space opera - Tor/Forge Blog



Space (Is Gay) Operas, Assemble!

Generations of scientists and philosophers have turned their gaze to the ever-blazing stars, searching for the answer to the question that pulses deep within their souls: Is space gay? 

We’re here to confirm that it is, and we’ve got the gay space operas to prove it. 

Check’em out 😎

devil's gun by cat ramboDevil’s Gun by Cat Rambo

Life’s hard when you’re on the run from a vengeful pirate-king…When Niko and her crew find that the intergalactic Gate they’re planning on escaping through is out of commission, they make the most of things, creating a pop-up restaurant to serve the dozens of other stranded ships. But when an archaeologist shows up claiming to be able to fix the problem, Niko smells something suspicious cooking. Nonetheless, they allow Farren to take them to an ancient site where they may be able to find the weapon that could stop Tubal Last before he can take his revenge.

Unconquerable SunFurious Heaven by Kate Elliott & Furious Heaven by Kate Elliott

Princess Sun has finally come of age. Growing up in the shadow of her mother, Eirene, has been no easy task. The legendary queen-marshal did what everyone thought impossible: expel the invaders and build Chaonia into a magnificent republic, one to be respected—and feared. But the cutthroat ambassador corps and conniving noble houses have never ceased to scheme—and they have plans that need Sun to be removed as heir, or better yet, dead. To survive, the princess must rely on her wits and companions: her biggest rival, her secret lover, and a dangerous prisoner of war.

The Genesis of MiseryThe Genesis of Misery by Neon Yang by Neon Yang

It’s an old, familiar story: a young person hears the voice of an angel saying they have been chosen as a warrior to lead their people to victory in a holy war. But Misery Nomaki (she/they) knows they are a fraud. The deeper they get into their charade, however, the more they start to doubt their convictions. What if this, all of it, is real? A reimagining of Joan of Arc’s story given a space opera, giant robot twist, the Nullvoid Chronicles is a story about the nature of truth, the power of belief, and the interplay of both in the stories we tell ourselves.

Ocean’s EchoOcean's Echo by Everina Maxwell by Everina Maxwell

Tennal is a vapid socialite with the ability to read minds, and Lt. Surit Yeni is a soldier with a chip on his shoulder who has been tasked with using his own neuromodifications to overpower Tennal’s will and conscript him into service within the space military. But Surit’s not (that much of) an asshole, so they lie to all the space soldiers with all their space guns. But then a chaotic salvage-retrieval mission upends a decades-old power struggle and also compromises the security of their falsehood. Can two unwilling weapons of war bring about peace?

A Memory Called EmpireImage Placeholder of - 17 by Arkady Martine

Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in the center of the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire only to discover that her predecessor, the previous ambassador from their small but fiercely independent mining Station, has died. But no one will admit that his death wasn’t an accident—or that Mahit might be next to die, during a time of political instability in the highest echelons of the imperial court. Now, Mahit must discover who is behind the murder, rescue herself, and save her Station from Teixcalaan’s unceasing expansion—all while navigating an alien culture that is all too seductive, engaging in intrigues of her own, and hiding a deadly technological secret—one that might spell the end of her Station and her way of life—or rescue it from annihilation.

Empress of ForeverCover of Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone by Max Gladstone

The end of time is ruled by an ancient, powerful Empress who blesses or blasts entire planets with a single thought. Rebellion is literally impossible to consider—until Vivian Liao arrives, catapulted through time and space from the chilly darkness of a Boston server farm. Now, she’s trapped between the Pride—a ravening horde of sentient machines—and a fanatical sect of warrior monks who call themselves the Mirrorfaith. Viv must rally a strange group of allies to confront the Empress and find a way back to the world and life she left behind.


Arkady Martine Answers: What’s It Like to Be Married to Another Writer?

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Poster Placeholder of - 62Aspiring authors, listen up! Arkady Martine, historian, city planner, and Hugo award-winning author of space operas A Memory Called Empire and its sequel—out next month—A Desolation Called Peace, has writing survival tips and the scoop on what it’s like to be married to a fellow writer.

Is it a whirlwind of focus and productivity? Is it all procrastination and crying over word counts!? Find out below, and grab a copy of A Desolation Called Peace!



What’s it like being married to another writer?

