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Space opera (genre)

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Space opera (genre)

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 depictions of human futures. (Source: space opera at Wikipedia ) (e)

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From Wikipedia

History of space opera (from Wikipedia as of 2007/12/29)[edit]

"Space opera" was originally a derogatory term, a variant of "horse opera" and "soap opera," coined in 1941 by Wilson Tucker to describe what he called "the hacky, grinding, stinking, outworn space-ship yarn" — i.e., substandard science fiction.(see [1]) "Space opera" is still sometimes used with a pejorative sense.

Space opera in its most familiar form was a product of the pulp magazines for the 1920s–1940s. Science fiction in general borrowed a great deal from the established adventure and pulp fiction genres, notably frontier stories of the American West and stories with exotic settings such as Africa or the orient, and space opera was no exception. There were often parallels between sailing ships and spaceships, between African explorers and space explorers, between oceanic pirates and space pirates.

An early proto-science-fiction novel may have also been the first space opera. Garrett P. Serviss's Edison's Conquest of Mars, published in 1898, predates the term "space opera" but has all the cliché elements: spaceships, travel to other planets, flying cars, battles with evil aliens, military weapons of mass destruction, beautiful women being held prisoner, and even the first appearance of a disintegrator ray.

The prototype of the pulp space opera is E. E. Smith's The Skylark of Space (first published in Amazing Stories in 1928), in which a scientist discovers a space-drive, builds a ship, and flies off with a female companion to encounter alien civilizations and fight a larger-than-life villain. Smith's later Lensman series and the work of Edmond Hamilton and Jack Williamson in the 1930s and 1940s were popular with readers and much-imitated by other writers, and it was the imitators that inspired Tucker and other fans to use the label to indicate hackwork.

Eventually a fondness for the best examples of the genre led to a reevaluation of the term and a resurrection of the subgenre's traditions. Writers such as Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson had kept the large-scale space adventure form alive through the 1950s, followed by (to name only a few exemplars) M. John Harrison and C. J. Cherryh in the 1970s and Iain M. Banks, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Paul J. McAuley in the 1980s. By this time, "space opera" was for many readers no longer a term of insult but a simple description of a particular kind of science fiction adventure story.

In the 1970s, a number of mostly British writers began to reinvent space opera. Significant events in this process include the publication of M. John Harrison's The Centauri Device in 1975; a "call to arms" editorial by David Pringle and Colin Greenland in Interzone(see [2] See Paul J. McAuley, "Junkyard Universes," Locus, August 2003); and the financial success of Star Wars, which closely follows many traditional space opera conventions. This new space opera, which evolved around the same time cyberpunk emerged and was influenced by it, is darker, moves away from the "triumph of mankind" template of space opera, involves newer technologies, and has stronger characterization than the space opera of old. While it does retain the interstellar scale and grandeur of traditional space opera, it can also be scientifically rigorous. Among the practitioners of the new space opera are Iain M. Banks, Stephen Baxter, Simon Green, Peter F. Hamilton, M. John Harrison, Paul J. McAuley, Ken MacLeod, Alastair Reynolds, Charles Stross, Vernor Vinge, Walter Jon Williams, and John C. Wright.

A more recent movement of American space opera writers, many writing for the Baen books imprint, developed during the 1990s and 2000s. This new wave of space opera authors include David Drake, Lois McMaster Bujold, Eric Flint, S.M. Stirling, John Ringo and David Weber. This branch of space opera follows more military themes than the British branch and usually features tales of war on an interstellar scale.

Other older, more established writers such as James H. Schmitz and Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, among others, had produced space opera and were often reprinted by Baen during this same period, as part of an effort by the publisher to reestablish the market for more military-themed space opera.

Random House's Del Rey division, which had never totally gone out of the space opera business, also increased their output of space opera books during the 1990s and 2000s, including their own versions of military space opera. Stories such as David Sherman and Dan Cragg's StarFist series became increasingly common.

(Source: space opera at Wikipedia )

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