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,
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).
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.
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.