Wednesday, December 9, 2015

What is Space Opera?

I've been realizing lately, as I've been working on this new story, the one I'm calling a space opera, that lots of people don't really know, or haven't heard of this particular genre term.

So let's discuss!

No, it's not people singing in space. Though that would be awesome. And no, it's not hard science fiction. Because the emphasis is on the drama and not necessarily the science.

I think the term comes from soap opera... so yes, it IS a soap opera in space! Or, it's big saga drama, in space. It's characters dealing with stuff, in space.

In fact, Star Wars is a space opera. Though it has a lot of fantasy elements too. We could call it a space opera fantasy!

Here's what Wikipedia says:

Space opera is a subgenre of science fiction that emphasizes space warfare, melodramatic adventure, set mainly or entirely in outer space, and often risk-taking as well as chivalric romance; usually involving conflict between opponents possessing advanced abilities, futuristic weapons and other sophisticated technology. The term has no relation to music but is instead a play on the term "horse opera", which was coined during the heyday of silent movies to indicate clich├ęd and formulaic western movies. Space operas emerged in the 1930s and they continue to be produced in literature, film, comics and video games.

Okay, so they say horse opera...which I've never heard of. I like the soap opera idea better. I guess it can be a similar idea anyway.

So basically, I think of a space opera as all the stuff I normally like, only set in space. And in fact, my story will not necessarily have futuristic weapons, advanced abilities or sophisticated technology... though that may change. So now I'm wondering, can it  still be called space opera? I think so!

In fact, if I make them be in space, but sort of Victorian, I wonder if I can call it steampunk space opera? 

Anyway, some popular great space opera books:

The Foundation series by Issac Asimov
The Ender series by Orson Scott Card
The Skylark series by E.E "Doc" Smith
The Saga graphic novel series by Brain K. Vaughan

Some recent YA books I say are space opera:

These Broken Stars and series by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis
Across the Universe by Beth Revis
For Darkness Shows the Stars and series by Diana Peterfreund
Cinder and series by Marissa Meyer

And besides Star Wars, we also have Star Trek, and Firefly and Dr. Who and Battlestar Galactica and Guardians of the Galaxy. All considered space opera. Awesome stuff, no?

So, now you know. What do you think? Fan of the genre or not so much? 

One thing I know,  I need to be reading more of it.


  1. YES!!! I love the genre!!! And I bet you that Soap Opera came from "horse opera"... I looked it up, it doesn't say anything horse opera, but the soap part came from the soap companies who sponsored them (because housewives were ones listening to them at home, cleaning the house...) Interesting. Is Cinder considered one since it mostly takes place on earth?

    1. Megs: Yes, I'd still count it as one...

  2. I love space operas! I definitely need to read more too. Starting with These Broken Stars!

  3. Star Wars is the perfect example of a Space Opera. I usually just call this genre Space Soap Opera.

  4. Interesting. I can see Star Wars as a space opera, but I have a hard time seeing Star Trek as a space opera. I mostly see it just as science fiction, same thing with Ender's Game. This is probably why I don't use the term. Honestly, I hate genres. Sometimes it's so hard to classify something. But, I know we need them to help us know a little about them.

  5. I'm a fan! Call it what you will, set it in space and I'll read it :). Love this post!



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