jade_sabre: (wall-e:  content)
[personal profile] jade_sabre
So, just to remind everybody, this got started because Beth and Quark were both like I JUST DON’T LIKE SCI-FI AND I DON’T KNOW WHY, and so I decided to start theorizing as to why, because part of me loves sci-fi, but I’m also with them—I haven’t encountered much (outside of the Star Wars books, and many of those are not as readable when you’re 24 as they were when you were 10) that I actually enjoy.

So, uh, what conclusions have I reached again?
1. There’s a difference between science fiction and space opera.

2. Science fiction focuses on ideas, technology, human nature in general, concepts, and systems and their consequences. Space opera focuses on character-and-plot-driven stories IN SPACE without being caught up in feasible technical details. Space opera can be divided into sub-genres. Most of what’s labeled science fiction these days is really sci-fi/space opera. There’s some overlap between the two, but there’s also a fundamental difference in focus between them.

3. Science fiction, with its focus on ideas and systems, makes for great short fiction but can be difficult to sustain in its pure form over the course of a longer work, at least in a way that readers like Beth and Quark would find engaging.

4. Space opera, while focused on characters and plots and things that readers like Beth and Quark usually find engaging, suffers from its own historical issues—a tendency towards massive series; the preponderance of spin-off/franchised series; the domination of a few authors in several different franchises; a lack of focus on writing, or a focus on STORY IN SPACE over writing that leads to mediocre writing/does not encourage great writing; being a male-dominated genre that not only suffers from engineer-writing but also from an over-focus on male-preferred subgenres.

So, hopefully maybe, this kind of explains what I see as reasons for why Beth and Quark struggle with science fiction.

Things I Have Not Covered: An exact history of science fiction/where Jules Verne and Edgar Rice Burroughs, among others, fit into this (or rather, okay, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is probably science fiction [it’s been years since I’ve read it], but where do John Carter or Flash Gordon fit in?). Any of the major writers of classic science fiction because again I’ve only read a few short stories by Asimov and Bradbury (which I am aware means that my definition of science fiction might be massively skewed). Also, as mentioned at the beginning of this post, I’m way far behind on reading, like, anything, so my knowledge of authors is a bit dated. Any sort of understanding about where the transition between science fiction and space opera really begins (what was happening before Star Wars came out—and obviously SW borrows from Flash Gordon and his friends so obviously this is still muddled; the evolution of the genres between the 70s and the 80s, since most of my reading comes from the 90s with the exception of a few Star Trek novels). From what I’ve seen I think many B-movies from the 1950s probably fit into science fiction, but that’s also probably a whole ‘nother post. And I didn't even touch YA sci-fi--I think everything I've encountered there has been dystopic post-apocalyptic blah blah nobody cares.

All right, this is now officially open for discussion. Where have I gone right? Where have I gone wrong? What am I missing? Suggestions for continued reading on my part? Authors who might fit into a category of MWT-esque writing within sci-fi and thus appeal to Beth and Quark? If I were to begin a self-guided reading tour of classic science fiction, where should I start? Who’re the big authors of the 1970s? 1980s? GUIDE ME.

Feel free to link to this too--I simply ask that, having admitted my ignorance up front, people not attack me for it. I WOULD LOVE TO LEARN.

In other news, life is going well, getting married in twelve days, need to find a way home between now and then, family drama has lessened if not gone away completely, did an Engaged Encounter weekend last weekend that was SO AWESOME and am now like 99% ready to be married (remaining 1% is BAAAAAAAAAAAW FAMILY, like Goose pulling a “noooooo older sister don’t get married and leaaaaaaave meeeeeeeeeee”). And I have officially probably spent way too long on this, so, time to hit post!

back to gender!

back to the other problems!

back to the definitions!


(no subject)

Date: 2012-06-26 04:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] loquaciousquark.livejournal.com
This? Is a beautiful post. Thoughts as soon as I get off work.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-06-26 05:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jade-sabre-301.livejournal.com
THANK YOU THANK YOU i am glad you read it I posted the whole thing and immediately went I SPENT LIKE FOUR HOURS ON THIS I HOPE SOMEONE ACTUALLY READS IT thank you thank you thank youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu

also i miss you in my life i see you on saturday yes? yes? :)?

(no subject)

Date: 2012-06-26 05:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] loquaciousquark.livejournal.com
Read it? LOVED it. I have so many thoughts!

