Rather than being a space opera as commonly understood, this book is, perhaps, literally about an opera in space. Basically the premise is that a devastating interstellar war has just recently ended. Humanity, of course, is blissfully ignorant that this war occurred, as it happened to coincide with the time when we started being able to look and listen for such things. In fact, the war is brought in to explain the famous Fermi paradox of “Where is everybody?”, the answer being, “Everybody was preoccupied with killing each other for no good reason.”
Yes, life is the opposite of rare and precious. It’s everywhere; it’s wet and sticky; it has all the restraint of a toddler left too long at day care without a juice box. And life, in all its infinite and tender intergalactic variety, would have gravely disappointed poor gentle-eyed Enrico Fermi had he lived only a little longer, for it is deeply, profoundly, execrably stupid.Catherynne M. Valente, Space Opera
Following the war’s conclusion, and in order to preempt the possibility of another one, the surviving alien civilizations have formed an alliance that monitors the galaxy for the emergence of new, potentially-sentient, potentially-dangerous species—such as humanity—and, when they detect same, descend upon said species’ home planet and force a selected champion to …
… engage in a singing contest with selected champions from all the other species. If the newly-discovered species comes in dead last, it is judged to be barbaric and expunged from the galaxy. If they beat even one of the existing species, they get welcomed into the galactic federation or whatever it is. One catch, however, is that the target species doesn’t get to choose their representative. The aliens show up with a list of musician candidates, and whoever is first on the list and isn’t dead apparently gets dragooned into the contest, whether they’re ready for it or not. In the case of Earth, the selected champion is a washed-up glam rocker named Decibel Jones.
Decibel Jones groaned.Catherynne M. Valente, Space Opera
He tried to open his eyes. Unfortunately, he hadn’t washed his face before collapsing into a bitter heap of despair, and the maquillage from last night’s gig at some top-shelf forty-something’s birthday to-do had solidified between his eyelashes into a cement composed entirely of shame and fuchsia glitter.
Most of the writeups about this book call it something like “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy meets Eurovision”, but since I’ve never seen a Eurovision competition*, I’m going to call it “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy if it followed Hotblack Desiato instead of Zaphod Beeblebrox“. It’s definitely The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy dumped into a blender with something, anyway.
Meanwhile, writing continues on Blue Roses! I’ve given myself a goal of 500 words a day (weekends excepted) and so far have been able to meet it, while also keeping up with posting here and over at the animals’ blog and even managing to visit all the “nice reederz” (as Dennis the Vizsla used to call them) several times a week. Mostly I’m able to do this because, as I have to remind myself from time to time, I am not currently operating in “editing mode”, I’m operating in “you have to get the words on paper** first” mode, which means, yeah, I know I’m going to have to go back and tighten things up and address inadequately-supported plot developments, but I’ll worry about that later. First I have to get where I’m going, then I can go back and fix the route I took to get there. That’s the way everybody does it, right?
He took hold of Baxter’s sleeve. “I could ask you where your car is. Not to mention why you’re dressed like a friar. What is this, sackcloth? What are you atoning f—Jesus!” Felix let go and stepped back, looking at Baxter’s waist, where the squirrel had popped its head out the robe’s enormous pocket again. “Sorry. What is that? A giant gerbil? You know there’s no pets allowed.”James V. Viscosi, Blue Roses
“Giant gerbil,” the squirrel said, scornfully, and pulled its head back out of sight.
You might not quite be able to tell from that little bit, but the plot has kicked into motion at this point, since I realized that, three chapters in, it was time to stop decorating the table and start setting out plates of food. With a few morsels set aside for the squirrels of course.
* Nor have I seen a single episode of American Idol, The Voice, The Masked Singer, etc. etc. etc. etc. I did watch the first season of Dancing with the Stars though.
** Or on the computer, as the case may be.