I love a good Space Opera. I even occasionally love a bad Space Opera.
Let’s discuss the difference between Space Opera and Science Fiction, shall we?Really, as far as I can tell Space Opera is more about the drama, the romance, the fat lady singing, it’s big, loud, adventurous and kind of gaudy. It’s also the most popular brand of SciFi. Star Trek, Star Wars, Dr. Who all arguably (because you can always find someone who will argue with you) Space Operas.
Hard Science Fiction, in contrast, tends to let the world building and the actual Science aspects dominate the storyline more so than the characters, at times. The harder the Science in Science Fiction the smarter you are, am I right?
And that can be fun. I toyed with the idea of writing a short story in the style of truly rock-hard Science Fiction, so hard that it could be called Science Fact except that the characters would be made up. Here’s the plot: a group of college students go in search of evidence of extraterrestrial visitation to earth. They use the latest equipment and are well versed in the most widely accepted theories and experimentations of their day with regards to several different branches of science. After several slow weeks they find absolutely nothing but aren’t too terribly disappointed because they’re reasonable people and weren’t really expecting anything more.
Anyway, I started to work on a Space Opera two weeks ago and it’s coming along. I specifically started this story with the thought in mind that I’d fill it to the brim with the kind of marshmallow fluffy goodness of Applied Phlebotinum, Space is an Ocean, Rubber Forehead Aliens. Yum. That’s good Space Opera.
So why, two weeks later, am I reading up about quantum physics, the Higgs Boson Particle, the Valkyrie Project and physical regeneration in undersea life? Why am I now attempting to fuel my Applied Phlebotinum with some actual science... theory.
Wait. If it's theory that means it's still technically fake, right? So it's like... fiction.
I so don't get scientists.
Here. Have an excerpt.
We use the Waveships to close the fifteen mile distance between the temple and the shallow water where the Xenophone ship rests. The ship is larger than the temple, made of a strange grey alloy that is scorched and scared. Their ship is damaged, but it appears that relatively little occurred during the crash-land itself. The pilot must have managed to bring the ship to a slower speed before it collided with the surface.
Why would the Wheel allow Xenophones to come here? It is against our laws. It is blaspheme against all that we believe. Freyyo is in the ship with me. I sense more hate, fear and confusion.
Overdramatic is the word that comes to my mind, with effort I shield that word from my companions on the Waveship. It is true that the Wheel has also expressed a desire for us to stay isolated, peaceful and harmonious on our own Ragtnoy, but it is other philosophers who have taken this to mean that contact with Xenophones is always inherently evil. As I’ve understood the voice of the Wheel, I’ve come to believe that our isolation has more to do with our deficiencies than those of the other species in the ether outside.
From a distance I can’t make out the features of these Xenophones. They pour out of the ship, splashing into the water. A strange, sick noise rises above the waves as we approach. For a few seconds I merely cringe at the wailing, like the wind in a nasty storm, but high pitched and eradicate, then I realize that it’s the creatures.
Verbal language. Yuon reaches that conclusion first, sharing it with the rest of us with a hint of fascination. Do they speak telepathically, at all, or are their minds silent?
We’ll find out.
My ears hate this sound they make, but as we approach it isn’t the words they’re calling out that crash into my head so painfully, as it is their thoughts and more shockingly, the emotions and images that are burned into their quiet minds.
He’s dead. He’s dead.
Where are they? Will they follow?
The blood is spilling into the water.
I can barely breathe. It hurts, my child is gasping for air.
I see people, torn, screaming, braking, broken. Their blood is a brighter red than ours. It coats everything in their thoughts, mingling with foreign flesh and darker bloods. I feel ill, and wish that I could shield Eme from all this. I shouldn’t have come. I should have thought of my unborn baby. I can’t stay here. “Take me back!” my voice startles me, because I’ve spoken verbally, for the first time in months. The others are shocked. They look at me like I’ve just struck someone. Take me back, I can’t let Eme stay here.
Even as I speak, the voice of the Wheel calms me and negates my protest. Stay. It’s almost like a real word, not just a desire. The Wheel has never spoken so firmly to me before.
I want to stay. Eme protests, I feel his fear, but his awe at the Xenophones is more powerful.
I’m about to tell the others that I’ll stay, when I realize that there’s no point. They’re not turning back. Everyone is engrossed in the storm of Xenophone thoughts.
They’ve just been through a terrible battle with strange creatures that frighten them.
The Xenophones themselves, are frightening to me. Shortly before we are close enough that I can behold them with my own eyes, I see them in their thoughts. They’re skin is more fragile than ours, in warm shades ranging from a pale cream to a rich black. They have curtains of strange, thin follicles that grow continually from their head, in various shades and textures. Their entire bodies seem to have at least a thin layer of this covering, though it offers little protection. Though their skin is more easily pierced than ours, they are much stronger and perhaps a little larger in general. Their muscular form is built to work hard, to hunt, to run fast. Their skeletal structure seems much the same as ours, though their bones are denser, capable of taking more abuse than ours. Their eyes are sinister. Their eyelids rest farther down over their eyeball which is rimmed with white. These narrow eyes are similar to ours in that they have irises of various shades, but the colored portion of the eyeball is strangely small, circling only around their pupils. Their eyes frighten me, until I see through the thoughts in their mind that in spite of how different their eyes look, they see the same way mine do. They have no tentacles, they can swim, but water is far from their natural environment. They can’t survive underwater for more than a few minutes. They are having trouble breathing now.
The last thing I notice gives me a chill. Their teeth. They’re teeth are slightly longer and sharper than ours. These are not the teeth of an herbivore. These Xenophones who’ve found themselves choking on the surface of my home-world, are predators.
Their confusion is overwhelmed by fear as they see us approach.
Startled, I see that one female is wading through the water to meet us. She is small and slight compared to the others. I can sense that she is very afraid, but more than anything she is determined to help her own womb worm, recently birthed. Very recently. I can feel that the mother is still aching, and still weighed down by her exhausted frame.
The small creature wrapped tightly in her arms whines. The young female mother is waist-deep in the water, throwing her hand into the air towards us. Her thoughts are rampant, and express the ego-centric ideas of someone who must not know that we can hear into her mind.
Please. Please let them be kind to us.
Our ship slows and I lean far over the edge to get my first look at this creature. She shivers and sputters out bits of water. Her face is twisted with pain, though I can see that all her emotion and hope is wrapped around the squirming womb worm like a blanket of thoughts. The curtain of thin follicles around her head has forms into thick, wet chunks of black. Those dangerous teeth chatter between verbal words that I can’t understand. Communication through the mind is so much more efficient. I can pull the ideas behind the words from her mind.
She wants us to help her baby.
We shall help the Xenophones. I speak this idea clearly into her mind, trying to give with it, the most tender representation of my concern for her child.
The female’s shock shows on her face physically, as much as it screams through her mind. She’s stunned, regarding me with wonder.
What species is this?
She makes more verbal noises with her mouth, but in her mind I pluck the right word from the jumble; human.
There is a question in her thoughts as well. I answer it as my fellow priestesses begin to fall from the side of the ship into the water, ready to help the Xenophones. The humans. We are roshmi. I am Ipo, a Rosh Priestess. This is the planet Ragtnoy, where dwells the Wheel of Light.