Fourteen new stories and 10 reprints, some of full novella length, hitching together two familiar themes, military science fiction and space opera.
In his brief note, editor Schmidt conflates the two topics, believing that many readers find them indistinguishable, and leaves Robert Silverberg to discuss the matter in his historical introduction. The term “space opera,” Silverberg writes, was coined by fan Wilson Tucker in 1941 and intended pejoratively; gradually the sting dissipated as science fiction began to transcend its pulp origins. We see this process reflected in the three oldest entries here: Poul Anderson’s human hunter vs. intelligent alien prey, “Duel on Syrtis”; Cordwainer Smith’s Hugo-winning “The Game of Rat and Dragon,” in which telepathic humans and cats team up to destroy hyperspace predators; and Anne McCaffrey’s seminal human brain-in-a-spaceship, “The Ship Who Sang.” (None of the three, unsurprisingly, can remotely be classified as either military or space opera.) The new tales all derive from their authors’ distinctive, established universes with highly developed settings, plots, and characters, making it difficult for newcomers to absorb much from a single story embedded in an unfamiliar saga. Orson Scott Card’s tale introduces a new cycle spun off his endlessly intriguing Ender’s Game child-warrior books. Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson extend their neo-Dune chronicle with a story set during the action of Frank Herbert’s original Dune. Alastair Reynolds offers a tale from his classic space opera Revelation Space. From Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet series we learn how Adm. “Black Jack” Geary got his nickname. Elizabeth Moon’s tale from her generally impressive Vatta military-family saga bridges the prior novels and the new series opener (Cold Welcome, 2017). Other famous series represented here include a 1987 story from Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan space opera and new entries from Catherine Asaro (Skolian Empire), Jody Lynn Nye (Imperium), Linda Nagata (The Red), David Drake (RCN), David Weber (Honor Harrington), and more. The question remains, how likely are readers to jump from one series to another, and indeed, how many will want to?
A volume to dip into rather than read right through.