I love SFF stories, and one of the most exciting parts is that anything is possible. Talking cats, magic potions, alien invasions – all awesome. Apparently though, growing older, especially if you’re a woman, is frowned upon.
Where are all the older female protagonists? Seriously. And I don’t mean the ‘Hollywood standard’ over-40. Or the even more ridiculous lists and articles claiming over-25’s in literature as ‘older’. I mean women in their fifties, sixties and beyond.
Vampires, elves and other ‘unaffected by actual ageing’ types need not apply.
My Top 3 Older Female Protagonists
1. Esme ‘Granny’ Weatherwax (Terry Pratchett – The Discworld Series). Granny is my possibly my favourite female protagonist, of any age, hands down. She’s bossy, devious and always in control. Granny has incredible magical skills but her most powerful weapon is ‘headology’ – her understanding of the way people think. Her neighbours fear her tongue as much as her witchcraft, and her Dwarven name is also a warning: Go Around the Other Side of the Mountain. Even better, she’s usually joined by Nanny Ogg. The prickly spinster and cheerful matriarch play off each other brilliantly, and always save the day. The Witches sub-series runs from Equal Rites to Carpe Jugulum. Every book is a must-read, but my personal favourite is Witches Abroad.
2. Brenda (Paul Magrs – The Brenda and Effie Mystery Series). Okay, she is an immortal-type character, but she’s not eternally young so I’m including her. Her best-friend and sidekick, Effie, is a genuine OAP (with a bus-pass no less) so she definitely counts. The both have very different, well-developed personalities and conflicting view-points. The plot doesn’t take itself too seriously and plays around with lots of Gothic tropes. There are ten books in the series, starting with Never the Bride, which features a suave older gentleman vampire, seances and three-eyed aliens.
3. Marley Jacobs (Harry Connolly – A Key, an Egg and an Unfortunate Remark). Marley is the self-proclaimed protector of Seattle. She’s smart, in charge and has a slew of interesting abilities. The book is an easy-to-read UF adventure and if the writing is a tad stilted, the diverse cast and creative world-building more than make up for it. I’d definitely read a sequel if it comes along.
Honorable mention: Sophie Hatter (Diana Wynne Jones – Howl’s Moving Castle). Sophie is actually only eighteen, but she spends most of the novel looking and feeling like a very old woman.
This isn’t an exhaustive list (I’m currently reading Wheel of the Infinite by Martha Wells, to name but one) and I’m not entirely sure what it says that my top three characters are written by men. This is just my current favourite examples of an underrepresented group done well. I’d love to see more, so feel free to add any ideas in the comments.