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There are now so many recommendations that I had to break this list into two parts! Below, please find Part 1 A-M by author/creator name); Part 2 (N-Z) is in the next post. I’m still taking recommendations (protagonists, only please; not secondary characters). The list is focused on older female protagonists in genre, "older" in this case meaning age 40 and up. To date, we have the following recommendations from online or my own reading:

Part 1 A through M. All listings by author’s last name or creator name.

 

  • Asimov, Isaac. Dr. Susan Calvin, robotics expert in I, Robot, etc.
  • Bailey, Robin Wayne. Bloodsongs (Frost Saga, Vol. 3). Frost is a female warrior who spends most of the first two books as a young woman fighting supernatural battles. At the end of book 2, she settles down, retires and has kids. Bloodsongs has her coming back from retirement as a middle-aged woman to fight her biggest battles yet.
  • Bear, Elizabeth. Lady Abigail Irene Garrett in New Amsterdam. Middle-aged female supernatural detective in steampunky NY, series of linked stories. See also Bone and Jewel Creatures and the Jenny Casey series (Scardown, etc.).
  • Bennett, Robert Jackson. City of Stairs and City of Blades. General Turyin Mulaghesh is a career soldier who gets brought in to deal with crises, military, magical and combinations of both. She’s one of several protagonists in the first book but is the main character in the second.
  • Berman, Ruth. Bradamant's Quest. Middle-aged female knight on a quest (sequel to Aristo's Orlando Furioso).
  • Bernobich, Beth. Nocturnall. A queen saves her husband from a magical assasination attempt, but at what cost?
  • Bishop, K.J. “Vision Splendid” in Baggage: An Anthology of Australian Speculative Fiction.
  • Bujold, Lois McMaster. Paladin of Souls. Ista is a middle-aged dowager queen on a quest to combat a god-driven curse affecting multiple generations of her family. Also, an older Vicereine and former Betan Admiral, Cordelia Naismith is the protagonist of Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen.
  • Charnas, Suzy McKee. Dorothea Dreams. Magical realist novel with elderly artist protagonist.
  • Cherryh, C.J. Downbelow Station. Interstellar battleship commander Captain Signy Mallory negotiates battles and a complex political situation. Also, Ajiji-Dowager Illisidi in the Foreigner series.
  • Connolly, Harry. A Key, An Egg, An Unfortunate Remark. Urban Fantasy. Vampire hunter  Marley Jacobs comes out of retirement to solve a supernatural murder.
  • Cooper, Constance. "The Carnivores of Can't-Go-Home" in To Shape the Dark. Botanist Dr. T must solve a murder mystery on an alien planet.
  • Cornell, Paul. The Witches of Lychford. 71 year old Judith Mawson has to gather allies to protect the boundary between worlds.
  • Cross, Helen. "Fur" in Wolf-Girls. A different spin on menopausal werewolves (an idea whose time has come!)
  • de Bodard, Aliette. "Crossing the Midday Gate" in To Shape the Dark.
    Scientist Luong Thi Dan Linh is recalled to court and an uncertain welcome by an AI after twenty years in exile, the result of vaccine development gone wrong. 
  • Dyer, S.N. "Sins of the Mothers" in The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy, (May, 1997). Protagonist's son (given up for adoption as an infant) approaches her about creating a clone of himself from her eggs.
  • Elgin, Suzette Haden. The Ozark Trilogy. Magic-working Grannies uphold the social order and dispense wisdom in a confederation of planets modeled on the Ozark culture of the southern Midwest. Responsible of Brightwater, protagonist ages over the course of the books.
  • Eliott, Kate. Black Wolves  Dannarah is a 59 year old reeve Marshall  for most of the book, and a key player in a shifting political landscape. (Multiple POV)
  • Emschwiller, Carol. "Grandma" in Report to the Men's Club and Other Stories. An adolescent is inspired to take on her grandmother's superhero role.
  • Fenn, M. "Chlorophyll is Thicker Than Water" in To Shape the Dark. Dr. Susan Yamamoto and her wife, Dr. Hina Okada, must foil a corporate saboteur out to steal their ground-breaking botanical research.
  • Fforde, Jasper. The Woman Who Died a Lot. Literary Detective Thursday Next enters middle age and a whole new set of adventures.
  • Files, Gemma. Experimental Film. Middle-aged former historian Lois Carns invesitages the death of an early woman filmmaker and gets sucked into a world of ghosts and monsters.
  • Fowler, Karen Joy. Narrator of “What I Didn’t See.” What I Didn’t See and Other Stories by Karen Joy Fowler.
  • Frohock, Teresa. Miserere. Multiple POV fantasy novel, including demon-ridden Rachael Boucher, who is in her forties, when the lover who abandoned her returns to pull her back into a war against the Fallen Angels.
  • Gilman, Carolyn Ives. Dark Orbit. Saraswati Callicot is a scientist on a mission to travel light years across space to explore new planets, but neither the planet Orem or her crewmates are what they seem to be.
