New sci-fi genre

AuthorTopic: New sci-fi genre
Electric Sheep One
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Here's a nice innocuous topic. I read two books on long flights recently, and realized that a funny kind of sub-genre seems to have emerged, which might be called 'fantasy space opera'. It generally has vast distances and/or vast stretches of time, and raises vast questions about the nature of reality, etc. It introduces multiple interstellar (or at least interplanetary) cultures and customs; it has lots of stuff about artificial intelligence and biotechnology; and it tinkers with the laws of nature at some level, so that (unlike traditional space opera) extremely crazy things happen.

I can list about a half dozen books that I think fit this genre:
Vernor Vinge, A Fire Upon the Deep; Dan Simmons (Hyperion/Endymion maybe not quite all the way there yet, but current Ilium and Olympos definitely; Alastair Reynolds Revelation Space and sequels; Ken Macleod, Newton's Wake and others; doubtless others still that I'm forgetting.

The genre seems surprisingly rich, in that I have now read several books with a lot of overlap in theme and style that nevertheless seem (at least to me) sufficiently different to all be interesting.

Anyone else noticed this phenomenon? Like it or hate it?

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Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
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I'd add to your list Peter F Hamilton Night's Dawn trilogy.

I for one like the genre. It usually avoids the pseudoscience and gadgetary of star trek, while managing to ask difficult questions about humanity.

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Posts: 1104 | Registered: Monday, March 10 2003 08:00
Shock Trooper
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I haven't read any of the mentioned works yet - I would have, but Sydney bookstores are so far behind those of the rest of the world it's ridiculous, so I can only say that given the description you gave of "fantasy space opera", the closest I can think of would be Sean Williams and Shane Dix - collaborative authors, not seperate ones. The Orphans trilogy - Echoes of Earth, Orphans of Earth, Heirs of Earth seems to fit best out of what I've read of them.

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Posts: 364 | Registered: Saturday, January 17 2004 08:00
Mongolian Barbeque
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What I've read of this particular sub-genre is rather overblown and repetitive, and quickly becomes tiresome. They try to do too much and succeed in doing very little. However, I do enjoy a book like this once every three years or so, just for the change of pace from my usual SF reading.

[ Thursday, July 14, 2005 11:43: Message edited by: Icshi ]

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Posts: 907 | Registered: Monday, July 15 2002 07:00
This Side Towards Enemy
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I've read Macleod and Reynolds. I've read all the books from the former, and I think Newton's Wake is easily the weakest, and from Reynolds I've read Absolution Gap. However, I'm not sure either of those are sufficiently different from vanilla space opera to be considered a new genre.

Only the 'raising vast questions about the nature of reality, etc.' and 'tinkering with the laws of nature at some level' seem to be less than standard elements of space opera, and I'd argue that the only reason 'extremely crazy things' don't tend to happen in normal space opera is because normal space opera tends to be boring repetitive tripe.

My tastes in sci-fi do not run towards the epic in scope. It's all a little bit too much the sci-fi equivalent of sword and sorcery tales and I'm not really interested in intricate physics. It's not that I couldn't enjoy a book in this genre (I liked Absolution Gap, for example,) it's just that it would have to be sustained by the writing rather than the themes.

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Posts: 961 | Registered: Thursday, June 12 2003 07:00