The stories we read as kids greatly influence our worldview, aspirations, role models and choices we make. Science fiction in particular kindle interest in the sciences, spark curiosity and foster creativity. That explains why my peers in tech and I grew up devouring science fiction (sci-fi) stories – reading books, watching movies, playing games, among others. Yet, the vast majority of stories we were exposed to as kids had a fundamental blind spot.
The main protagonists generally fit a specific profile: a white guy who was more adept with a gun than math. If there were scientists in the story, they would play minor roles and of course, be males.
However, the tide has recently started to shift. As a sci-fi fan, I notice ever more storylines written with female protagonists who are great with technology, math and sciences. Here are a few examples from the stories I loved.
New Tech Savvy Female Leaders Save the Day
Take Naomi Nagata, one of the key characters from the cult novels The Expanse – made even more popular by the recent TV series produced by Amazon. Having attended one of the best technological universities in the solar system, Naomi is the chief engineer of the spaceship Rocinante, whose crew frequently finds itself in the midst of interplanetary calamities. Her crew is lucky to have her, as she often saves the day through unparalleled knowledge of the spaceship’s hardware as well as her calm and composed demeanour.
Similar to the Rocinante, the iconic spaceship Serenity from the TV series Firefly also counts a woman as part of its crew – Kaylee Frye. Kaylee is a self-taught engineer – who was so in love with propulsion engines that she snuck on board Firefly to learn about it. And even though she started as a stashaway, Kaylee eventually becomes a valuable member of Firefly with her ingenuity and raw technical talent.
Female Leads Inject Freshness into Established Franchise
Then there’s the Star Trek franchise – a series that doesn’t need an introduction even to those outside sci-fi fan circles. Its most recent instalment Star Trek: Discovery not only features an incredible storyline but also three leading female characters – Michael Burnham, Philippa Georgiou and Sylvia Tilly. Michael started her career in the Starfleet as a biologist and grew to become a brilliant data scientist on the Discovery spaceship. After graduating into the Galactic Federation’s science department, Philippa had an illustrious career journey to become Discovery’s captain (her other self in a parallel dimension is also the ruler of the Terran Empire). Not to forget shy Tilly, who often doubts her skill but frequently saves the game through both the technical and emotional intelligence.
Larger than Life Females in the Real World and the Future
These women heroes have given me enormous inspiration for my work and life. That is why I am really excited about girls and boys experiencing these stories – aspiring to such protagonists and becoming scientists, builders and creators when they grow up.
First published in the IT Society Magazine from the Singapore Computer Society