Science FictionScience fiction books are often thought to emphasize “ideas” over characters and stories. Science fiction authors, however, have also created some of the most memorable characters ever found in fiction. Some of these characters are genuine heroes, set in unforgettable tales of adventure and wonder.

Golden Age Heroes of Science Fiction Books and Series

Edgar Rice Burroughs created Tarzan, one of the most famous fictional characters in history. It’s hard to categorize Tarzan as a science fictional character, but it’s not difficult to categorize one of Burroughs’ other great heroes that way. John Carter of Mars is the prototypical space hero, and he even gets the beautiful alien princess. Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon were other classic space adventure heroes of the early 20th century in films, comics and science fiction books. Virgil Samms, the first Lensman of E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman books, is the prototype for nearly all action-adventure space heroes.

Military science fiction books have traditionally been one of the most popular types of science fiction, and “Golden Age” military science fiction heroes include Johnny Rico from Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and Donal Graeme from Dorsai! by Gordon Dickson.  As writers experienced the Vietnam War began to tell darker stories, military science fiction heroes grew darker as well, with no greater example than Joe Haldeman’s William Mandella from The Forever War.

Modern Heroes in Science Fiction Books

Science fiction changed with the times, and with the advent of darker stories and new sub-genres like cyberpunk, the idea of “what is a hero?” also changed.  William Gibson’s groundbreaking book Neuromancer featured the semi-hero Case, who was the prototype for later heroes like Neo from The Matrix films.  More recent flawed heroes probably take some inspiration from classic science fiction book author Alfred Bester’s Gulliver Foyle, who possesses a number of negative characteristics, yet still manages to redeem himself in The Stars My Destination.  As science fiction books continued to develop, heroines began to appear in addition to heroes, with thought-provoking authors like the late Joanna Russ inventing women like Joanna, Jeannine and Janet in The Female Man.

Some recent science fiction books are popular because of the strength of heroes, like Miles Vorkosigan in Lois McMaster Bujold’s long-running space opera book series. One of the most enduring and likeable recent heroes in science fiction books is Ender, from Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game series, books which are enjoyable for young readers and adults.  Today’s most-popular science fiction book hero is a heroine – tough, complex and resourceful Katniss Everdeen from Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series.

 

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