Not sure I agree with either of these explanations for the currently state of Space…

Not sure I agree with either of these expla­na­tions for the currently state of Space Opera as a sub-genre.

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Space Opera Has Lost its Luster
Two weeks ago, Tor Books publi­cist Cassan­dra Ammer­man asked this ques­tion on twit­ter upon seeing my review of Count to a Tril­lion by John C. Wright.
Why do you think space opera hasn’t gone more main­stream, like steam­punk? I always thought it was strange, because space opera really does have every­thing, and as Patrick [YetiS­tom­per] and Michael [MadHat­ter­Re­view] pointed out, it’s huge on TV and in movies…but the books never really seem to hit it big.)
I had this to say in response.
My answer t… 

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  • I felt that the first expla­na­tion was espe­cially lack­lus­ter. Saying that some­thing is dead because it is the past and there­fore can’t be the future is just kind of silly.

  • My biggest issue is that in real­ity Space Opera is the most success­ful sub-genre of science fiction. It’s the only one that’s really made it outside the books and into tv/movies on a large scale.

    I can also think of quite a few success­ful space opera science fiction novels that are being writ­ten.

  • I’m not sure I agree with much of this at all. Over­look­ing a few syntac­tic choices that made me raise an eyebrow I do see how our current world view does tend to the dystopian and we are always fasci­nated by new curiosi­ties, but I’m not sure if that relates to the “fall” of Space Opera.

    I think that genre is on the whole unwel­com­ing to many folks, often because it doesn’t include a place for many of us. Are you going to be on the bridge crew of a great star­ship chart­ing the far reaches of wherever? Didn’t think so (let’s talk about the 1%). It’s boring, elit­ist, and doesn’t tell the whole story.

    20 or 40 years ago we were doing just as much fabu­lous dystopian fiction as we are today. I wonder who this “SF read­er­ship” is that the author refers to. If I was to speak for this group I would say that I don’t want space opera as it existed in ages past, I want some­thing that has a place for me and tells a larger tale.

    Or hey, some­thing like Seikai no Monshou would be great too. 😛

  • It is defi­nitely a fair point that Space opera has broken out of books into tv/movies, and not one that I had really thought about until you wrote it. I started think­ing about every­thing out there, and you are very right.

  • I think there’s not nearly enough opti­mistic SF these days. I am very tired of the “grim n gritty” style that has infected almost every­thing over the last 20 years.

  • Space opera tends to be socially conser­v­a­tive, or some­times even regres­sive (over-popu­lated with empires, princesses, lords and the like), has shiny gadgets, some hand­wav­ing to obscure how people flit between plan­ets more easily than cities, and with not too much thought into the econom­ics of it. That does help to allow a single hero, whom the reader can iden­tify with, and vicar­i­ously save the universe. Typi­cally, the first of a series is light-hearted and care­free to the point of nonsense, and then the author starts think­ing out impli­ca­tions, and the rest of the series gets more complex, and the char­ac­ters grow up a bit. At that point, they lose the read­ers, who switch over to new stuff.

    Methinks steam­punk is getting popu­lar because you can make real steam­punky gadgets out of old brass junk. It helps to then run around the back­yard and shoot at evil imag­i­nary villains, and it can accom­mo­date star­tling amounts of anachro­nism. Like steam powered space­ships and ancient reli­gious orders.

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