Amazing. I recommend it, if you can swing it. Essentially – it’s like being married to anyone who shares your field, with all the delights and problems of working in the same area at the same time. We celebrate each other’s successes and support each other through publishing vicissitudes. Viv – my wife, whose books are currently with Orbit (the most recent is DREADFUL COMPANY, which has got the Paris catacombs and hellphones (think cellphones, but for calling Hell) in) – is my first reader and my physics-and-spaceflight-and-almost-everything-else consultant. But more importantly she’s my storytelling partner: because we’re both writers, we spend a lot of time talking about narrative, writing to each other, for each other. There are a lot of small easter eggs in my work which are for her, like a palimpsest or a secret gift. She makes me a better artist. She challenges me to write more clearly, with greater intensity of voice and character.

Also it’s pretty great to have someone who understands oh hell I’m on deadline, and who runs away with me to hotels for writing vacations. (A writing vacation is when you don’t get to leave the hotel room until you’ve got your words for the day, but someone else brings you food and makes the bed and there’s nothing around to distract you but your partner, who also has to make wordcount. We do this at least twice a year.)


How do you combat writer’s block?

This is a neat little trick to get back into writing a scene if you’ve been paused for a while, or if you can’t figure out how to start after a transition. It goes like this: describe – in detail, with precision – some architecture, someone’s clothing, something in your POV character’s visual field. Keep describing, but root that description in your POV character’s impressions and understanding of what they’re seeing. Keep describing until you figure out why your character would be looking so closely at that thing – and by then, you’re in the scene, you’ve got the voice, and you’ve probably done some accidental thematic and visual work to tie the story together.

This is, in fact, why my work is so goddamn full of descriptions of buildings and clothes and peculiar food items.

You can pull these setting-scaffolds out again in edits if they get redundant, but I usually leave them in – they’re less filigree than you’d think. They become fairly central to characterization – how does this character notice the world they move through?


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The Poetry of A Memory Called Empire

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A Memory Called Empire elevates space opera to poetry—clever, deep, sometimes tragic, sometimes violent, always transcendent poetry that shines like the edge of a knife.” —Delilah Dawson

Have you read the lush, tense, dizzying and dazzling sci-fi masterpiece that is A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine yet? And if have, you were probably pretty impressed by all the detail of the Teixcalaanli culture—particularly all the poetry.

As you prepare for the sequel, A Desolation Called Peace (hitting shelves 3/2/21), check out Arkady as she talks integrating poetry and space opera in A Memory Called Empire, paperback out now:



By Arkady Martine

I’m not myself exactly a poet. I’ve written and published poetry – occasionally I’ve written and published good poetry – but I don’t have the control of the art form that a serious poet does, the understanding of why a poem lands or doesn’t land. What I do have is a decent ear for sentence rhythm, and a fair grasp of symbolic and allusive language, which is all you need to write poetry to stick in a book. Recently Rebecca F. Kuang, author of The Poppy War, introduced me to the Chinese poet Wen Yiduo via a Twitter thread: she quoted something he wrote in 1926, saying that “formal technique aids, not hinders, artistic expression and that poetry only attains perfection when the poet learns to ‘dance in fetters’”. The formal structure of poetry, with its rules and confinements and focusing power, is incredibly powerful, and I’ve used that concept of formal structure in A Memory Called Empire to show poetic skill.

Teixcalaanli literature – which is in many ways based on Middle Byzantine literature – is a literature that centers poetic forms. In part this is because their literature is one which is performed out loud in political settings, so oratorical verse, with rhythm and meter, is a valued skillset amongst the intelligentsia. (The poetry contests in A Memory Called Empire are a little bit like rap battles with politics in. Think of the Cabinet Battle songs in Hamilton and you’ve got the idea pretty much solid.) Most of Teixcalaanli classics are epic poems – and a lot of Teixcalaanli culture is expressed in verse and song. I think I wrote three full poems and many partial ones for the book, including a two versions of the same protest song, a political intervention in the form of a three-line epigram, and a public safety message that used to be part of an epic about city-building.

Absolutely none of that poetry was actually in meter.