(no subject)

Date: 2012-06-26 05:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jade-sabre-301.livejournal.com

(no subject)

Date: 2012-06-26 06:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] loquaciousquark.livejournal.com
These are going tobe so disjointed because I'm on my phone, but the first thing that comes to mind is the distinction between science fiction and space opera. I feel like that's something I've vaguely understood in the past--at least, i could understand the difference between stories about space and stories set in space, but this really articulated the difference between the two for me. And i definitely agree that space operas are more my taste in long fiction format; as you said, a fascinating premise without strong characters can only be sustained for so long before i lose the patience to slog through another three chapters on exactly how a metals-based alien slug metabolizes the Hubble telescope.

(however, asimov's short story on exactly how the golden goose might lay its eggs was spectacular. But again, like you said, short.)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-06-26 06:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] loquaciousquark.livejournal.com
Plus, i thought you made some fascinating points on gender and single authors dominating the market. talk about people dominating while shelves--the last time i went into 2nd & Charles, the Terry Brooks filled one whole shelf, then wrapped around the end of the stack and continued up on the next one. And it's not even a question of whether it not the author is prolific, either, considering Patricia McKillip wrote over a dozen books and you hardly ever see her in bookstores. And people say you aren't supposed to let established authors discourage you from writing, but man, there are only so many shelves in a bookstore, and it is a little intimidating too know one author can take up three of then.

Plus, the gender thing. I know the gap is smaller in math and sciences than it's every been (the incoming opt class has 34 girls and 7 boys), but i still feel like there's this perception that...maybe not that men are BETTER at it, but that they're a better FIT. and forgive the caps, but it's so much easier than italics on this phone.

(on that note, did you know my mom was the only woman in her engineering class? Now the splits almost 50 50.)

(also, before i forget, i read The Scorpio Races last night and loved it. If you EVER went through a horse phase when you were younger, you should definitely check it out.)

ANYWAY. Now i want to talk about Mass Effect. I will tell you flat out i was not expecting to enjoy this game. You know I've always loved fantasy and dragon age was, well, DRAGON AGE, and i guess o always kind of looked down on science fiction a little bit? I mean, you hear about HIGH FANTASY all the time. Fantasy is epics and Tolkien and magic and prophesies and destiny and the one Sword/Book/Speaker of Truth always coming out to save everything pie and good at the last moment. Science fiction (and space operas) was Jim Kirk boning space ladies and shooting ray guns at people with rubber foreheads. Fantasy had Lothlorien and Narnia and Hed. Science fiction had rusty bulkheads and that one jungle planet that showed up EVERYWHERE. how could they possibly compare?

(no subject)

Date: 2012-06-26 11:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beth-shulman.livejournal.com
(Totally off-topic, but did The Scorpio Races remind you of Misty of Chincoteague?)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-06-27 11:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] loquaciousquark.livejournal.com
I DON'T REMEMBER. I mean really, I read Misty probably once or twice in elementary school and never touched it again. I don't even know if I owned it or borrowed it. My horse phase wasn't very long, though--I went through Misty and The Black Stallion and these horribly cheesy...oh, what were they called. AHA. THE GOLDEN FILLY series. And probably a few others here and there, not really enough to make an impression but enough that when I read Scorpio I instantly felt like that little girl again, haha. :)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-06-28 12:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beth-shulman.livejournal.com
The Scorpio Races really reminded me of Misty! And it's so funny - what I consider my massive horse phase consisted entirely of the Marguerite Henrys and Walter Farleys.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-06-26 06:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] loquaciousquark.livejournal.com
Plus, I'd never really had much fascination with space. I mean, i like the aesthetic of stars? And it works as some fantastic literary devices, but it always seemed like something really awesome for someone else to study.

But, MASS EFFECT. Shepard! Aliens with properly fleshed out planets! Stories set in space but with real science behind then, and real plot to drive the stories forward, and guns that were less about the minutiae of spacey technology and more about what really cool aliens could do with that technology.

Also, Garrus.

I just...idek. My phone's dying and I'm going to have to wrap this up, but basically i really sere the appeal of space operas now. I still have no idea where to start, but at least the door's open now.

There's a really clever line in here about a space video game opening up my horizons to a whole new literary universe, but i think you'll have to find it for yourself.

