Monday, March 6, 2017

Exploring Genres: Space Opera and Supehero

by Adam David Collings

This year, the cross posts between Christian Writers Downunder and Australasian Christian Writers are focussing on the subject of genre. Last time, Iola Goulton gave a great overview of the importance of meeting genre expectations. This time, I have been asked to explore the science fiction genre. In particular, the subgenres of space opera and superhero.

Space Opera

Merriam Webster dictionary online defines space opera as "a futuristic melodramatic fantasy involving space travelers and extraterrestrial beings". I find it best to talk about space opera in terms of what it isn't. It isn't hard science fiction. Hard science fiction (think Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, or The Martian by Andy Weir) places a great important on the science. The speculative elements in the story must be seen as scientifically plausible. Space opera, on the other hand, places a higher importance on adventure than it does on science. This is where we see "magical" technologies like the warp drive, transporters and universal translators seen on Star Trek. What matters is telling an exciting adventure in a space setting. Of course, this is a spectrum, rather than a hard boundary. The re-imagined Battlestar Galactica took great pains to be believable and realistic, while Guardians of the Galaxy just focuses on the fun of it all, completely abandoning basic science.

Some popular tropes commonly seen in space opera include faster-than-light travel, first contact with aliens, combat with aliens, and highly advanced ancient extint civilisations. Common technologies that often appear in these types of stories are teleporters, laser/energy/ray guns, artificial gravity, robots, force fields and tractor beams. Space opera often crosses over with the genre of military science fiction.

Space Opera is very much alive and kicking in the Christian market, but not so much with the major publishers. There are a lot of great books coming out from small publishers and indie authors. Most are coming from America at present.

Some Examples in the Christian Market



Superheroes

Superheroes have definitely become big in mainstream entertainment. Once considered to be "just for kids" by some people, they now dominate Hollywood. In addition, superheroes are moving beyond their traditional medium of comic books into other story-telling media, like novels and video games.
Superhero stories come in a range of different tones, from the light-hearted and campy (Spiderman 1) to the serious and gritty (Batman V Superman). Some superhero stories are more closely aligned with science fiction (Superman) while others are more closely aligned with fantasy (Doctor Strange). It all depends on the source of the character's powers. And then there are the masked vigilantes that have no powers, just gadgets, fighting skills and smarts (Batman and Daredevil - although you might argue that Daredevil's heightened senses constitute a super power).

Superhero stories can often blend with other genres. For example, Man of Steel is a first contact/alien invasion story. Ant Man is a heist story. Captain America is a period WW2 story.
Sometimes the superhero aspect of a story is overt, but sometimes is can be subtle. For example, Tosca Lee's thriller The Progeny is not marketed as a superhero story, but it features a protagonist with some unusual abilities.

Common tropes in superhero fiction include super powers, vulnerabilities, secret identities, costumes, villains, sidekicks and shared universes. Superhero stories will also often feature common science fiction tropes such as time travel, alternate dimensions and alien invaders.

Some Examples in the Christian Market

My superhero story Chronostream's Father will soon be appearing in Superheroes: The Crossover Alliance Anthology V3 from edgy Christian publisher The Crossover Alliance. The book releases at the end of this March. I also have a superhero novella in production. The first episode of my space opera series Jewel of The Stars is very close to being ready for release. If any of these projects interest you, be sure to sign up for me email list, so you can be informed when they become available.

Adam David Collings is an author of speculative fiction. He lives in Tasmania, Australia with his wife and two children. Adam draws inspiration for his stories from his over-active imagination, his life experiences and his faith.
Adam is a great lover of stories, enjoying them in books, movies, scripted TV and computer games. Adam discusses these on his own youTube show – Stories with Adam Collings.
Find him at adamdavidcollings.com or sign up to his email list for a free short story.

13 comments:

  1. Thanks Adam - that was a very well presented post. It seems that the interest in Sci Fi has grown over the last few decades so exploring the genre in depth is definitely needed. Congratulations on another story appearing in an Anthology and all the best with that super hero novella!

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    1. Yes, sci-fi does seem to have risen its profile in recent years.
      Thanks Anusha.

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  2. Great post Adam. It's good to see so many great titles by Christian authors in this space. Congrats on the inclusion of your story in the anthology and all the best for Jewell of the Stars :)

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  3. Thanks Adam. I'm more into space opera than superheroes. I had a giggle that I love both BSG and Guardians. The full spectrum of the genre :D

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    1. Thanks Sue. Yes, it's great being able to enjoy the full spectrum.

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  4. Thanks Adam, for making the difference between Space Opera and hard sci-fi that happens to be set in space very clear. This was a fun and educational read. My daughter has collected all the Guardians of the Galaxy pop vinyl figures, along with many others. Most of all, I'm so glad to see indie Christian authors making a market for themselves in these genres. That's so good to see.

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    1. Thanks Paula.
      Definitely good to see. With so much of mainstream sci-fi putting out a very different philosophical viewpoint, it's important to have Christian voices in the genre.

      My wife and I have a lot of Doctor Who / Star Trek and superhero pop figures. The kids have a couple but most are ours haha.

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  5. Great post Adam. I'm learning so much about Sci-Fi from you! Congratulations on your stories. I'm really looking forward to your space opera series.

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  6. Great overview, Adam. I find it hard keeping track of genre sub-genres, some days. (Are authors allowed to admit to that?!) Some times those crossover lines are so blurred it is tricky working out just where a story sits. It helps to go back and redefine the boundaries, as you have done here. Thanks.

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  7. Great post Adam. We bought all three box sets of the original Star Trek last year and we've almost finished watching them. For me it was the first time. So I guess we've been watching space opera :) It's been interesting to go back to a classic after watching more recent Sci-Fi shows. I can see where a lot of them have used ideas from Star Trek (and I guess Star Trek used some ideas from others who'd gone before). It's funny how you can watch an episode and not be at all concerned about the plausibility of a warp drive, a tractor beam or a transporter - LOL One of my favourite movies 'Galaxy Quest' is even funnier now I know what they're sending up :) Seriously, was there ever a starship captain who kissed more beautiful women in outer space?

    Congrats on having another story published. I'll look forward to reading it. And the space opera also sounds really interesting. Hope it all goes well.

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