1. I’ve always found the Star Trek “we’ve outgrown our petty old human traits like [religion, money, war, etc.]” to be rather ridiculous, especially when those same themes (minus religion, and even that some in the 90s) usually came up in later episodes. Putting aside belief in blind truth, a simple study of history should reveal that anything that’s survived the entire course of human existence up to this point will probably continue to have an affect on the human race.

    I’m a bit confused by your broad classification of “space opera,” though, since I think a good number of people would count Asmiov as purely science fiction rather than space opera. True, the “Foundation” series lends itself somewhat to space opera with its grand universe of worlds and adventure, but it is grounded in a theory of social science which influences every action committed the characters and even determines the plot of the story, exploring the implications of such a theory put in practice. Hard science fiction, after all, needn’t be as small as the original Enterprise television model. Also, space opera today tends to get far more technical (in books, anyway) than in the pulp days, so the definitions of the two are difficult to pin down.
    Finally, thank you for plugging the Lamb Among the Stars. I seriously need to reread those books, and I highly encourage everyone else to get their hands on a copy.

    • Steve Trower says:

      As Damon Knight said, “science fiction is what we point to when we say it”; I think that definition just as readily applies to space opera or any number of other sub-genres as science fiction has evolved over the years.
      I certainly wouldn’t suggest that Asimov was a pulpy writer – just one who, as you say, used some of the traits of space opera. Perhaps the difference between space opera and hard sf these days is more in how much science the author leaves on show.

  2. Becky says:

    I love a good space opera, especially those with a distinctive military slant. But the vast majority of secular novels I’ve tried subscribe to the “morals are outdated” philosophy. This annoys me to no end. Finally, I came up with a solution to my problem: if I can’t find a book out there I like, I’ll just write one.

  3. Steve Trower says:

    I seem to remember that was the conclusion I came to as well…

  4. Julie D says:

    I think Doctor Who has some “space opera” elements as well–“Rings of Akhaten” comes to mind, especially in mind of the gorgeous scenery.  But I’ve also seen it described as “science fantasy” or a fairy tale (the latter in-universe for Eleven, beginning with his comment that Amelia Pond is “like a name in a fairy tale”).

    • Steve Trower says:

      I think Doctor Who has pretty much covered every speculative sub-genre somewhere along the line! But I couldn’t mention the good Doctor, I may never have got back on topic again. 🙂

  5. Steve, I try to avoid “ditto” posts, but I shall at the least hop on to say you sound like a kindred spirit.

  6. Alex Mellen says:

    Whenever I hear the term “space opera,” I just think of the old Star Trek theme…
    I find that I tend to enjoy hard sci-fi a little more often than space opera. I’m a huge Star Wars fan, but I see how it edges toward some fantasy ideas and themes. Sometimes it seems that when the write makes no attempt to explain the science, the story falls on its face as unbelievable–Pacific Rim is my favorite example of this. Loved the movie, couldn’t get past the plot holes. Some stories like Firebird do space opera well, but others are lacking meat for me.

    • Steve Trower says:

      I have certainly heard the argument that Star Wars is really fantasy dressed up as science fiction. I can’t agree with it because that would require me to re-evaluate my opinion of fantasy fiction, but that’s another discussion entirely.
      There is definitely a spectrum within space opera though, with Star Wars toward the ‘space fantasy’ end and hard sf with space opera tropes at the other. 

What do you think?