I recently read a book where the protagonist’s best friend tells her, basically, “you haven’t spoken to me since you started seeing your new boyfriend, who btw I think is bad news.” This proved to be an absolute death blow to my ability to root for the protagonist to get with her man. Romance comes and goes, but friendship is forever, and a fictional love story simply cannot recover from a best friend’s disapproval. This Valentine’s Day season, I want to shine a light on some of my favorite friendships between women in SFF.
Peggy and Harper (The Infinite Miles by Hannah Fergesen)
If you’re still mad that the Doctor dropped Sarah Jane off in Not Even Croydon, Hannah Fergesen’s The Infinite Miles is a terrific book for you. It begins from a friendship that fell apart when one friend, Peggy, disappeared from Harper’s life with little warning and no explanation. Only three years later does Harper realize that Peggy has gone off with
the Doctor the Argonaut, a character from their favorite TV show who turns out to be real. Now Peggy has been occupied by an alien monster, and she’s determined to kill the Argonaut and everyone in his orbit. Harper has to claw her way through time and space to find the thing that has taken over her best friend and—she hopes—bring her home. #JusticeForSarahJane
Dutch and Zeph (Killjoys)
Syfy’s space adventure Killjoys won me over completely by being a little smarter than it needs to be—my TV show sweet spot! It’s just fun: three space mercenaries dashing around doing jobs and reluctantly getting caught up in freedom fights they would prefer not to have to deal with. There is also an evil twin. Nothing is better than an evil twin. Nothing. But the friendship between Dutch and Zeph might come close. Zeph doesn’t join the show until later in its run, and as an antisocial nerd, she’s not an obvious friend for Dutch, who knows how to wear a damn evening gown and thinks with her fists. That makes it all the better when the two of them stumble into friendship over the latter seasons of the show.
Aster and Violet and Tansy and Mallow and Clementine (The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis)
Charlotte Nicole Davis’ The Good Luck Girls and its sequel The Sisters of Reckoning deserved way more coverage and recognition than they received. Set in a Western-inspired fantasy world, this duology follows a group of teenage girls who escape from a so-called “welcome house” (brothel) and try to find a safe haven in a hostile world. Like you’d want from a girl gang, they all have different strengths and specialties, which are brought to bear in the many extremely stressful situations in which they find themselves. Better yet, one of them starts out kind of hating all the other ones, which means you get that good, good slow-burn friendship that utterly feeds my soul.
Polly and Fiona (Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones)
Widely regarded as Diana Wynne Jones’s masterpiece, Fire and Hemlock tells the story of a girl called Polly who has two sets of memories: one a very ordinary life of school and friends and university, the other a litany of danger, near-magic, and impossible things, centered on a man named Thomas Lin. While the relationship between Polly and Tom is the book’s central one, I also really love its depiction of friendship between girls. Polly’s on-again-off-again friendship with the brash and unkind Nina feels intimately familiar, as does her eventual realization that the quiet, interested Fiona is the friend she really wants to hang onto. At a crucial point, Fiona’s perspective on Polly’s life is what cracks the whole story open—and isn’t that what friends are for?
Maika and Kippa (Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda)
Friendships between women form the steely backbone of Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s Monstress, an epic comic about war and religion and racism and politics. Takeda’s art will infiltrate your subconscious and creep into your dreams, while the knotty, complex interplay of loyalty, family, and affection is forever shifting. Because I am Basic, I love best the central friendship between our weary, traumatized heroine, Maika, and the anxious, trustable little fox girl, Kippa. Kippa grows more certain of herself in every volume; but she has always been unshakably certain of Maika.
Tarma and Kethry (Oathbound and Oathbreakers by Mercedes Lackey)
When I was ages eleven through fifteen, I was so deep into Mercedes Lackey1 that I still to this day know all the songs and all the lyrics from multiple of the Valdemar filk albums. Tarma and Kethry, the heroines of Oathbound and Oathbreaker, were sworn sisters who roamed the land trying to make a living as mercenaries but instead constantly getting dragged into doing good deeds. They were #FriendshipGoals. Are these books tres tres problematique? Yes. Will I, with very little encouragement, bellow out “The Leslac Version” at the top of my lungs? Also yes.
Alice and Josephine (Mars Evacuees and Space Hostages by Sophia McDougall)
The year I read Sophia MacDougall’s Mars Evacuees and its sequel, Space Hostages, was the year that I bought those two books for everyone on my Christmas list. I’m not a big reader of middle grade, but these books reeled me in. Alice Dare is among a group of children being evacuated to Mars, and she quickly befriends the brainy misfit Josephine. Along with their troublemaker friend Carl and his baby brother Neil, they’re put to the test when all the grown-ups vanish from the space station. As action-packed as Mars Evacuees is, McDougall always gives tremendous weight to the friendships between its characters; and in the sequel, Space Hostages, a conflict between Alice and Josephine forms one of the key sources of tension.
Ropa and Priya (The Library of the Dead by TL Huchu)
It’s been such a treat to read TL Huchu’s ongoing Scottish dystopian mystery series, which begins with The Library of the Dead. The books follow the scrappy, curious Ropa, who had to give up her education but still keeps up with her learning via educational podcasts; who will do anything to protect her grandmother and sister; who earns her keep by carrying messages from the dead to the living. When she becomes a member of the mysterious Library of the Dead, she also acquires a new friend called Priya, who becomes her ferocious and unstoppable ally. As a very curious—but very cautious—person myself, I enjoy reading about characters whose curiosity manifests in not being able to resist running directly into trouble, and that’s Ropa and Priya every time.
Ada and Corinne (Iron Cast by Destiny Soria)
Author Destiny Soria has done something wildly different with every successive book, but I still feel a particular love for her debut, Iron Cast, a YA novel set in Prohibition-era Boston, but with magic. Best friends Ada and Corinne work together to create dubiously legal magical illusions at a gangster’s night club, knowing that their careers may come to an abrupt end if Prohibition is passed and the club shuttered. The girls come from different worlds—Corinne is an heiress, and Ada the daughter of impoverished immigrants—but they trust and depend on each other more than anything. Even as we see them in other relationships, including romantic ones, they are both clear on the fact that they will always be each other’s top priority.
Buffy and Willow (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
Buffy’s friendship with Willow forms one of the pillars of Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s seven seasons, to the extent that I was tearing up while brainstorming their best friendship moments. Willow anxiously coming out to Buffy in their dorm room, and Buffy checking herself to make sure she’s providing the support Willow needs? The season 3 intervention where Willow anxiously says, “Giles, no one’s using the I statements!” Willow giving Buffy the highlights of her kidnapping by Faith? The moment in “Family” where you briefly think Buffy isn’t going to side with Willow, but then she swings her whole body around to defend Tara against her shitty dad? I had to pause writing this column just now to watch that scene from “Family” again because I love it so much. Friendship is beautiful. I’m a hair-puller.
What are your favorite friendships between women in SFF? And have you ever managed to remain dry-eyed while Willow Rosenberg cries?