Traveling through space with the Space Opera genre

It’s about time we added another genre post… this time, we’ll look at the sub-genre of science fiction commonly called Space Opera. We’re looking at this one because it is one of my absolute favorites.

It often includes space travel, first contacts with alien races, alien and human interactions, space battles, journeys, adventure, romance … in short, nearly everything I like in a story.

This post will take its form from our Book Adventures Weeklies – a list of links that you may choose to read which explain or explore space opera.

  • For starters, there is always Wikipedia. Interestingly, in addition to describing the main elements (outer space, futuristic time period, adventure/warefare), it tells us where we got the name: apparently from “horse opera,” which I’ve never heard but which was relevant in the days of silent movies to describe formulaic westerns.
  • Science and science fiction blog io9 breaks apart the sub-genre by comparing space opera and military science fiction. In a sentence, space opera according to io9 is about adventure, while military science fiction is about warfare and conflict. There is overlap between the two, and they come from roughly the same place, looking at culture through different lenses.
  • G. W. Thomas wrote An Epic History of Space Opera. He, too, mentions the name’s origins in “horse opera,” but also connects it to the term “soap opera.” He gives brief synopses of some of the major works in the sub-genre, focusing on the early decades and including films and radio in addition to books.
  • There’s also a lesser-known sub-genre that has been dubbed “space regency.” Which is sort of a combination of comedy of manners and science fiction – think Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer in space. Authors of this might include Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (Liaden universe), and Lois McMaster Bujold (Miles Vorkosigan series). I’m thinking of a combination of witty banter, comedy of manners, space travel/adventure, and romance. Do you know of any others?

Check out the following gallery of books (in no particular order) for some of our favorite space operas. (more…)

Book Discovery Tool: Genre Blender

genre blenderIn my professional life, I love doing readers’ advisory (RA) at my library. I dream of those moments when a patron will come and ask for a book recommendation rather than homework help. It’s not that I don’t enjoy research, but RA is where my true interest lies (which is why I write on this blog). As a result, I’m always on the hunt for a new RA tool, and I have just recently found one that feels like it’s made for me: Genre Blender. This site is a fun tool created by author of the blog, Genrify.

Most people that read genre fiction are aware that there are many books out there that make it hard to categorize a title into a specific genre. There are many books out there that straddle multiple genres: Games of CommandFirelight, The Winter Kingand The Golden City, to name a few. Personally, I love it when genres “mix and mingle” and the stories that result are always richer for it. And Genre Blender is devoted to such books. Select a couple of your favourite genres and then blend to find some great new recommendations. From my own experimentation of the site, I was introduced to some titles that stretch the boundaries of my favourite genres.

At this point that database that supports the site is small, only about 450 titles according to the “About” page. However, I think it’s a great RA tool for both personal and professional use. By targeting a reader’s favourite genre or genres, you may stumble across titles that may be outside their reading comfort zone, but appeal because of the connection to a genre they already enjoy. I can already see myself using this one at work, especially for genres that I don’t read extensively in. Ultimately, a great tool that’s easy to use, so get blending and find something new!

Which (sub)Genre are you reading, anyway?

Here at The Book Adventures, we’re librarians. This means we like categorizing things. Organizing them, and packing them away in neat labeled boxes for easy and swift retrieval later. Today, I’m going to apply that to sub-genres. Because sometimes they can be confusing (or at least I find them so).

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably read at least one steampunk novel in your life. Have you? Raise your hands… ah, yes, I see a few hands. To get back to the point, you probably have a pretty good idea of what makes a steampunk novel a steampunk novel. Right? So you could describe the main characteristics:

  • airships
  • unusual clockwork machines
  • alternate technology that relies on steam, or clockwork, to function
  • Victorian-esque England

(What would your main characteristics list have in it?)

Have you ever heard of “gaslamp” fantasy? If so, have you read a gaslamp novel?

I’m not sure, either. So today, I attempt to clarify the distinctions between steampunk and gaslamp fantasy. By the way, I won’t get into plot development or relationship-building or character development, because those vary from story to story, and the scope of this post is really much smaller than that. The focus here is world-building. In this case, that means the era, culture, dress, technology, transportation, etc.