The Space Opera Renaissance — Charles Stross

Robert Heinlein was well known for a skill that he seemed prodigious at and that was writing words that were not only easy but also fun to read. It didn’t seem to matter if he was saying anything or even being interesting. The words themselves were inviting and intriguing. How does one go about doing this? I can’t for the life of me fathom the depth of such art. I try. I get nowhere. How does one author write something and I read it all the way through, no matter how boring it really is, and another I set it down and walk away no matter how exciting it is. There is obviously a great deal of talent involved but that will only get you so far, there has to be hard work and some kind of understanding of what humans want to read buried deep inside somewhere.

Charles Stross, at least as far as I can tell, is one of the short list of writers that seems to be able to pull this off – not surprisingly most of the others are active and popular bloggers. I’ve never read Stross’s books but his short fiction is phenomenal and I’ve read several of his stories. He’s a brilliant man who has worked as a freelance journalist, a computer programmer and a pharmacist before becoming one of the most almost-celebrated authors in science fiction (he’s been nominated for the Hugo but never won more times than anybody else). He writes hard science fiction, Lovecraftian themed mystery novels and fantasy.

His story “Bear Trap” is the only one of his short works that he felt qualified as Space Opera – though he has written a fair bit in novel form – and that just barely. In order to make such a statement he must have a clearer idea of what Space Opera is than I do. In my mind it happened in space and it’s pretty flashy and big… Space Opera. Regardless of the designation you give, it is a brilliant story that hops along and constantly surprises with the seemingly ridiculous presented as the mundane at every turn so that it is a story about extreme economics and also about a bear. The opening line is probably the best of all the stories in this book, “I was six hours away from landfall on Burgundy when my share portfolio tried to kill me.”

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