Science fiction has a long history of being predominantly written by males for male readers. One of the indicators of this situation is that early science-fiction stories exclusively featured main characters who were men. But science fiction has come a long way since its early days. Even the oldest sci-fi trope of all—space travel—has been depicted in stories that have women as their main protagonists. Here's a rundown of science-fiction books that feature women in space—also see Part 1—this time focusing on military science-fiction stories featuring spaaace!

For starters, there's David Weber's Honor Harrington series. It's named after its principal protagonist, Honor Harrington, a smart, genetically-engineered officer in the Royal Manticoran Navy. The series, which starts with On Basilisk Station, sees Honor advancing through the ranks and eventually stepping competently into the well-earned roles of politician and diplomat. It's been called “Horatio Hornblower in space.” (Weber includes several nods to C.S. Forester’s popular protagonist, even in Honor's initials.) Honor is depicted as an outstanding tactician and combat soldier and she's not afraid to be at the center of major military maneuvers.

Lois McMaster Bujold is perhaps best known for her military sci-fi Vorkosigan Saga, a sprawling and diverse set of stories comprised of nearly two dozen novels. Much of the series focuses on the military, whose job partly entails controlling the Wormhole Nexus, the anomaly that allows interstellar travel. There are several point-of-view characters throughout the series, one of whom is Cordelia Naismith, a spaceship captain who maps unexplored sections of the Nexus. Cordelia's story is given in the books Shards of Honor and Barrayar (which are collected with a related short story in the omnibus Cordelia’s Honor) and show what happens while she is pregnant with another of the series' POV characters, Miles Vorkosigan.

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In a similar vein, style-wise, is Elizabeth Moon's Vatta's War, a five-book series (starting with Trading in Danger) that details the adventures of Kylara Vatta, a young member of a powerful family that runs an interstellar shipping corporation. Not one to beTrading in Danger coddled by her privileged upbringing, Kylara seeks to make her own mark by enrolling in the military academy. However, through a series of unfortunate circumstances, she is forced to resign in her final year and is hired as captain of a trading ship. This proves to be equally dangerous as she encounters one adventure after another in which her military training is put to good use.

Moon is also the writer behind the Heris Serrano series (available as an omnibus containing the novels Hunting Party, Sporting Chance and Winning Colors), another military sci-fi adventure series modeled somewhat similarly as Vatta's War. Here we have a female soldier who resigns in disgrace and, in dire straits, becomes captain on a rich woman's luxury yacht. This is not quite the military career she had in mind, but as luck would have it, she does indeed get to redeem herself and save her reputation by uncovering a conspiracy.

The protagonist of The Outback Stars by Sandra McDonald is Jodenny Scott, a Lieutenant who survived the destruction of her former ship and emerged a hero. She's assigned to a new ship, but its crew is filled with misfits, incompetents and criminals. Through the course of the series (which also includes The Stars Down Under and The Stars Blue Yonder), Jodenny finds love and mystery—a mystery not only surrounding the fate of her first ship, but also around the enigmatic alien race that bestowed interstellar travel to humanity.

Watching a soldier advance through the ranks is a common theme in military sci-fi. Jean Johnson's Theirs Not to Reason Why series (beginning with A Soldier’s Duty) is another example that uses that convention. Here, the soldier in question is Ia, a tough woman who happens to be able to see the future, or at least many possible futures. The curse of this gift is that she has foreseen the end of the humanity. Only by following a specific path can she prevent it. That path leads to many fast-paced military adventures.

Tanya Huff's Valor series is another that features a capable woman protagonist—space marine Torin Kerr. The series plays out in a universe beset by conflict between so-called Others, a war-loving empire that use slave species as soldiers, and the Confederation, made up of soldiers both human and alien. The first two books in the fast-paced and realistic series are Valor's Choice and The Better Part of Valor.

Primary Inversion is the first novel in Catherine Asaro's epic Saga of the Skolian Empire. The SkDefenderolian Empire (led by the Ruby Dynasty) rules a sizable part of the civilized galaxy thanks to its ability to utilize faster-than-light communications. They are at war with the Eubian Empire, which thrives on slavery and cruelty. As you might guess, it's bad news when Soz Valdoria, a member of the Ruby Dynasty, falls for the son of the ruler of her family's enemy. Its premise sounds like Romeo and Juliet in space...with lots more action.

Finally, there's Mike Shepherd's Kris Longknife series, which is named after its main character, the tough-but-stubborn daughter of a monarch. Rather than assume her destined role of princess, Kris instead rebels by joining the military. What she gets is plenty of page-turning action and drama that features cool technology and imaginative aliens on different worlds. This long-running series began with Mutineer and the latest (the 11th) book is Defender. Shepherd's Kris Longknife series is so rich, in fact, that next month it spawns a new offshoot series with another female character. That book is called Vicky Peterwald: Target.

John DeNardo is the editor of SF Signal, a two-time Hugo Award-winning group science-fiction and fantasy blog featuring news, reviews and interviews. You can follow him on Twitter as @sfsignal.