I have always enjoyed stories with female protagonists. One of the first “grown-up” sci-fi books I ever read was Rimrunners by C.J. Cherryh but I also remember strong female characters like Molly in Neuromancer and even Star in Heinlein’s Glory Road. Then came Ripley and the Alien movies.
I think that part of the attraction comes from the fact that female protags are still a minority and so this voice automatically gives you a new perspective which is more likely to be interesting. But I also think that female characters allow writers to take stories in new directions and play with themes that are sometimes overlooked in a male-dominated genre.
So when I stared writing Taking the High Road, one of the things I wanted to do was to have a female hero. I also wanted this character to be a real woman, not a “man-with-tits” which is the trap that many leading ladies (written by men) seem to fall into.
I did not expect to have two leading ladies, though. For those of you who have not read the story it is set aboard a doomed mission to Mars. The crew must decide how to survive in the aftermath of an accident that scuppered their original mission. Originally I had pitted Lori, my heroine, against an older, male adversary: the chief scientist on the mission and a very patriarchal figure. But this gave the story an unhealthy vibe. I felt that it only really came to life when the focus switched to the brilliant but eccentric character of Claire O’Brien. These two women had very different personalities, but the way they looked past this to form a friendship and go on to solve the problems they faced seemed… well it seemed a more female way of doing things.
I don’t think this has anything to do with feminism and I am not in any way putting this story forward as an example of feminist SF. By making this artistic decision I was not trying to make a statement, I was merely acknowledging the real make-up of the world around us. The world is not populated solely by men, and so neither should our stories be.