It used to be difficult to find genuinely good female characters in science fiction and fantasy. And even today, with plenty of excellent female characters to pick from, there still aren’t that many that are also mothers. In honor of Mother’s Day today, here are our picks for the ten best mother characters from science fiction and fantasy. (Note: There are possible spoilers ahead, if you haven’t read/seen the stories from which the characters are taken.)
10. Carol Marcus – Raising Jim Kirk’s son as a single mom couldn’t be easy: you hope your genes carry through instead of Kirk’s, but then the boy starts climbing the tallest trees he can find, chasing anything female with a pulse, and freely ignoring the Prime Directive. But she not only managed to bring up a smart and fairly well-adjusted (if a bit whiny) son, but also be a brilliant and prominent scientist — if that doesn’t make her an awesome mom, what could?
9. Lady Jessica Atreides – OK, so she may not be the most successful mother ever, but her son does turn out to be the Kwisatz Haderach, so that has to be worth something, right? Her influence in the Dune universe is hard to overstate, with both of her children and her grandson ruling the Empire for periods of time (in the case of her grandson Leto II, a really long time). Her ultimate legacy is tarnished a bit by her name being used by the Sisterhood as a warning to practice restraint, but at least she was remembered, right?
8. Martha Kent – You think it’s tough to deal with your kids’ temper tantrums? Imagine having to worry they’ll register on the Richter scale! And imagine his birthday parties: “OK, Clark, blow out the candles, and this time please try not to freeze the cake and propel it through the wall.” It’s a miracle she had any hair, gray or not, left by the time she was getting old.
7. The Alien Queen from Alien – She may not look like a very good mom from a human perspective, but consider her side of the story: she’s just doing what she needs to do to perpetuate her species. The fact that that’s a bit… messy for the people on the Nostromo isn’t her fault, is it?
6. General (Princess) Leia Organa (Solo) — Her son Ben may have become whiny, temperamental, and murderous, but based on what we know from The Force Awakens, she seems to have tried her best to keep him on the light side. It’s clear how much his betrayal devastated her, and how much she still loves him and keeps up hope that he could be redeemed. Leia’s mother, Padme Amidala, was on a previous version of this list — she certainly does some pretty badass stuff in Episodes I and II, but she spends most of Episode III sitting around being pregnant and spouting mind-numbingly bad dialogue. And, despite giving birth to two of the most important beings to the future of the galaxy, she never actually gets to be a mom.
5. Sharon “Athena” Agathon – It has to be pretty tough, being the first Cylon to successfully reproduce with a human. And unimaginably tough to have your child taken away and to think she’s dead. But she manages to stay true to her promises of allegiance with the humans, and certainly comes through for Hera in the end. The ending, whatever you may think of it, strongly implies that Hera, and thus Athena and Helo, are the progenitors of what became humanity on Earth.
4. Elastigirl / Helen Parr – It’s certainly not a stretch (see what we did there?) to say that she’s a great mom. She does everything she can to protect her family, even at great risk to herself. And it has to be tough raising kids with superpowers (see Martha Kent, above): We never get to see what Violet was like as a little kid, but can you imagine having a toddler who can turn invisible? Or having a son who can crawl faster than you can run?
3. Molly Weasley – We’ll never quite understand what possessed Molly and Arthur to have more kids after Fred and George, other than the fact that their two younger kids are essential to the Harry Potter books’ plots. Molly is a great mom, raising seven great kids (well, maybe six great kids and Percy) without a lot of money, though we’re sure the magic helped a lot. And of course she treats Harry almost as if he’s her son, too. Consider what she had to deal with in the last two books: her eldest son Bill being attacked and disfigured by a werewolf, George losing an ear, and of course Fred’s death. We do love the scene where she kills Bellatrix Lestrange, protecting Ginny and finally kicking butt the way we’d always known she could.
2. Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan – One of the awesomest moms in science fiction, Cordelia kicks butt and takes names. She starts off the Vorkosigan saga as captain of a survey vessel, a position requiring a lot of education and no small amount of command ability. Even after marrying Aral and moving to Barrayar, a planet where women are typically treated as second-class citizens, she remains resolutely independent and strong. To rescue her unborn son (they use a “uterine replicator,” so she isn’t actually pregnant) she even infiltrates the Imperial Residence and beheads the pretender to the throne. When Miles is an adult, she is always a great mom to him, providing advice and comfort when needed, and a kick in the butt every now and then.
1. Sarah Connor – Who else could be at number 1? When it comes to standing up for your family, she goes far beyond what most people are capable of. She would do, and does, just about anything to ensure her son John’s safety, not just because she knows he’s supposed to grow up to be the savior of humanity but because he’s her son and anyone who wants to hurt him will have to go through her first. She may not always know the right words to say to John, but sometimes actions speak louder than words, right?
So, any favorite sci-fi or fantasy moms we missed? Leave a comment.
And of course, a very Happy Mother’s Day to all nonfictional moms reading this, from all of us at GeekDad and GeekMom!
Image: TriStar Pictures.
[A version of this article was previously published on GeekDad.]