13. Lieutenant Esmay Suiza (-Serrano)
Read about her in: Elizabeth Moon’s “Familias Regnant” series, which is full of strong female characters (we’d love to write more about Heris Serrano, but she was cut for space too). Suiza’s introduced as a secondary but crucial character in Winning Colors (1995), and then stars in two of her own books, Once a Hero (1997) and Rules of Engagement (1998). Then she and Heris share the stage in a couple more novels.
Where she: Exceeds expectations, mostly. A native of remote Altiplano, Esmay has never demonstrated a particular capacity for leadership, and in fact is on the technical track in the Regular Space Service — until she successfully leads a mutiny against a traitorous captain and emerges a hero from the Battle of Xavier. Moved to the RSS command track, she faces diverse new challenges, including the rigors of command school, several dangerous missions, and — most difficult of all — the revelation of a deeply buried trauma from her childhood.
Why we love her: She’s kind of an underdog. Her family is prominent on Altiplano, but that doesn’t matter so much in the world of the Familias Regnant, where she regularly rubs shoulders with spacer aristocracy (including her love interest, Barin Serrano). She’s not widely expected to succeed, being more or less an unknown quantity, so nothing is handed to her and she earns every victory. Awesomely.
Who else loves her? Her marriage to Barin — of lower military rank than she — causes a bit of a dustup in the rigid hierarchy of the RSS, as well as legal problems on her home planet (where she holds a position in the gentry) and causes conflict within the ranks of the tight-knight and powerful Serrano clan after some unpleasant history about the Suiza family is uncovered.
On screen: No, never. Uh-oh, that must mean…
Fantasy Cast! Hmmm. “Suiza” is a Spanish name, and “Altiplano” implies settlers of Spanish descent. Or Latino of some sort. Or possibly Italians. So does that mean that Esmay should be considered ethnically Latina, then, or not? If not, the field is wide open; Kristen Stewart typically looks almost miserable enough to be Esmay (who, early on at least, is not a happy camper). If she is… America Ferrara is too chipper-looking, and whether Alexa Vega possesses the requisite depth to effectively portray Esmay is, let us say, an open question. So we will throw up our hands, propose Selena Gomez as Esmay and Nick Jonas as Barin, and wait expectantly for the reader responses to roll in. We predict ecstatic endorsement and furious complaint in roughly equal measure.
“I’m certainly not complacent; I wasn’t complacent even before your warning. I know that young officers who get involved with mutinies, for whatever reason, always have a stained record. But whether I’m reasonably wary or terrified—that I don’t know myself.”
— Once A Hero (1997)
Read about her in: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass (1871), by Lewis Carroll
Where she: Has marvelous adventures, too numerous to relate here, after traveling down a rabbit-hole and through a looking-glass.
Why we love her: These weird, surreal tales are actually two of the more influential texts to come out of the Victorian era, inspiring authors such as James Joyce, Vladimir Nabokov, John Crowley, Roger Zelazny, and Neil Gaiman. Alice’s strange story has also influenced a number comics and mangas, as well as television shows and movies from Lost to The Matrix to Spongebob Squarepants to Spirited Away to Pan’s Labyrinth to porn. Fortunately (…er, at least where most of those are concerned), Alice is plucky, resourceful, and brave.
Who else loves her: Umm… her sister? Alice is a little young for the whole romance thing. We almost hesitate to mention that Lewis Carroll, or — as he was known to his chums, the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson — has been rumored to have nursed an unwholesome attraction to little Alice Liddell, on whom his storybook Alice was based. But really, who can know? (We sincerely hope that’s not true, because ick.)
On Screen (and elsewhere!): Alice, like Elvis, is everywhere. She has appeared many, many times on both stage and screen, not to mention in various print formats: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has been translated into at least 28 languages, including Latin, Hebrew, Hindi, Cornish, and Welsh. A Disney animated version was released in 1951, and Abby in Wonderland, a Sesame Street production featuring the irrepressible Abby Cadabby, went straight to video in 2008. Meryl Streep has portrayed Alice on stage; Kate Beckinsale and Tina Majorino (among others) have appeared as Alice on TV; and most recently, the Tim Burton-helmed Alice in Wonderland and its sequel tore up the box office, starring Mia Wasikowska as out all-grown-up action heroine.
Well! I’ve often seen a cat without a grin; but a grin without a cat! It’s the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!
— Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)
11. The Weird Sisters
Read about them in: Macbeth, William Shakespeare’s celebrated “Scottish play” (1603 or thereabouts).
Where they: Set the entire plot in motion by predicting (correctly) that Macbeth will one day rule Scotland as king.
Why we love them: Okay, so it’s a little strange to admit that we “love” three characters who, whatever else they may be, are certainly not heroines, as the term is generally understood. More than one critic has noted that they represent “darkness, chaos, and conflict.” But you know what else they represent? Power. Consider — they don’t actually tell Macbeth to do anything; they just sort of hint around and make predictions (which grow increasingly opaque over the course of the play), and they STILL get him to do what they evidently want him to do. And like all of the Bard’s greatest creations, they’re endlessly quotable. Have you ever alluded to “eye of newt and toe of frog?” Maybe chanted “Double, double, toil and trouble/Fire burn and cauldron bubble” while cooking something? (Just us? Okay, then.) Muttered “Something wicked this way comes” upon perceiving the approach of your ex? Congratulations — you’ve been quoting the Weird Sisters.
Who else loves them? Pretty much no one. Macbeth listens to them, but he’s not happy about it.
On Screen: Macbeth has been filmed 50+ times; that’s over 150 witches to keep track of (no, thanks). Perhaps the best-known rendition is actually a Japanese adaptation, Akira Kurosawa’s 1957 classic Throne of Blood, in which the witches are rolled into a single entity, played by Chieko Naniwa. The witches have also been variously portrayed as hippies, bitchy schoolgirls — in a 2006 Australian update, starring Sam Worthington as Macbeth — and corrupt cops, depending on the adaptation in question. A version with Sir Patrick Stewart was released in 2010, with the actresses portraying the witches — Sophie Hunter, Polly Frame, and Niamh McGrady — having a great time in their respective roles.
The weird sisters, hand in hand,
Posters of the sea and land,
Thus do go about, about:
Thrice to thine and thrice to mine
And thrice again, to make up nine.
— Act I, scene iii