What I Wanted From Space Opera

 

We’re about 15 days out of The Stars Entwined‘s release, and I want to shift gears to talk about space opera.

1999 saw the end of an era on TV with both Babylon 5 and Deep Space 9 going off the air. Those shows really were the blueprint for great space opera on TV, with overarching storylines that swept across the galaxy. Alien races, who, some were not too dissimilar from us, navigating through the stars as well. Overwhelming threats to humanity’s existence — but what differentiated those from what I’ll call the “Post-Battlestar Galactica Era” was that through all this, our main characters really kept their souls. They were cheerful, optimistic people. They were real heroes. Sci-fi after this went dark, where in efforts at first to make characters “more real”, plunged shows into nihilistic dreariness, from which the genre hasn’t really recovered.

Part of it was Hollywood’s lives being so corrupt and nihilistic. When you’re in that environment, you tend to write what you know. That’s why we see even Straczynski’s later work as he became more of a militant atheist, drifting from the beauty of Babylon 5 — which truly the theme of it is “one man can make a difference” — to his later work which is devoid of beauty or meaning.

But in 1999 we were left with a hole in the zeitgeist for humanity’s push to the stars. I felt that hole, really delving into online roleplaying in sci-fi/star trek-based environments, where, while many of t hem were fun, didn’t quite fulfill in the way watching those beautiful stories did. Some books nearly scratched that itch — Lois Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga did well in several of the books — but it still didn’t quite have the feel I was looking for as it waded a bit too far into dark territory at times.

That was the real origin of why I turned to writing writing. I, during this period, wanted to set up and recapture the feel of those two shows in the 90s that really to this day are unsurpassed in their storytelling excellence. I set up a station of my own, which is now dubbed Palmer Station in the book (named after David .R Palmer whose Emergence novel is amazing — and very hard to find!). My intent was to create episodic building narratives that pushed the world like DS9 or B5…

…and then my characters had different plans.

I think I still captured the feel of DS9/B5. The sense of wonder of doing something different, the aliens who are cool, not too distant to us — some even sexy, but the sprawling events of The Stars Entwined couldn’t keep someone confined to a station. It took me from 2001 when I started writing this to 2012 to finish the first draft, which looked VERY different than what you’re going to read at this point (I will be putting up pieces of that over on my patreon for those curious as to what it looked like). But I needed to not just copy that which I loved, but come into my own with my own voice to tell the story that was burning in my head.

As I reflected more on those shows, what made them different was the characters. The characters who wouldn’t give up. The characters who wouldn’t lose their souls even through immense troubles. Those were what was missing from modern entertainment. And those were what I feel I created with Sean Barrows, Tamar, and Tol (who you will meet in 15 days!). As this expands into a series, more characters will come into the limelight. I’m very proud of the way these characters turned out and the progressions they had within the story.

Did I succeed in capturing the feel of what I was looking to? You’ll have to tell me in 15 days! Let me know.

The Stars Entwined is available March 20th and is up for pre-order now.

 

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