By Kristian Wilsom
Many outsiders and casual fans still consider sci-fi to be a masculine genre, but women’s sustained presence and influence have transformed it into a diverse, feminist niche. If you’re looking for an empowering and unique name for your new baby girl, you really can’t go wrong with a selection from science fiction. Check out the following twelve feminist sci-fi names for your baby girl, and share your favorite galaxy-exploring monikers with me on Twitter!
Alia is the younger sister of Dune’s protagonist Paul, but she becomes a main character in the sequels Dune Messiah and Children of Dune. Due to a dangerous ritual, Alia gained consciousness while still in the womb, and was born with the collective knowledge and power of generations of her foremothers. An Arabic name, Alia first appeared in the Top 1000 in 1995 and was sitting pretty at Number 612 in 2015.
The author of science fiction and fantasy works for children, Andre Norton was the first woman to win Grand Master Awards from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) and the World Science Fiction Society. Since 2005, the SFWA has bestowed its annual Andre Norton Award upon one sci-fi or fantasy novel for children. As a boy’s name, Andre has been a Top 1000 staple almost every year since 1924, but its use for girls is rare.
On Fringe, Astrid Farnsworth is an FBI Agent with the US Department of Homeland Security’s Fringe Division, and her parallel-universe doppelgänger is a Fringe Division agent with Asperger’s syndrome. A Scandinavian name, Astrid was the 15th most popular name for Norwegian girls in 2016. Its US popularity peaked in 1907 at Number 728.
N.K. Jemisin chose this name for the youngest protagonist of her Hugo Award-winning novel, The Fifth Season. Damaya has the power to control seismic activity, which means the only safe place for her is a special school, far from her home, where she will learn to control her abilities. Damaya is pronounced dah-MY-uh.
Princess Leia showed generations of little girls that being strong and smart won’t hold you back in love or life. It’s no surprise that this name first appeared in the Top 1000 in 1978, the year after Star Wars premiered. After a drop-off in 1980, Leia returned to the charts in 2007, topping out at Number 412 in 2015. It’s even more popular in Sweden, where it took the Number 57 spot in 2016.
The second wife of Gene Roddenberry, Majel Barrett provided the voice of the onboard computers in several of his science fiction shows, including Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation. She appeared in episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and portrayed Nurse Christine Chapel on Star Trek: The Original Series. Pronounced MAYJ-uhl, Majel is a futuristic-sounding alternative to Mabel.
In the 1990s series Farscape, Moya was a Leviathan spacecraft, the crew’s living ship. Moya is an elegant variation on the ultra-popular Maya, and is related to the Irish Moira, which has its own sci-fi roots in Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale.
Nalo: Nalo Hopkinson
Jamaican-born Canadian author Nalo Hopkinson is the author of six novels and three short-story collections, including Midnight Robber and Falling in Love with Hominids. Her award-winning writing blends Caribbean folklore with futuristic elements. Nalo rhymes with Kahlo.
The winner of both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, Octavia Butler won the MacArthur Genius Grant in 1995. In novels like Kindred and The Parable of the Sower, she focused on black heroines pushing back against racism, sexism, classism, and xenophobia. The Latin Octavia peaked at Number 306 in 1880, and has not appeared on the Top 1000 list since 1998, which makes it a great choice for parents looking to give their daughter a stand-out name.
Alien heroine Ellen Ripley is the perfect, feminist source of baby name inspiration. Like her daughter Amanda, Ripley kicks a lot of xenomorph butt and isn’t afraid to take charge or get her hands dirty. Ripley is an English name that not only has a strong connection to sci-fi, but also bears the beloved –lee ending.
Sci-fi fans get a twofer with River, the name of prominent heroines in two science fiction TV series. Firefly’s River Tam is a child prodigy saved from a brutal experiment that left her without a filter for emotions or pain, while Doctor Who’s River Song is the Doctor’s somewhat unpredictable wife, who gets him out of more than one tough scrape. This unisex nature name was slightly more popular for boys (Number 244) than for girls (Number 350) in 2015.
Here, have another twofer. Zoe Washburne was the second-in-command aboard Serenity in Joss Whedon’s Firefly, and Zoe Graystone became the first Cylon in the Syfy series Caprica. An ultra-popular baby name around the world, Zoe peaked in the US at Number 30 in 2012. The Greek name also ranked in the Top 100 in Australia, England, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland, and Spain between 2014 and 2016.
Kristian Wilson is a freelance writer and editor from the rural American South. She writes. She reads. She plays video games. She also sleeps sometimes. Talk to her about blankets, ampersands, and the Oxford comma.