First of all, the book is written in English, and the poems – if they were real – would be in Teixcalaanli. Writing in English meter wouldn’t match up with what the Teixcalaanli meter would be – and also I’m terrible at metered poetry. I can fake being a genius political poet in free verse. But if you want a sonnet from me, you’ll get a doggerel sonnet. (In correct meter. But the most twee correct meter you have ever encountered.) The choice to gesture at poetry instead of trying to achieve the heights of the form let me not get trapped in having to be really, really good. It’s a shortcut. But I wanted readers to think that Teixcalaanli poets were incredible, whether or not that particular reader liked English poetry – so I didn’t want to trip them up with English poetry poorly done, or which might ring false or silly and throw them out of the story.


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Top Five Space Battles

As we prepare for the release of A Chain Across the Dawn, the sequel to Drew William’s 2018 debut The Stars Now Unclaimed, we revisit Drew’s guest post about  the most epic space battles of page and screen. A Chain Across the Dawn is on sale May 7!

Place holder  of - 36Written by Drew Williams

Conflict is an inevitable part of humanity; we’ve been waging war since one clan of Neanderthals looked at another clan of Neanderthals and said, “Hey, their caves are nicer than ours and closer to prime hunting grounds. Let’s go jab at them with our spears (which we just invented yesterday), then take their caves for ourselves.” Utopian science fiction aside—which is a fine genre in its own right, but not at all germane to the subject at hand—it seems inevitable that war will follow us into the stars. And moral hand-wringing over the spiritual cost of violent conflict aside… space battles are frickin’ awesome. So, without further ado, the five coolest space battles of all time:

5) Starship Troopers (Robert Heinlein)

So, yes, even with the first entry, I’m bending the rules a bit, since the vast majority of Heinlein’s seminal novel doesn’t actually occur in space: most of it is urban combat against an aggressive alien enemy (and not the mindless “bugs” of Verhoeven’s 1997 film, which, though a brilliant satire and a fascinating look at how a director can completely invert the politics of his source material, is more a pastiche of what came before than anything particularly inventive in its own right, at least where the actual battles are concerned). Still, in terms of influence, it’s hard to get past Heinlein’s “grunt’s-eye-view” of future combat: his titular troopers would pave the way for every gung-ho space marine that followed, from the overconfident grunts of Cameron’s Aliens (mirroring the American engagement in Vietnam), to the icy-cool sociopath at the heart of Twohy’s Pitch Black (mirroring the injustices of America’s own penal system), to damn near every sci-fi video game protagonist from Halo’s Master Chief to Gears of War’s Marcus Fenix (mirroring the fact that… shooting big-ass science fiction guns at inhuman aliens is cool as all hell).

4) Cowboy Bebop – “Honky Tonk Women” (Shinichiro Watanabe)

You can say a great many things about Cowboy Bebop, but the first word that’s going to come to mind is always going to be “cool”. The jazz-infused neo-noir anime that follows the adventures of a disparate pack of loners somehow roped into serving together (though rarely enjoying it) on the titular starship is like science fiction Miles Davis: what should be a bunch of different, chaotic elements working against each other emerges as a wildly improvisational-seeming masterpiece, instead. Picking an episode for this column was difficult, as there are a wealth of great dogfights to choose from, but I ultimately went with “Honky Tonk Women” not just because of the ship-to-ship combat—both exhilarating and phenomenally pretty, as all the dogfights in Cowboy Bebop are—but of the zero-g stand-off at the climax, a clever usage of gravity and inertia that plays up the “space” part of the show’s “low-rent bounty hunters… in space” premise. Bebop excels at both the designs of its craft—witness the juxtaposition between main character Spike Spiegel’s dragonfly-like ship, aggressive and thrusting, versus Faye Valentine’s rounder, more versatile craft, one signifying a character who likes to end a fight as quickly as possible, the other his opposite number, who excels at adapting to whatever circumstances she finds herself in—and in the sheer sense of speed the anime lends its dogfights, both of which are on great display in “Honky Tonk Women”.

