space opera

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English[edit]

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Etymology[edit]

Compound of space +‎ opera. Coined by fan and writer Wilson "Bob" Tucker in 1941. The term was originally derived from the term horse opera and thus indirectly from soap opera, to describe a specific, hackneyed science fiction writing style.

Noun[edit]

space opera (countable and uncountable, plural space operas)

  1. (initially derogatory) A subgenre of speculative fiction or science fiction that emphasizes space travel, romantic adventure, and larger-than-life characters often set against vast exotic settings.
    • 1941 January, "Bob" Tucker, Le Zombie, number 36, page 9: 
      SUGGESTION DEPT: In these hectic days of phrase-coining, we offer one. Westerns are called "horse operas", the morning housewife tear-jerkers are called "soap operas". For the hacky, grinding, stinking, outworn space-ship yarn, or world-saving for that matter, we offer "space opera"
  2. A subgenre of speculative fiction or science fiction that utilises serialisation.
  3. (countable) A work or production in this style.

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