The association of these two words immediately evokes imposing interstellar spaces, glowing fused crossing a cosmos of scintillating stars in the crash of engines (hum, noise in space ?), intergalactic wars, exotic planets, extraterrestrial civilizations.

          The space-opera was born with Sci-Fi, all at the same time carrying ethics western (pioneer spirit and new border), capitalist ideology (export of the american way of life) and incandescent imaginary. This is Edgar Rice Burroughs' cycle of Barsoom (started in 1912), or " Doc. " Smith Lensmen series  which begins in 1934 with Triplanetary, the legion of space from Williamson (1934) or the kings of stars of Hamilton (1949).

          In the Fifties, just like the westerns, it will be intellectualized with the galactic Empires of Asimov or Poul Anderson' cycle of the interplanetary Merchants (business is business !). Then it will be made dispute, in its ideology as in its codes, by authors like David Gerrold or Frederik Pohl and will fall somewhat in disuse. Started again by the enormous success of  Star Wars (S-O in a pure state, flamboyant !) it currently finds a new youth with an author as Carolyn Cherryh which brings to the kind a psychological dimension (who said that space-opera was a business of men ?) and the hard science which ballasts it of hyperrealism.

          In France, authors as prestigious as Francis Carsac and Gerard Klein also touched space-opera gender. More especially, with the passing of years, the S-O became more one vehicle of ideas of a stricto-sensus kind, thus Samuel Delany's Babel 17 linguistic space-opera or Ian Watson's divine world metaphysical one. To finish, let us add Burroughs space-opera tendency, with its Martian princesses kidnapped by horrible monsters that, to a certain extent, gave rise to the heroic fantasy. But this is an another history.



Le Monde de la Science-fiction. M.A. éditions, 1987

nooSFere, 2000