I've always loved certain sub-genres of Science Fiction. For whatever reason, my brain/background/experiences/etc, my taste tells me that there are also several genres within Science Fiction I have no or at least a very limited interest in. Like I've mentioned before, my favorite kind of Science Fiction happens in space (Star Wars, B5, Dune, Firefly, Galactica, Trek, Stargate, Hitchhikers, Dr. Who). Not so much alien inventions of earth (like War Of The Worlds, Independence Day), nor nearly realistic near future explorations of our solar system (2001), nor unexplainable/paranormal mysteries in present time (like the X-Files), certainly not vampires (Buffy), or monsters (Frankenstein), or vampires (Dracula), and whatever other sub-genres doesn't fit the space genre. If a work in any genre is fantastic, I'll probably like it anyway, but that's not the point.
More often than not, I've seen all these dramas I like, presented as Space Opera, and I've found no other combining name/genre. That's how I found this thread (by searching for Space Opera on Google), and that's why I combined the list of the suggestions people have made in this thread. A lot of the novels suggested does indeed seem to fit what I'm looking for, or at least close enough, while one or two clearly are not. It would be a shame then, if Space Opera is only used for stories with big guns, big heroes, and tales too incredible to swallow. Perhaps then, there is another name for the genre I'm looking for?
Last edited by Anders; January 14th, 2008 at 03:18 PM.
yes, at the current time it most definately is different; lacking the definition that everyone else is working off of kind of guarantees that, doesn't it.
I'm not attacking a definition I haven's seen. I'm merely making the observation that "back in the day" space opera was identified as a specific sub-genre that was mostly 'blood-and-thunder' action adventure. And many of the works in the list were not placed in that category when they were originally published.
Definitions can certainly change with time (as they apparently have). Dune, for example, was hailed as the first "ecological" science fiction novel ever (with an interesting pseudo-feudal society thrown in) - not as space opera; the two novelettes that were cobbled together to create the novel were originally published in Astounding Stories - most definately NOT the home of space opera science fiction at the time. (In fact, Campbell railed against that type of SF when describing the kind of fiction he would be publishing, and Bova followed suit when he took over.)
If someone could find an active link to the definition, it would be appreciated.
Last edited by RimWorlder; January 14th, 2008 at 08:28 AM.
I've copied your list (sorry - I didn't see your disclaimer the first time I read the list) and will note the novels I'm familiar with and the ways they were categorized when either - originally published or during the pre-internet era when I first read them:
E. E. Smith's Lensman definately space opera
George R. Stewart's Earth Abides nc
Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles definately NOT space opera
A. E. van Vogt's The Voyage of The Space Beagle Space opera
Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series definately not: most blurbs/discussion was of the "new (potential) science of psychohistory"
Clifford Simak's City dystopian, not opera
Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End hailed as "one of the most important novels of our time" not space opera
Robert A. Heinlein's Tunnel in the Sky SF juvenile - adventure in a sense, but more frequently advertised as a morality tale. (Heinlein was NEVER identified as a writer of space operas)
Alfred Bester's Stars My Destination These days I see where the categorization comes from, but it was not perceived in the same way back when
James Blish's Cities in Flight again, see where it comes from these days, but these were 'character stories' set against the backdrop of the use of spindizzies; again, Campbell-Astounding based so, according to him, its not space opera...
Daniel Keyes' Flowers for Algernon ?? how did this get in here? lol
Walter M. Miller's Canticle for Leibowitz - great novel, post apocolyptic send-up of then current issues. Not space opera
Harry Harrison's Deathworld series definately space opera. (Hey, Campbell was allowed to break his own rules...) If you want a seminal definition of S.O. along with Harrison's perfect sense of humor, read Bill, The Galactic Hero or Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers.
Phillip K. Dick's Man in the High Castle not
Jack Vance's The Demon Prince series probably
Frank Herbert's Dune most definately not
Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey - based on the short The Sentinel. Not space opera
Ursula K. Le Guin's Left Hand of Darkness Not
Anne McCaffrey's The Ship series can't say, never got 'into' Anne
Poul Anderson's Tau Zero probably. Better example of Anderson's space opera would be The High Crusade
Larry Niven's Ringworld HARD SF - not opera. HARD SF is the 'answer' to space opera. We can't have space pirates because its impossible to match velocities if the other guy doesn't want to cooperate, and besides, we'll fry them with our message laser...
