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Posts Tagged ‘Space Opera’

I’m still wrestling with the comments issue at the new COF site.  I take an enforced break today to visit another county fair.  Pics later.  (I won’t be deliberately seeking out shaved llama butt, but if it’s there, you know I’ll take a pic…)

Discover magazine runs a ‘top 5 space operas’ list today – a list SURPRISE! I mostly disagree with.  Sadly, I don’t have the time right now to rant about it.  No, I do have time to rant.

You can’t mix movies, tv and literature in a list like this – different standards apply.

YOU may think that there’s no difference between Space Opera and Hard SF, but there is.  Unless you want to make the (false) connection between Space Opera and THE NEW space opera. 

Any fan worth their salt ought to be protesting loudly about a list that gives parity to Doc Smith’s Lensman series and Star Wars…

And Frank Creed and I are discussing sub-genres over at the RayGun Revival forum.

He wants to create a comprehensive list of all “speculative fiction” sub-genres.

I’m playing the purist stick in the mud: speculative fiction is just another name for science fiction, therefore, science fiction should reside at the top of the list; drop all of this namby-pamby pseudo-literary hoity-toityness and get real.  Science Fiction is a genre unto-itself which is capable of encompassing elements of all of the other genres (not sub-genres, genres) and if those genres don’t like it, that’s just too darned bad.

My posts over there are starting to be guilty of looking serious, but no one should take it that way. The ankle-biters are going to make up their own words and definitions no matter what Robert A Heinlein, the first SFWA Grandmaster of Spectulative Fiction Science Fiction had to say.

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When I was much younger, fans used the term ‘space opera’ to denigrate (variously) pre-50s SF, E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith, Edgar Rice Burroughs, anything and everything not published in Analog, science fiction that lacked social commentary, science fiction on television, science fiction that emphasized action, any and all science fiction that they didn’t like.

Lester Del Rey, Isaac Asimov and several others went on a crusade at about the same time, probably motivated by the attacks against the science fiction that they had both written early in their careers and grown up on.  Both of them brought out numerous anthologies resurrecting golden oldies, Asimov’s Before The Golden Age notable among them. (Fred Pohl and his wife did a series called Science Fiction: The Great Years, Avon – I think – issued a series of SF trades called the Rediscovery Series and Lester, along with HIS wife, went one step beyond and created an entire publishing line that championed this type of SF – erecting a wall against the literary pretentions of the ‘new wave’ and providing a much-needed outlet for authors – both new and old – who wanted to keep on writing the kind of science fiction that they all loved and recognized.  Del Rey re-captured the term Space Opera and made it a stand-in for all traditional science fiction – not that new-fangled stuff.

This late-60s to early 70’s period of sciene fiction history is now being repeated.  The broad parameters of today match those of that previous decade almost exactly: there are any number of angles of attack against the traditional: attacks against the quality and worth of earlier works, attacks against fandom itself, pressures to de-ghettoize the genre, moaning and flailing of hands in despair over the future.

Just as champions of traditional SF arose in its defense back then, this era is giving rise to its own champions.  Numerous small presses are resurrecting long out of print stories and several publishing enterprises are attempting to hold the line and provide a home for those authors who would rather keep on writing what they already know is science fiction.

Steadily and forthrightly ignoring these slings and arrows is the e-zine – Ray Gun Revival.  Month after month for several years now, RGR has captured the essence of traditional science fiction with it’s splashy covers and filling its pages with traditional, thoughtful and action-packed adventure, RGR has managed to keep the torch burning.

Johne Cook, editor, opines tangentially on this subject in this month’s editorial.  And I am not singing their praises merely because he references me twice in that editorial.  I do so because whether you like traditional science fiction (call it space opera if you will) or prefer fluffier, more mainstreamy science fiction, all of us owe a debt to the people and works who have gone before us and they – and their works – deserve a place by the fire.

RGR is always a fun read, the presentation is professional and the PDF-publication makes it easy to read, print and transport.  Check it out.

