Grav. Attraction Launch Party – Who Put the Space Opera In My Peanut Butter?

July 21, 2014

I like a good Space Opera as much as the next reader. But when is a story a space op and when is it SF?

 

The term “space opera” first appeared in the late 40’s, early 50’s to refer to radio and movie short serials set in futuristic venues. The term, of course, referred to a soap opera in space, though the space opera was heavy on adventure and light on the romance. Think Flash Gordon and the original Buck Rogers serials. Later on, the term was applied to literature as well, to any adventure novel set in a space faring culture, light reading meant to excite and entertain.

 

SF, science fiction, has always been held up as the older, more serious sibling to space op. All of us who read SF know the clichés about it needing to answer a “what if” question. Not all SF is so simple, of course, but truly to be called SF, there should be an exploration of something slightly deeper than who gets to sleep with whom in the end or which military faction wins. Those of us who cut our teeth on Douglas Adams and Keith Laumer know that the “serious” part can be left by the wayside and still be SF, but the necessary core remains, either with the story exploring some aspect of human interaction with the universe or with each other.

 

So…Arthur C. Clarke? Isaac Asimov? Ursula Leguin? SF, hands down. Elizabeth Moon? Some of C. J. Cherryh? Space Opera, no doubts, no mystery. Not everyone fits into such nice boxes, of course. Lois McMaster Bujold, for example, writes stories that appear to be space opera, until you scratch the surface and see the cultural entanglements and the consequences of tech built into many of the plotlines. Relationships become as important as tech, the journey to self-awareness as vital as world building.

 

This, I believe, is where SFR comes in. As Science Fiction writers, we are free to explore the universe, our culture, and our own selves, without the constraints of a normal novel. We can reach beyond the constraints of traditional romance, unfettered by rules and convention. As Romance writers, we bring SF to a human scale, whether it is serious stuff with a purpose (I hear Carl Sagan saying ‘star stuff’ – I still miss him) or the adventure-laden fare of the space opera. The universe is limitless, both the external and the internal.

 

As you’ve probably realized, I enjoy both ends of the spectrum – but which do you prefer? SF or Space Opera? Or do you devour both with equal zeal?

For all my Science Fiction offerings – come on over to my SF page:

Angel Martinez – Science Fiction

6 Responses to “Grav. Attraction Launch Party – Who Put the Space Opera In My Peanut Butter?”

  1. Susan says:

    I definitely lean more toward SF. I will read space opera, but it’s not my first choice.

  2. JJ says:

    I would probably say SF.

  3. I tend to agree with you Susan and JJ, but I have found some interesting stories I would have missed over the years if I never read space opera :)

  4. Andrea M says:

    I never read SF or SO until I started reading M/M so I’m not sure I have a preference. I just know I like it all.

  5. H.B. says:

    I’ve read both and found that I prefer SF over Space Opera. I’ll read them both but if given a choice I probably would go with SF 90% of the time.

  6. Yep, H.B. – I tend toward the same route. There are just some writers who make space opera worthwhile :)

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