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Friday, September 7, 2012
Space Opera... not Soap Opera
Space Opera: A space opera is a grand epic drama or adventure set in a
distant sci-fi future; an epic adventure in space that focuses less on the
technical details and more on good vs. evil and character development. The
mechanics of how things work ('hyperspace', 'the force') tend to be glossed
over, as opposed to traditional "hard sci-fi" in which the technology
is as much a character as those using it.
I have always been a character-driven writer. I care more about the
people in the story than necessarily the things happening around them. Not to
say those events aren’t important, but it’s about how those events affect the character,
changes the character, rather than how the character externally reacts to the
I remember the first time a reviewer called my Phoenix series a space opera. First I thought “What? Like a soap
opera?”. Then I began researching the genre and realized, yes, my series is
very much a space opera. Sure, I have tech and I have aliens and I have explosions
and battles. I have, in the immortal words of Colonel Jack O’Neill, “Big,
honkin’, space guns”. I have space travel and amazing ships, but I also have
men and women and children trying to find their way in a universe that has
flipped them on their collective ears.
Instead of talking about favorite books in the genre of space opera, I’d
rather talk about my favorite television series categorized as a space opera. Much
science fiction can be categorized in some degree as a space opera, this
particular show is the epitome of space opera in my mind.
I love this show because of the thought put into the backstory of each
character right along with the movement of their lives through the larger arc
of good vs. evil. Follow with me…
You have a living ship called a leviathan named Moya carrying a ragtag
group of escape prisoners, ousted potentates, runaways, an outcast soldier, and
an astronaut from Earth who was tossed across the universe through a renegade
“Once upon a time
there was a boy named John and John was an astronaut. He lived in a far away
place called Earth which is so far away you've never heard of it. One day when
John was out doing astronaut things a big, blue wormhole gobbled him up and
spat him out at the far end of the universe. Things were looking grim in
Mudville, till our hero met an amazing living ship, made some nice new friends,
and he hooked up with his dream girl. We could've lived happily ever after, but
the Peacekeepers raped, chased and tortured us for years on end.”
~~John Crichton, The
You’ve got an entire race of people known as Peacekeepers whose entire
purpose was to, well, keep peace but they turned into bloodthirsty dictators
instead… oh, and they are genetically engineered descendants of humans. In this
mix you have a gentle warrior, a schizophrenic lunatic, a slug-based potentate, a sex-starved runaway, a former savage-cum-priestess, an outcast soldier, the list goes on.
I’m a romantic. Anyone who knows me knows this about me, so yeah… the
love story is key for me. Of all the television shows and movies and books I’ve
read, the love story of John Crichton and Aeryn Sun rank right up there at the top.
It’s beautiful, really. Maybe it’s Ben Browder and Claudia Black… maybe it’s
the writing, but their story is the core of it all. They are the glue, the
And that is why I love space operas. I love the story of people. People
suffering but coming through. People loving. People losing. People fighting.
People giving all they are for someone else, sometimes everyone else. People
facing adversity, reaching for hope. People lost in despair. People clinging to
each other for peace, for strength, for a reason. Fathers. Mothers. Brothers.
Sons. Daughters. Friends. Wives. Husbands. Leaders. Followers. Soldiers.
Doctors. Civilians. Children lost in the world. Holy men and evil men.
Righteous and corrupt. Misguided and lost, seeking a reason to live. The hopeful
reaching for the desperate. The criminal who longs to be more. The politician
sick of his own rhetoric.
Give me a space opera any day.
I decided I wanted to add a little video to show how much I love these two...