Space Opera

Space Opera is to sf what "horse opera" is to westerns, coined in 1941 by Bob Tucker in his fanzine Le Zombie to mean a "hacky, grinding, stinking, outworn spaceship yarn," it has since mellowed to mean any routine or unimaginative story taking place in space — or even sometime to mean any story featuring spaceships without much pejorative meaning.

Best represented by the work of E. E. "Doc" Smith, a good deal of science fiction from the 1930s and 1940s fits into this category. Also called, at times, "Blood and Thunder" (if good) or "Thud and Blunder" (if not). The Galactic Patrol, ray guns (sometimes simultaneously with swords), BEMs, Buck Rogers & other heroes who knew which side their swash was buckled on are all space opera, and recognizable "space opera stories" are still being published today. The movie Star Wars could also be considered prototypical space opera – where the focus is on heroic action rather than solid scientific extrapolation.

from Fancyclopedia 2 ca. 1959
(Tucker) A hack science-fiction story, a dressed-up Western; so called by analogy with "horse opera" for Western bangbangshootemup movies and "soap opera" for radio and video yellowdrama. Of course, some space operas are more crass about their nature than others; early Captain Video TVcasts were a hybrid of original space scenes and footage from old Western movies (purporting to represent a Spy Ray checking up on the Captain's Earthly agents). Terry Carr once unearthed a publication genommen Space Western Comics, in which a character named Spurs Jackson adventured in a futuristic Western setting with his "space vigilantes", and the old prewar Planet Comics intermittently ran a strip about the Fifth Martian Lancers and their struggles with rebel tribesmen.

See Dressed-Up Westerns.
from Fancyclopedia 1 ca. 1944
(Tucker) - a hack science-fiction story, a dressed-up western; so called by analogy with "horse opera" for Western bangbangshootemup movies and "soap opera" for radio yellowdramas.