What’s Opera, Harlock?

Like many Americans of my age, my education in opera came from the wonderful 1957 Bugs Bunny short, “What’s Opera, Doc?” In the short, Bugs and Elmer Fudd satirize pieces from Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen among other operas.

It turns out, Bugs and Elmer aren’t the only characters from animation to take on Wagner’s Ring Cycle. In 1999, Leiji Matsumoto made an adaptation of Das Rheingold featuring Captain Harlock and the crew of the Arcadia called Harlock Saga. In this case, they don’t sing, but act out a loose, science fictional adaptation of the opera. I gather Matsumoto took the idea further in print and there are manga adaptations of Die Walküre and Siegfried as well as Der Rheingold.

In a way, bringing a character like Harlock into an opera closes a loop of sorts. Of course, Captain Harlock is a classic “space opera” character. So, what does “space opera” have to do with plain ol’ opera? To answer that, one has to go back to the original genre opera—the “horse opera.” The term “horse opera” goes all the way back to wild west shows of the nineteenth century. In that case, there’s a good chance that the term was a reference to the big spectacle that those shows represented.

By the time we get to the early twentieth century, the term “horse opera” began to be applied to movies we’d just call Westerns today. In fact, early Western star William Hart was called “the Caruso of the horse opera” in 1917. The term then migrated to western stories broadcast on the radio. When romance stories started on the radio, many sponsored by soap companies, they picked up the moniker “soap opera.” The term “space opera” started being applied to science fiction stories soon after that.

Today, when we speak of space opera, we tend to think of science fiction stories told on a grand scale, featuring larger-than-life characters, engaging in epic quests. In that sense, space opera is much the same kind of spectacle as, well, opera.

Lest one speak poorly of cartoons, I’ll note that “What’s Opera, Doc” and Harlock Saga have inspired my wife and I to finally watch Der Ring des Niberlungen. It’s definitely big and epic like a space opera. It’s also got its share of illicit romance, not unlike a soap opera. Of course, there’s the great music. Hours and hours of it. Der Ring des Niberlungen runs to some fifteen hours.

While I’m on the subject of space opera, today marks the relaunch of my space opera saga, now christened “The Space Pirates’ Legacy.” Click on the button below to visit my Patreon page and see the awesome cover Laura Givens created for the first book in the series, Firebrandt’s Legacy. If you become a Patron (and you can do so for just $1 a month), you’ll be able to read the book’s first story today. It first appeared in the collection Space Pirates, but I’ve given it a thorough edit to better line up with later stories in the book. My goal is that patrons will get to read at least one new story a month. If I get enough patrons, I’ll make sure they all get a copy of the complete book upon release. Click the button and get all the details right now.


Wrangling Sharks in the Wild West

This weekend, I’m at the Tucson Festival of Books on the University of Arizona campus. I’ll be on the Scientists Writing Science Fiction panel at 10am on Sunday morning in the Integrated Learning Center, room 151. I’ll be signing books afterwards. Also, be sure to stop by the Massoglia Books booth, number 446 to find out when I’ll be signing there.

I spent last weekend at Wild Wild West Con at Old Tucson Studios, which is always a treat. Old Tucson Studios is where many classic Western films from 3:10 to Yuma and Rio Bravo to Tombstone and The Quick and the Dead were made. Walking through the studios is like walking back in history in more ways than one.

I had to work the Thursday night before the convention, so I got a short nap and then drove down. Bill and Deb Ball The only thing scheduled was a reading, which happened during the heat of the afternoon outside when there was little traffic. A few people dropped by and sat down in seats I set up in the shade and listened for a while, but I think if I propose a similar event for next year, I’ll suggest we do this as an indoor event. Meanwhile, my wife and daughter set up our artist table in the dealer’s room, which I shared with authors David Drake and Sparky McTrowell, who provided one of my cover quotes for The Brazen Shark. As it turns out, Bob Vardeman, the other author who provided a cover quote, was also there, though he didn’t participate in panels. He just decided to hang out and have fun. Another treat was that my co-worker from Kitt Peak, Bill Ball, was around on Friday along with his wife Deb. That’s them on the left.

Friday night, my wife, daughter, and I went to a concert by the Dry River Yacht Club and Steam Powered Giraffe. Rabbit Both were excellent performances and really helped me get into the spirit of the event. Unfortunately, when we got back to the house where we were staying, I discovered my wife had left the garment bag at home with almost everything I planned to wear! Luckily, my wife did bring all my hats, I had an extra waistcoat, and our friend had a washer and dryer, so I was able to change out my look a bit for Saturday and still wear clean clothes!

I was scheduled for two presentations on Saturday, but was drafted for a third. My first presentation was called “The Wild West: Real and Mythical,” but could have been renamed “How it Sucked to be Anything but Anglo in the Wild West.” We took a hard look at Native American, Latino, Irish, and the Chinese as they were treated. You may look at that list, and say “but the Irish are white,” but it was very eye-opening to see how they were denigrated and forced to conform to “society norms” much like the other groups. After that presentation, Diesel Jester invited me to be on a panel about researching steampunk, where we discussed various historical resources we’ve found useful. On the panel with me were Diesel, Justin Andrew Hoke, Cynthia Diamond, Rose Corcoran, and Sean Walter. For my last presentation of the day, I discussed astronomy around the world during the Victorian age. Part of the discussion actually involved what one would call “Victorian age” astronomy because different parts of the world developed different mathematical tools and concepts at different times. For example, the Arab world gave us many of the mathematical tools for astronomy back in the 11th and 12th centuries while some schools of thought in Asia viewed an infinite universe of free-floating objects long before the common era.

