I just noticed, about 25% of the way into Heretics, that suddenly most of the story is being told from the POV of various female characters. Compare this to Prophets, where the first major female character doesn’t show up until nearly that late and she isn’t a POV character, at least not until a fair bit later.
I don’t know if I’m making a point here, other than perhaps the fact that even though we’re in a place now where a female VP candidate can freak everyone out more for her politics than her gender, we still have a situation where it feels unusual to have a majority female POV in a SF story that is otherwise not trying to make any points about gender politics. We have plenty of strong female protagonists out there, but often they’re living in the same male-dominated universes that their male action-hero ancestors resided in.
Just a thought.
Also, related, while I’m a bit late to this particular party, I did want to mention my current favorite female character in the genre is Agatha Heterodyne, the titular character of Girl Genius, a comic series by Phil and Kaja Foglio. Been going on since 2000, won a buttload of awards, and is all online here.
It is the story of a young woman’s journey from ingenue to mad scientist who’s bent on world domination– largely to keep the male mad scientists from stalking her, using her for experiments, or exploiting her family’s lineage. Not only is it great because Agatha is never the typical damsel in distress (her distress is often caused by people trying to save her) her smarts are more than an informed attribute (she doesn’t just make reality-distorting coffee machines, but actually out-thinks a lot of her opposition) and she still manages to come across as feminine, even when she’s up to her armpits in grease.