  • Gladstone, Max. Last, First Snow. Elayne Kevarian is a 50-year old Craftswoman and veteran of the God Wars who must contend with foes new and old.
  • Goldstein, Lisa. Strange Devices of the Sun and Moon. Widowed bookseller Alice Wood works with Christopher Marlowe to rescue her son from Faerie.
  • Goto, Hiromi and Loup, Celine. Shadow Life. Forthcoming graphic novel featuring an elderly queer woman battling Death.
  • Grotta, Sally Wiener. The Winter Boy features an older woman, Rishana, who mentors and protects a young man in order to make him one of their tribe’s leaders.
  • Hambly, Barbara. Dragonsbane, Dragonshadow, Knight of the Demon Queen and Dragonstar. Middle-aged witch Jenny Waynest must contend with dragons, demons and threats to her loved ones.
  • Henderson, Zenna. “The Deluge.” Old female alien experiences the end of her world.
  • Hopkinson, Nalo. The New Moon's Arms. Calamity Lambkin, middle-aged POC protagonist in Caribbean setting, rescues a magical sea creature.
  • Jemison, N.K. The Fifth Season. Essun is an orogene, someone who can control the earth's energy, as well as a middle-aged school teacher dealing with unimaginable tragedy.
  • Jones, Heather Rose. The Mystic Marriage, multiple POV includes Jeanne de Cherdillac, patron and lover of the female alchemist Antuniet Chazillen.
  • Kagan, Janet. Mirabile, featuring Annie 'Mama' Jason Masmajean as an ecological troubleshooter on a colony world.
  • Kerr, Katharine. Lady Lovyan in Daggerspell and other Deverry series novels.
  • Klass, Fruma. "The Way We Were" in Triangulation (July, 2014), includes seven characters (four women, three men) living in a retirement home for indigent old werewolves. "Jennifer's Turn" in Gathering the Bones features a 68-year-old woman dealing with Social Security in 2020.
  • Kowal, Mary Robinette. "The Lady Astronaut of Mars." An aging female astronaut is torn between one last mission and staying with her dying husband.
  • Krasnoff, Barbara. “Red Dybbuk” (Subversion); “The Seder Guest” (Crossed Genres 15) and “The History of Soul 2065” (Clockwork Phoenix 4) all feature older female protagonists.
  • Lanigan, Susan. "Ward 7" in To Shape the Dark. Neurological scientist Vera Ragin is driven to experiment on herself to find a new way to detect disease, over the objections of her employer and her much younger lover.
  • Le Guin, Ursula. "The Day Before the Revolution" in The Wind's Twelve Quarters. Laia Asieo Odo is an elderly anarchist leader whose ideas are about to come into fruition. See also Le Guin’s Four Ways to Forgiveness and the character Tenar in Tehanu
  • Lewitt, Shariann. "Fieldwork" in To Shape the Dark. Geologist Irene Kolninskaya Taylor must journey to Jupiter's Moon Europa to investigate the disaster that killed her mother and her team and which still haunts her.
  • Locke, M.J. Up Against It. Jane Navio is the colony resource manager on an asteroid colony. (Multiple POV).
  • Lowell, Nathan. The Tanyth Fairport Adventures (Ravenwood, Zypheria's Call, The Hermit of Lammas Wood). Tanyth Fairport is an elderly herbalist and witch who goes on a quest to develop her powers and save those she holds dear.
  • Lundoff, Catherine. Silver Moon. Becca Thornton learns to embrace her inner, and outer, menopausal werewolf when she joins the local all-female werewolf pack.
  • MacAvoy, R.A. Tea with the Black Dragon. Middle-aged female protagonist goes on a quest with a magician who may also be a dragon.
  • Marley, Louise. Mother Isabel Burke in The Child Goddess is a medical anthropologist trying to save the child leader of a lost colony from an interstellar corporation.
  • McKillip, Patricia. Iris in Solstice Wood (multiple POV). Also, arguably, Sel in The Tower at Stony Wood.
  • McIntyre,Vonda N. "The Mountains of Sunset, the Mountains of Dawn" in The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy (February, 1974). Old female alien wants to experience flight for the last time before dying when a young male alien approaches her and wants to mate in order to transition to adulthood.
  • Modesitt, L. E. The Soprano Sorceress. Middle-aged college professor Anna Marshall finds herself in a parallel world where her musical talent gives her magical powers.
  • Moffett, Judith. "Surviving." Janet is a middle-aged psychologist, trying to come to terms with her failure to "save" and civilize Sally, a young woman raised by apes after a plane crash.
  • Moon, Elizabeth. Remnant Population. Ofelia is an eighty-year old grandmother making first contact  with hostile aliens on a new world. See also Moon’s Serrano Legacy series, which feature a number of older women as POV/primary characters.
  • Moraine, Sunny. "Thin Spun" in Hellebore and Rue: Tales of Queer Women and Magic Lakshmi is a wise woman, exiled from her people for having loved too well. Intriguing story of intergenerational cooperation and redemption.
  • Murphy, Pat. The Falling Woman. Liz Butler is an aging archaeologist who can see people in the past and talk to Mayan ghosts, but has less success communicating with her estranged daughter.
  • Myers, Jenn. All the Growing Things. Graphic novel about an elderly gardener named Maude who takes on monsters and solves mysteries.