Not only did I go to presentations, but I did some shopping at the convention. Because, I suddenly found myself without much of my wardrobe, I bought a new shirt and a new hat. Also, going between presentations, I was lucky enough to catch several of the great presentations going on all around, including an outdoor concert by the extremely talented cellist and singer, Unwoman.


On the final day of the convention, I was scheduled for a panel on multicultural steampunk literature with the delightful Madame Askew. We had a great time recommending such books as The Peshawar Lancers by S.M. Stirling, Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Day Al-Mohammed, and Beyond the Rails by Jack Tyler. Again, Diesel Jester asked me to be on a steampunk writing panel I wasn’t scheduled for. I joined the same gang as the day before and we continued our discussion of the process of writing steampunk. I finished the day at El Charro, a wonderful Mexican Restaurant in downtown Tucson with many friends from the convention. In the photo below courtesy James Spring, I’m not only showing off my Clockwork Legion Books, but my new shirt and hat!


So, what does all this have to do with wrangling sharks? Well, this was the debut event for the third novel in my Clockwork Legion series, The Brazen Shark. I ended up selling out of all but two copies of the new novel. Fortunately, a fresh shipment was waiting for me when I returned to Las Cruces, so I have plenty of copies for the Tucson Festival of Books. If you missed both events, don’t despair, you can wrangle a shark of your own by visiting Amazon.com or BN.com.

Cowboy Bebop

A couple of weeks ago, I was browsing through the video section of a local store when I came across a recent release of the TV series Cowboy Bebop. Although I’ve been an anime fan since I first saw Gigantor in the early 1970s, I managed to miss Cowboy Bebop’s debut on the Cartoon Network circa 2001. Cowboy Bebop Disc That was right after my wife and I decided that we weren’t getting enough out of cable to keep paying an exorbitant bill every month. I’d seen two or three episodes over the years at science fiction conventions and knew that I wanted to actually watch the series, so I picked it up.

If you’re like me and late to discovering Cowboy Bebop, it’s the story of two bounty hunters: a former cop named Jet Black and a former mob enforcer named Spike Spiegel, who travel through the solar system in a space ship called the Bebop looking for criminals to nab. As the series progresses, they’re joined by Faye Valentine, a bounty hunter with a mysterious past; Ein, a Welsh Corgi with a brain implant; and Radical Edward, a teenage girl who has mad computer skills. Unlike a lot of current anime, Cowboy Bebop has less of an overarching story and is more a series of self-contained episodes.

In this world Cowboys are Bounty Hunters, but space cowboy imagery runs through the series. Spike, Faye, and Jet all have their personal fighters, which are a little like their mechanical horses. There’s a sense of the solar system colonies on Mars and Jupiter’s moons requiring a kind of wild west frontier spirit to tame. Much of the look and feel of the show is reminiscent of Joss Whedon’s Firefly and if Whedon didn’t take some inspiration from Cowboy Bebop, then the similarities are a pretty big coincidence.

One of the great elements of Cowboy Bebop is a truly remarkable jazz soundtrack by Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts. At points, the music slips away from the jazz and adopts a little lonely guitar to enhance the wild west feel.

Another thing that strikes me as especially well done is the characterization of Radical Edward. As the father of a bright teenage girl, she hits many of the right notes. Edward can be persuaded to be useful, but most of the time is more interested in sleeping, eating, or doing her own thing, which sometimes horrifies or confuses the adults around her.

The Pirates of Sufiro

My only real issue with the series is that it’s set in 2071, and though I would love to have many well populated colonies out in the solar system by then, I’m hard pressed to believe it will happen. Despite that, I love the look of the series and have long been attracted to the idea of stories about the rugged individuals who will go out and forge new lives among the stars, such as my novel The Pirates of Sufiro. In my story, space pirates are stranded on a distant world and must make a life there in a story that took some inspiration from my great grandparents who homesteaded in New Mexico and Texas. The link in the title will take you to the free PDF edition distributed by my publisher, which is my preferred edition.

Finally, I’ll wrap up today’s post with a brief update. At this point, we’ve decided that Tales of the Talisman will remain closed through 2016. However, Hadrosaur Productions will be reading for an anthology this year tentatively on the theme of Space Cowboys. Like the space cowboys of Cowboy Bebop and The Pirates of Sufiro, these are not necessarily literal cowboys, but people who embody the frontier spirit. Some may be quick with their blaster. Some may have to use their wits to survive in a harsh environment. Some may just be the people who are happy to be alone riding the range of space when no one else wants to. I hope to have guidelines posted at the Tales of the Talisman website by April, with the reading period this summer. Till next week…see you space cowboy.

