So, yesterday, I read a great post with the starter question, "What female SFF character affected you the most as a kid?" And I decided it'd be fun to step away from the wall of links today and write my answer. It's two-fold. I also wanted to talk about the legacy that some of these characters left on me.
Since the book that pulled me into SF with both hands was A Wrinkle in Time, you'd probably guess my answer would be Meg. In part, you're right. However, there were a couple of characters that came before her. The first was Sylvia from Joan Aiken's The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. Technically an Alternate History, the novel is set in an alternate Georgian era England. Sylvia is an orphan who travels to Willoughby Chase to keep her cousin, Bonnie, company while Bonnie's parents are travelling abroad. The two girls become instant friends in almost exactly the same dynamic as Tank Girl and Jet Girl.
I adore that dynamic. Some of my best friends early on in my life have been women and girls who boldly dare to go where I was too afraid to go on my own. And that's what Bonnie is for Sylvia. Bonnie is bold and brave and curious. She engages adventure and in being herself she encourages Sylvia to be who she truly is. I love that about that book. It's a beautiful, beautiful thing. I have an internal Tank Girl and Jet Girl. One is constantly telling the other that she's safe to dare even when it's scary out there. I'm thankful for that in a big way--that I can do this for myself now. But unfortunately my experience in the real world hasn't been so good. The dynamic doesn't hold up so well once Jet Girl's transformation is complete as it were. It can also get...toxic. Mind you, I'm open to finding a Tank Girl who can handle another Tank Girl as a friend. I feel I'll find her. One day. When I'm ready. More on this later. Anyway, gods help the world when we find one another. Because many shenanigans will ensue--maybe even hijinks. Certainly, no tank and no jet will be safe. Or something.
The next female character who was a big influence on me comes in a cluster. (I read all Zilpha Keatley Snyder's novels in quick succession when I was 10 or 11.) First, Amanda from The Headless Cupid, Ivy from The Changeling, Sara from Eyes in the Fishbowl, and Pamela from Season of Ponies.
Again, technically, these books are all Fantasy, in most cases Urban Fantasy. In any case, what all these girls have in common is that they dare to be themselves. They all have dark hair and dark eyes. (My hair is curly and mouse brown.) In a literary environment where all the girls who were remotely invovled in adventure were blue-eyed blondes with straight hair, it was life-changing to see girls who looked like me. Unfortunately, these girls are all members of the Manic Pixie Dreamgirl Corps™, but hey, it was a start. They also suffer from exceptionalism, another myth that plagued my childhood and my later relationships with women. For those who don't understand what that means, the phrase "There can be only one." from Highlander is a perfect fit. Since there can be only one, this means instant competition to be that deserving One. It pits girls and women against one another. Since not being the One means not surviving on some level (see A Game of Thrones and Arya.) the fight to maintain that one vacancy is fierce. I find that this myth is particularly destructive in SFF author-dom.
To say these books had a postive effect upon me is an understatement. Without them, I'm not entirely sure I'd have survived to be who I am today. I owe both Joan Aiken and Zilpha Keatley Snyder a debt I can never repay. However, their characters' legacies also hold some negativity, and I'd be making a terrible mistake if I didn't examine both aspects. For me, the problem with the Tank Girl/Jet Girl friendship is that it places the responsibility for adventure firmly upon Tank Girl. Jet Girl doesn't have to act. Jet Girl doesn't have to lead or initiate. The entirety of her identity is placed in the hands of Tank Girl. That isn't fair to Tank Girl. Sometimes Tank Girl needs to be afraid. Sometimes Tank Girl needs to be the rescued. If Tank Girl doesn't accept this about herself...she becomes less of a person. The dark part of the forest exists. Denying it doesn't make it go away.
 And this is why diversity is so important. As bad as it was being a scrawny, flat-chested, fuzzy-haired brunette with dark olive skin (i caught a lot of sun pre-goth) and dark brown eyes...it's far, far worse when your race isn't even represented. Also? See Why Boys Should Read Girl Books. Then read: Tabletop Gaming has a White Male Terrorism Problem. Yes. These issues are, in fact, connected.
 To my knowledge, the only non-raped female character in A Song of Ice and Fire.
 Although, I did get to thank ZKS before she died. Yep. And that was my first literary fan letter. I'm so glad I wrote it.
is a Science Fiction and Fantasy author living in Texas.