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View Full Version : When does Space-Opera become Science-Fiction?



SSJPabs
2005-Feb-20, 09:50 AM
Something I was wondering about recently and wondered if you all had some interesting ideas. I'm hoping to get a good discussion out of this!

cyswxman
2005-Feb-20, 10:10 AM
Space-Opera?

W.F. Tomba
2005-Feb-20, 11:20 AM
I've heard the term "space opera"; not sure exactly what it means, but I don't think it's intended to be a category distinct from science fiction. My guess is that it refers to a SF movie or TV show with something of the thematic flavor of Italian opera. Either that or a soap opera set in space.

mickal555
2005-Feb-20, 11:39 AM
Mabie it has lots of space
what is with the "soap" anyway...

W.F. Tomba
2005-Feb-20, 12:17 PM
Mabie it has lots of space
what is with the "soap" anyway...
I'm told that the term "soap opera" is due to the early radio programs of this type having been sponsored by soap companies, since the programs were aimed at housewives.

Donnie B.
2005-Feb-20, 02:39 PM
Space opera becomes science fiction after the fat lady sings. :-({|=

A Thousand Pardons
2005-Feb-20, 03:30 PM
Mabie it has lots of space
what is with the "soap" anyway...
I'm told that the term "soap opera" is due to the early radio programs of this type having been sponsored by soap companies, since the programs were aimed at housewives.
Yes, and by derivation, the early westerns on TV were called "horse operas." The "opera" tag has come to mean shows that use a particular setting ("soap", horse, space) to explore personal relationships of the characters, where the plots are not so much about their cultural setting.

tmosher
2005-Feb-20, 04:31 PM
wikipedia goes into a rather long dissertation about space opera and provides quite a few examples.

Space Opera (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_opera)

I agree with most of the examples given - including Star Wars and Babylon 5.

the_shaggy_one
2005-Feb-20, 06:06 PM
Even more so, the new Battlestar Galactica is a space opera.

tmosher
2005-Feb-20, 06:25 PM
Even more so, the new Battlestar Galactica is a space opera.

Now can anyone point out a single example in recent film or TV of hard science fiction (not sci-fi - to me there is a diffrence between science fiction and sci-fi)?

Edited to change "true" to "hard" - hard science fiction is a better phrase.

the_shaggy_one
2005-Feb-20, 06:37 PM
Most of the really hard science fiction on TV or film is disguised as happening in the present or near future. Minority Report is a good example of this, with the exception of the whole seeing the future thing.

And, there is no distinction between science fiction and the abbreviation sci-fi, as far as I know.

tmosher
2005-Feb-20, 06:50 PM
Most of the really hard science fiction on TV or film is disguised as happening in the present or near future. Minority Report is a good example of this, with the exception of the whole seeing the future thing.

And, there is no distinction between science fiction and the abbreviation sci-fi, as far as I know.

This is from more than a few years back but as I remember it, it's the emphasis on the science that differentiates science fiction from sci-fi - in one the future science is the primary factor of the story while in the other the future science is only a secondary factor to the story.

The following supports my views about science fiction and sci-fi:

Science Fiction vs. Sci-Fi (http://www.jvoegele.com/literarysf/scifi.html)

This might make it a little clearer on how I feel - science fiction = ideas and sci-fi = gadgetry.

the_shaggy_one
2005-Feb-20, 07:02 PM
There's no need for an artificial distinction between a phrase, "science fiction", and the abbreviation in common language, "sci-fi". The emphasis on science is what makes hard sci-fi hard. If you want to talk about silly sci-fi as we see in movies like The Core and on TV in Star Trek, just call it "silly sci-fi" and give your language some precision.

I'm only objecting on semantic grounds. It just seems like a senseless and silly abuse of the english language to me.

W.F. Tomba
2005-Feb-20, 07:20 PM
There's no need for an artificial distinction between a phrase, "science fiction", and the abbreviation in common language, "sci-fi". The emphasis on science is what makes hard sci-fi hard. If you want to talk about silly sci-fi as we see in movies like The Core and on TV in Star Trek, just call it "silly sci-fi" and give your language some precision.

I'm only objecting on semantic grounds. It just seems like a senseless and silly abuse of the english language to me.
I second this. If science fiction means one thing, and sci-fi means a different thing, what does SF mean? Either of the two? Or something else entirely? This is ridiculous. As far as I am concerned, sci-fi = science fiction and I will continue to use them interchangeably.

tmosher
2005-Feb-20, 07:26 PM
It's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.