Ben Bova's The Exiles Trilogy maybe
Frederik Pohl's Heechee stories not
Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's The Mote in God's Eye space opera
Piers Anthony's Cluster read Omnivore, read Orn, can't handle any more...
Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy comedic send up of the sub-genre
David Brin's The Uplift stories a looser version of hard sf, but still harder than space opera
Joan Vinge's The Snow Queen Cycle ?
C. J. Cherryh's Downbelow Station I think CJ would object
M. K. Wren's The Phoenix Legacy ?
Jack Chalker's Four Lords of the Diamond most definately and a better example would be the Well World series. I miss Jack.
Anne McCaffrey's The Crystal Singer series haven't read
Piers Anthony's Bio of a Space Tyrant
Orson Scott Card's Ender Saga personal issue here - can't and won't read him
Arthur C. Clarke's Songs of Distant Earth not
Celia S. Friedman's The Braxi/Azea duology ?
Iain M. Banks' Culture series ?
W. Michael Gear's Way Of Spider series ?
Dan Simmons' Hyperion Cantos "Modern Space Opera", to distinguish it from the Doc Smith type
Greg Bear's Queen Of Angels series ?
S. M. Stirling and David Drake's The General Like both of them well enough, haven't read them together
Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars series - he's claim Hard SF
Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon The Deep/A Deepness in the Sky definately "modern" space opera
David Weber's Honor Harrintgon series self-proclaimed carrier of the space opera flame
Timothy Zahn's Conquerors trilogy ?
C. J. Cherryh's Foreigner ?
Simon R. Green's Deathstalker series ?
Catherine Asaro's Saga of the Skolian Empire ?
Peter F. Hamilton's The Night's Dawn Trilogy ?
David Weber's Heirs Of Empire series yes
Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga ?
after this you're getting into territory I'm not familiar with - and, lol, notice the dates. I'll admit I'm pretty stuck in everything 80s and earlier - but every time I pick something 'new' up at the store, it just doesn't do it for me these days.
wikipedia defines space opera quite adequately as i see it:Space opera is a subgenre of speculative fiction or science fiction that emphasizes romantic adventure, and larger-than-life characters often set against vast exotic futuristic settings with remotely plausible technology such as time travel and interstellar travel, complex alien civilizations and fictional depictions of the human future.
That sounds like a logical definition to me, although I'm a bit confused as it doesn't include any mention of space travel.
I've already agreed that some of the novels on the list doesn't quite fit the genre, but if we follow the definition above I think you're being a bit strict Rimworlder. Dune seems to fit the definition quite well to me. You also said that the "Foundation Trilogy is political/sociological SF", but isn't that something you could say about stories from all various types of SF? How then do you differentiate between the different types of SF (f.ex. monster vs space)?
Last edited by Anders; January 15th, 2008 at 01:54 AM.
If Space Opera simply meant cardboard characters, trivial love stories, and old style western plots, it might be lightly entertaining, but it would not be what I'm looking for. Since my background in this is mainly from TV and movies, I'll use Babylon 5 as an example of a clever tale, full of twists, changing characters, both political and philosophical in its core.
I've seen some people use terms such as Space Fiction and Space Adventure as a way to redefine/define the genre, but obviously if it becomes too broad, then 2001 and Star Wars would end up standing side by side, and I'm not sure that would make much sense.
"It takes a certain ambition to try to get your editorial arms around space opera because it seems that everyone has their own definition of it. It's as if the definition of it is as subjective a thing as success or beauty."
"Space opera used to be a pejorative locution designating not a subgenre or mode at all, but the worst form of formulaic hackwork: really bad SF.
