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Go Back   The Trek BBS > Entertainment & Interests > Science Fiction & Fantasy

Science Fiction & Fantasy Farscape, Babylon 5, Star Wars, Firefly, vampires, genre books and film.

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Old March 31 2012, 05:22 PM   #1
jefferiestubes8
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History of space opera article

Io9 did a fantastic article:
Major Highlights in the History of Space Opera
http://m.io9.com/5896893/major-highl...of-space-opera

I love how they include the old book covers. Really some stuff to check out and read.


But once in a while they post something worth seeing. For instance, this article was actually an interesting read. For such a short piece, it seems pretty comprehensive. It's got the classics, the novels that defined space opera (some of which predate the invention of the term), the serials, the movies and tv shows, and surprisingly, the modern novels which have reinvented space opera and taken it in new directions. I'm fairly impressed.

So what did they miss, in your opinion?
From another forum posting.
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Old March 31 2012, 05:56 PM   #2
BillJ
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Re: History of space opera article

Good read. Thanks for the link.
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Old March 31 2012, 07:41 PM   #3
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Re: History of space opera article

Okay, I'll make myself unpopular by throwing this out there: Farscape and Firefly, as beloved as they may have been, haven't really been influential so much as they were the product of existing influences - Farscape was the culmination of the trend towards crazy, visually complex aliens and dystopian politics, and Firefly reflected the longstanding crosscurrents between space operas and Westerns.

I'd love to be able to point to a range of new space opera shows inspired by those two, but they don't exist, and when space opera comes back (it will, don't worry), I'm not so sure that it will follow in their footsteps.

nuBSG seems a lot more likely as a template (more "realistic," not stylized, easy on the crazy aliens, don't worry about kid-friendly elements) because space opera on TV will have to adapt to the demands of cable simply to survive. Just look at how True Blood handles the vampire genre or Game of Thrones handles the high fantasy genre or The Walking Dead handles the zombie genre to get a preview of how the space opera genre would be handled going forward.
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Old March 31 2012, 08:21 PM   #4
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Re: History of space opera article

That looks like an interesting article. I have to write a chapter proposal now, but if I finish it in time I'll read it later today and post a few comments. The old book covers are pretty cool to see.
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Old March 31 2012, 10:34 PM   #5
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Re: History of space opera article

Well, if you have to skimp on the written space opera, leaving Doc Smith in is the minimum. But it still would have been a good idea to include Edmond "World-Wrecker" Hamilton's work, especially the Captain Future series. And even better to include John W. Campbell. Even Clifford Simak wrote The Cosmic Engineers!

Leaving out Olaf Stapledon is so common an error I originally forgot these people did it yet again. Still a huge mistake.

Asimov's Foundation series has to rank as a serious faux pas in a history of space opera. It would even have been better to mention the Professor Jameson series. (Professor's brain in robot body goes on space adventures. Can't remember off hand who wrote it and don't care to Google.)

Inevitably a site like this is far better on TV and movies than on reading matter, but the omission of Tom Corbett, Space Cadet is another misstep even in the cool, hip stuff this site aims for. Captain Video didn't get a Viewmaster series or a book series (Corbett is free on Kindle by the way, I'm rereading it for nostalgia.)

Jack Vance and James Blish in particular deserved a paragraph, rather than a mention.

I must agree that Farscape and Firefly are not influential. The BattleStar Galactica influence will be disastrous because, although National Review types liked the show, it was very badly written. Imitations will be even worse, hard as it is to imagine such a thing.

To be fair, noting Banks and Reynolds as major figures in the revival is quite good. Acknowledging the justly deserved fame of Bester's The Stars My Destination is also good. But this also shows the plasticity of the phrase. Bester's novel is largely The Count of Monte Cristo with the psychic power of teleportation added. (He works hard to make it a scifi trope, i.e., supposedly natural, instead of magical.) There's really only one sequence set in space.

The current high water mark for space opera is probably Greg Egan's Diaspora.
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Last edited by stj; March 31 2012 at 10:51 PM.
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Old April 1 2012, 12:11 AM   #6
Harvey
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Re: History of space opera article

An interesting article; of course, as in any attempt to catalog the entirety of a genre in such a short space, there are several oversights. I'm glad it focuses on so many literary titles, since I'm relatively unfamiliar with an embarrassing number of them.

I'm not sure why Space: 1999 warrants a mention, though. The program was derivative of both 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Trek, without adding much of note to the genre (at least not in the seven episodes I've seen so far).

Complaining that Farscape or Firefly have not been influential on the genre since their appearance strikes me as obvious; in terms of television the genre has been mostly nonexistent since first-run syndication folded as a production model. Since the SyFy Channel got out of the business of producing space operas, the genre has been nonexistent on television.
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Old April 1 2012, 10:27 AM   #7
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Re: History of space opera article

That looks like a decent article at a skim-- some good suggestions for reading (and more cover scans for my collection).

