Tordotcom Celebrates #SpaceOperaWeek By Censoring Popular Space Opera Author

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When I first heard about #SpaceOperaWeek, I was excited. It provided a chance to talk about the sub-genre of Science Fiction that I love more than any other, and cross-platform across the internet through the use of the hashtag to where I’d be able to reach and connect with a lot of people.

Unfortunately, the promise that Tordotcom made in #SpaceOperaWeek turned out to be nothing but thin air.  The launch page really didn’t talk about space opera at all, just having some big logo announcing their initiative. The next post wasn’t about space opera or the joys of its fiction — but presenting a false narrative that women are somehow oppressed and erased in the genre (rebutted by the Hugo-nominated Castalia House who’s been active talking about the great women of space opera for years), a post about ponies in space,a post about the “underrated importance of ordinary, everyday life” in storytelling, and then shilling for a couple of Tor authors. Nothing else. No real space opera discussion at all.

I took matters into my own hands. I started using the hashtag, talking about Space Opera in earnest. I am somewhat of an authority on the genre at this point, having written 3 books in it (one published which you may have heard of, the others I’m revising), and read the genre the entirety of my existence. I’ve spoken on Space Opera on podcasts and at conventions, done interviews on it, written essays on it. If there’s one thing I know what I’m talking about — it’s Space Opera. A lot of cool people from the #PulpRevolution joined in the discussion, as many of those folk write space opera and all of us are heavily read in the genre. If you go look at the hashtag on twitter now — there’s no one who’s reading Tordotcom or any authors from Tordotcom talking about #SpaceOperaWeek, it’s only us. Author Yakov Merkin even released a new Space Opera book in the midst of the event.

Naturally the result was a number of fans and friends commenting to Tor that they’d like to see some essays or an interview with me. I produced one of the most relevant Space Operas of the last year, hailed by authors cross the spectrum from Mary Robinette Kowal to Vox Day, which was a Top-10 Amazon bestseller in the genre, so it would be fun to get some perspective, especially given the Tor writers self-admittedly don’t even like the genre (which is why there’s so little discussion).  I came to find out that after the first five requests — Tor deleted the next 10+ of people requesting I write without so much as reaching out to anyone on the matter.

That’s fine, that’s a lot of comments! I understand that though with the overwhelming readership demanding something you’d think they’d take action. I was so flabbergasted by the article about not liking space opera and about how ordinary, everyday life was what was important to write about — the opposite of everything Space Opera is about — that I took to writing a rebuttal article on the Hugo-nominated Castalia House blog. Not only do we now have a highly relevant space opera writer talking on the subject — but writing an article for a site that has garnered such prestige and honor in the genre that it is a finalist for science fiction’s top award. You’d think that #SpaceOperaWeek would certainly care about that. Nothing more could be on topic.

I posted a link to the article, mentioned it’s a rebuttal and how I’d love to further discuss space opera. Very respectful, as always, and earnestly interested in opening up more dialogue on my favorite genre.

Tordotcom deleted it rather than actually talk about the important literary elements of the genre. They censored the leading Hispanic voice in science fiction. They shun the site, contributors and readership of a Hugo-nominated blog.

So if the point isn’t to talk about Space Opera and celebrate together with leaders in the genre what is #SpaceOperaWeek for? Why do they have people who don’t even like the genre writing about it?

A lot of people reading are rolling their eyes and saying “it’s tordotcom what do you expect?” That’s not acceptable as an answer to me. I’m watching our industry and our form of entertainment that’s been a staple of western culture for the past one hundred years go from millions of readers to thousands of readers. The fun’s been sucked out of Science Fiction, and the whole point of Space Opera is that it brings the fun back to it. The term was originally something derogatory used by “real” science fiction writers and readers to talk about this “fantasy in space” that didn’t push heavy scientific or sociological concepts. The term itself is an attack on people who just like to tell fun stories in space.  Sounds a lot like how Tordotcom treats me and the #PulpRevolution crew, doesn’t it? The irony is thick.

