Hello humans! Last week I started a series where I’m planning on talking about some of my favourite tropes in fiction (particularly science fiction and fantasy). Last week I talked about strong female characters, which does tie into this week’s trope. I want to talk about one of my absolute favourite tropes – women inventors.
I can’t tell you when this obsession began, for as long as I can remember I’ve loved female inventor characters. Don’t get me wrong, I love male inventors too, but there’s something extra special for me, I think it takes me back to being a small girl myself and finding my own desire to take things apart and see how they worked reflected in that.
One thing I have noticed as I’ve got older and started reading different things is that I have never seen the woman inventor trope executed as well in adult (or even young adult) fiction as it is in middle grade. The most recent example of this I can think of is Brightstorm, in which one of the main characters invents and maintains her brother’s prosthetic arm. Not entirely middle-grade, but Violet Baudelaire of A Series of Unfortunate Events was another formative female inventor I remember from my childhood.
I don’t think I’ve ever found a comparable character in fiction marketed towards older readers. In Spare and Found Parts, the main character is also an inventor. But, for me, what was missing was that sense of joy and discovery, the idea that things are made to be taken apart and put back together in new and strange ways. Granted, the setting of Spare and Found Parts is seeded with distrust of technology, but all the same, I was missing that childlike joy.
In Flame in the Mist, Mariko is also an inventor, this was one of the best parts of her characterisation and one that I felt wasn’t used to its fullness in Smoke in the Sun. Again, the less whimsical setting doesn’t allow for quite so much of the wonder and discovery that you get in MG stories. I obviously don’t think that every story can handle the whimsy, I’m not expecting to find a middle-grade style character in a grimdark novel – through the juxtaposition of that might be interesting. But I do think that there is space in fiction for older readers for the female inventor character. By that, I don’t necessarily mean boiling it down to the science. Women scientists are of course also amazing characters, but there’s something so relatable about a character who just tries things until they work. Characters who find ways around the circumstances they are in, who use unlikely materials to do extraordinary things.
I’m hoping to see more of these kinds of characters in the future because I still don’t think there are enough of them, but those that do exist are some of my favourites.
What other female inventors can you think of? Let me know in the comments below!