The New Space Opera

The New Space Opera

by Gardner Dozois, Jonathan Strahan


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060846756
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/12/2007
Pages: 528
Sales rank: 1,190,034
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Gardner Dozois is a highly esteemed author and Hugo Award-winning editor of several SF anthologies and, for twenty years, Asimov's Science Fiction magazine.

Jonathan Strahan has co-edited The Year's Best Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy series of anthologies for HarperCollins Australia, co-edits the Science Fiction: The Best of . . . and Fantasy: The Best of . . . anthology series with Karen Haber for Simon & Schuster/ibooks, edits the Best Short Novels anthology series for the Doubleday Science Fiction Book Club, and co-edited The Locus Awards for Eos with Charles N. Brown. He is also the Reviews Editor for Locus: The Magazine of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Fields, and reviews for the magazine regularly. He is currently working on The New Space Opera II.

Read an Excerpt

The New Space Opera 2

Chapter One

Diving back into the universe (now that the universe is a finished object, boxed and ribboned from bang to bounce), Carlotta calculates ever-finer loci on the frozen ordinates of spacetime until at last she reaches a trailer park outside the town of Commanche Drop, Arizona. Bodiless, no more than a breath of imprecision in the Feynman geography of certain virtual particles, thus powerless to affect the material world, she passes unimpeded through a sheet-aluminum wall and hovers over a mattress on which a young woman sleeps uneasily.

The young woman is her own ancient self, the primordial Carlotta Boudaine, dewed with sweat in the hot night air, her legs caught up in a spindled cotton sheet. The bedroom's small window is cranked open, and in the breezeless distance a coyote wails.

Well, look at me, Carlotta marvels: skinny girl in panties and a halter, sixteen years old—no older than a gnat's breath—taking shallow little sleep-breaths in the moonlit dark. Poor child can't even see her own ghost. Ah, but she will, Carlotta thinks—she must.

The familiar words echo in her mind as she inspects her dreaming body, buried in its tomb of years, eons, kalpas. When it's time to leave, leave. Don't be afraid. Don't wait. Don't get caught. Just go. Go fast.

Her ancient beloved poem. Her perennial mantra. The words, in fact, that saved her life.

She needs to share those words with herself, to make the circle complete. Everything she knows about nature of the physical universe suggests that the task is impossible. Maybe so — but it won't be for lack of trying.

Patiently, slowly, soundlessly, Carlotta begins to speak.

Here's the story of the Fleet, girl, and how I got raptured up into it. It's all about the future—a bigger one than you believe in—so brace yourself.

It has a thousand names and more, but we'll just call it the Fleet. When I first encountered it, the Fleet was scattered from the core of the galaxy all through its spiraled tentacles of suns, and it had been there for millions of years, going about its business, though nobody on this planet knew anything about it. I guess every now and then a Fleet ship must have fallen to Earth, but it would have been indistinguishable from any common meteorite by the time it passed through the atmosphere: a chunk of carbonaceous chondrite smaller than a human fist, from which all evidence of ordered matter had been erased by fire—and such losses, which happened everywhere and often, made no discernible difference to the Fleet as a whole. All Fleet data (that is to say, all mind) was shared, distributed, fractal. Vessels were born and vessels were destroyed, but the Fleet persisted down countless eons, confident of its own immortality.

Oh, I know you don't understand the big words, child! It's not important for you to hear them—not these words—it's only important for me to say them. Why? Because a few billion years ago tomorrow, I carried your ignorance out of this very trailer, carried it down to the Interstate, and hitched west with nothing in my backpack but a bottle of water, a half-dozen Tootsie Rolls, and a wad of twenty-dollar bills stolen out of Dan-O's old ditty bag. That night (tomorrow night: mark it) I slept under an overpass all by myself, woke up cold and hungry long before dawn, and looked up past a concrete arch crusted with bird shit into a sky so thick with falling stars it made me think of a dark skin bee-stung with fire. Some of the Fleet vectored too close to the atmosphere that night, no doubt, but I didn't understand that (any more than you do, girl)—I just thought it was a big flock of shooting stars, pretty but meaningless. And, after a while, I slept some more. And come sunrise, I waited for the morning traffic so I could catch another ride — but the only cars that came by were all weaving or speeding, as if the whole world was driving home from a drunken party.

"They won't stop," a voice behind me said. "Those folks already made their decisions, Carlotta. Whether they want to live or die, I mean. Same decision you have to make."

I whirled around, sick-startled, and that was when I first laid eyes on dear Erasmus.