There is a difference in the two to me and that's how I based my reading tastes back when I read around ten science-fiction paperbacks a week for the first two years of college.

Grey
2005-Feb-20, 07:39 PM
It's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.
Other people share it, too. I'm not really one of them, but...


I second this. If science fiction means one thing, and sci-fi means a different thing, what does SF mean? Either of the two? Or something else entirely? This is ridiculous. As far as I am concerned, sci-fi = science fiction and I will continue to use them interchangeably.
You should be aware, though, that by doing so you may give some of the people you're conversing with the wrong impression, or offending others. Asimov, for example, took pains to ask people who used the term "sci-fi" to say "science fiction" instead. "SF" is usually considered an acceptable abbreviation by those who dislike the term "sci-fi".

On the other hand, some science fiction fans have tried to "reclaim" the term "sci-fi" by pronouncing it "skiffy".

W.F. Tomba
2005-Feb-20, 07:59 PM
You should be aware, though, that by doing so you may give some of the people you're conversing with the wrong impression, or offending others. Asimov, for example, took pains to ask people who used the term "sci-fi" to say "science fiction" instead. "SF" is usually considered an acceptable abbreviation by those who dislike the term "sci-fi".
Actually, come to think of it, I don't really use the term "sci-fi" very often. I wouldn't mind dropping it entirely if it offends some people. What I was reacting to was the implication that I should stop calling certain things "science fiction" because they are, in someone's estimation, not serious or scientific enough to merit the term. I generally don't like to define literary genres by any measure of value, because it turns what I feel should be a simple taxonomic effort into a contentious battle over which works deserve to be in which categories. Some works are better than others, of course, but I just don't like to group them by value.

So it's not that I insist on using both terms, just that I refuse to recognize the distinction between them. Sorry if I went overboard; didn't mean to be belligerent.

tmosher
2005-Feb-20, 08:08 PM
You should be aware, though, that by doing so you may give some of the people you're conversing with the wrong impression, or offending others. Asimov, for example, took pains to ask people who used the term "sci-fi" to say "science fiction" instead. "SF" is usually considered an acceptable abbreviation by those who dislike the term "sci-fi".
Actually, come to think of it, I don't really use the term "sci-fi" very often. I wouldn't mind dropping it entirely if it offends some people. What I was reacting to was the implication that I should stop calling certain things "science fiction" because they are, in someone's estimation, not serious or scientific enough to merit the term. I generally don't like to define literary genres by any measure of value, because it turns what I feel should be a simple taxonomic effort into a contentious battle over which works deserve to be in which categories. Some works are better than others, of course, but I just don't like to group them by value.

So it's not that I insist on using both terms, just that I refuse to recognize the distinction between them. Sorry if I went overboard; didn't mean to be belligerent.

I didn't take anything as belligerent - to me it's all a matter of personal opinion and what constitutes one subtle difference between another.

Maybe, my slightly over opinionated view of the subtle differences is a result of a certain Brit Lit professor in college - if you wanted to see a really opinionated view of what constitutes the differences between the many forms of literature, it was her.

Grey
2005-Feb-21, 12:12 AM
So it's not that I insist on using both terms, just that I refuse to recognize the distinction between them. Sorry if I went overboard; didn't mean to be belligerent.
I certainly wasn't taking offense either (actually, I'm pretty hard to offend :D ). I just wanted to point out that there are those who will indeed think that you might mean something less sophisticated if you use the term "sci-fi" (or will just think that you don't really know anything about the genre based on your use of the term). Among those I've encountered, you'd always be safe just using the term science fiction.

Gillianren
2005-Feb-21, 03:24 AM
. . . if you wanted to see a really opinionated view of what constitutes the differences between the many forms of literature, it was her.

actually, it was she.

I use sci-fi because it's shorter. I do not use SF because it sounds silly in conversation, and you have to explain it an awful lot of the time.

then again, I had a lengthy conversation the other day about the categorization of my bookshelves, and whether I put the Dirk Gently books under science fiction or fantasy--the real reason I put sci-fi and fantasy on the same shelves. so perhaps you don't want my opinion on these things, because I'm clearly pedantic about literature, too.

tmosher
2005-Feb-21, 03:29 AM
. . . if you wanted to see a really opinionated view of what constitutes the differences between the many forms of literature, it was her.

actually, it was she.

I use sci-fi because it's shorter. I do not use SF because it sounds silly in conversation, and you have to explain it an awful lot of the time.

then again, I had a lengthy conversation the other day about the categorization of my bookshelves, and whether I put the Dirk Gently books under science fiction or fantasy--the real reason I put sci-fi and fantasy on the same shelves. so perhaps you don't want my opinion on these things, because I'm clearly pedantic about literature, too.