Temis the Vorta wrote: View Post
Okay, I'll make myself unpopular by throwing this out there: Farscape and Firefly, as beloved as they may have been, haven't really been influential so much as they were the product of existing influences - Farscape was the culmination of the trend towards crazy, visually complex aliens and dystopian politics, and Firefly reflected the longstanding crosscurrents between space operas and Westerns.
This is true. Neither show was at all innovative, but just had very distinct personalities.

nuBSG seems a lot more likely as a template (more "realistic," not stylized, easy on the crazy aliens, don't worry about kid-friendly elements) because space opera on TV will have to adapt to the demands of cable simply to survive. Just look at how True Blood handles the vampire genre or Game of Thrones handles the high fantasy genre or The Walking Dead handles the zombie genre to get a preview of how the space opera genre would be handled going forward.
nuBSG would make a disastrous template-- it's an anti-Space Opera that makes lack of imagination a virtue. It takes the adolescent nihilism and cynical deconstructionism of the 80s to the level of self parody. True Blood would make a far better template. TB is basically an EC Horror Comic, uncensored and with continuing characters-- seeing a Space Opera that evoked an uncensored EC Sci Fi Comic with continuing characters would be fantastic. On the other end of the spectrum, a Space Opera written at the level of Walking Dead (and I mean in terms of quality, not just another post-Apocalypse) would also be fantastic.

stj wrote: View Post
It would even have been better to mention the Professor Jameson series. (Professor's brain in robot body goes on space adventures. Can't remember off hand who wrote it and don't care to Google.)
Neil R Jones. I've just been downloading his stuff for my Nook. Great ideas, good stories, very bad prose-- but highly recommended for serious readers of SF with an interest in the History of the genre.
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Old April 1 2012, 11:58 AM   #8
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Re: History of space opera article

stj wrote: View Post
Leaving out Olaf Stapledon is so common an error I originally forgot these people did it yet again. Still a huge mistake.
I wouldn't tend to classify either "Last and First Men" or "Star Maker" as space opera, although they are certainly seminal works of literary S-F. However, it does depend on how you define the term "space opera". Those particular works of Stapledon's are of a philosophical nature (unsurprising given Stapledon's training and profession), deep in scope, and don't involve interaction between individual characters with whom one can readily identify.
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Old April 1 2012, 01:13 PM   #9
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Re: History of space opera article

RJDiogenes wrote: View Post
Temis the Vorta wrote: View Post
Okay, I'll make myself unpopular by throwing this out there: Farscape and Firefly, as beloved as they may have been, haven't really been influential so much as they were the product of existing influences - Farscape was the culmination of the trend towards crazy, visually complex aliens and dystopian politics, and Firefly reflected the longstanding crosscurrents between space operas and Westerns.
This is true. Neither show was at all innovative, but just had very distinct personalities.
And those personalities, distinctive as they were, made the shows memorable.

In my early teens I read the Lensman series, and then the Skylark series. E E Smith was a huge influence and opened my eyes. I should add that the first SF book I remember is 'Catseye' by Andre Norton, when I was ill in hospital aged 10. I owe her so much and never told her (I try to write to writers I like and tell them how much I enjoy their stuff).

Anyhow, after that came Asimov, Clarke, some Heinlein, then I never really found Space Opera again, bar the visual version of Star Wars (which owes a HUGE debt to the Lensman books, as does Trek). The next Space Opera I felt that deserved the title was 'Consider Phlebas', and the Culture, which I reckon to be a better universe to live in than the Federation, hands down.

Along the way, there was van Vogt, Niven, Bab5, Stargate, and, to a certain extent, nuBSG.

I've always wanted to write an opera that was a Space Opera. That would be fun!
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Old April 1 2012, 08:31 PM   #10
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Re: History of space opera article

Stapledon doesn't have the Romantic Adventurer/Byron knockoff or whatever. However, he's got the Romantic Sublime. He copyrighted it for SF. The romantic thrill of vast vistas are very much part of what he's about.

I believe there is a literal opera about space. In Swedish, called "Aniara."
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Old April 1 2012, 11:21 PM   #11
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Re: History of space opera article

Stephen Baxter and David Brin should both have works on that list. Other than that, I like it.

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Old April 1 2012, 11:43 PM   #12
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Re: History of space opera article

Interesting this thread popped up, I was thinking how a few "space opera" or at least large scale space based movies are coming up: Prometheus, Lockout, John Carter, Gravity, Star Trek 2013, Ender's Game 2013, Riddick sequel 2013, Oblivion 2013, Pacific Rim 2013, Escape from Earth 2013, Nebulus 2013, Forever War 2013-2014, Foundation 2014?

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Old April 2 2012, 12:46 AM   #13
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Re: History of space opera article

I have two major issues with the article:

1) the author repeats the tired old meme about BSG being a "Star Wars ripoff". They're both space operas, so there will be some similarities in tone and style, but they are very different critters thematically.

2) the author gives NuGalactica credit for pioneering both "vertias" filmmaking and the "dirty" or "industrial" universe concepts.

Firefly did both before NuG, and the later is a concept that goes back all the way to the 70s (Alien, and to an extent, Star Wars).
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