Space Opera, A Novel Frontier: Exploring a Subgenre of Science Fiction

Josi Russell’s Caretaker is my first taste of the written space opera, and if this is a testament to the subgenre, I’m eager to explore more! After watching Star Wars, who wouldn’t be interested in these types of stories?

What is Space Opera?

space opera lead image
art by Garret AJ

These books are adventure stories that take place mostly, if not completely, in space. They usually have the following elements:

  • Space warfare. You know, star wars.
  • Melodramatic plot, with a stronger appeal to the emotions than to characterization. Sometimes characters are stereotyped.
  • Risk taking. Someone needs to be a hero.
  • Chivalric romance. Saving the world always comes first, although you know he partly does it to save the girl, too.
  • Conflict between opponents with advanced abilities. All the other people are white noise. Well, not entirely; they need protecting.
  • Sophisticated technology. Cool spaceships. Futuristic weapons. Robots.

Space Operas started in the 1930s, and they are still a big hit in literature, film, comics and video games. You might recognize some of these examples:


Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000032_00049]


Films and Television

(Just listen to that music and tell me you don’t get excited!)

  • Doctor Who (1963/2005)
  • Star Trek (1966/2009)
  • Firefly (2002) and Serenity (2005)
  • Battlestar Galactica (2004)
  • The Fifth Element (1997)
  • Avatar (2009)
  • Ender’s Game (2013)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

The list goes on and on!
After my initial experiences with the subgenre, I look forward to dabbling in more. What are some good Space Operas you’ve read or seen?

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