If you’re anything like me, that will now be your earworm for the day. It could be worse. I was talking about opera over at the Otherwhere Gazette today, and how ‘Space Opera’ came to be first a pejorative, and later a term of acclaim. 

Fat Ladies Singing

Space and Opera seem to be an improbable pairing. Opera, a form of entertainment popularly known for being high-brow, and involving the ‘fat lady singing’ and the genre we refer to as space opera with the exploding spaceships and exotic galactic locales. So how did they come to meet, like chocolate and peanut butter? What is the origin of the phrase, as the earliest origins of space opera, and certainly today, involve no ladies (fat or otherwise) singing?

Last week, at the Mad Genius Club and later on my blog, I provoked a discussion on what Hard Science Fiction is, whether it is still relevant, and finally, a list of 18 Twenty-First Century Hard SF books recommended by those who read the genre. It was truly fascinating to me to see not only that there are varying opinions on what makes a science fiction tale ‘hard’ – that I had expected – but to see that some, indeed, many, have no real distinction of subgenres within science fiction.

If I had to break science fiction into parts, there would be three of them (yes, I know that I don’t have to, but you see, there’s this heart of a librarian which rumor has I keep in a jar on my desk…) comprised of Hard Science Fiction, Space Opera, and military science fiction. Or maybe not. Eyes list. I think I could take that further… but today is not the day.

Space opera, according to that trove of wisdom, TV Tropes, is:

“A space opera is a work set in a far future space faring civilization, where the technology is ubiquitous and entirely secondary to the story. It has an epic character to it: The universe is big, there are lots of sprawling civilizations and empires, there are political conflicts and intrigues galore. Frequently it takes place in the Standard Sci Fi Setting. In perspective, it is a development of the Planetary Romance that looks beyond the exotic locations that were imagined for the local solar system in early science fiction (which the hard light of science revealed to be barren and lifeless) out into an infinite universe of imagined exotic locations.

Space opera has a lot of romantic elements: big love stories, epic space battles, oversized heroes and villains, awe-inspiring places, and insanely gorgeous women.”

So how does this have anything to do with, well, Otello, or Mozart, or… any of the singing ladies? The answer is that it didn’t originally. Between Space Opera and old-fashioned ladies belting it out before swooning gaily, is another step. The derisive terms of ‘horse opera’ and ‘soap opera’ lent more to space opera than Wagner’s Valkyries.

Read More at the Otherwhere Gazette… 

Slug Brains

In other news, Scientists have discovered that slug-like organisms store memory in the genes, not their synapses. What repercussions does this have for humans? Who knows. Human brains are not equivalent to slugs. There are therapies that work perfectly well in mice, for example, that just don’t work with humans. It’s interesting, tenatively, and useful for a science fiction writer who’s thinking about things like the possibility of…

A spy, running through a crowd with a syringe hidden in his palm. Behind him, inexorable men implacably pursue. The spy stumbles, a woman screams. “Excuse me…” and he runs on, drawing his pursuers ever in his wake. Behind them, a young woman holds her bruised arm, a puzzled look growing on her face as her mind remembers paths she has never set foot on…

The possibility of purging recollections caught the eye of David Glanzman, a neurobiologist at U.C.L.A., who set out to study the process in Aplysia, a sluglike mollusk commonly used in neuroscience research. Glanzman and his team zappedAplysia with mild electric shocks, creating a memory of the event expressed as new synapses in the brain. The scientists then transferred neurons from the mollusk into a petri dish and chemically triggered the memory of the shocks in them, quickly followed by a dose of propranolol.

Initially the drug appeared to confirm earlier research by wiping out the synaptic connection. But when cells were exposed to a reminder of the shocks, the memory came back at full strength within 48 hours. “It was totally reinstated,” Glanzman says. “That implies to me that the memory wasn’t stored in the synapse.” The results were recently published in the online open-access journal eLife.

Happy Kittens: or, why the Hugo Controversy is all good.

Matthew Bowman has a very long piece at his blog, breaking it all down with numbers. I’m snipping a bit here, but if you’re interested, you should go there, it’s a very reasonable and rational post. Just lengthy.

I don’t see anything wrong with a campaign that, demonstrably, boosted votes for the Hugos. In 2011, there were exactly 2,100 valid ballots. In 2012, there were 1,922. In 2013, there were 1,848. Last year, for the 2014 Hugo Awards, there were 3,137. All of a sudden, next to the previous vote totals, that number doesn’t seem quite so small. I don’t think that can be a coincidence.

And if we don’t like the people behind the Sad Puppies campaign, let’s stop screaming and shouting about how they’re Not True Fans(tm). Let’s get out a Happy Kittens campaign! (Okay, I like kittens. Name it whatever you like. Here kitty, kitty . . .) Just please — please please please — let’s not have any modern Piers Plowmen on the ballot. I got enough of that in college.

Whatever any additional campaigns might be called, I fail to see why promoting the Hugos and getting more people to sign up is a bad thing. I like the idea of the Hugo Awards being restored to their previous position of glory. Previously, I was in the camp of getting DragonCon to start up the Dragon Awards (okay, maybe I should stop naming things), but Sad Puppies has actually given me hope. The controversy has made people sit up and take notice. People are starting to think that the Hugos matter. I can’t see how that’s a bad thing!

The Hugo Awards nominee list goes live this Saturday, April 4th. As long as Jim Butcher’s Skin GameBrandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance, and The LEGO Movie are on the ballot, I really don’t care what gets nominated. For once, I’m genuinely excited to see the results, because with all the attention the Awards have been given, it’s no longer predictable by the small minority who has dominated it year after year. Right now, it’s up in the air. The only thing being predicted is that a previous pattern has been broken — and both sides of the Hugo Awards divide are admitting that.

And maybe, just maybe, it means we won’t get any modern allegorical morality novels on the nomination ballot.

We’ll find out this weekend. For now, read a good book.

Wanna-be Lions, or Fuzzy Jellybeans?

I haven’t got time for a book. I have homework, and classes, and… and no snippet for tomorrow, so I’m not sure yet what I’m putting up. I’m sure it will come to me.


7 responses to “Morning Has Broken”

  1. Kathleen Sanderson Avatar
    Kathleen Sanderson

    I love that song, Morning Has Broken!

    Good morning!

  2. Cedar, since you are the first of the MGC I reviewed, you will likely be pleased with this new development:
    I’ve decided it’s time to do some serious research into the impact reviews can have on book sales. Accordingly, I’m going to be varying my style at random, so that I am including NEGATIVE reviews as well as the POSITIVE reviews. Read the full rationale on my blog, which is http://habakkuk21.blogspot.com/2015/04/reviewing-book-sales-closer-view.html

    1. I think that’s a natural and heathy thing to progress into. It is harder to do a balanced, subjective critique than to simply praise, or on the flip side, to attack with only objective emotions. Finding a balance for books that aren’t up to par is very good.

      1. I didn’t make myself clear: I plan on savaging works based on the flip of a coin, not on their merit.

        1. 0_o is this the part where you tell me April fools?

          1. Umm, actually yes it is, and since you are only the second person who has called me out, despite making the announcement on 4 blogs and Facebook, your perspicacity is unquestioned.

            1. I think I know you well enough to know you couldn’t in good conscience do that to an unsuspecting author 🙂 And you are a good man, Pat.