More good publishing news. My story “Every Little Star” (the one line summary of which is, “Like Gerry Anderson’s UFO, but with virtual reality, the Baader-Meinhof gang, and lesbians”) will appear in this year’s Best of British SF from Newcon Press– the second year running that I’ve had a story in the collection! Pre-order this great volume at the link.
If you haven’t already bought your copy of The Black Archive #43: The Robots of Death, here’s something else to tempt you: a free excerpt from Chapter Four, on D84, artificial intelligence and artificial stupidity.
Here’s a video of me doing a reading for the BSFA Vector Solidarity Salon reading series. The story is “The Little Car Dreams of Gasoline”, published in On Spec magazine in 2016.
And one of my cats gets involved.
I’m going to be giving a reading this Thursday in the BSFA Vector’s Solidarity Salon! I’m on at 8:45, following Chinelo Onwualu at 8:15. The Facebook event page is here, and I’ll provide a link to the video after the event.
I’ll be reading “The Little Car Dreams of Gasoline,” which is my first published self-driving car story, and is a stand-alone prequel to my novel Driving Ambition.
An index to my series of posts on colour, symbolism, style and space opera, featuring Battlestar Galactica, Blake’s 7 and Star Wars (with guest appearances from all over).
Part One: What is a Space Opera?
Part Three: Red And Blue
Part Four: Nature/Culture in Battlestar Galactica
Part Five: Blake’s 7 and the Colour Coded Universe
Part Six: The Anti-Hero’s Journey
Part Seven: White Hat Hackers
Part Eight: What Colour Is The Sky On Your Planet?
Part Nine: Nostalgia By Stealth
Part Ten: The Faustus with the Mostest
Part Eleven: Some Call Me The Space Cowboy
Bonus: The Mandalorian
What the title says. Order it here.
So, by way of ending The Colour Out Of Space Opera, I’d like to offer a few general thoughts and takeaways from this, and a few directions you can pursue yourself if you’re interested in learning, or researching, more on this subject.
- Everything uses symbolism to make its point, and, because we’re in “Western” society (in this case, blatant ethnocentric shorthand for the UK and USA), we tend to get a lot of symbols in our popular culture that fit our own particular set of nature/culture oppositions. There’s a reason why I’ve steered clear of talking about Japanese space opera; it might be an interesting thing for someone with more knowledge of their particular culture to explore colour symbolism in that context.
- The way space opera uses symbols, particularly colour symbols, is linked to the job space opera has to do: to introduce casual viewers quickly to casts and scenarios in a way that doesn’t alienate regulars, to provide new and interesting alien planets on a weekly basis in a way that keeps costs down but doesn’t get the viewer saying “Vasquez Rocks again?” (by the way, shout out to Star Trek: Picard for using the actual Vasquez Rocks as a location).
- Nature/culture: is a big trope that designers and directors exploit big-time, for its emotional significance in “Western” (op cit) culture, but it changes over time. In the sixty years that we’ve been covering here, we’ve gone from culture-good, to nature-good, and now we seem to be going back into culture-good (albeit with some interesting fusion symbolism in The Mandalorian, but it seems to be the only one so far). Arguably in 1990s space operas like Farscape and LEXX you had a period of we-can’t-tell-what’s-nature-and-what’s-culture, which is probably not too surprising, given that it was a decade when people were having to rethink a lot of pre-existing social categories (and, come to think of it, that might make a good bonus episode/coda to this series; comment if you’d like me to write one).
- Finally, historical-futurism goes back longer than most people realise, and the reason it works is for the same reason that the colour symbolism works: because we have sets of associations piled up in our cultural knowledge that mean we go to certain places when we see certain things. But they work best when you’re evoking a time period sideways, as it were: making us think of Westerns not through Western-style visuals, but through other symbols that evoke the same sort of ideas.
So, I’m going to leave you here with those four takeaways. Obviously one could go on much further, and I might do more pieces later on exploring in depth what particular series do with particular sets of symbols. I should also probably mention here that I have a book coming out in Obverse Book’s Black Archive series of Doctor Who monographs: it’s #43: The Robots of Death, and the reason I mention it here is because there’s a whole chapter on Expressionist design, historical-futurism, and how Doctor Who producer Philip Hinchcliffe made use of it throughout his tenure on the show. So if you like what you read, there’s more!
In the meantime: go out on your own, play with these tools, look at what the designers of your own favourite space operas are doing with colour and visual trope, and have fun with it.