Sorry about that - bad English.

That's the result of writing AECMA Simplified English all day.

Grey
2005-Feb-21, 04:21 AM
. . . if you wanted to see a really opinionated view of what constitutes the differences between the many forms of literature, it was her.

actually, it was she.

In this case, wouldn't it be "it was hers"? It looks to me like "it" here refers back to the "really opinionated view". Saying "it was she" would imply that she was the really opinionated view, rather than the person to whom that view belonged.

Gillianren
2005-Feb-21, 05:59 AM
you're right. unless, as I did, you had an assumed "who had it" in mind.

the_shaggy_one
2005-Feb-21, 06:39 AM
If you really want to get technical, you could call things like Star Trek, Star Wars, Etc. Science Fantasy. It's much more descriptive and avoids seperating an abbreviation from the phrase it represents.

I think this name for the genra isn't accepted simply because Sci-Fi is much more marketable than Sci-Fa. :P

Disinfo Agent
2005-Feb-21, 06:43 PM
E. E. Smith's Lensmen (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/search-handle-url/index=books&field-author=E.%20E.%20%22Doc%22%20Smith/102-0536275-1669733) series is said to be the archetype -- and prototype -- of the "space opera". Lesser examples soon followed, such as Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon in the twenties. More recently, the Star Wars series is a typical space opera.

eburacum45
2005-Feb-21, 09:29 PM
I find that modern space opera has a tendency to stray into soap opera;

honestly- there is much too much soul searching and flirting going on, half the time.
Episodes of Voyager or Deep Space Nine were often like Coronation Street set in space.

I want aliens! Starships! weird science! wisecracks! death-dealing rayguns!

I don't want group hugs and sensitive Klingons!

Charlie in Dayton
2005-Feb-21, 11:26 PM
Lil' sis called 'em spacesterns -- a western set in outer space. Considering how easily (and apparently how often) the plots from the oaters were updated/recycled (especially in the ST:TOS days), her 'daffynishun' seems to be extremely accurate, IMNSHO...

Doe, John
2005-Feb-22, 03:29 AM
I find that modern space opera has a tendency to stray into soap opera;

honestly- there is much too much soul searching and flirting going on, half the time.
Episodes of Voyager or Deep Space Nine were often like Coronation Street set in space.

I want aliens! Starships! weird science! wisecracks! death-dealing rayguns!

I don't want group hugs and sensitive Klingons!

Exactly, that's why I have enacted a personal boycott of ST:TNG, Voyager, DS9, and Enterprise. Too much character development and gossip not enough of the cool stuff.

Makgraf
2005-Feb-22, 04:02 AM
I don't think there's a hard and fast boundary between Sci-Fi and SF. Basically, SF is Foundation and sci-fi is Plan Nine From Outer Space.


Exactly, that's why I have enacted a personal boycott of ST:TNG, Voyager, DS9, and Enterprise. Too much character development and gossip not enough of the cool stuff.
I've heard Enterprise accused of many things but never that it had too much character development :).

Van Rijn
2005-Feb-22, 09:12 PM
You should be aware, though, that by doing so you may give some of the people you're conversing with the wrong impression, or offending others. Asimov, for example, took pains to ask people who used the term "sci-fi" to say "science fiction" instead. "SF" is usually considered an acceptable abbreviation by those who dislike the term "sci-fi".

On the other hand, some science fiction fans have tried to "reclaim" the term "sci-fi" by pronouncing it "skiffy".

This argument has long since been lost, as with the definition of the term "hacker." We were debating this on a BBS a good two decades ago, and the general feeling was that the term "scifi" had been too well established then, though some held out hope. Some insisted on using the term "skiffy" but most folks wouldn't have a clue what you were talking about (or just assume mispronunciation) so there wan't much point.

The problem was that "scifi" bacame associated with movies and tv shows that usually had pathetically bad science. People who hadn't read quality science fiction often assumed it was just as bad as that "silly scifi stuff" and wouldn't give it a chance. I don't debate the point, but you'll rarely see me use the term, unless it is in reference to a movie like "The Core" or the recent "Time Machine" remake.

Grey
2005-Feb-23, 07:42 AM
Some insisted on using the term "skiffy" but most folks wouldn't have a clue what you were talking about (or just assume mispronunciation) so there wan't much point.
I have a feeling that at least some science fictions fans I know of would consider that a virtue rather than a problem. :D