Edited Date: 2012-06-26 06:49 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-06-26 07:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] loquaciousquark.livejournal.com

i like the metaphor of fantasy pirates becomings space pirates i guess

idk it seems

Edited Date: 2012-06-26 07:05 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-06-26 06:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fabricalchemist.livejournal.com
HOMG this is a massive post, I'm basically here to say


(no subject)

Date: 2012-06-26 09:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] brandy-painter.livejournal.com
As someone who falls into the same category as Beth and Quark I think you have summed up all of this quite nicely. My husband is a huge sci-fi fan and the whole ideas/technology/human nature/systems is largely what draws him to it. He watches Star Trek to unwind and I....do anything else that is in another room while that's happening. :)

12 days until you get married and you write a lj dissertation on sci-fi vs space opera. Stress coping mechanism? :) I'm so excited for you!!!!!

(no subject)

Date: 2012-06-26 10:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pigrescuer.livejournal.com

I've never heard of space opera before*, in my head I divide things into sort of 'hardcore' scifi and softer, more character driven sci fi. And I define it as anything that is possible using technology and science as we know it now.

So, my favourite series that I would define as sci fi:

The Hunger Games (YA dystopia, oops)
Uglies/Pretties/Specials/Extras by Scott Westerfeld (YA post-dystopian society ^_^)

LOIS MCMASTER BUJOLD'S VORKOSIGAN SAGA. Which, if you haven't read, I hope it is only for complete lack of time because the amount of times I've seen her suggested over in Sounis because MILES=GEN. She definitely fits into MWT-esque writing.

*One of LMB's books does actually have space opera. Like, an opera, in space, performed by four-armed space people.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-06-26 10:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pigrescuer.livejournal.com
Also, what is an Engaged Encounter?


(no subject)

Date: 2012-06-26 10:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pigrescuer.livejournal.com
And then I scrolled down my friends page and realised this is was 5/5. But, excellent summary on the last page. :)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-06-26 11:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beth-shulman.livejournal.com
Ooooooh I hope there are lots of awesome suggestions in the comments!

1. I really like the distinction between science fiction and space opera. A lot. I need to think more about this.

2. I've been thinking lately that I'm wondering if there are two separate approaches to science fiction writing - there are writers that focus on worldbuilding - by which I mean they construct a universe that follows science-fictional rules - and there are writers that focus more on horror.

I first started thinking this when I watched a few episodes of Haven, which is a science fiction TV show. The show follows the basic premise that a town in Maine is cursed by the Troubles (if I'm remembering all this correctly) - basically, people who have freak "talents". One has his nightmares become reality to the people he dreams about. One can influence nature and cause violent storms when she's upset.

I guess what I mean by horror in science fiction is that the book/show seems to focus on impossible things - science-fictional things - probably for the benefit of the plot, but I don't respond well to that since I don't do well with horror. (I'm not sure if this is a science fiction or space opera category - I guess it would be science fiction?)

ANYWAY. My problem is that I haven't read enough science fiction to really identify tropes, and yet I have an instinctive "science fiction YUCK" response. So I'm going to read some suggestions and hopefully I'll be able to write a response half this awesome :D


(no subject)

Date: 2012-07-01 04:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] keestone.livejournal.com
Well, Horror is its own category, but like all of these "genres" and "subgenres" it can intermix. It's often Fantastic because of the unexplained/magical/mystical, but it could also Science Fictional (Alien is totally a Horror movie set on a space ship, but it's also a very strong Science Fiction movie.)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-06-27 12:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fabricalchemist.livejournal.com
Having read it all, how are you not speaking on topics like this at events like conventions and book clubs and universities! This is uber cool discussion.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-06-27 02:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] styromgalleries.livejournal.com
I wish I could contribute more to the discussion, but I really haven't read much science fiction of any variety. I read a short story or two waaaay back in school and now I've read several of Bujold's Vorkosigan books (and, yes, they are awesome). But this was very interesting. I was kinda aware of the difference because I'd done a little bit of googling when I started reading said Vorkosigan cooks, but this was a great, concise little breakdown.

And now you make me want to read more science fiction just to try it out.

I have Dune on my shelves and a bunch of Bradbury, so I should really get on that.

