AsyouknowBob, Steve and I write Space Opera, starting when it was neither popular nor profitable, and continuing to, oh, Right Now. Along the way, we’ve heard our novels described as “Military SF*,” which is where Space Opera goes to take cover when it’s out of fashion; “Adventure SF;” “Romantic SF;” “SF Romance;” “SF Lite;” and “What Do You Call This, Because it’s Not SF, Really, Is It?”
Happily, Space Opera has come ’round again on the guitar as being a recognized, if not exactly lauded, sub-genre of SF. Unhappily, there are a lot of odd ideas about what Space Opera is, which do seem to arise whenever it surfaces again as a sub-genre.
I recall, for instance, when Mr. Feintuch was still with us and writing his version of Space Opera, which was Very Bleak, and some readers (and editors, too) wouldn’t touch any thing calling itself Space Opera, because Enough With the Bleak, Already.
My personal definition of Space Opera has always been that, on some level — though, yes, we are Saving the Universe and All Like That — at some level, I say, Space Opera needs to be fun.
And, yanno, just like Real Operas, Space Opera is a place where any old unlikely thing can happen (so long as the authors make it believable, which, to be fair, isn’t always the case with Real Opera), including telepathy and all the other Psi skills, if you want them; Giant Turtles; FTL drives; Deathless Wanderers of the Star Lanes; True Love, and whatever yer havin’ yerself.
So, anyway. . .in another part of the InterTubes, someone has put forth the observation that Space Opera has drifted away from including aliens, in order to focus of the diversity of human cultures. It’s an interesting observation, and certainly we here in the Liaden Universe® celebrate the richness of human cultures. But we also celebrate the strangeness of Clutch Turtles, and of Korval’s Damned Meddling Tree. And while we didn’t exactly celebrate them, the Iloheen were certainly aliens.
However, as mentioned above, we started down this path more than a quarter-century ago.
What about newer Space Operas? Have we moved away from aliens, in favor of more human-centric stories? Or is it all in what you’re reading? And, if that’s the case, what are you reading?
Have at it.
*I had the. . .surreal. . .experience of standing in an elevator with two young men at the Chicago WorldCon-but-one. And the first young man was describing this Really Cool Military SF Book he had just read. The plot, as he short-formed it, sounded Awfully Familiar, and just before they got off at their floor, the second young man asked after the title, and the first young man said, “Conflict of Honors.”