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Was the original Space Opera underwater?


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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 27, 2009 1:21:16 PM PDT
Here's a thought: Was the very first Space Opera "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" by science fiction pioneer, Jules Verne, in the mid-1800s?

Think about it. His submarine was a sealed craft in an unknown or virtually unexplored medium -- the ocean. Captain Nemo never surfaced, that I remember, mining the ocean for everything he and his
sub needed. Extending to seaweed cigars. (This was the mid-1800s, EVERY gentleman had to have his cigars!)

Your thoughts?

Posted on Apr 28, 2009 12:14:39 PM PDT
I'd call 20,000 Leagues the first modern space opera, since it is about technology and a very different environment. To my mind, the first space opera is The Odyssey (sailing for years to strange, new places with a variety of strange creatures who want to kill and/or eat the captain and crew, meeting a variety of beautiful alien women who the captain sleeps with, and mysterious, powerful alien entities manipulating events in the background).

In terms of 20,000 Leagues being a first, I was recently told (and I believe it) that the Disney movie version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea inspired steam-punk. The Disney movie created an amazingly well realized vision of the Nautilus. If the Victorians had built a nuclear-powered submarine, it would have looked like that, inside and out, every hatch, fitting and lever. No other version of 20,000 Leagues has come anywhere close to that (most present images of the interior of the Nautilus which look like rooms on land). Kids saw that Disney movie, thought how cool that Nautilus was, and grew up to write steam-punk.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 29, 2009 7:38:30 AM PDT
Very interesting, John! Thanks for the comments. I'm not sure I'm sold on The Odyssey as the first Space Opera, since it all took place on land and ON the ocean. But all the adventures and magical creatures would certainly qualify it as, perhaps, the first Heroic Fantasy.

The tie-in of the Disney movie, 20,000 Leagues, to steam-punk was interesting. Perhaps next time you could give me a full explanation of steam-punk. (I'm guessing it's all about steam-powered contraptions, like the TV show "The Wild Wild West" used continually.)

In reply to an earlier post on May 7, 2009 1:01:37 PM PDT
Well, speaking as a sailor, being on the ocean is also being surrounded by a hostile medium. You can breath the air but you can't drink the water, and if anything goes wrong you need to find a good piece of land pretty quick. The main difference I see between space and the ocean is that the ocean can be quite actively malevolent at times - it will try to kill you. By contrast, space just sits and waits for you to make a mistake, and then you die. Just my own personification of different operating environments.

As I understand it, steam punk is the use of Victorian-era tech in fiction to do any of a variety of things. For example, Nantes, France actually has a giant, robotic elephant made in honor of one of Jules Verne's stories. The elephant isn't steam powered, but it's a very steam punk thing because if someone had aimed to build a giant robotic elephant in the Victorian age then that elephant is what they would have built. Tres cool.

In reply to an earlier post on May 8, 2009 9:44:29 AM PDT
Very interesting, John. Thank you! Although I have to differ with you that space "just sits and waits", or isn't a hostile medium. There are many dangerous forces out there, from natural radiation to gases and winds, to energies being spun out by quasers and other little-understood "emitting phenomenon". Just think of all the warning-surveillance devices you have on an ocean ship, and multiple that a hundred times by what would be needed on a spacecraft!

Thank you for the definition of steam-punk, as Victorian-era tech. The TV show "The Wild, Wild West" relied a lot on steam-punk contraptions.

Posted on Jul 29, 2009 7:35:28 AM PDT
To anyone still following this thread, nextbigfuture.com had an article, on Tuesday (7/28/09), about future submarines. "Potential Submarine Breakthroughs: Four Times Faster and Super Deep Diving".

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 20, 2012 7:35:21 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 20, 2012 7:43:42 AM PDT
W.T. Keeton says:
Since the entire original idea behind space opera was to transport nautical and airborne earth adventure stories into a space setting, works such as "20,000 Leagues..." (and many westerns as well) can't really be the "first space opera" so much as they are the inspiration that space operas drew upon for earthly inspiration (in the same way, for example, that "Star Trek" began in concept as "Wagon Train" in a space setting - though it obviously grew beyond those roots!).

When pulp writers (most specifically, Edmond Hamilton and E.E. "Doc" Smith, working independently and almost simultaneously) first began taking those plots and resetting them into outer space to satisfy readers, thus was born space opera. As the pulps grew in popularity and new writers came on-board, often the same basic story was sold two or three times with only names, settings and some cosmetic dressing changed; once as a western, once as an adventure story set somewhere like Africa or the Middle East, and then again as science fiction, most often space opera.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 18, 2012 5:17:35 PM PDT
ikonoklast61 says:
He surfaced most notably to take on his famous passengers at the beginning of the book, as well as at Crete, and also at the South Pole ... off the top of my head.
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Discussion in:  Space Opera forum
Participants:  4
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Initial post:  Apr 27, 2009
Latest post:  Sep 18, 2012

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