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"Goodbye, Jean-Luc, I'm gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end."
- Q, Star Trek: TNG

Off the Shelf: New Space Opera, Open Game Table, Space Opera Renaissance

by Ken Newquist / May 23, 2009

The spring hasn't been a great time for fiction reading. After my winter reading spree, I fell into back into my video game reviewing routine, but I did manage to get a few new books in: The New Space Opera, The Open Game Table, and The Space Opera Renaissance.

The New Space Opera

First up is The New Space Opera, one of two space opera anthologies that I got for Christmas. It's a weird duck -- they've cast their net widely, including a bunch of stuff that I'd classify as as belonging to the transhumanism genre rather than space opera. The unifying elements of the book are two fold: faster-than-light travel and intergalactic colonies/empires. Working along that continuum however, and you'll find plenty of transhuman stories in which we've warped ourselves almost beyond recognition.

While I'm not opposed to such stories, they seem out of place in a space opera anthology, even a "new space opera" anthology, particularly if they've muscled out more traditional stories.

Open Game Table

The Open Game Table is an anthology of role-playing game blogs, featuring articles pulled from dozens of web sites including Uncle Bear, Musings of a Chatty DM, and many more. There are 40+ blog posts divided into 10 chapters covering everything from game play to character creation to campaign design to RPG history.

It's an interesting experiment, binding these ephemeral blog posts into a permanent hard copy and for the most part it works. I'm about half way through the anthology, and I've already found a number of must-read posts including Ben Robbins "Grand Experiments: West Marches" article from Ars Ludi (which discusses a killer sandbox campaign in which players were responsible for filling in the empty areas of a map), Berin Kinsman's "Shemping in RPGs" post about filling the serial numbers off of NPCs for use in your campaign, and "Extreme Makeover: Tavern Edition", which is all about adding spice to your inns, taverns and bars.

The Space Opera Renaissance

After finishing up The New Space Opera, I added The Space Opera Renaissance to my backpack. It's a hefty one (though not quite as large as its hard SF predecessor, The Hard SF Renaissance) and based on online reviews, I expect it to be more to my liking as it focuses on my traditional space opera (in short, FTL and space empires without all the radical mucking about with transhumanism). Edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer, the book includes stories by Jack Williamson, David Brin, Dan Simmons, Gregory Benford, and Alastair Reynolds.