Let me tell you right off that Erasmus wasn't a human being. Erasmus just then was a knot of shiny metal angles about the size of a microwave oven, hovering in midair, with a pair of eyes like the polished tourmaline they sell at those roadside souvenir shops. He didn't have to look that way—it was some old avatar he used because he figured that it would impress me. But I didn't know that then. I was only surprised, if that's not too mild a word, and too shocked to be truly frightened.

"The world won't last much longer," Erasmus said in a low and mournful voice. "You can stay here, or you can come with me. But choose quick, Carlotta, because the mantle's come unstable and the continents are starting to slip."

I half-believed that I was still asleep and dreaming. I didn't know what that meant, about the mantle, though I guessed he was talking about the end of the world. Some quality of his voice (which reminded me of that actor Morgan Freeman) made me trust him despite how weird and impossible the whole conversation was. Plus, I had a confirming sense that something was going bad somewhere, partly because of the scant traffic (a Toyota zoomed past, clocking speeds it had never been built for, the driver a hunched blur behind the wheel), partly because of the ugly green cloud that just then billowed up over a row of rat-toothed mountains on the horizon. Also the sudden hot breeze. And the smell of distant burning. And the sound of what might have been thunder, or something worse.

"Go with you where?"

"To the stars, Carlotta! But you'll have to leave your body behind."

I didn't like the part about leaving my body behind. But what choice did I have, except the one he'd offered me? Stay or go. Simple as that.

It was a ride—just not the kind I'd been expecting.

There was a tremor in the Earth, like the devil knocking at the soles of my shoes. "Okay," I said, "whatever," as white dust bloomed up from the desert and was taken by the frantic wind.

Don't be afraid. Don't wait. Don't get caught. Just go. Go fast.

Without those words in my head, I swear, girl, I would have died that day. Billions did.

She slows down the passage of time so she can fit this odd but somehow necessary monologue into the space between one or two of the younger Carlotta's breaths. Of course, she has no real voice in which to speak. The past is static, imperturbable in its endless sleep; molecules of air on their fixed trajectories can't be manipulated from the shadowy place where she now exists. Wake up with the dawn, girl, she says, steal the money you'll never spend—it doesn't matter; the important thing is to leave. It's time.

When it's time to leave, leave. Of all the memories she carried out of her earthly life, this is the most vivid: waking to discover a ghostly presence in her darkened room, a white-robed woman giving her the advice she needs at the moment she needs it. Suddenly Carlotta wants to scream the words: When it's time to leave—

But she can't vibrate even a single mote of the ancient air, and the younger Carlotta sleeps on.

Next to the bed is a thrift-shop night table scarred with cigarette burns. On the table is a child's night-light, faded cutouts of SpongeBob SquarePants pasted on the paper shade. Next to that, hidden under a splayed copy of People magazine, is the bottle of barbiturates Carlotta stole from Dan-O's ditty bag this afternoon, the same khaki bag in which (she couldn't help but notice) Dan-O keeps his cash, a change of clothes, a fake driver's license, and a blue steel automatic pistol.

Young Carlotta detects no ghostly presence — nor is her sleep disturbed by the sound of Dan-O's angry voice and her mother's sudden gasp, two rooms away. Apparently, Dan-O is awake and sober. Apparently, Dan-O has discovered the theft. That's a complication.

But Carlotta won't allow herself to be hurried.

The New Space Opera 2. Copyright © by Gardner Dozois. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

Vernor Vinge

“...Dozois and Strahan bring together some of the finest writers in the field...”

Joe Haldeman

“One of the best anthologies ever assembled by this most prolific of science fiction editors....”

Orson Scott Card

“This anthology is a reminder of why science fiction captured the hearts and minds of generations of generations of readers.”

Greg Bear

“Highly recommended!”

Charles Stross

“Dynamic and exciting, THE NEW SPACE OPERA essential roadmap to the cutting edge of SF today...”