Many readers and writers and nearly all media fans who entered sf after 1975 have never understood the origin of space opera as a pejorative and some may be surprised to learn of it. Thus the term space opera reentered the serious discourse on contemporary SF in the 1980s with a completely altered meaning: henceforth, space opera meant, and still generally means, colorful, dramatic, large scale science fiction adventure, competently and sometimes beautifully written, usually focussed on a sympathetic, heroic central character, and plot action [this bit is what separates it from other literary postmodernisms] and usually set in the relatively distant future and in space or on other worlds, characteristically optimistic in tone."
Last edited by Anders; January 17th, 2008 at 05:14 AM.
Ian M. Banks - Pretty much all his books, though the culture ones are best.
Stephen Donaldson - Gap series.
C.S. Friedman - most of her sf books, especially "In conquest born".
Dan simmons - Hyperion/endymion series.
Chris Bunch - Not the best i have ever read but straightforward space opera.
Larry Niven - Ringworld series. (The first two are pretty good).
Thats the ones i can think of atm.
I see many are recommending the nights dawn triology, but i could never get into it. I struggled through the first book hoping it would improve but i lost interest in continuing the series.
For those who want to learn more exactly what "Space Opera" is or is not, I highly recommend a recent massive anthology: The Space Opera Renaissance by David G. Hartwell (Author), Kathryn Cramer (Author)
I am nearly finished with it, some really great stories, and the authors do a really good job of defining what "Space Opera" is now, and how this subgenre has evolved over the years...
Introduction: *How Shlt became Shinola, Definition & Redefinition of Space Opera, by Hartwell & Cramer
I. Redefined Writers
"The Star Stealers" by Edmond Hamilton
"The Prince of Space" by Jack Williamson
"Enchantress of Venus" by Leigh Brackett
*"The Swordsmen of Varnis" by Clive Jackson
II. Draftees (1960s)
***"The Game of Rat & Dragon" by Cordwainer Smith
"Empire Star" by Samuel R. Delany
"Zirn Left Unguarded, the Jenjik Palace in Flames, Jon Westerly Dead" by Robert Sheckley
III. Transitions/Redefiners (late 1970s to late 1980s)
*"Temptation" by David Brin
"Ranks of Bronze" by David Drake
*"Weatherman" by Lois McMaster Bujold
"A Gift from the Culture" by Iain M. Banks
IV. Volunteers:Revisionaries (early 90s)
*"Orphans of the Helix" by Dan Simmons
"The Well Wishers" by Colin Greenland
*"Escape Route" by Peter Hamilton
"Ms Midshipwoman Harrington" by David Weber
"Aurora in Four Voices" by Catherine Asaro
**"Ring Rats" by R. Garcia y Robertson
*"The Death of Captain Future" by Allen Steele
V. Mixed Signals/ Mixed Categories (to the late 1990s)
*"A Worm in the Well" by Gregory Benford
**"The Survivor" by Donald Kingsbury
"Fools Errand" by Sarah Zettel
"The Shobies Story" by Ursula K. Le Guin
"The Remoras" by Robert Reed
"Recording Angel" by Paul McAuley
"The Great Game" by Steven Baxter
"Lost Sorceress of the Silent Citadel" by Michael Moorcock
"Space Opera" by Michael Kandel
VI. Next Wave (21st Century)
"Grist" by Tony Daniel
"The Movements of her Eyes" by Scott Westerfeld
*"Spirey and the Queen" by Alastair Reynolds
*"Bear Trap" by Charles Stross
"Guest Law" by John C. Wright
The plot is not as sharp as either of the other two books I mentioned, it drags on at times, and some situations feels artificially created, but the reader is always left guessing what Miles will do next. I do wish Bujold had given more time to build the other characters as well, and the plot could have been more original. However, it was a fun and pleasant read, and I can easily see myself going back and reading more Bujold/Miles novels.
About David Weber's Honor series- is it completed now or is he still writing books in it?
This might ruffle a few feathers, but I really enjoyed James Somers's Soone. I've only read the first book--Heir to the King, but I thought it was really fun, even if it smelled a bit like Star Wars. But, that much being said, I'm really not the biggest sf reader, so I'm pitifully ignorant. But I'm making an effort to change, I swear!