3) Battlestar Galactica (2004) – “33” (Ronald Moore)

You can make the argument that “Pegasus” (or perhaps the mid-season follow-up two-parter, “Resurrection Ship”) is actually the high-water mark for the Battlestar Galactica remake’s space combat, and you probably wouldn’t be wrong: “33” isn’t so much a “battle” as it is a “rout”. But that’s what makes it work so damned well: not all fights are won, at least not by the “good guys”. Technically the first episode of the series following the miniseries debut, “33” finds the last remnants of humanity in a desperate flight from the AI zealots intent (or so it seems) on their utter destruction. Episode director Michael Rymer uses a veritas handheld filmmaking style to really sell how exhausting the constant pursuit is for the characters on board the various ships in the fleet, how the greatest ally humanity’s AI opponents have is not their mechanized strength or lightning-quick intelligence, but the frailty of the human condition. When your opponent doesn’t tire, doesn’t rest, doesn’t quit, the physical limits of what the human body can take come into play, and humanity’s constant flight from the overwhelming force of their foes—who arrive 33 minutes after the fleet jumps into a new system, after every… single… jump to hyperspace—becomes a white-knuckle descent into tension and anxiety for the viewer, almost as much as it is for the characters.

2) Challenger’s Hope – “The Fish Attack” (David Feintuch)

There are two common directions to take with space battles, in terms of “metaphor your audience can easily grasp”: WWII Pacific Theater dogfights (single pilot fighters or small crew bombers launched from the aggressive “safe” envelope of heavily armed carriers) or Age of Sail naval engagements. (The third most common metaphor, “the starship as submarine,” is best exemplified by The Wrath of Khan, the sixth entry in this five-entry list.)

David Feintuch’s Seafort series takes the Age of Sail option, structuring not just his battle sequences but his entire space-faring society around an interstellar stand-in for the Napoleonic Wars-era British Navy, complete with a strictly regimented class system, a military service defined by “honor” and “duty”, and a level of emotional repression that only a society based on the British Empire during the Regency could manage. In the stand-out sequence of Challenger’s Hope (the second volume in the seven book cycle that mirrors C. S. Forester’s Hornblower novels, in which we follow the protagonist up the ladder of command throughout the series), the crew of the Challenger – their ship already deeply damaged, almost certainly not able to see them safely home – come face to face with the completely alien threat that has hounded them throughout the novel: a species of organic, space-faring creatures that utterly confounds everything they know about the galaxy. The sheer level of tension Feintuch creates purely through dialogue is one of the most exhilarating things you’ll ever read. The Captain recites Psalm 23 in his mind (“the Lord is my Shepherd”) acting as a counterpoint to the terrified screams of his crew that echo back and forth across the bridge and over an open comm channel, making an intense juxtaposition between the surety of faith and the chaos of the battle raging around their seemingly doomed vessel.

1) The Last Jedi – “The Bombing Run” (Rian Johnson)

I mean, let’s be honest: the question was never “would a Star Wars sequence” make this list but, “which sequence – from which film – would be chosen?” I could have gone for the trench run in the original film, because that’s the sequence that set the bar not just in the Star Wars universe, but in every other Star Wars-influenced space opera universe to come, otherwise known as… all of them. I could have gone for the opening waterfall shot of Revenge of the Sith, because yeah, I’m a prequel defender, and there’s no better sequence out there in terms of selling the scale of a space battle. I could have proved my Star Wars bonafides by choosing the season 3 finale of Rebels, because… well, mostly because it’s fantastic.

But in terms of what Star Wars does, the bombing run on the dreadnought near the opening of The Last Jedi is roughly five minutes of absolute perfection. Populated almost entirely by characters we’ve never met and (as of yet) don’t know the significance of, Johnson crafts a stunningly structured short film full of tension, pathos, bravery, and loss. It lets him simultaneously pay homage to the sort of films that inspired Star Wars space battles in the first place (films like Tora! Tora! Tora! and The Wings of Eagles), and begin to develop the themes that will play out in ways large and small across the rest of the picture. As the annihilation of the bombing wing plays out around it, a single bomber makes its way to its target area and the destruction of the supercraft preparing to kill off the entire Resistance comes down to one woman, injured and likely dying, desperately kicking at a metal strut to will her ship to succeed in its mission, no matter the cost. Whatever medal it was that Luke and Han received at the end of A New Hope, she absolutely deserves its posthumous award, as there’s no greater sequence of valor, determination, or sacrifice in the entirety of the Star Wars canon, and that’s what makes a great battle sequence: not the design of the ships or the maneuvers of the fleets, but the characters involved in the action and what the fight means to them and to the galaxy around them if they fail.

Plus, the whole sequence is… just… stupidly pretty.

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Space Opera eBooks Now on Sale

Space Opera ebook sale

We are celebrating space operas this month with a special ebook promotion! Seven titles are now available for just $3.99 each. This sale ends May 8th.


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