So what’s Space Opera anyway?

Isn’t that just a bunch of Klingons singing about honor and their love of bat’leths?

My novel fits neatly into the Science Fiction subcategory of Space Opera. No, don’t worry, there’s nobody singing in alien languages (although there is a dance show in one scene…).  For now, I’ll say that Space Opera refers to tales of galaxy-spanning civilizations, the most obvious screen examples being Star Wars and Star Trek.

The term was actually coined in the early forties as a cross between “soap operas” and “horse operas.”  At the time, there were all kinds of hacky sci-fi film serials that were pretty much the same as tacky western film serials, except they replaced horses with rocket ships. As time went on, the quality of science fiction, particularly in print, improved to the point where the term “Space Opera” lost its initial negative meaning.

In 1992, Jack Williamson defined Space Opera as “romantic adventure set in space and told on a grand scale” and its primary concern was “the mythic thread of human expansion.”  Robert Silverberg points out in his forward to Infinite Stars (an anthology of space opera short stories, which I’m reading now) that most definitions stress “the necessity of interstellar travel as an essential aspect of the form: starships, faster-than-light travel, galactic empires, the nearly god-like ability to move at will through the immeasurable vastnesses of  the universe.”  He adds that such stories are “usually focused on a sympathetic, heroic central character and plot action… and usually set in the relatively distant future and in space or on other worlds, characteristically optimistic in tone.”

Most of the science fictions I’ve enjoyed the most has fallen into this category, so it’s no surprise that’s what I would choose for my first novel.  I also enjoy time travel stories, but that’s a blog post for another day,

UPDATE: I should also mention that I took the last name of my novel’s hero, Dr. Bacary Swift, from a classic sci-fi character. Back when I was a kid, reading Hardy Boys books from the library, I also read a similar book series about a young genius named Tom Swift. He could do anything! From rocket ships to submarines, he was the sci-fi equivalent of the Hardy Boys.  Here’s a typical cover:

Tom Swift


Author: RickAAllenSF

Semi-retired engineer, now a SF author. Recently moved to Colorado Springs, where I work in front of a window looking out at Pikes Peak.

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