Old Term, New Trend: Space Opera
Sitting at a lunch for YA author Marissa Meyer and her Cinderella-as-android title Cinder the conversation turned to the current trend of fairy tales in literature and popular culture. Aside from Meyer’s tale, no one else has really attempted to combine fairy tales and science fiction in a serious way for young adult readers. It got me to thinking about the current crop of novels for kids and teens set in outer space.
With so many kids in love with Star Wars-related television shows, books, movies, etc. it has always surprised me that space isn’t more popular amongst middle grade and YA readers. Why is this? Do they associate space with little kids? Is it fault of book jackets? Or is this a case of poor labeling instead?
As any librarian will tell you, label a section of the library “Science Fiction” and you can pretty much guarantee that your circulation in that area will be lamentable at best. Kids don’t go for sci-fi. So here’s a proposal for you. Consider, if you will, what would happen if you took all the space related fare and relabeled it “Space Opera”.
The term is hardly new, having been used for years in the adult fiction world, but it’s never been consistently applied to works for youth. As defined by Wikipedia (as of this post, anyway) a space opera is “a subgenre of science fiction that emphasizes romantic, often melodramatic adventure, set mainly or entirely in outer space, generally involving conflict between opponents possessing advanced technologies and abilities.”
Definitions can be artificially applied if the need arises. I wonder to myself if anyone has ever attempted this particular labeling for their MG and YA sections before.
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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