End of part 1, A through M – see Part 2 for N-Z. All listings by author’s last name or creator name.

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Part 2 for N-Z (see Part 1 for A-M). All listings by author’s last name or creator name.
  • Newman, Emma. Planetfall. Renata Ghali follows her beloved friend to their new planetary home in search of their vision of God, only to have things go very wrong.
  • Older, Daniel José. "The Passing" in Salsa Nocturna and Other Stories. Elderly Latina story keeper fights to keep stories alive and remembered.
  • Page, Shannon Page and Lake, Jay. Our Lady of the Islands. Fantasy with two powerful middle-aged female protagonists, Sian and Arian, who must work together to save their land and their loved ones.
  • Piercy, Marge. Malkah Shipman in He, She and It is a computer programmer in a postapocalyptic future who must work with her daughter and her beloved android to fight cyberpirates and preserve their community.
  • Pollack, Gillian. Ms. Cellophane. Older female protagonist on fantastical journey of self-discovery.
  • Pratchett, Terry. Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg in The Wyrd Sisters, and other Witches novels, are the two older witches (The Crone and The Mother) of Pratchett's wild popular trio of Discworld witches.
  • Rambo, Cat. "Grandmother: Farther Than Tomorrow." Short story about a century-old pirate called out of retirement to save her planet.
  • Randall, Marta. The Sword of Winter. Lyeth is a courier for a dying tyrant she despises, trying to negotiate a chaotic kingsdom and a complex series of plots (I'm reading her age into this; she feels "middle-aged" to me).
  • Rickert, Mary. The Memory Garden. Nan, her friends and her granddaughter come to terms with their pasts, their futures and the ghosts of both.
  • Richardson, E.E. Under the Skin and Disturbed Earth. Claire Pierce, head of the North Yorkshire Police Ritual Crime Unit, takes on the apocalypse and paranormal perils.
  • Robins, Madeleine. Barbara McGrath in The Stone War is in her early 60s when she has to help rebuild NYC after an apocalyptic collapse (Multiple POV). Zenia Mavroandrades in "The Boarder" (Asimov's, 1984) has to contend with a new and alien roommate.Vivey in "La Vie en Ronde" (Starlight 3) experiences a strange illness that opens a doorway to a new world.
  • Robinson, Kim Stanley. Mars Trilogy, ensemble cast with older characters.
  • Ruff, Matt. Lovecraft Country. Multiple POV. One of the writers for The Safe Negro Travel Guide, Letitia, is in her 40s for much of the book.
  • Russ, Joanna. Abbess Radegunde in "Souls" (Extraordinary People). Older female protagonist who confronts a Viking attack on a medieval convent. Janet Evason in “When It Changed.” Middle-aged protagonist on all-female planet wrestling with the impact of the arrival of male astronauts from Earth.
  • Salaam, Kiini Ibura."Two Become One" in To Shape the Dark. Multiple POV story. Meherenmet and Amagasat struggle for control of the former's destiny, using Meherenmet's apprentice, K, and a creature of her own creation as pawns.
  • Sargent, Pamela. “Heart Flowers.” Post-apocalyptic SF with old female protagonist.
  • Sanderson, Brandon. Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell. Middle-aged  innkeeper Silence Montane has a secret identity as a bounty hunter.
  • Sato, Yuya. Dendera. 70 year old Kayu Saitoh leaves her village to go and wait to die on the nearby mountain, in accordance with custom. But things don't quite turn out that way when she stumbles onto a not-quite-utopian society built by elderly women that is under attack on multiple levels.
  • Saxton, Josephine. "Big Operation on Altair Three" in Despatches from the Frontiers of the Female Mind, edited by Jen Green and Sarah Lefanu (1985). Aging ad exec in a near future dystopia contemplates a career change. See also Magdalen in Queen of the States.
  • Scalzi, John. Old Man's War . Military SF series in which characters sign up for the Colonial Defense Forces in their sixties, never to return to Earth.
