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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Defining Space Opera


What is a space opera?  My line editor recently asked me that question on my final edits for my novel, Star Catcher.  My book had been tagged as such by my content editor, and my line editor said she hadn't ever read that subgenre.  What, exactly, constituted a space opera?  I found myself searching for a definition of the term before I just fired off my own.

As far as I knew, a space opera was a sweeping, epic, outer-space story.  Star Wars would be a prime example, right? Did my book qualify?  Now I really wanted to know, because the first half of Star Catcher takes place on Earth.  Not exactly an all-ends-of-the-galaxy romp.  The latter half takes place on a medical satellite orbiting the planet Artanos.  Again, not really space-chases and planet-hopping (three-eyed wolf-type monsters, crop circle corn maze human hunting, and stun guns--yes, but no intergalactic battles). So, does it qualify?

Wikipedia [groan] defines space opera as "a subgenre of science fiction that emphasizes romantic, often melodramatic adventure set mainly or entirely in outer space, usually involving conflict between opponents possessing advanced technologies and abilities.  The term has no relation to music and it is analogous to 'soap opera.' Perhaps the most significant trait of space opera is that settings, characters, battles, powers, and themes tend to be very large-scale."

So, let me see.  How does Star Catcher stack up to the Wikipedia definition for space opera?


"Romantic, melodramatic adventure?" Check. There is also a fair amount of Earth girl/alien snoo snoo, but Wikipedia doesn't list the nasty as a qualifier. [Shrug]

"Set mainly or entirely in outer space" is a bit of a sticking point.  Wikipedia, oh-all-knowing-resource that it is, did not provide an Earth-to-space ratio, so I'd say my 1/2 and 1/2 is up for debate.

Is there conflict between opponents? Yes.  Advance technologies and abilities?  Yes.

What else?  Star Catcher, while it has a few musical references, is not, in fact a musical book.  Not sure how one would even go about that.  Audio books?  So, no relation to the musical operas-- that's a check.

Interesting. The soap opera analogy suggests a fair amount of cheese in space opera. Hmmm.  My book may have a table-side sprinkling of Parmigiano-Reggiano, but I didn't lay it on that thick. I'm watching my waist.  Actually, I was saving calories for wine and chocolate.

Anything else? Oh, yes. "Settings, characters, battles, powers, and themes tend to be very large-scale."  Check, check, check, check, and check.  If nothing else, the scale of my alien, Noth Zobor's, brackligg should allow me to check off all boxes.

Anyway, Star Catcher has been shipped off to the e-presses and is due for release on June 3rd, 2013 from Liquid Silver Books.  As far as I know, it is tagged as a space opera.  What do you all think?  Would you change Wikipedia's definition in any way?

-Kimber Vale
www.kimbervale.com

7 comments:

taraquan.com said...

Cool post and congrats :) I've never read a space opera but I'm looking forward to release.

Allie Ritch said...

Good post. I find it interesting how "space opera" evolved from being a derogatory term to a recognized genre, but then again, sci-fi fans are nothing if not an adaptable lot.

Kimber Vale said...

Thanks for stopping over, Tara and Allie! The term probably does still come with some preconceptions, but perhaps some of the bias has lifted? I'm not really sure. I did recently see someone state that she was unwilling to read space opera, but sci-fi in general was okay. I found that interesting, especially since it seems like the defining line is a blurry one.

The sci-fi I'm working on right now will unequivocally belong in that category, though. :)

writery said...

He must have an enormous.... :) Yay for SFR! No matter what the setting or the alien race, it's all good IMO!

Janice Seagraves said...

Love SF romances, and I also write them. However, I don't think mine qualify for space opera.

P.S. you might also add Battlestar Galatica as a space opera.

Kimber Vale said...

You are absolutely right, Janice. I would certainly count Battlestar Galactica as space opera. I think, being a series, it is a shoe-in now that you mention it. Thanks for stopping by and commenting! :)

Rachel Leigh Smith said...

The Wikipedia definition leaves out a crucial aspect of space opera. Political conspiracies. David Weber is the modern-day master of space opera. If Game of Thrones was SF it would be consider space opera because it's all about the political intrigue.

My SFR universe, A'yen's Legacy, is a space opera. But none of it takes place in space. It all revolves around a centuries old political conspiracy.

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