What?! Space opera has a bad rap? Are you sure? I mean, maybe you’ve been reading the wrong books, or watching the wrong movies...!
Kidding. I should know. I love some of the cheesiest space opera stories ever filmed or written (and that’s an insult to cheese).
Edmond Hamilton’s STARWOLF? Double check.
MESSAGE FROM SPACE? Triple check! (Now’s a good time to revisit Extreme Makeover: BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS).
Take a gander at the mind-blowing trailers for STARCRASH & MFS:
You wouldn’t know it from those stellar examples, but space opera is a romanticized style of storytelling in science fiction. There’s a good amount of high quality literary fare around and much of it follows a code of scientific rigor and/or has a militaristic bent. Throw in a love story, and we’re talking a double whammy here—science fiction romantic romance (BATTLESTAR GALACTICA immediately comes to mind).
On the other hand, space opera can be a pejorative term. Shocking, I know. There are countless instances of hackneyed stories, two dimensional characters, and wildly fantastic speculative aspects.
Space opera is often a love it or hate it category. It’s probably a major reason why many folks disdain SF. Films and television shows have inflicted quite a bit of damage, as F/X technology has been hard pressed to render believable, visually stunning images (although that’s been changing).
Campy plots, bad acting, poor dialogue, or on the other end of the spectrum, technological technobabble, can be off-putting. How many space opera films have been lampooned by MST3K? Too many to count. On the other hand, there’s much to adore. (Obviously, or I wouldn’t be writing this post, heh heh heh.)
Don’t miss out on account of my lowbrow taste, however, because there are so many dynamite tales in this category in both books and film. Transcendent, even.
One of the draws is that it encompasses so many wonderful love stories. Sometimes the romance is front and center, and other times it’s a subplot or the barest of whispers, such as in Alastair Reynolds’ CENTURY RAIN.
So hit me up with your opinions about the good, the bad, and the ugly in space opera books, films, or television shows.
Postus Scriptus: Speaking of STARCRASH, it's up on YouTube in its Italian space disco entirety. Now you have no excuse not to soak in its many, uh, charms. Warp on over and tell David Hassellhoff ciao!