The question, “Why do you write [insert genre, type of story]?” is one that writers can be certain someone will as at one point or another. So, I think I’ll get the jump on that question, or at least on one of my answers, as I also write fantasy, and plan to write historical fantasy one day. Today, though, the topic is space opera.
Before I talk about why I write in this genre, however, I must go into how I became a fan of the genre.
A lot of the credit (or blame, if you prefer) for this goes to my parents, who have been huge Star Trek fans for most of their lives (Original Series purists, with some exceptions), and, as such, I was practically raised on it; I’m fairly certain I had seen or at least heard every episode of TOS by the time I was talking. Now, I can already hear people saying that Star Trek isn’t space opera. And that is true… kind of. While the franchise (at least up until the Abrams reboot) tried to be largely scientifically accurate, if we’re being honest about it, there are a number of fantastical things in all of the series, be it technobabble solutions to problems of beings, events that are basically magic. This probably applies the most to Deep Space Nine, which I would wholly classify as space opera, due to the large-scale conflicts it focused on, and the more adventurous feel as opposed to the greater focus on exploration that TOS and TNG focused on. And, as might be expected, once I finally watched DS9, it became my second favorite Star Trek show (I still think the original is #1), and the one that has had the most influence of me as a writer.
As I grew older, of course, I was introduced to Star Wars, which has been one of my favorite franchises and one of my greatest inspirations ever since, and, while most of the books I have read over the last 20 or so years have been fantasy, I did also read a fair amount of Star Wars‘s Expanded Universe (now Legends) books. It was actually in the area of games where I had the most balance between science fiction and fantasy, and I for a long time have played games such as Warcraft 3, Starcraft, Mass Effect, and Magic: The Gathering, all of which have had a major influence on my works.
Despite most of my reading being fantasy, however, when I first decided I wanted to write a book, my mind immediately jumped to sci-fi, and the type of story that came to mind was very much space opera–though I was not familiar with the specific sub-genre name at the time. See, from early on, I had the idea that I might like to make a career out of writing, and, also, the idea of creating strongly drew me in. Space opera, as a genre, offers for infinite creative possibility, especially in stories like mine, which involved many planets. I created more than a dozen alien species already, with more to come, and it’s just something that makes even the pre-writing phase exciting. As much as I do love writing fantasy as well, that is bound to one planet at a time, for the most part.
Similarly, as one might expect from the influences I listed, I have a thing for grand-scale, epic stories. epic fantasy, of course, scratches this itch as well, but once again, space opera in a galactic setting just opens up so many possibilities, for both the series that began with A Greater Duty, and for numerous other stories set in that galaxy.
Space opera, at least the space opera that has influenced me, has yet to truly fall into the trap that fantasy did when The Song of Ice and Fire series got huge. Space opera still allows for good, for evil, and for those in between, without falling into the depressing, nihilistic trap that other genres, such as post-apocalyptic stories fall into. This is, in part, because by its nature, with so many planets and peoples space opera forces you to retain some level of adventure and discovery, even if that isn’t the primary focus of the larger story.
Additionally, space opera, unlike some other science fiction genres, doesn’t restrict you to the confines of known science, as that isn’t the point of the story. The characters and the events surrounding them are. Time doesn’t need to be spent explaining precisely how the hyperdrive works, because it’s simply a way to get characters from place to place, and leave more room for character interactions and the exciting events surrounding them.
Literally every creative door is open to you with this genre that I make my start in. You want cool, high-tech stuff? You got it. You want a story in a more primitive setting? You can do that too. Want to mix the two? Fine. Want magic (or something that, in a fantasy book, would be called magic)? Put it in. Want non-human characters? Go crazy, create whatever you want.
As I hope to demonstrate in the upcoming sequels to A Greater Duty, this creative freedom also extend to being able to craft sequels that both forward the larger story-lines but don’t becoming formulaic, with subsequent books essentially being the first book once again, with some changes. A Looming Shadow, due out this fall, is quite different from A Greater Duty, but at the same time, is very much a direct sequel, furthering both the small and large-scale plots.
In an age where too often we see people telling you what not to write, this is a genre that best fight that toxic mindset. Creativity is paramount, and we should aspire to create as much as we can, rather than worry about some perceived “offense.” That is the point of writing fiction, especially genre fiction, and space opera beautifully captures that ideal.
That’s all for now. Hopefully in the coming week, I’ll put out a few more posts looking at specific aspects of space opera, and go into what I did with it while crafting my first novel.
Check out my debut novel, A Greater Duty, here!