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New Treasures: Space Opera edited by Rich Horton

Saturday, May 24th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Space Opera Prime Books-smallHallelujah! Rich Horton’s Space Opera anthology is finally here. And it’s massive.

I’ve been waiting for this book since it was announced over six years ago, back in April of 2008. Rich shared his proposed table of contents at the time (and it was groundbreaking enough to be picked up as a news story at places like SF Signal, and listed at ISFDB), but the volume was eventually canceled. I thought that was the end of it, until I saw it back on the Prime Books schedule last year.

I am delighted to finally have it in my hot little hands. The project has become much more ambitious over the years. Did I mention it was massive? Rich’s original TOC listed 11 stories — the finished product has twice that many, from authors like Greg Egan, James Patrick Kelly, Chris Willrich, Kage Baker, Jay Lake, Alastair Reynolds, Ian McDonald, Aliette de Bodard, Robert Reed, Ian R. MacLeod, and many others.

Rich also provides a fascinating introduction, exploring the genesis of the term “space opera” in early SF and the way perceptions of it have changed over the years — as well as a survey of overlooked classics. Here’s a taste:

The term space opera was coined by the late great writer/fan Wilson (Bob) Tucker in 1941, and at first was strictly pejorative… Even so, much work that would now be called space opera was written and widely admired in that period…. most obviously, perhaps, the work of writers like Edmond Hamilton and, of course, E.E. “Doc” Smith…

It may have been Brian Aldiss who began the rehabilitation of the term with a series of anthologies in the mid-70s: Space Opera (1974), Space Odysseys (1974), and Galactic Empires (two volumes, 1976). Aldiss, whose literary credentials were beyond reproach, celebrated pure quill space opera as “the good old stuff,” even resurrecting all but forgotten stories like Alfred Coppel’s “The Rebel of Valkyr,” complete with barbarians transporting horses in spaceship holds. Before long writers and critics were defending space operas as a valid and vibrant form of SF…

Nova is my personal choice as the progenitor of space opera as a revitalized genre, but that’s probably a largely personal choice… Perhaps, then The Centauri Device is in retrospect the key work. Harrison conceived it explicitly as “anti-space opera,” and it was a reaction not just to the likes of Doc Smith, but to Nova, which Harrison called “a waste of time and talent.”

Although the rich history of space opera stretches back to the very birth of science ficiton in the 1920s and 30s, in this volume Rich showcases exclusively short fiction published this century, including two novellas — James Patrick Kelly’s ”The Wreck of the Godspeed,” and  Ian McDonald’s ”The Tear” — and 20 short stories and novelettes.

The stories Rich has selected have been widely acclaimed. They include two Hugo nominees (“Finisterra” by David Moles and “Glory” by Greg Egan) and several that have been nominated for the Locus award.

Here’s the complete Table of Contents:

Space Opera Then and Now by Rich Horton
“The Knight of Chains, the Deuce of Stars” by Yoon Ha Lee (Lightspeed, August 2013)
“The Wreck of the Godspeed” by James Patrick Kelly (Between Worlds, August 2004)
“Saving Tiamaat” by Gwyneth Jones (The New Space Opera, June 2007)
“Six Lights off Green Scar” by Gareth L. Powell (The Last Reef, August 2008)
“Glory” by Greg Egan (The New Space Opera, June 2007)
“The Mote Dancer and the Firelife” by Chris Willrich (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, #90, March 2012)
“On Rickety Thistlewaite” by Michael F. Flynn (Analog, January-February 2010)
“War Without End” by Una McCormack (Conflicts, April 2010)
“Finisterra” by David Moles (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, December 2007)
“Seven Years from Home” by Naomi Novik (Warriors, March 2010)
“Plotters and Shooters” by Kage Baker (Fast Forward 1, Feb 2007)
“The Muse of Empires Lost” by Paul Berger (Twenty Epics, August 2006)
“Boojum” by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette (Fast Ships, Black Sails, 2008)
“Lehr, Rex” by Jay Lake (Forbidden Planets, Nov 2006)
“Cracklegrackle” by Justina Robson (The New Space Opera 2, July 2009)
“Hideaway” by Alastair Reynolds (Interzone #157, July 2000)
“Isabel of the Fall” by Ian R. MacLeod (Interzone #169, 2001)
“Precious Mental” novella by Robert Reed (Asimov’s Science Fiction, June 2013)
“The Two Sisters in Exile” by Aliette de Bodard (Solaris Rising 1.5)
“Lode Stars” by Lavie Tidhar (The Immersion Book of SF, Sept 2010)
“Silent Bridge, Pale Cascade” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew (Clarkesworld, December 2013)
“The Tear” novella by Ian McDonald (Galactic Empires, Feb 2008)
Biographies

Rich Horton has edited a number of excellent anthologies over the years and we’ve covered many of them, including:

The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2014
The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2013
The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2012
The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2011
The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2009
War & Space, edited by Rich Horton & Sean Wallace

He’s also reviewed over a dozen vintage SF magazines for us — you can browse those reviews here.

Space Opera was published by Prime Books on April 2, 2014. It is 575 pages, priced at $19.95 in trade paperback and $6.99 for the digital edition. Check it out — you’ll thank us later.

4 Comments »

  1. I respect M. John Harrison and liked The Centauri Device very much, but if Nova is a waste of time, Lord grant me more time to waste! (And no is in thrall to a literary mode so much as he who reacts against it…)

    Comment by Thomas Parker - May 24, 2014 12:36 pm

  2. I just recently got my copy as well. As soon as I’m done with a current anthology I’m reading I plan to dig in. I love space opera almost as much as I love S&S.

    Comment by CMR - May 24, 2014 8:33 pm

  3. >I respect M. John Harrison and liked The Centauri Device very much, but if Nova is a waste of time, Lord grant me more time to waste!

    Thomas,

    Isn’t that a fascinating quote? Sometimes I forget that the great genre writers of the last generation had just as many disagreements and epic feuds as the current one…

    Comment by John ONeill - May 25, 2014 10:38 pm

  4. > I love space opera almost as much as I love S&S.

    I’m right with you, CMR!

    Comment by John ONeill - May 25, 2014 10:39 pm


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