By Jennie Goloboy
I recently had the chance to chat with Maximus Groves from Comcastro, and I lamented that despite the success of Guardians of the Galaxy, I almost never see queries for space opera. Max suggested that the problem was that the Marvel movies were too good– that they were intimidating people from writing something similar.
I thought that was an excellent point, and it brings to mind something that worries me a bit. When I was a kid, there was science fiction on television, and it was awful. If I did somehow manage to get attached, it would be canceled after about five episodes. (Some examples include Voyagers!, Misfits of Science, and the awesomely goofy Forever Knight.)
One of the things that got me writing sci-fi was the desire to do something like the TV shows I’d enjoyed so much– only better. Because when the original was fairly awful, better was an achievable goal.
Now we are in an era of genuinely high-quality science-fiction and fantasy writing. How will this affect tomorrow’s writers? After having watched Game of Thrones, will authors be too afraid to write something similar but less engaging? I hope that isn’t the case.
What are your thoughts on this?
Ooh, fascinating question! I don’t think it’s so much the quality as the pacing and entertainment factor where movies and shows now outshine books in some people’s eyes. But you’re right that books are no longer the ONLY place SFF readers can go to find a quality story. For me, it’s exciting to see the bar raised!
Yes, there’s plenty of good SF/F writing. But there’s still plenty of not-so-good SF/F writing, too. So I don’t think that the “I can do better” motivation will dwindle very much.
The wonderful thing about successful franchises like Guardians of the Galaxy and Game of Thrones is that they’re making the genre more mainstream. Hopefully, this will translate into a larger overall demand for SF/F books and media.
I’ve been reading a lot of new space opera. Ryk Brown’s Frontier Saga and Luke Sky Wachter’s Spineward Sectors novels are good examples. They are independents, though.
We are about to see Episode 14 of Brown’s saga. While this is an independently published series, the writing quality is great, good editing, and production quality. Brown created his own production team and is turning out large volumes of work in a short time. There is no way the agented, traditional publishing process could support that.
Of course, Brown is unique. Wachter is doing something similar, but not as aggressive or prolific. Still, the work is decent and the stories are pretty solid.
There is nothing wrong with good old fashioned space opera. I love reading it, when it is good. I hate waiting for the traditional publishing process, especially for series products. Think back to David Eddings’ Belgariad and Malloreon series, or Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. It took years between volumes. Jordan died before the series ended and another writer had to pick up the pieces.
The traditional process has become the intimidator, not the quality of the work currently being showcased. Query an editor or agent, and wait six months to hear back. Get a green light to submit chapters or the manuscript, then wait another six months to a year to hear back. If you submit to an agent, then you have to wait for the agent to get the sale. Get a contract, and it is still two years out before release.
Going independent (if you have the skills or resources) or with a hybrid/non-traditional publisher changes that. You build your own team, get the work done more quickly, and get the product out the door to the reader sooner.
The good space opera writers probably just aren’t querying anymore.
Good stories will always attract readers and viewers, but it takes a daring writer to venture into the genre of science fiction with soul. Who knows what worlds they might encounter?