#SpaceOperaWeek: Wonder and the Soul’s Desire by Dominika Lein

Thursday , 18, May 2017 6 Comments

Ever since humanity looked upon the stars, there have been stories of space. Rhapsodies spoken, drawn, and written about a place that is impossible to know, yet filled with infinite wonder. The “Space Opera” aesthetic is predominant in stories of alien beings, heroic earthlings, and tales rendering time and distance into mere playthings. Filled with emotion, stimulating the human soul, grand Space Operas are a theatrical art meant to draw the mind and heart towards the stories being told.

Grandeur must fill the Space Opera to the brim and overflow: the scenery, the characters, the plot, everything. Epic is not an option or an after-thought here, it is aggressively sought and brought to the audience skewered on a pike in sacrificial offering. Successful portrayals of a Space Opera never let adventure fall to the wayside. Exploring galaxies, conquering new worlds, harnessing ingenious technologies should never be boring!

A sense of wonder should never be made mundane, for Space Operas are about boundless imagination. Ambitious explorations of the unknown, by their very nature, are adventurous to the human spirit. The setting of outer space isn’t meant to be forgotten or considered secondary to any other element in a Space Opera story, no matter how outlandish that scenery becomes.

The setting is the entire reason that the Space Opera even exists. It succeeds as long as space is presented with strangeness and awe-invoking narratives. Nothing else will do, not contemporary cities or apocalyptic futures, historical dramas or gothic romances, no… only the grandiose unknown of galaxies beyond our own will do.

Successful Space Operas do not use this sacred setting as an excuse to avoid world-building. It dives into the collective imagination of humanity and brings forth treasures to the surface for others to marvel at. Ignoring the exploration inherent in building a Space Opera results in shallow reminders, spurning the very reasons why the subgenre hooks audiences’ attention.

Celestial space provides a venue to break free of sociological assumptions, anthropological assertions, and contemporary political programming that are characteristic of our day to day existence. A Space Opera is meant to be more than military science fiction or dystopian proclamations of politically driven futures, more than individuals or the communities they create. A Space Opera is as much about the environment as it is about the subjects.

The Space Opera is a romantic place where momentary terrestrial understandings are left behind in wake of divine revelations and heart-pounding thrills, which capture the adventure encompassed in humanity’s drive for space exploration. Even the most corny trope-laden Space Opera harkens to emotions and truths that encourage audiences to react in their own ways.

Whether relieving the humdrum of life or providing insight to hopes and dreams, either way, the Space Opera contributes to the collective imagining of grand possibilities. Where would we be without the examples of technology and human nature presented in formative Sci-Fi? How different would we be without the narratives of alien cultures and interactions guiding our comprehension of why humanity might need to think outside of themselves and their momentary predicaments? All of this caused by imaginative, entertaining stories.

If the more attention fed to a thing brings that thing further into our reality, then let us feed the great and powerful illustrations of the majestic universe detailed by immense Space Operas.

No matter how exhaustive our home on earth can feel, it is nothing compared to the truly frightening prospect of Outer Space. Distant and removed, we seek understanding, but can only explore so far with the modern limitations to technological abilities we currently possess.

Most people keep their observations to looking at the stars or reading a magazine about astronomy, but others explore this alluring fear closer. Some conceptualize entire identities around the stars and galaxies, searching for meaning to cope with the immensity that surrounds our little blue marble of existence. All an attempt to make it familiar, to put a name to the mystery that envelops us. It is something humans find themselves obsessed with, dedicated to, and inspired by.

Wrapped up in fun characters, entertaining plots, and humble prose, a Space Opera is ultimately successful when it can offer excitement that isn’t easily forgotten by those who step into its world with scenery both believable and highly imaginative resonant of strange realities unlike our own. It is a dreadful assumption that space operas should cater to anthropocentric identities, ignoring the fact some humans don’t even identify with their own humanity.

At its core, the Space Opera is an expression of the human soul’s desire to experience conquering the abyss in as many ways as possible. The more thrilling, the more evoking of emotion, the more it makes us feel and the stronger we can imagine our own lives of daring do. A Space Opera becomes more than just a story, it becomes an inspiration to be more than what we were before we started reading it.

Ethereal marvels break free the confines of terrestrial thought creating a contrast that counter-intuitively grounds the self in potential as an individual in greater society. This is accomplished through expansion of the mind and celebrating imagination rather than being stifled through a narrowing of thought which relies on dreary contemporary assumptions. The brain’s responses to epic stories and grandly presented plots are felt as real to the human soul… and can resonate truer than the grim cynicism or monotonous minutia (“realism”) that marks so many Sci-Fi stories churned out these days.

The art of imagination is not lost. As long as there are writers daring to grab hold of what made Space Operas rise from blended Sci-Fi/Fantasy, authors willing to express the wonder within the setting of the unknown, then there is a revival, a revolution… indeed, a revelation brewing to enrich humanity once more.

6 Comments
  • JonM says:

    Well said. We’ve been talking about Space Opera all week, and aside from a few bizarre world definitions, there hasn’t been much on what makes space opera. You filled that hole nicely.

    And “Pulp Revelation”. I like that.

  • Tesh says:

    I think this is part of why the new DreamWorks Voltron series is finding an audience. There are some weird and wacky bits of outer space exploration there, not very beholden to reality so much as adventure, intrigue and a sense of wonder.

    Given some of the people behind the scenes, it is no surprise that they dip their toes a little bit into the Tumblr Trap of gender identity, but the vast majority of the content and characters involved is a sort of serial space opera with some nice modern animation.

  • deuce says:

    “Epic is not an option or an after-thought here, it is aggressively sought and brought to the audience skewered on a pike in sacrificial offering.”

    “A sense of wonder should never be made mundane, for Space Operas are about boundless imagination.”

    Some well-turned and apt passages there.

  • The Mixed GM says:

    That is inspiring. Posts like this are why the Castalia House blog is one of the best – if not THE best – science fiction and fantasy blogs around today.

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