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The New Space Opera 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
JSF More than 1 year ago
Good anthology. Enjoy most of the stories. Skipped 3 or 4 after a couple of pages. None really seemed to stand out.
Karlstar on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This is a good collection of modern scifi stories featuring some sort of conflicts with aliens. However, I have to disagree that there's any 'space opera' here. The preface mentions that there's a debate about what space opera means in today's genre. Old time space opera featured space ships and aliens and human heroes and space combat. There are heroes in these stories, mostly, and usually aliens, but some don't have spaceships, and there's definitely no space combat. I feel the title is very misleading. However, its still a great collection, even including Dan Simmon's obsession with Shakespeare.
bezoar44 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
More hit than miss. I particularly liked Kage Baker's "Maelstrom", about a dramatic reading of Edgar Allen Poe on Mars; and Peter F. Hamilton's "Blessed by an Angel." In particular, the significance of the latter's ending didn't really hit me until a day after I read the story. That's a good feeling.
drbubbles on LibraryThing 5 months ago
All of the stories have some space-opera element. For some, the element is purely nominal and has little to do with the story. For others, it's central to the story. The quality of the stories is variable. Most of the stories are comprehensible; only one is so abstruse as to be all but incomprehensible.
plappen on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Space opera has been defined as "colorful action-adventure stories of interplanetary or interstellar conflict." These new, never before published stories are tales of aliens and alien cultures, not just interstellar war stories.A pair of human researchers change their species to investigate a scientific anomaly on another planet. A group of traveling Shakespearean actors give the performances of their lives for the aliens who have conquered and enslaved Earth. A human society which has barely conquered the airplane has less than 100 years to live; their sun is in the path of a destructive stellar phenomena. An experienced interstellar traveler urges/pushes them into a crash course in spaceflight. He has to deal with what the society has become.An alien ship the size of Jupiter has been turned into the ultimate cruise ship, on an eons-long trip around the galaxy. After a hijack attempt goes wrong, a number of passengers are trapped outside the ship and are forced to create their own society on the ship¿s hull. A very rich man on Mars decides to bring Art and Culture to the miners who live there. He spares no expense to build a theatre with imported walnut paneling, and advertises on Earth, for actors who are ready to emigrate to Mars.I really enjoyed these stories. Each of the authors in this collection very much knows what they are doing. This is a formidable group of tales, and is essential reading for all science fiction fans.
Simon_Wagstaff More than 1 year ago
This all star line up of authors includes many of my favorites and some of the best currently working in the field including: Robert Silverberg,Ian MacDonald, Greg Egan, Peter F. Hamilton, Alastair Reynolds, Stephen Baxter, Gregory Benford, and Dan Simmons. I've only recently started reading collections of short science fiction stories instead of entire novels and I've been disappointed in the overall quality I've found. This was the first collection were I enjoyed every story. It also helped introduce me to new authors whose works I'll now seek out.
Brainiac1955 More than 1 year ago
Today, Sci-Fi extends over a lot of different genres: Cyberspace, psychological, fantasy, etc. These stories bring back to mind the type of writing that I remember when I first started reading Sci-Fi in the 60s. They all take place in space (or at least extra-terrestrial), and involve relationships with aliens, quite often confrontational. Above all, they point out distinct human failings, which, I think, is their main point. BTW, my favorite was "Muse of Fire" by Dan Simmons, followed closely by "Glory" by Greg Egan.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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SongSanDiego More than 1 year ago
This is one of the greatest anthologies I've read. Each stories are memorable, each authors are showing off their writing styles, plots, characters. I've enjoyed this book from the first story to the last.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The title "The New Space Opera" sold itself...then the list of authors in the collection caught my eye (I would have bought it just for an Alastair Reynolds 'Revelation Space' story). Almost to a fault, these stories made technology and location secondary to the characters' situations and responses. But even in a supporting role, the settings in space and time were executed very O. Henry scientific end-of-story plot resolutions. This was a collection I hated to see end...I hope an follow-up anahtology is in the works.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In the Introduction to this anthology consisting of eighteen original contributions, the definition of the space opera subplot is discussed with various sources like the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, the New Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (Jack Williamson contribution), and Locus (Paul McAuley article) defining it. Each has similarities yet differences, but this strong anthology summarizes space operas as ¿romantic adventure set in space and told on a grand scale¿. Thus there is plenty of room for a myriad of tales with the vastness of space and the subjective definition of grand. This is exactly what the audience receives in this superb compilation as the authors using their own personal definition of space opera to provide excellent tales differing in locale, scope, and supporting scientific theory. Even the tones are dissimilar as some are life and death struggles to survive a dying system (¿Verthandi¿s Ring¿ by Ian McDonald) or a war (Greg Egan¿s ¿Glory¿) vs. an amusing Poe play on Mars (¿Maelstrom¿ by Kage Baker). The role of earthlings also varies from the conquered to the conqueror. The bottom line is editors Gardner Dozois and Jonathan Strahan and their eighteen authors provide the grand tour of space with strong characterizations starring in short stories written on a grand scale. --- Harriet Klausner