Star Flight

Star Flight Is A Problem Space Opera Has To Address

Earlier on this blog, I wrote about how Space Opera needs a sense of scale.  Space opera is about being Big, with a Capital “B.”  This goes back to the very origins of the genre.  As I’ve said before, E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman series eventually had entire planets being used as weapons.  Edmund Hamilton’s Interstellar Patrol series also included stars, nebulae, and planets as weapons.  (In fact, even Poul Anderson used the “weaponized planet,” in Ensign Flandry.)  “Big” was never a problem.  And “big” requires some form of star flight.

As more authors have tried to write “Hard SF Space Opera,” a challenge has arisen.  Yes, space is big.  Too big to get far with current understandings of physics.

The Lightspeed Barrier

Space is so huge, and the speed of light (being the theoretical absolute speed limit) so relatively sluggish (though calling 300,000 kilometers per second “sluggish” is a bit off), that getting anywhere even with theoretical tech that’s still way beyond our capabilities would take centuries.  That’s a problem when you’re trying to tell an adventure story.  If your cast, either aboard the ship or at the destination, will be centuries dead by the time the ship gets there, it makes it hard to tell a rip-roaring story.

Not impossible, mind you.  Alistair Reynolds managed it with the Revelation Space series.  His lighthuggers were gigantic starships, limited to just under the speed of light.  He had to plot separate plot threads, moving forward and back decades, finally coming together at the culmination of each book.  And he did a good job of it.  It’s just complicated.

It’s also limited to a relatively small area of the galaxy, because of those same constraints.  So what do you do if you want to let your space opera sprawl?  What if you want the entire galaxy to be your playground, like in Star Wars? Continue reading

Building On #StarWarsNotStarWars

Star Wars Is Great

Lest anyone think that I don’t like Star Wars, given some of the earlier posts here, I have to make this point.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  It’s why I have issues with some of the later entries in the franchise; I think that they don’t do justice to what Star Wars could be.  The Original Trilogy remain classics, and having just gone back and rewatched all three, back to back, they still hold up.  (Which is why I don’t care for the argument that, “Star Wars is full of plot holes anyway, so you’re dislike of later installments is invalid.”)  There’s an ever-expanding universe of new worlds, new aliens, new ships, and hints of a long history.

Star Wars is a huge source of inspiration for The Unity Wars.  Because when you watch the movies, there’s a lot that’s implied without being said.  And that stuff that’s implied lends huge opportunities for storytelling. Continue reading

Space Opera Needs A Sense Of Scale

Space Opera Needs To Be Big

This is a basic truism.  (And one that Star Wars really started to fail at with the prequels.)  You have an entire galaxy to play in.  There is no reason to keep things small.  George Lucas started going off the rails when his vast, sweeping space opera became about one small family and the same handful of planets.

The problem is more widespread than just Star Wars.  It’s enough of a problem in science fiction that there’s an entire TV Tropes page about it.  (Warning: time sink)  Some of the more recent space opera franchise films have been really, really bad about it. Continue reading