Why space opera?

Above: a space opera book.

From Wikipedia:

Space opera is a subgenre of science fiction that often emphasizes romantic, often melodramatic adventure, set mainly or entirely in outer space, usually involving conflict between opponents possessing advanced abilities, weapons, and other technology. The term has no relation to music but is instead a play on the term “soap opera”

So why space opera and not some other “soft” kind of sci-fi that lots and lots of people love to read, like what John Scalzi writes? First off, I have no idea how Scalzi writes so casual and yet so effective. I’ve attempted his casual way of writing in the first person, many times, and it always ends as a catastrophe.

The answer to it likely lies in childhood.

When I was growing young boy of wee height, my grandparents got these Time-Life (back with Life and Time were monthly magazines) books on the solar system and outer space. I remember them vividly. I must have read the books a good hundred times over. There were ten or so in the series. I remember artist representations of what life would look like on all the planets.

Jupiter had these huge animals held up by balloon sacks and other animals that dive into them. There was one book with black holes in them, because of Hawking a lot of the black hole information has changed, but that book…The black hole book was what I read the most. I wasn’t into reading anything other than Choose Your Own Adventure books at that time, I was not even a teen yet, I didn’t even know of science fiction books. (Very sad I know. My daughter will know all the poignant genres, like science fiction and sci-fi and scifi.)

Then life went on and I got into Dungeons and Dragons in middle school. We used to play it at least once every weekend. My childhood friend and I played it a lot during the week with just us two. If anyone remembers D&D or still plays it, we killed a Death Knight, Gold Dragons, Red Dragons, and a Tarrasque. We didn’t play it according to the rules.

Because of D&D I got into reading fantasy. The big kind of fantasy, at least 3 books long and at least 500 pages each book. The longer the book the better. Earthsea was the only series I read that the books weren’t tomes. Then I read a book by William Dietz, Where the Ships Die in my freshman year of high school, I also began reading the Wheel of Time series that same year. I was hooked on sci-fi right then with that Dietz book.

What I was still hooked on, what never stopped fascinating me, was outer space. All the stars and planets out there. I didn’t wonder if we are alone or anything like that. I just wanted to go see the stars.

As time went on I slowly lost interest in fantasy, though I will still read one if its good enough. Peter V Brett’s are more than great enough to read, and A Memory of Light is, alone, worth reading that giant Wheel of Time series. As I lost interest in fantasy I began to read more sci-fi, and the books I choose were the really big books with lots of books in the series. I guess I wanted to keep with the theme.

And to the keep with the theme, my way of thinking stuck to the giant story. A story that encompasses the universe, not a small portion of it. The grand scale from playing D&D in a way that allowed me to fight all the monsters (that poor town our characters lived in), to the fantasy books I read, to the sci-fi I started out with; it all has stuck me with a fascination that has not abated over the years.

I absolutely love the grand scale of space opera, and epic fantasies as well, and can’t really imagine writing anything less.


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