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*Above you will see the first incarnation of my ‘Nightline-esque’ reminder that we are STILL being held hostage by the eldritch horrors commonly referred to as Network Programmers.  Of the cable television variety.  Next to that, you’ll notice the countdown to TDTESSTWTOMD. For those coming late or not paying attention, that is the acronym for The Day The Earth Stood Still To Watch The Original Movie Day – which is December 10th, 2008.  I want everyone and anyone who might walk into the theater to see the remake to have already seen the original so that we can all form an unbiased opinion of the two as they relate to each other.  Clicking the link will take you to the page for that activity – where you can watch the original (over and over and over and over again – like I do).*

I had occassion yesterday to update some of the pages on the Rimworlds website, the personal page that started out as a home for my Rim Worlds/A. Bertram Chandler concordance project and has since grown to include The Classic Science Fiction Channel, Pulp magazine checklist and anything else I can cram in there.

I’ve obviously been paying attention to the ‘graying of fandom’/’old sf vs new sf’/similarly themed discussions floating around and as I was adding a couple of new items to the ‘Buy A. Bertram Chandler’ section I was struck by a couple of thoughts.

First, Chandler resides in the ‘old SF category; he unfortunately passed away in 1984, his 100th birthday is fast approaching (2012) and his works are becoming scarcer, although by no means are they completely absent.

Why he has faded remains a mystery to me, one that is probably equal parts fanboy blindness and publishing peculiarity; neither he nor any critic ever claimed literary pretensions for his works, but on the other hand he was a staple at DAW books and regularly appeared in the top magazines of the day.

His stories are what that they are: quaint adventures of an archetypical science fiction hero (John Grimes) – the man who always managed to get himself into deep yogurt, and always managed to come up smelling of roses and clutching the Shaara Crown jewels.

With HUGE tomes and ENDLESS series being all the rage these days in SF publishing, it’s a wonder that someone doesn’t do a little creative editing, retitle some of his works and bring out the Grimes series again.  The hype would be fun:

An Epic Space Opera Series!

Three Decades in the Making!

THREE MASSIVE DOORSTOP VOLUMES!

Featuring Science Fiction’s ORIGINAL Horatio Hornblower of Space!

When you consider that:

Chandler wrote some 20 novels (albeit 60’s/70’s/80’s 140 pagers) and 32 shorts dealing with John Grimes, 9 other novels and 30 other shorts dealing with alternate characters, other history or parallel universe versions of the Rim Worlds – you’ve got quite a canon!

In many respects, it seems like Chandler was writing for our time, rather than his own (not surprising if you consider how much he played around with time travel, alternate realities and world-as-myth). He’d fit right in: an on-going series that could count on a steady readership, long pieces for the book trade, short pieces for the e-zines and self-promotion, stories that play around in other parts of the universe…

I’ll note that SFBC did a series of omnibi editions which are mostly still available in the used book trade and that Baen Books offers all of the Grimes stories (with two exceptions that I can see – the recently published Grimes and the Gaijin Daimyo – Dreaming Again – Jack Dann and Doggy in the Window, a short that appeared in Amazing Stories) in three e-book packages, compiled in a manner that reflects the three phases of Grimes’ career – officer in the Federation Survey Service, wandering, self-employed ship captain and citizen of the Rim Worlds Confederacy.  All of the current sources for Chandler’s material can be found here

Baen Books might want to think about offering a donwload pack of the rest of the Rim Worlds stories – there’s the Derek Calver tales (2 novels), the Empress Irene stories (3 novels – and they tie in to a Grimes novel), several other novels including The Deep Reaches of Space, Bring Back Yesterday, Frontier of the Dark – the novel based on a short story that Harlan Ellison called one of the best things he’s ever read – and a whole mess of shorts, including a Retro Hugo nominee – Giant Killer and one of the most anthologized short stories ever written – The Cage.

Me, I’d hype the space opera and continuing series aspects, hire some rabid fanboy (like me) to write a page or two of connecting material, combine three or four of the existing novels into one big tome, give them all new cover art, stick a new penname on the cover, maybe Whitley Dunstan (Chandler used both) and stick them out on the shelves.  Devoid of any connection to ‘old science fiction’, I bet they’d sell just dandy, thank you.

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