12 DAYS?!?!?!?! HOMG!!! KDSJFLKDJS FMDS<>SDMFL ERK EWMDX>FG MD<VMCVXKLFJ DKS (I want to post a gif, but I don't know how from Scrapbook. DARN YOU FLASH! WHY WON'T YOU WORK ON MY OFFICE COMPUTER?!?!?!)
Edited Date: 2012-06-27 02:54 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-06-27 02:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] styromgalleries.livejournal.com
Basically, this is me: http://ic.pics.livejournal.com/styromgalleries/5164318/5446/original.gif

With a dash of foaming mouth guy thrown in. :D SO HAPPY FOR YOU! <3

(no subject)

Date: 2012-06-27 11:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] idiosyncreant.livejournal.com
OMG this is not anything to do with anything except wow, I didn't realize how quickly your wedding was coming up!

I hope all the important things go smoothly, and the memories are good and things to smile about later!

Also, I will come back and read this, I promise, just not right now because l'omg my brain, this day...

(no subject)

Date: 2012-06-27 11:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] loquaciousquark.livejournal.com
Also I had another thought? About the boundaries of fantasy and science fiction, I mean. Because generally, you can look at a fantasy and know exactly what you're going to be dealing with: it'll probably be a quasi-medieval swords-and-sorcery type world with fighters, rogues, and mages thrown in, and although the magery itself might have different flavors to it, most of it will probably all come from the same root. I know that world. It's familiar. And even if I pick up an author I've never heard of with a character I know nothing about, odds are at least something in that world, whether it be the magic, the setting, the way of speaking, or even just them traveling by horse--something will be familiar.

Whereas in science fiction, the only thing that stays the same, at least in my perception, is that the worlds are only limited by the author's imagination. Which sounds like an ad for a PBS show about being openminded, but really just makes me feel like I have to adjust to an entirely new world with every SF book I read. I mean, elves are pretty much the same throughout fantasy. Sure, you've got flavors of elves--viz. the Fae, Tolkien's elves, and the shoemaker's elves--but generally, you know what you're going to get. But aliens can be everything from cockroaches to sentient clouds with googly eyes; technology seems to advance and retreat as each author requires, and the sheer numbers of inhabitable worlds...it just all seems too big to wrap my head around, you know? A universe so large I don't know where to start, so instead I just go back to the familiar, comfortable worlds where everything is measured in coppers and heads of sheep. I know that world; I like that world. Space is too big.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-06-28 08:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] checkers65477.livejournal.com
Ooh, good points!

(no subject)

Date: 2012-07-01 04:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] keestone.livejournal.com
Oh man. You just described a peeve of mine. Bog Standard Generic Fantasy. If authors don't move beyond that (or at least aren't incredibly skillful with the standard tropes) I get extremely irritated.

magpapakasal ka na pala!

Date: 2012-06-28 03:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rosaleeluann.livejournal.com
I have nothing to say except good job I like space opera and OMG YOU ARE GETTING MARRIED WOW! *hugs*

(no subject)

Date: 2012-06-28 12:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] appellations.livejournal.com
bookmarking all 5 entries to read at my own convenience later.

you are awesome

also wedding@!!

(no subject)

Date: 2012-06-28 08:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] checkers65477.livejournal.com

Even if a person is not a fan of dystopian books there's still a lot of wonderful sci fi out there, Bradbury especially! His writing is so great. Your division of sci fi into science fiction and space opera reminds me of my division of fantasy into 2 types--epic and lyric. The epics are huge books that are part of a huge series and are more plot-driven than character-driven. Like LoTR, or Game of Thrones. I usually don't like these. Any book that I have to refer to a character list--nothankyouverymuch. I tend to like what I call the lyrical books--McKinley, McKillip, Le Guin, MWT. Character-driven stories with some gorgeous writing. Hey, maybe that is why people don't like hard-science sci fi. The writing often just isn't that great?

I really liked a series by Joan Vinge about Cat. The books are Psion, Catspaw, and Dreamfall. They are hard to find, but I'll be happy to loan them to you. You will laugh your ass off over the dated 80s covers. Tiegirl recommended them to me, and I loved them.

How about Ender's Game? It takes place in space, but seems like it's both plot and character driven. And the technology plays a huge part in the book. One of the best YA books ever, I thought. House of the Scorpion is fantastic, too.

So, how do you classify all the other sci fi books that don't take place in space? Do they all just fall into the science fiction broad category?

I'm not a fan of books that are focused mainly on world-building, whether it's fantasy or science fiction.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-07-01 04:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] keestone.livejournal.com
Okay, I've left long ranty and listy comments in each of the sections, so here I'm just going to say . . . .

SQUEEEEEEEEEEEE! It's coming up so soon! I"m so excited for you!


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