Totally Space Opera

At the risk of disappointing Jonathan, I’m going to talk about some book promotion.

Specifically, I’m going to talk about the next Gollancz promotion, following on from those round-cornered masterworks, the future classics, the ultimate fantasies earlier this year, and the terror 8. Next up? Yes, space opera.

This does strike me as an odd list. Clearly there were some constraints in terms of what’s already popped up in other promotions — so no Revelation Space and no Hyperion, which strike me as better picks for their respective authors than Century Rain and Ilium. It also looks to me as though there’s some element of selecting authors to be promoted, rather than just going with the best space operas on the Gollancz list (otherwise the exclusion of A Fire Upon the Deep really is inexplicable). Indeed, it’s not actually a very space opera-ish list at all. And, obviously, there’s a lack of women again, although in this case I can’t even think of a woman published by Gollancz who writes space opera, even under this flexible definition — except Gwyneth Jones with Spirit, which isn’t out yet. They do get points from me for including Last and First Men, though it really does stretch the definition of “space opera” to breaking, and as has already been pointed out elsewhere the cover makes it look like it’s a book about either “gay men or male toilets”. I’m not sure about the covers in general — though as with the future classics, they may well look better in person, as it were — though I am partial to that Stapledon cover, and The Centauri Device.

13 thoughts on “Totally Space Opera

  1. Reminds me of the old Panther SF covers – close-ups of various mundane objects on a black background, such as this. Not sure if it’s deliberate. I like them.

    Rendezous with Rama might arguably be the first act of a space opera, and indeed the series goes that way, but I can’t think of it as one in its own right.

  2. Interesting post Niall. Living in the U.S., I like to keep my eye out for what’s going on on the other side of the pond, and I’ve enjoyed the Masterworks series quite a bit. But this promotion/series does feel incomplete and not really accurate. And wouldn’t the cover to Rendezous with Rama be more appropriate for Ringworld, anyway? :-)

  3. I love the covers. I think these sorts of promo’s are great as the diversity shows what wonders are out there. Shamefully I’ve only read Stone. I’m looking forward to seeing them at Borders next year. I’m going to have to read more sci-fi.

  4. I agree with Mr. Wisse-why not Star Maker, the far more obvious choice (and in the view of many critics, the more imporrtant novel).

    Incidentally, anyone read the new, original anthology The New Space Opera? (I expect to publish a review of it soon, by the way.) The editors (Gardner Dozois and Jonathan Strahan), in line with a long tradition I happen to agree with, say that the key criteria are, besides the obvious one of setting the story in space

    1. Grand-scale.
    2. Romanticism.

    I think that does give us some grounds for talking about what is and isn’t space opera, while also raising a serious contemporary problem, more apparent when you look at an old Aldiss anthology like Galactic Empires, or E.E. Smith’s Lensman stories: is it getting harder to do genuine space opera these days, the stuff getting rarer? I wonder.

  5. Interesting to see ‘Romanticism’ as a pre-requisite for Space Opera, as I’m tempted to argue that most SF is Romantic. Certainly the old-fashioned ‘sensawunda’ is an evocation of the Romantic Sublime. Whether that is distinctive to Sapce Opera or not I wouldn’t like to say.

  6. Well, you could perhaps construct an argument that space opera being one of the two subgenres where romanticism tends to be most fully expressed in sf. (The other being scientific romance.) More generally, I’m not sure; I don’t know that much cyberpunk would qualify as romantic, though some of it certainly has a sense of wonder about it.

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