Dietz and Titan Books and space opera and rambling

A little while back I mentioned that I wanted to talk more about William C. Dietz’s Andromeda’s Fall and Andromeda’s Choice: what they did well, and what they did poorly.*

But I’ve been thinking about American military space operas that get republished in the UK – Titan Books seems to be the headliner in this, having republished the works of Jack Campbell AKA John Hemry and moved on to Tanya Huff’s Valo(u)r books and Dietz – so this blog post is more of a set of disconnected questions than a coherent essay.

Neither Campbell nor Dietz are particularly innovative writers, or technically accomplished. (Huff is more interesting, but her military space opera never captured my imagination the way say David Drake’s RCN series did.) Both essentially repeat a similar narrative over and over again with little character change or growth, the former with a space navy, and the latter with a space legion étranger. What’s the appeal, and why do there seem to be no homegrown UK military space operas in a similar mode? Because as far as I can tell, SF by UK authors has a rather different focus, tonally and thematically.

Andromeda’s Choice and Andromeda’s Fall are not particularly interesting books, themselves. Their worst failing is that the narrative requires the main character to act stupidly or aimlessly. The narrative fails to commit in terms of consistency of character emotion and action – and prose itself never rises above the pedestrian. The main character, Andromeda McKee, views herself through the lens of the male gaze a little too often – but at least Dietz isn’t entirely preoccupied with breasts.

And yet, for all that, these two books possess some quality that kept me reading: despite their flaws, they’re weirdly fun. And I’m not at all sure why.

*Let’s note that in comparison to Dietz’s Legion of the Damned, they do many things well.

2 thoughts on “Dietz and Titan Books and space opera and rambling

  1. What’s the appeal, and why do there seem to be no homegrown UK military space operas in a similar mode?

    My perception is that in the UK, space opera has a stronger association with the “literary” end of the field, and in the US it has a stronger association with the “genre” end; and as a separate but related point, I think in the UK there’s a much less strong overlap between “space opera” and “military SF” (in the UK the military SF tends to overlap much more with near-future thriller). I think this is primarily cultural/historical — the influence of Banks, as an author with literary credibility, writing space opera, and the absence of an equivalent market to Baen. Does any of that sound plausible?

    (As to what the appeal is, I have no idea, I’m a UK reader through and through on this one!)

  2. That makes sense, Niall. I haven’t read enough in the literary end of the space opera pool myself to have… workable data for comparison?

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