Suddenly it feels as if every new book features an intimate story set in a huge amount of space.
Charlie Jane Anders summarized it best in March of this year, in her piece “Space Opera Fiction Isn’t Just Back. It’s Better Than Ever” for Wired, which examines why space opera has coalesced as a re-emergent sub-genre in the past two years.
The real world can be frightening right now. Space operas celebrate the idea that, come what may, humanity will one day conquer the stars and brave new worlds. It offers an escape, and, [Kameron] Hurley notes, a glimpse of more hopeful futures.
Space opera is also a sub-genre naturally adept at offering writers the most toys within the biggest tent, allowing authors to present any imagined surrounding as logical. Space opera allows for the lonely, the beautiful, and most of all the extreme. A star can die because a lover is slighted. A series of algorithms can become the only consciousness that remembers you. The injustice rampant in a civilization can grow so unwieldy it changes the laws of physics. Han Solo’s twerpy son can kill him in a featureless pit and it will make you feel worse than anything.
Space opera is back. Did it ever truly leave? How do we define it? This week, Tor.com and B&N’s Sci-Fi Blog will feature a series of essays and excerpts that look backwards into space opera classics and forwards into the new wave of stories. You can follow it all through the Space Opera Week index here.
First, let’s get a good primer on the sub-genre by exploring 10 Space Opera Universes.