  • Shawl, Nisi. Everfair. Multiple POV alternate history/steampunk set in the what would be, in our timeline, the Belgian Congo. 2 of the protagonists are women over 40.
  • Shoulders, Felicity. "Conditional Love" in Asimov's, January, 2010. Dr. Grace Stellar works in a lab facility that "fixes" genetically modified children.
  • Springer, Nancy. Fair Peril, Larque on the Wing and Plumage. Middle-aged female protagonists exploring gender, aging and magic.
  • Starhawk. Fifth Sacred Thing. Post-apocalyptic novel with multiple viewpoint characters, including 98 year old Maya Greenwood.
  • Stirling, S.M. Captain Marian Alston-Kurlelo in Island of the Sea of Time, etc. Alternate history with an ensemble cast. Marian is the middle-aged African-American lesbian captain of a Coast Guard vessel brought to an alternate Nantucket.
  • Tarr, Judith. Khalida in Forgotten Suns is a 40+ year old former military intelligence officer hiding out from her past when she is forced back into service.
  • Valente, Catherynne M. Yume no Hon: The Book of Dreams. Elderly Japanese female hermit as the POV character.
  • Vernon, Ursula. “Jackalope Wives” and “Pocosin” in Apex Magazine. Different older women protagonists in both; Grandma Harken in “Jackalope Wives” turns shapeshifter myths on their heads.
  • Walton, Jo. My Real Children. Alternate history featuring two different versions of character Pat Cowan’s life, starting at its end when she is an elderly woman.
  • Warner, Sylvia Townsend. Lolly Willowes. Middle-aged English spinster sells her soul to the devil in order to become a witch. Fantasy/satire
  • Warrington, Freda. Midsummer Night. Multiple POV fantasy. Dame Juliana is an artist in her sixties struggling to gain mastery over her art and her powers.
  • Walters, Damien Angelica. "When the Lady Speaks." Fortune-teller Marian hopes to use her powers to save her injured daughter.
  • Wells, Martha. Wheel of the Infinite. Maskelle is recalled from a long exile to save her world and the god she serves.
  • Wilder, Cherry. “Mab Gallen Recalled.” Retired ship’s medical officer reminiscing about her life and previous events.
  • Wilkins, Connie. “Windskimmer” in Hellebore and Rue: Tales of Queer Women and Magic. Two female magic users reunite to stop a magic-fueled environmental plague.
  • Williams, Liz. The Ghost Sister. Female anthropologist comes into contact with a cultural outcast on a distant planet.
  • Windling, Terri. The Wood Wife. Middle-aged woman discovers art and magic in the SW.
  • Winter Well: Speculative Novellas About Older Women edited by Kay Holt.
  • Wonder City Stories - Multiple POV, serial story featuring multiple older women characters including Renata Scott and Suzanne Feldstein. Interludes #1, 2, and 7 feature middle-aged or elderly women as leads (Lady Justice, the Fat Lady, and Pearl Wong, respectively).
  • Wrede, Patricia. Granny Carry/Tenerial Ka'Riatha. Elderly woman who is the magical guardian of the traditions and magic of the early inhabitants of the city of Liavek. Stories collected in Points of Departure.
  • Wymore,Teresa. Darklaw. Erotic epic fantasy with two lesbian protagonists, one of whom is in her forties.
  • Yarbro, Chelsea Quinn. “The Generalissimo’s Butterfly” in Cautionary Tales. Older female engineer has fallen from grace with the dictator she helped keep in power.

 

Also see this interesting list/discussions on Tor. Com: Where are the Older Women? And Older Women as Lead Characters in Urban Fantasy.
 as well as the following excellent and related essays
Where are the Wise Crones in Science Fiction? by Athena Andreadis, "Hands" by Kari Sperring and "No More Dried Up Spinsters" by Nancy Jane Moore. Harry Connolly also touches upon the difficulty of getting publishers to pick up novels with older female protagonists in his essay Helpless in the Face of Your Enemy.

And honorable mentions, since they are not protagonists, but are fairly unique in postapocalyptic sf, the matriarchal bikers in Mad Max: Fury Road.

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