It’s a misleading term, a throwback to the days of radio serials, of soap operas and horse operas. It was coined in 1941 as a derogatory cover-all for what the writer Wilson Tucker saw as the ‘hacky, grinding, stinking, outworn, spaceship yarn’ (entry on space opera in Clute and Nicholls, 1993): pulpy, landfill-grade science fiction, in other words, cranked out by the yard by writers with bills to pay. With time however (much like the initially insulting term ‘Big Bang’ in cosmology), the label has ceased to have overtly negative connotations. Space opera is now an accepted marketing category for a particular sub-genre of SF, and its current practitioners generally have no qualms about being identified with the form.
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