There was a time when just hearing the phrase would conjure up films like Star Wars, Star Trek (I'm thinking of The Wrath of Kahn and The Search For Spock as well as whole sections of the Generations television series), Battlestar Galactica, or a small number of other films that writers, directors, actors and everyone else in between managed to infuse with compelling stories and dramatic performances.
When I started writing the Spinward Fringe series I realized that I was setting the stage for something different, something I had never written or seen anywhere before. That's the kind of thing I live for.
Resurrection and Awakening happened, they told a lot of the story very quickly and through a few twists and turns everyone who read those books knew what they had to in order to experience Triton.
Then I started Triton. It was a much greater undertaking than I had ever attempted before and that includes Fate Cycle: Sins of the Past, a 360 page epic fantasy novel I took the better part of two years to write some time before. Spinward Fringe Triton was larger than Resurrection and Awakening combined, had a few very clear plotlines, developed the universe in a greater sense and more than anything: it contained more than one love story. One begins and comes to a tentative conclusion while the others go on their merry little ways complicating the lives of many characters. Again, Triton forced me to write in ways that I hadn't before, to face challenges I hadn't overcome.
After many emails and messages through other delivery systems I've found that my risk taking paid off. It's a good thing too, because I was proud of Triton even before I gave it to my editor, before I was sure all of its parts made a worthwhile hole.
Now I'm right in the middle of Spinward Fringe Frontline. I can't go into details, and I can't even begin to describe Fronline without explaining what comes to mind when someone mentions the term Space Opera
When I see those words (Space Opera), I think; this is a story where one or more characters are searching for something, wherein a quest for love, success, honor or even the greater good is undertaken. To me a true Space Opera always includes a story that you could express in song, perhaps a romantic tune, a dark dirge, or heart breaking melody that tells us of the sacrifice our heroes are making for the greater good. Space Operas, to me, often tell us about something a character wants or needs but the quest for it isn't easy. Sometimes they have to sacrifice thier precious few opportunities to satisfy their emotional needs for the greater good or timing and circumstance doesn't allow them to fulfill their dreams. All the while every character has a song to sing. From the heart one will croon woefully, looking to the stars in hopes that their heart's desire is singing the opposite part of thier unfulfilled duet.
Meanwhile there are dark goings on, the same melody is played by villains, only it's twisted and sinister as they scheme and consort in the shadows. Thier desires, though counter to the greater good, may still be worthy of song especially since the real villains don't see their quests as wrong but take great pleasure in using nefarious methods to accomplish them.
Therin lies the true foundation of the Space Opera. Like many Operas before there is a greater good to serve, a reason for our heroes to stop singing their duet parts and join in on the thematic chorus that will temporarily replace the longing in their hearts with bravery and give them the strength they need to make choices that serve the greater good.
We in the audience know that when devilish villains take the stage a sacrifice may be required before the heroes can finally defeat them.
The Opera plays on and as the heroic chorus is countered by the villainous theme sung in Diabolus in Musica tones we sit white knuckled, chewing fingernails and gripping our partner's arm waiting to find out which character will think up the perfect trick, out sing our villain or make the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good. All the while we're hoping to hear that romantic theme triumphant, signifying that the golden pair have found their way to each other, praying to hear the heroic chorus sung thundrously high over the defeated villain and desperately trying to avoid thinking back to that dark middle act wherin nothing was won, hope seemed impossible and the villain had his day. We wonder before the end if the villain or hero will have the swan song as they are killed or sacrificed and find it hard to watch as those final moments play out.
That, to me is Space Opera. To elaborate a little more, I think that's a quick and dirty guide to Epic Space Opera.
More specifically, that's what I'm doing in Spinward Fringe Frontline.
The stage is set, the players are all in costume, the audience has returned from the first intermission and now I go to write that dark, sinister second act.