bringing home a chucklehead. I taught her right, and she’ll kick him in the nuts and piss on his face while he lies on the ground groaning.

          Yes, she is a violent little girl – who isn’t all that little – she’s 23 now.

      2. Clarissa MacDougall wife of Kimball Kinnison who became first female Red Lensman and their 2 pair of twin sisters. The 2 pairs of twin sisters became 3rd stage Lensman in the Children of the Lensman book.

      3. Dizty Dottie or Margaret? No. The Osnomian women were supposed to be strong characters, but we don’t actually see them doing anything. The only female character of any consequence in the Skylark books is Stephanie de Marigny, who doesn’t really show up until the very end.

        Now, yes, there were strong women in Smith’s
        “Subspace Explorers” books. Though compared to their super powers and fascist/totalitarian ideology, their gender isn’t even relevant.

      4. The best part is that Kacey and Tamara are based on RL pilots with combat experience in Iraq/Afghanistan. If you read the dedication to most of Ringo’s post 9/11 books you can find Tamara’s real name and Google her service.

        Has no one mentioned the strong female characters from the International Lord of Hate Correia: Sally-Faye Veira and Lady Origami?

  6. For the transgender crowd, let’s not forget Nimue Alban/Merlin Arthrawes in David Weber’s Safehold books.

    1. I thought of her/him, but then decided to not include.

      Nimue is described as very definitely heterosexual oriented – and not male by choice, but by the needs of the mission. Acts male, though, throughout (almost) all of the series.

      1. Nimue is technically a very unusual case of gender dysphoria, of a sort not possible to present-day technology. She’s psychologically female, and physically a (male) android. Which is an annoyance to her, but then she’s got a very important mission.

  7. Vin, from Brandon Sanderson’s “Mistborn” series.
    Jasnah and Shallan, from the two books so far of the Stormlight Archive.

  8. Was Weber’s Honor Harrington in there? How about David Drake’s RCN series’s Adele Mundy, and Woetgens? Not to mention Adele’s bodyguard, whose name I am blanking at the moment 🙂

    1. Tovera? Tovira? One of those. Also happens to be a violent sociopath. So, yes – she is a strong character – but perhaps not a role model.

      1. Tovera. A delightful character, who you wouldn’t want to be careless around…

  9. Beauty/Honor from Robin Mckinley’s Beauty.
    Siri and Vivenna from Brandon Sanderson’s Warbreaker.

  10. Sorry to say this but Cordelia can never be considered a “strong female caracter”. When we first meet her she gives up her career as a Betan Survey Pilot to become a wife.
    This is of course an unforgivable sin in the bible of the strong female character.
    She becomes the wife of a man and therefore becomes secondary or as Mark and a lot of people in the Vorkosigan universe thought “A null factor”
    These people fail to realise what Mark later understood :”that Cordelia had a hand in traing this man (emperor Gregor)”
    Through her marriage and her children she was able to help transform an empire deep into civil war into a prosperous multi-planetrary empire.

    But all that is nothing because being a strong female character is impossible when the female is married. Because she then becomes a wife.

      1. Was one there already – to catch the blood from her little “shopping trip.”

    1. Through her marriage and her children she was able to help transform an empire deep into civil war into a prosperous multi-planetrary empire.

      Yeah, but what did she accomplish?

      Oh, and don’t forget her “shopping trip.” 😀

    2. I actually, in an online workshop, had someone critiquing observing that it was focused on the main character’s being a wife, and YET – he had to admit she was a strong character.

  11. Nynaeve, Elayne, and Aviendha, from the Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan. Bloody terrifying, the lot of them.

    1. I have to be honest. I couldn’t stand most of Jordan’s female characters. The only two I kind of liked was the woman that had been a great warrior in multiple lives they somehow brought into our world, and Faile (Perrin’s wife). That was about it.

      But, I’ll admit that none of them were fragile flowers.

      From: madgeniusclub Sent: Saturday, April 25, 2015 3:48 PM To: thomas.knighton@mchsi.com Subject: [New comment] Damsels Who Can’t Be Bothered to be Distressed

      tocoons commented: “Nynaeve, Elayne, and Aviendha, from the Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan. Bloody terrifying, the lot of them.” Respond to this comment by replying above this line New comment on madgeniusclub tocoons commented on Damsels Who Can’t Be Bothered to be Distressed.

      in response to Cedar Sanderson:

      Death before Whining! This started out as a spark off Tom Knighton’s post

    1. Oh, alright, Ilna is mad at just about everybody just about all the time and I certainly don’t like her, but she but holds herself to a pretty high and stringent standard, which I can respect, and she’s not weak.

