100 women of sci fi #76: River Tam

Reading this reminded me there was one Firefly woman we hadn’t covered yet…

River Tam

River is both fragile and powerful, vulnerable and kick-arse. She is intellectually brilliant, but brain damaged. The government of the Alliance attempted to turn her into a weapon, and in so doing both damaged her possibly irreperably, but also made her capable of extraordinary feats. She inspires great love and commitment in her brother and, despite her unusual nature, the affection of those around her. Her damaged state sometimes lets her see the world more clearly, to question things that other take for granted and to see what make happen. To see her find joy in the vastness of space as she clings to the outside of a spaceship, hiding from those who wish to harm her further, inspires hope. When she really needs it, she finds her strength and her power and can destroy the enemies around her. River is brave but scared, a character who you hope for, but you know ultimately, can probably take care of herself.

River: So we’ll integrate non-progressional evolution theory with God’s creation of Eden. Eleven inherent metaphoric parallels already there. Eleven. Important number. Prime number. One goes into the house of eleven eleven times, but always comes out one. Noah’s ark is a problem.
Book: Really?
River Tam: We’ll have to call it early quantum state phenomenon. Only way to fit 5000 species of mammal on the same boat.

100 sci fi women #47: Kaylee Frye

Time for a return to television, and to one of my all-time favourite space westerns in particular….

Kaywinnit Lee “Kaylee” Frye Firefly and Serenity

Kaylee is fun, cute, practical, sweet, feisty and naive. She is also someone who knows her own mind well, and isn’t going to be pushed around, treated badly, disrespected or taken for granted. She is a wizard mechanic and the only one who can keep Serenity flying. Her mechanical aptitude doesn’t stop her loving pretty dresses or being obsessed with strawberries, nor does it harden her attitude to those around her. The most generous spirited and loving of those upon the Serenity, her wide eyed naivety doesn’t make her a complete innocent; she knows how to have sex and how to keep herself happy when there is no one else around – or when the object of your affection is too emotional clumsy to come good. Kaylee would make an ideal younger sister: happy to sit and plait hair, but then able to fix your hairdryer. One of my big disappointments with Serenity was that Kaylee shrank from her more cuddly form to be more Hollywood thin, but we don’t really hold that against her.

Kaylee: I like meeting new people! They all have stories!
Jayne: Captain, can you stop her from bein’ cheerful, please?
Mal: I don’t think there’s a power in the ‘verse that can stop Kaylee from being cheerful. Sometimes you just wanna duct tape her mouth and dump her in the hold for a month.
Kaylee: *kisses* I love my captain.

100 sci fi women #18: Zoe

Zoe was always on my list for inclusion. I love the dynamic between her and Captain Mal, but also the fact that when it comes to the crunch, she’ll choose her husband over him. I had intended to write my own entry, but Tea Drinker has said it all so well below, that I figure I can get away with being lazy and publishing her entry.

Zoe Firefly


I love Gina Torres as Zoe in Joss Whedon’s Firefly. As a lesbian, I find Torres incredibly hot, but there’s a lot more to it than that, honest! There’s a serious dearth of good roles for black woman in science fiction, so it’s great to see such a strong character. Zoe is a tough, stoic, soldier; she’s certainly not a “magical black woman”, and nor is she a highly sexualised figure in the narrative. She balances out the childlike River and Kaylee and the highly feminine Inara, showing a different way of being a woman. She takes no shit whatsoever, is totally loyal to her friends and manages to maintain a happy marriage with the ship’s pilot, Wash.

Alliance Commander: “You fought with Captain Reynolds in the war?”

Zoe: “Fought with a lot of people in the war.”

Alliance Commander: “And your husband?”

Zoe: “Fight with him sometimes, too.”

100 sci fi women #13: Buffy Summers

Before we get started, here is a link to another Top 25, this time an entertaining one from EW on the 25 Best Whedonverse episodes.  While I think it has a good mix in it, and strikes the balance between the funny/novelty episodes and the highly emotionally resonant ones (isn’t that Joss in a nutshell?), it was the cause of quite a lot of debate amongst friends after a few red wines? As was universally agreed, it is damn hard to judge between a lot of the Firefly episodes – and is emotional better than funny? Of course, the best of the Whedonverse is when the two are combined.

And with that as an introduction, it is inevitable we get to…

Buffy Summers Buffy the Vampire Slayer (television version)


So pretty much no pop culture list of tough, independent, brave women would be complete without Buffy. Created as a paradigm shifter – the petite blonde who didn’t run screaming from the vampire, but turned it into dust, Buffy’s character grew more and more interesting and nuanced as the seasons passed. This is a young woman who was willing to kill her beloved to save the world and also work in a take away store wearing a hideous uniform to pay to replace pipes. We have to love Buffy because we saw her grow up and take on responsibility, embrace her destiny even when they killed her, love her friends and family and kill and destroy any number of vampires, demons and monsters. Who wouldn’t like a friend like that?

I must admit though, I am a little nervous at the idea of a Joss-free Buffy re-entering the world

Here lies Buffy Summers. She saved the world, a lot.

100 Sci Fi Women #7: Inara Serra

OK everyone – still looking for any suggestions you may have: email me at godardsletterboxes@gmail.com

Inara Serra


Inara doesn’t exactly qualify as an action hero, but that doesn’t mean she can’t handle herself, as we see when she has to teach Captain Mal to fence. Like everything that we mourn about the premature passing of Firefly, Inara is smart, funny and beautiful (except Jayne – he wasn’t beautiful, or smart really, but he was funny). Inara’s beautiful character full of empathy could have been an annoying one, but instead she is also tough and smart with a hidden history we never got to learn enough about. Stunning enough to seduce anyone, she backed up her beauty with much more important qualities like intelligence and poise and the ability to read others – all talents learnt through her studies to be a companion. An independent woman of stature who doesn’t take crap from the Captain, Inara breaks the whore/madonna duality because, despite the fact that, as a companion, she is, in the basest terms, a “whore” she does not fill the traditional requirements of that role.  And who could have resisted being one of her clients?

Inara:  “What did I say to you about barging into my shuttle?”

Mal: “That it was manly and impulsive?”

Inara: “Yes, precisely. Only the exact phrase I used was ‘don’t’.”