Tag Archives: science fiction

Space Opera Examples Part 2

The Perry Rhodan issue that went into space. C...

The Perry Rhodan issue that went into space. Credit: ESA/André Kuipers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2. Perry Rhodan

This is seen as the best-known science fiction series of all time, accounting for more than 2 billion (not a typo) copies sold since its premiere in the 1960s, first creating a buzz in Germany, then being translated worldwide, but not ultimately succeeding in America in English.

It was originally published in German alone, but was translated into other languages over time. This is where the incredible publication and sales numbers come from. In Germany it’s a weekly novella in a magazine.

On the surface, this series has science fiction concepts: hyperspatial

English: This image is a reproduction of an or...

English: This image is a reproduction of an original painting by renowned science-fiction and fantasy illustrator Rowena http://www.rowenaart.com/. It depicts Dr. Isaac Asimov enthroned with symbols of his life’s work. Français : Peinture de Rowena Morill réprésentant Isaac Asimov sur un trône décoré des symboles de son œuvre littéraire. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

translation and positronic brains — concepts that Isaac Asimov created in his stories. The M13 cluster also exists. Everything else about this series (functional immortality — never aging, but violent death possible, multiple time-lines/realities, the psionic web, moralic code, many other fanciful ideas) is a made-up concept.

Part of why the series has gone on for so long is that, like many pulp series like The Shadow, The Spider, and even Doc Savage (and modern day series like Mack Bolan) many authors have written it.

Sci-Fi legend Forrest J. Ackerman championed English translation of this series. He said that serious German SF fandom said how it hated this series, yet it was still a top seller in the country. It proved the same case with the English translations by Ace Books, which ceased publication with 117-118 in the early 1980s (it’s over 2400 stories-long). Then-head of Ace Tom Doherty found them to be too juvenile in quality.

Good or bad, these books (and spin-off series) inspired music, film (George Lucas cites it as one of his influences), and is even an inspiration to other science fiction series. Would that other series could go so long!

Space Opera — What is It?

This is a genre that’s existed for decades, but it’s often misunderstood.
It was considered as Science Fiction in the 1950s, the Golden Age of Science Fiction, but it’s really a form of Science Fantasy. There are many worlds of aliens, in fact hundreds, which gave it the veneer of science fiction. How it no longer fits it:

There are myriad inhabited worlds, often within the same systems. Science shows us that’s not the case, without major terraforming. That is a concept that didn’t exist in those early days.
Entire worlds often have a single feature, such as a desert world or an ice planet. Just look at Earth… we have different climates based on different areas. Just winter alone is different here in Canada and in Northern Europe – and it’s non-existent in the equator zone.
A major example is the Lensman series by E.E. “Doc” Smith, and in film: the Star Wars saga.

E. E. "Doc" Smith

E. E. “Doc” Smith (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(Note that I’m not ragging on Star Wars. I’m a fan). Star Wars because there are so many worlds with life on them, and entire worlds just one climate.

Technically it isn’t entire worlds with a sole environment. A good writer could say that we just see part of a world, so the entire world isn’t just one environment type… but for the sake of this genre it’s considered to be.

Also, there are more intelligent versions of this genre. Lois McMaster-Bujold has her series of Vorkosigan novels set in a Space Opera universe, but she uses more science fiction ideas in it than others do.

Lois McMaster Bujold. Photo: David Dyer-Bennet...

Lois McMaster Bujold. Photo: David Dyer-Bennet 1996. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The main definition of space opera, according to its entry on Wikipedia, is that a space opera is like a ‘soap opera in space’. This is a bit simplistic, but they are often melodramatic stories involving ship combat, or romances and betrayals. We see them in standard SF, but far less melodramatic.
The Wikipedia article lists Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series as an example of Space Opera; I have trouble with that. First off, I’m a big Asimov fan. The Mule is an example of a large power escalation — cited as a characteristic of Space Opera — but Isaac didn’t write deep romance, and he was an actual scientist; his writing did have a more believable basis (I’m not saying that Psychohistory is real.
My 2nd NaNoWriMo novel (Into the Flock, a winner) was a Space Opera. I may try to redo it someday.

Science Fiction vs Science Fantasy

There’s a difference between these two genres, and it’s a difference that I learn more every day. I called myself a science fiction writer, but I’m really the latter.

 

They share a similarity, in that their original genesis is a basis in scientific concepts — but that’s where they diverge. Good stories are the ones in which the characters are ultimately more important, but in science fiction the science has a basis in aspects that can be explained — at least extrapolated.

 

Science fiction can be further divided into hard and soft varieties, but that’s a separate article for the point of this piece.

 

Where science fantasy differs is that there is no rational explanation of things. This is why Roger Zelazny’s Amber series and Robert Heinlein’s novels are really in different categories.

Midshipman Heinlein, from the 1929 U.S. Naval ...

Midshipman Heinlein, from the 1929 U.S. Naval Academy yearbook (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

As I said my current stories are science fantasy; I deal with ghosts. There’s no scientific rationale for their existence — but that isn’t a reason for me not to write this story.

 

Ironically, I had no interest in the sciences in high school (except for astronomy) — but my writing interest is science fiction, for both reading and writing. I guess my interest in astronomy helps for the writing…

 

So my current Work in Progress (WIP) is really science fantasy, not science fiction.

Worlds of Wonder

David Gerrold is a legendary author of Science Fiction. He created the Kzinti and the Cthor races. The Kzinti were used in the Star Trek animated series.

Albatross (Star Trek: The Animated Series)

Albatross (Star Trek: The Animated Series) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

His contribution to Trek is significant: he wrote the Trouble With Tribbles episode that has achieved cult status with fans of the franchise and even spawned a return on the Deep Space Nine series out many years later.

Several years ago he wrote a book about writing science fiction. I read Worlds of Wonder several times since then. I hoped to have him sign it at one of the Worldcons that I’ve attended, but he hasn’t been to them.

Cover of "Worlds of Wonder: How to Write ...

Cover via Amazon

The information in the book isn’t all earth-shaking, but what parts are definitely do. The chapters on tension and on sex (granted, that part is not for everyone) alone are very useful – and the entire book makes for entertaining reading.

It actually isn’t only of use in writing SF but in other genres too. Just the chapter on a newer writing verb tense was interesting!

Get the book for yourself

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This is a difficult choice:

http://ricktheraven.wordpress.com/category/white-zombie/

This anthology is looking for more stories (and the blog uses a similar theme too). I’d try my luck with it, because the only way to improve your writing voice is to use it.

The problem: I don’t write horror at all, including zombie fiction. I don’t have the stomach for it.

Zombie (novel)

Zombie (novel) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This isn’t something I’d outsource, like I will with romance. Outsourcing what should be my own work would feel like cheating to me.

So I’ll pass on this one. I have ideas for a science fiction universe anyway; that’s my genre.

 

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A Surplus of Possibilities

I’m not as prolific on output as I used to be, but I am in terms of what I can work on right now.

First comes my contract work, then the next issue of my fanzine (I want to get it done before my next convention. After that I have several things to choose from:

  1. Finishing the story that I spoke of here before;
  2. Starting a series I have in mind (the characters bring a crime framework, paranormal romance and comedy);
  3. Fleshing out a science fiction milieu that I thought up;
  4. LOCs to zines I’m a member of;
  5. work on another story that I began in June.

I’m not yet sure of which I’ll work on next, but one thing is sure: I won’t be bored  having nothing to do!

 

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