  12. Ilisidi from C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series and Jetta from S. A. Bolich’s Firedancer spring instantly to mind.

  13. Damsels Who Can’t Be Bothered to be Distressed

    That’s the sexiest type.

    But I’m disappointed with you. You forgot to include Nile Etland, the toughest, sexiest, women in the Hub Universe.

      1. Damned right you should! I adore Nile. I drool thinking about her. Wow. That is one incredible lady.

        One thing I liked about James H. Schmitz is that he wrote real women. Women who could pick up a gun, run a project, or do anything they put their minds to, unlike most of the writers of the fifties and sixties.

        Of course we still have some of those dinosaurs around. They’ll die off eventually. I hope. I hate it when I pick up a book where the female characters are falling all over, swooning, and in general acting like they were plucked from Victorian times.

        1. What’s funny, is that I was reading SF in the 1970’s and 80’s and 90’s: you know, the era of dark depression from which the SJW & CHORF colonists are going to save us?

          And we don’t just get Schmitz then, we get Andre Norton’s heroines from books like Ice Crown and Witch World, Engdal’s Elena (and for a bonus, a non-ridiculous Prime Directive), Alexander’s Eilonwy, Bradley’s Darkover heroines like Romilly, Clarke’s Capt. Degree, Doyle’s “my name is Beka Metadi! You killed my mother, prepare to die!” DeLint’s Go, Jackie Go Kinrowan, Duane’s wizard’s, Rosemary Edghill’s librarians, Egan’s Theodora.. And that’s just some strong female protag.s from the first frakking 5 letters of the alphabet in my fiction collection.

          Whatever the Mundanes were getting up to, the idea that SF&F was some kind of misogynist hell-hole with few, and that unrespected, female writers and fewer strong female characters until the gender theorists arrived to save us from ourselves takes a very special brand of stupid to believe.

          But if you really insist on manly men doing manly things, may I suggest Barsoom? The gents there are truly swoon-worthy (and not sluts, like most modern-day action heroes). Of course being female, I’m not supposed to be allowed to enjoy stories like those. (:::goes back to reading The Maid of Mars anyway::::)

          1. That should be my paperback fiction collection’ which includes most of my mystery & regency romances. The hardcover collection is 10x larger and is predominantly spec fic.

          2. How about Susan from Alan Garner’s Alderly books?

            Or Star Trek. Yes, the miniskirts were ridiculous, but the show was a decade ahead of the rest of television in its portrayal of women, and fifty years ahead of the Canadian and United States armed forces.

            Lester Del Rey did several novels which showed women as strong characters. Day of the Giants is a particular fave of mine.

            How about Rylla in H. Beam Piper’s Crosstime stories?

            Or most of Roger Zelazny’s books?

            We could go on and on. There are so many examples.

            1. As long as we’re in the Star Trek books, Ael t’Rllaillieu of Diane Duane’s Rihannsu (Romulan) books.

              1. I was talking the TV show, but there are a lot of strong female characters in the Star Trek books as well. I don’t remember those books, but I do remember Diane Carey’s Battlestations fondly.

                And of course there’s Star Trek FanFic. Some of it, and its characters are pretty good.

  14. Eve Dallas from Jd Robb, go the Stacie and Tania for John Conroes Chris Gordens series. Actually that whole series is loaded with great female characters. along with one of the best animal characters of all time.

  15. Deunan Knute from the Appleseed manga.
    Gally from GUNNM.
    Winry Rockbell from Fullmetal Alchemist. (Do not let your automail get broken.)
    Riza Hawkeye from Fullmetal Alchemist.

  16. Huh – wonder if we could even identify twenty male leads or characters from the doubleplusgood author list that would be worth talking to. You know, ones that are ‘manly men doing manly things’. Or just being real men. And not raping. Or soliloquizing. Or being EVUL. Or overtly cishetphobicantidinosaurian

    Don’t think that the dinosaur in IYWADML would qualify ..

  17. OK, let’s add some more:

    Alice Morgan (Luther)
    Paks (Paks stories)
    Dorrin (Paks stories)
    Tara Wheaton (Rabbit Fall)
    Ellie Miller (Broadchurch)
    Madam Vastra (Doctor Who)
    Rose Drayton (On the Edge)
    Cerise Mar (Bayou Moon)
    Audrey Callahan (Fate’s Edge)
    Charlotte de Ney (Steel’s Edge)

  18. How about Tanya Huff? Loved the characters in her Enchantment Emporium books, and the Summoning series as well.

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