Book Tour Guest Post: Space Opera Discussion With Stacy Overby
This week we are meeting and talking with Stacy Overby, author of Tattoos. Stacy is also a valued member of the team over at OWS Ink, and like many of us, she wears several hats there. We are excited to share her fantastic book and her insights with you all.
One hushed cry in the middle of the night and Eli Thorson’s life unravels. A highly trained Black Ops specialist, he is used to danger, but Eli’s path forces him to confront the illusions he’s been taught his whole life — ones that make him question all the good he thought he was doing.
Unable to work for a command that defiles the oaths he swore, he works to untangle the web of lies and deceit he finds woven throughout his worlds. The tattooed marks of his profession run more than skin deep. As a Specialist, it is his duty to protect the people, the laws, and all the United Earth Government stands for, even if it means taking down the entire Black Ops division to do it.
Space Opera. What is it? Does it involve music? How does one even classify a book as space opera and what kind of genre is space opera even? All excellent questions. To answer these, let’s go on a short voyage through the genres and the history of space opera.
What Kind of Genre Is Space Opera?
We will start our explorations with understanding how space opera fits into the larger puzzle of genres. To do that, we need to start out at speculative fiction. In the broadest sense, speculative fiction is an umbrella that covers any narrative fiction that contains supernatural and/or futuristic elements. Yep, that’s pretty broad. Connecting sci-fi, fantasy, and horror as genres under this umbrella makes good sense. With me so far?
Great, let’s keep going. Just like other genres, sci-fi has several sub-genres under its umbrella. In fact, there are so many, it’s hard to truly classify them. That’s because sci-fi sub-genres love to get together and co-mingle. The offspring of such co-mingling gets challenging to fit neatly into one sub-genre or the other. And, as you know, those offspring grow up, co-mingle, and have offspring of their own. Some even develop cult followings despite their rather mixed heritage. I’ve confused you, now, haven’t I?
Okay, to be clearer, here are some of the sub-genres that are more prominent within the sci-fi genre, but are not all-inclusive. Hard science fiction. These stories have the science and technology developed as the main character in the story. Sure, there are actual characters, but they almost take secondary roles to the science part. Also, this sub-genre often holds high expectations about the science in the stories. It needs to be plausible. So, for example, many hard sci-fi stories do not include faster than light travel because Einstein’s Theory of Relativity says this is not possible.
Conversely, there is soft sci-fi. Think the opposite of hard sci-fi. Soft sci-fi isn’t so much concerned with how the science and technology work. It’s more concerned about why it exists. These stories have main characters who are people rather than objects, and the people drive the story forward.
Then there’s military sci-fi. This is about what you’d expect. Science fiction that is hard or soft but has strong military themes to it. Some, if not all, characters are connected to some type of military organization. The plot is about some war or conflict involving the military. Finally, the themes revolve around honor, duty, loyalty, and other military values.
One of the older sub-genres of sci-fi is robot sci-fi. These stories have robots as main characters, or at least prominent characters. The science of robotics is a major piece of the story. Often, but not always, these stories will explore such questions as what it means to be human versus a robot and can humans create sentient machines.
I’ll end the list with space opera. Mostly because that’s the first sub-genre I’d put my new book, Tattoos, in. Also, because I could probably write an entire novel—and bore you to death—with all the various sub-genres within sci-fi. Yes, sci-fi has been a very prolific genre. Back to space opera. This sub-genre is more challenging to define, kind of like that unruly child you just can’t quite decide if he’s naughty or just hyper. There is often a massive scale to these stories—we’re talking multiple solar systems or even galaxies for example. Characters often travel between planets. There’s a recurring cast of characters with long story arcs. Space operas are frequently series of books, not just one or even a trilogy.
Where Did Space Opera Come From?
I hope I haven’t lost you already. If I have, I hope you have your towel. For anyone still with me, onward we go with looking at where space opera came from. And, no, this isn’t the co-mingling discussion again. It’s a history lesson. See, old-school space opera had more romantic themes involved—faster than light travel, heroes, wars, damsels in distress, weird alien races, and cool laser guns. While modern space opera has evolved into something more than this, it’s easy to see where the opera part of space opera came from; that flair for dramatics only in space rather than on an opera stage.
The work many consider the beginning of space opera as a genre is A Honeymoon in Space by George Griffith. The story is essentially about a couple who goes on a honeymoon visiting aliens around the solar system. It was published back in 1901 and people loved it. It didn’t take long for Edgar Rice Burroughs to jump on the bandwagon and write his famous John Carter of Mars series, starting in 1911. Again, the public adored it, so much so many speculative fiction authors credit Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars series as the inspiration for their own careers. This includes the likes of Carl Sagan and Ray Bradbury, quintessential sci-fi authors.
Fast forward and you’ll discover some of the most well know sci-fi authors out there. Pulp magazines, often connected with noir mystery detective genres, also fed the sci-fi movement well into the 1920s and 1930s. This includes EE “Doc” Smith’s The Lensman series, which is the first time a galactic level space opera came about. Then, by the 1950s, Isaac Asimov, Alfred Bester, and Robert Heinlein were publishing their works that both expanded the space opera genre and branched out from it into other sci-fi genres.
We’ll end our classical space opera with one most everyone who knows anything about sci-fi and space opera will recognize—Frank Herbert’s Dune. Published in 1965, this is still one of the best-selling sci-fi books of all times. Dune gave the space opera genre a well-needed boost by the time it hit print. So, love it or hate it, modern space opera owes Dune a debt.
Of course, there are so many other great classic space opera authors out there—Larry Niven who fused realism to his space opera creating a new little niche, Orson Scott Card with some eerily accurate predictions about technology, Arthur C. Clarke, and Ursula Le Guin just to name a few. But we’d be here all night, or day I suppose depending on where you are, if I tried to include them all. And I want to move on to some more modern authors.
Alastair Reynolds, Douglas Adams, Iain Banks, and John Scalzi handily fit into the modern space opera genre. Another modern space opera author I want to highlight is Lois McMaster Bujold. Why? First, she’s a rare and highly successful female space opera author. In fact, I’ve mentioned only one other female sci-fi author in this entire article other than McMaster Bujold. Another reason is that McMaster Bujold is one of the most awarded sci-fi authors of all times, matching Heinlein for awards, quite an accomplishment.
Well, that’s a great question. Hopefully, you go out and buy some cool space opera books because this lesson has been so inspiring. Or hit up your local library, they’re great for carrying a good selection and they’re free. Explore. Fall in love with the romanticism, daring, and drama this sub-genre is known for. Best of all, check out my space opera, Tattoos. It’s military, it’s about honor, it’s got politics, and it’s got a galactic backdrop. There’s even a dash of romance thrown in. Plus, explosions. Can’t forget about those.
Come find me on the internet. I love to chat with people. As always, any questions, please ask!
Stacy Overby is a columnist and graphic designer at www.ourwriteside.com. They have featured her short stories and poems in multiple anthologies, online, and in lit journals. Scath Oran is her first solo poetry collection, and her debut full-length novel, Tattoos: A Black Ops Novel is coming out soon. She is the program director for an adolescent dual diagnosis treatment program by day and an author by night. Her day job provides inspiration for many of her stories. When not at work or writing, she and her husband are playing with their son, hiking, camping, or involved in other outdoor activities–if it is not too cold. You can find her at www.thisisnothitchhikersguide.com.