SLCLS Genre Study discussion

Sci Fi Subgenres > Space Opera

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message 1: by YoSafBridg (new)

YoSafBridg | 20 comments Space Opera is a science fiction subgenre that is known for having large-scale, often over-the-top characters, themes, and plots. The setting is nearly always in outer space, and themes tend toward the romantic and melodramatic, and often follow an adventure-style format.
Space opera differs from other “hard science fiction” in that it doesn’t always hold to the accepted laws of science, mathematics, or the nature of space as we know it. And some writers contend that there’s actually a separate sub-genre of space opera, as well, that would be better classified as military science fiction, which often involves large-scale battles and weapons of the future. Still, space opera offers a wide-range of futuristic worlds, peoples, and technologies.
Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos, #1) by Dan Simmons Dune (Dune Chronicles, #1) by Frank Herbert A Fire Upon the Deep (Zones of Thought, #1) by Vernor Vinge The Last Colony (Old Man's War, #3) by John Scalzi

message 2: by YoSafBridg (new)

YoSafBridg | 20 comments The term "space opera" was coined in 1941 by fan writer (and later author) Wilson Tucker, in a fanzine article,[1] as a pejorative term. At the time, serial radio dramas in the US had become popularly known as soap operas because many were sponsored by soap manufacturers. Tucker defined space opera as the SF equivalent: a "hacky, grinding, stinking, outworn, spaceship yarn".[2] Even earlier, the term horse opera had come into use as a term for western films. In fact, some fans and critics have noted that the plots of space operas have sometimes been taken from horse operas and simply translated into an outer space environment, as famously parodied on the back cover of the first issue of Galaxy Science Fiction. Still, during the late 20s and early 30s when the stories were printed in science fiction magazines, the stories were often referred to as "super-science epics"
The term quickly took on negative connotations, and until the 1970s, anything called space opera was seen as poor science fiction writing. That all began to change when science fiction became more mainstream in the 1980s. With popular films such as Star Wars and Star Trek introducing many to the science fiction genre for the very first time, book sales grew and older space opera stories were reissued, especially by publisher Del Rey Books.
What do you think about the term "Space Opera"?

message 3: by Nora (new)

Nora (norawb) | 23 comments Truthfully, I think it's funny! I honestly didn't know the origins of that term. I thought it was because it was so grandiose & realistic (ie: Lois McMaster Bujold).

message 4: by Cherie (new)

Cherie It was a take-off from Horse Opera meaning Westerns, which was a take-off from Soap Opera.

message 5: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer | 78 comments Mod
I love it- it evokes "operatic" to me, which ties in with the sweeping scope that so many of them have.

message 6: by Cara (new)

Cara | 49 comments The first time I heard it was reading the back of one of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller's Liaden books. Which I highly recommend. All of them. Anyway they called themselves space operas and they owned that genre.

message 7: by YoSafBridg (new)

YoSafBridg | 20 comments Dune is often cited as a Space Opera, would you consider it Space Opera, Military Science Fiction, or both? (the two are often intertwined)

message 9: by Karen (last edited May 19, 2014 10:33PM) (new)

Karen (rhyta) YoSafBridg wrote: "5 Greatest Space Operas (And No, Foundation Isn't One Of Them)

Like this list especially since it includes Babylon 5, (my avatar is Marcus Cole from that series) a greatly underated t.v. series which did have some good books spun off from the show and sadly are hard to find.
This article includes Star Wars as space opera but I thought someone said at the workshop that it wasn't a space opera. Can someone clarify for me?

message 10: by YoSafBridg (last edited May 20, 2014 03:30PM) (new)

YoSafBridg | 20 comments Star Wars (and other long running series) are definitely Space Opera--in fact, its popularity, along with Star Trek is one of the influences that caused people to view the genre in a less pejorative way.
I was the person who talked about Space Opera at the workshop and and the JF book I talked about, Guardians of the Chiss Key, is actually part of the Star Wars Clone Wars series. I did mention that it is a little difficult to find kids' books that fit into the genre.

message 11: by Paul (new)

Paul Spencer | 9 comments YoSafBridg wrote: "Dune is often cited as a Space Opera, would you consider it Space Opera, Military Science Fiction, or both? (the two are often intertwined)"
I mentioned this in the thread specifically about Dune, but I'd say it's not really military science fiction. It's not particularly big on "large-scale battles and weapons of the future," and when there is a battle there aren't a lot of in-depth details given.

Thinking about Dune, Foundation, and some of the later Ender novels, I'd rather classify them as something else entirely, like a "Galactic Empire" sub-genre.

message 12: by YoSafBridg (new)

YoSafBridg | 20 comments That's interesting, do you think we should have a separate sub-genre like that or encompass some of those themes into Space Opera?

message 13: by Paul (new)

Paul Spencer | 9 comments Perhaps my definition of space opera is too narrow, but yes, I think of certain series as a separate sub-genre.

When I think Space Opera, I think the quintessential Star Wars plot, which focuses on very individual-level adventures, romances, and hurdles with a fairly black and white, "heroes vs. villains to save the galaxy" mentality. And often the evil empire/emperor is the bad guy.

Some other series tend to be a bit more broadly focused, though, spanning the lifespans of several protagonists, and waxing philosophical about the trajectory of humankind over a much longer period of time. The galaxy is rarely saved, and moral ambiguity reigns.

It can also depend on how much of the series you're looking at. Taken on their own,
is more clearly a Space Opera and Ender's Game is very much Military Science Fiction. However, in the context of their series as a whole, they become something else entirely.

message 14: by Tina (new)

Tina B (readinghonor) | 22 comments Paul wrote: "Taken on their own,
Dune is more clearly a Space Opera and Ender's Game is very much Military Science Fiction. However, in the context of their series as a whole, they become something else entirely."

I've found this to be true as well, often by the 3rd or 4th book you're in a completely different sub-genre or even crossover genre than you started with.

message 15: by YoSafBridg (last edited Jun 05, 2014 07:01PM) (new)

YoSafBridg | 20 comments Also, when considering Dune, are we considering all of its sub-series and offshoots?

message 16: by Paul (new)

Paul Spencer | 9 comments In my experience, when most Dune fans talk about it they only mean the original six books by Frank Herbert. The Brian Herbert/Kevin J. Anderson ones probably lean back towards a narrower definition of Space Opera, though.

message 17: by Marinda (new)

Marinda (marindak) | 39 comments Tina wrote: "Paul wrote: "Taken on their own,
Dune is more clearly a Space Opera and Ender's Game is very much Military Science Fiction. However, in the context of their series as a whole, they become somethin..."

This is why all adult fiction should be interfiled. So if one book in a series is very clearly a romance, but the audience liked the characters so much that the author wrote a sequel that was a mystery, or fantasy, or sci-fi, or whatever.... I'm just sayin'.

message 18: by Heather (new)

Heather (heathernovotny) I think Dune is sociological sf, myself. but can go along with classifying it as space opera. It has a big, operatic scale.

I see Ender's Game as a bildungsroman first, everything else second.

I LOVE sf coming of age novels. Podkayne of Mars & Have Spacesuit Will Travel by Heinlien, Helm by Steven Gould, Finity's End by CJ Cherryh, crankypants John Barnes' Orbital Resonance. What is it about sf that so lends itself to coming of age?

message 19: by Heather (new)

Heather (heathernovotny) Oh, hey, anyone else read this year's Nebula winner, Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch, #1) by Ann Leckie Ancillary Justice? It is just flat awesome.

message 20: by YoSafBridg (new)

YoSafBridg | 20 comments I haven't--I'll have to add it to my list!

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