Everybody knows that the engineers are the ones who keep everything going in a science fiction story. They're the ones who make the ship fly. They build the megastructures. They make the spinning things spin and the jumping things jump. And some of the coolest engineers and designers in science fiction just happen to be women.
Here are our 10 favorite female engineers from all of science fiction. In no particular order.
1. B'Elanna Torres
The half-Klingon, half-human tech nerd on Star Trek: Voyager is just as much of a miracle worker as Scotty ever was, even though she sternly says, "I don't pad my estimates." She's an indispensable part of the crew — once she stops breaking her fellow engineers' noses, that is. She's hacked a living bomb, she helped to build the Delta Flyer, and she even helps integrate Borg technology into a Starfleet vessel. Star Trek is also full of other great female engineers — notably Sonya Gomez, who appears in TNG and later stars in the Starfleet Corps of Engineers book series. And Dr. Leah Brahms.
2. Angela Spica
She's sort of a gimme, since her actual codename on the superteam the Authority is The Engineer. She was already a super genius who studied human-machine fusion before she replaced all of the blood in her body with nanotech soup. Since then, she's become a metal-skinned superhero, repaired the Authority's interdimensional ship, the Carrier, and helped avert a collision of universes.
The builder and tinkerer from the Chrono Trigger series has never met a robot she didn't like, or want to fix. She also built a robot of her own, called Gonzales or Gato. And she also built the malfunctioning teleport platform that sends people back in time, starting the game. Over at The Border House, Gunthera1 pays tribute to Lucca:
As I played the game I found myself really liking Lucca. She was a smart character that was explaining the time traveling to the rest of the group. As everything around her was changing she did not hide in fear but instead fought alongside her friend Chrono with weapons including guns and powerful fire magic. I was really drawn to her character being described as an inventor. She was a female scientist/engineer/inventor and was never seen as incapable in this role based on her gender. She was smart and not afraid of a challenge. When the group traveled to the future she was able to fix a non-functioning robot named Robo. As the game continued I was under the impression that the two of them became friends. In the Nintendo DS version of Chrono Trigger there was a cut scene after the credits showing Lucca with another robot. I saw that as her creating another robot similar to Robo because she missed her friend.
4. Jocelyn Peabody
You probably think of the British comic strip Dan Dare as being the most "boys' own adventure" of the classic comics. But Dan Dare's starship, the Anastasia, was designed by Professor Jocelyn Peabody, who also serves aboard as the ship's chief engineer (at least in the television version). And she's usually the one who comes up with the clever plans to use science to defeat the baddies.
She builds a Dragonball-detector from scratch. She also invents a portable shrinking machine, a time machine, and a generator that lets Vegeta become a Super-Sayyan. She's constantly creating cool gadgets and/or hacking technology she comes across. She has her own fan Tumblr.
6. Norma Cenva
She designed the first Guild ship, as we learn in God Emperor of Dune — even though her lover Aurelius Venport stole the credit. As Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson write in their prequel, Dune: The Machine Crusade:
So far she and her construction teams had converted eighteen of the immense spacefolders into battleships, and they were about to be put into service — to benefit the Army of the Jihad, if she could only make them navigate more safely, without so many disastrous mistakes. More than forty new space-folding javelins were also under construction. No one could help her, not even the most brilliant League engineers. Only she had a grasp of the immensely complex mathematics.
Image via Magarama on Deviant Art.
7. Samantha Carter
She's the astrophysicist and engineer who holds down the science side of the SG-1 team in Stargate: SG-1, and later on Stargate Atlantis. She's also a brilliant pilot and improviser, who can think on her feet and cobble together a solution when the team is stranded on some hostile planet. She also helped to build a UAV for offworld exploration, design a naquadah, and repair an alien spaceship. Check out Fuck Yeah Samantha Carter! for some of her best moments.
Rodan is the Time Lady who helps the Doctor convert his TARDIS into a forcefield around their home planet, Gallifrey, in Doctor Who's "The Invasion of Time." She's clearly a supersmart engineer who can do interdimensional physics in her head, and the Doctor delegates this incredibly complex task to her. And I've always assumed that Romana, who's introduced in the very next story, was based on Rodan, and might have actually been Rodan if the same actor had been available. In any case, Romana, who travels with the Doctor for a few years, is also shown to have pretty amazing engineering skills, figuring out the Captain's complex time-jumping engines at a glance in "The Pirate Planet" and also helping to repair a spaceship in "The Horns of Nimon."
9. Gilina Renaez
This Peacekeeper engineering specialist becomes a huge help to Farscape's John Crichton, and even gets into a bit of a relationship with him. She's able to repair the defense shields on the Zelbinion, a derelict ship, to protect the Moya from being destroyed, and later moves them to the Moya altogether. Later, she gets transferred to Scorpius' base and helps Crichton infiltrate there. And when Crichton is being interrogated in the Aurora Chair, she reprograms it to give false images, buying him some time.
And finally there's the engineer of the Firefly-class ship Serenity, who's the only one who can keep that beautiful piece of garbage going. When the big turbine stops spinning, she's the one who figures it out — even if she can't always fix it without spare parts. And when the captain wants to do a Crazy Ivan, she's the one who makes the boat perform the delicate, ridiculous maneuver. She's in love with engines, so much so that she sneaks into the engine room with the Serenity's original (clueless) engineer.
Bonus! Tali'Zorah nar Rayya
Thanks to omgwtflolbbqbye for mentioning her. Tali is a mechanical genius who hangs out in the engine room on the Normandy, where she often blows away Engineer Adams with her know-how and her ability to take apart any technology they find. And she has a cool suit. Plus, as these folks point out, she's the only character in the entire Mass Effect saga who ever stands up to Shepard and can't be talked out of it.