Tordotcom hates Space Opera is the only conclusion. They have no real interest in discussing it, but fortunately there’s some places where they are. Do follow me on Twitter at @jondelarroz and look for articles by me and others for #SpaceOperaWeek that actually address the genre at:  

We’ll have some real talk, and we won’t delete your contributions to the subject either.

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8 thoughts on “Tordotcom Celebrates #SpaceOperaWeek By Censoring Popular Space Opera Author

  1. Sign me up for the fun side of sci-fi. Admittedly, the industry not just Tor) has done its worst to drive a stake through the heart of rollicking stories, but we’re still seeing (and enjoying!) a resurgence in the genre.

    One issue that I have with the naysayers of space opera is their conviction that all the stories had going for them was the entertainment aspect. If you read the old masters, you’d find a lot of science in them. E.E. “Doc” Smith in the Lensman series is a great example. Even as the science moved past the series, quite a few basic concepts remain valid. His Directrix system for the battle groups proved prophetic and was incorporated in the modern CiC systems of the WWII navy.

    That was true of the whole genre. You could ride along the starways, learn a thing or two, and have a blast doing it. For a teenage boy, it was nirvana.

    Now, if you’re having fun, apparently you’re doing it all wrong according to all the ‘right’ people. They sniff, tell you the characters are all wrong, the story needs to be more real, the problems mundane.

    Sorry, give me blasters or a vortex to blow out or a worthy hill to die on. Send me on the Glory Road. I want heroes to cheer for and villains to defeat. If you teach me a thing or two about gravity or faster-than-light concepts, cool. Just don’t fricking bore me.

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  4. In other words, Tor wants science fiction to be boring.

    I like everything taking place outside earth:

    Space opera
    Planetary romance
    Lost in space (as a concept, not just the show)
    Big dumb object
    And the hybrid between space opera and planetary romance called planet hopping, for the lack of a better word, where a spaceship travel through space and have short but adventurous stops on various planets.

  5. Since the topic is space opera, how has the genre evolved since Doc Smith and Hamilton? For me, space opera will always include distances measured in light years, galactic scale, faster than light travels, super-science, exotic planets and lifeforms, the feeling of cosmic frontiers, and a sense of wonder.
    (I read it was its popularity that caused its bad reputation. Because the demand for new stories was much higher than the supply, the pulps had to choose quantity over quality.)

    Sure, older works has gender roles that are not considered politically correct these days, but it doesn’t bother me because they were all a product of their time.

    But there also used to be things like blowing up planets, exploitation of resources (like in the planet stories of Stanley G. Weinbaum, even if they were not exactly space opera), invasions, intelligent species that were either pure evil or pure good, monster and impossible ecosystems, evolution that did not make sense, humans who killed large animals on other planets without giving it a thought, other planets that have birds, fish, mammals and flowers like on earth (only a little different), the omnicompetent renaissance man, the tendency to visit other planets without any contamination protocols as long as the oxygen content was OK, and telepathy and other abilities as “the next stage in evolution” and already standard in higher races from other planets.

    Awareness about ecology and the environment apparently didn’t start to gain foothold in the public before the 70s. I remember when reading Childhood’s End how all the parents on an island decided to commit mass suicide, and did so by blowing up the whole island with all its fauna and flora. That kind of mentality in a novel with have been far less likely today. While blowing up planets (or even stars) is still common in Star Wars and other Hollywood production, just to teach resistance a lesson, would also cause a little discomfort amongst readers today. It would be like bombing New York to pieced just to kill a single rabid dog.
    Personally I love telepathy and telekinesis in superhero universes, but in science fiction in general it has become much more rare. The same with radioactivity that results in gigantic spiders and ants, or monster mutants formed after just a single generation. As we know, Darwin’s monster and evolution in general doesn’t work that way it used to be described in the old sci-fi stories.
    And of course the old plot about aliens invading earth because they want our water and because they want to eat us doesn’t quite work as good anymore. Especially when knowing how much easier it would be to mining ice objects in the outer solar system. Even if that’s a plot that is not restricted to space opera.

    I guess the genre has evolved, and what some of the topics are concerned, I don’t mind. But scale, FTL-travels, sense of wonder, engineering of megastructures, and weird aliens and robots can not be removed without killing it.

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