Music-Evoked Imagery

This past week my editor handed The Brazen Shark off to the publisher for final formatting. This puts book three of the Clockwork Legion series one step closer to publication and I hope to have a release date soon. What’s more, I’ve seen a really cool cover concept from artist Laura Givens, so I’m hoping I’ll get to do a reveal soon.

In other posts, I’ve mentioned that when I write, I’m an outliner. However, I’ve noted that being an outliner doesn’t mean that I don’t find myself writing by the seat of my pants some times. A great example of how that works happened while writing The Brazen Shark. At one point, the outline had the wonderfully helpful phrase, “Fatemeh and Imagawa have a chance to discuss Imagawa’s future.” Fatemeh is one of the protagonists of the Clockwork Legion series. She’s a healer from Persia who immigrated to America where she met a Sheriff named Ramon Morales. The two married at the end of book two and book three tells the story of their honeymoon. Imagawa is a samurai warrior who stole a Russian airship as part of her conflict with Japan’s Meiji government.

By the time I reached that line in my outline it had become crystal clear that this scene was not a “discussion.” This scene was a confrontation that would resolve one of the novel’s central conflicts. The problem was, I had no idea how that conflict would play out until I heard this song, which was performed by Kokia for the end credits of a few episodes of the series Space Battleship Yamato 2199.

I was driving home from work when the song cycled around on my mp3 player and chills went up my arm. I “saw” the climactic scene form in almost synesthetic clarity. As soon as I got home, I sat down and wrote the scene. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you how it actually plays out without giving spoilers. What I can say is that Fatemeh was pushed to an extreme I didn’t expect and Imagawa demonstrates what makes her the kind of villain you can’t help but respect. I look forward to hearing your thoughts about the scene when it’s released.

By the way, you can find a translation of the lyrics at the Sound of Harmony website. Those who listen closely may notice the word Hoshi, which means stars, but is also the name of the samurai character introduced in Lightning Wolves.

Denizens of Steam

Now, I can’t drop big hints about my forthcoming novel without giving you something for your trouble. Halloween weekend saw the release of the flash-fiction anthology Denizens of Steam which is completely free over on Smashwords. Just click the link to get a copy. My story in the antho jumps past The Brazen Shark and gives you a sneak peak at book four, Owl Riders. I can’t promise the scene in Denizens of Steam will appear unchanged in the upcoming novel, but it will give you an idea of what I have planned for Ramon and Fatemeh. What’s more, you’ll get splendiferous flash fiction from people like Bryce Raffle, Karen J. Carlisle, William J. Jackson, C.L. Zeitstruck, and Steve Moore. The anthology was created to commemorate the one year anniversary of The Scribbler’s Den group at The Steampunk Empire. It has been one of the most engaging writing discussion forums I’ve encountered on the web. If you’re interested in discussing steampunk writing, please come by and join us!

For those who have no idea who Ramon and Fatemeh are, you can grab Owl Dance and Lightning Wolves which are books one and two of the Clockwork Legion series while you’re over at Smashwords!

Owl Dance Events

My Wild West Steampunk Adventure novel Owl Dance is at the printer and publisher David Rozansky and I are planning some special events to mark its release. I’ll tell you about those in a moment, but first, I want to take a moment to share the complete wraparound cover.

Also, I want to share Richard Harland’s review of Owl Dance. Richard is the author of the wonderful steampunk novel Worldshaker. He says, “Owl Dance has everything. Airships, owl-ornithopters, a clockwork wolf, a multiple alien entity, a fast-shooting sheriff, a Russian plot to conquer America, and a very sexy, eco-aware, Bahá’í Persian healer-woman – I mean everything! Heaps of fun!”

Now for the events! On Friday, September 16, David Rozansky and I will be hosting an all-day on-line release party. Much of the fun will be on Twitter. If you have a Twitter account, be sure to follow @davidleesummers and @DavidRozansky. We’ll be chatting about the book, there will be giveaways, and I’ll be posting excerpts from Owl Dance here at the Web Journal. The Twitter party will run from 7am to 7pm Eastern Time. Use the hashtag #OwlDance to follow.

On September 17, there will be a special event at Enchanted Gardens, located at 270 Avenida de Mesilla in Las Cruces. I will read from Owl Dance and my friend Ysella Ayn Fulton will read from her novel Pomegranate. Both Ysella and I share a real affection for Las Cruces, its people, and the surrounding area. We hope to share some of the magic we see with you. Moreover, our kids will be helping us, providing music for the event. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll join us.

Whether you live in Las Cruces or not, you can be one of the first people in line to get the book. The book may be ordered at:
The book is available at a special pre-order price of $9.95 until September 13.

New interview, a reading, and more

This has been a busy and good week. To recap a bit, I was interviewed twice. You can find information about the space pirates internet radio interview in the post entitled Space Pirates Plunder Internet Radio. Read on to learn about the second interview. Also, I gave a reading for the folks at Internet Voices Radio. Again, keep reading to learn how you can listen. If that weren’t enough, it was wonderful to learn to that my latest novel The Solar Sea was selected as a Flamingnet Top Choice.

A New Interview

J.W. Coffey interviewed me for Examiner.com. You can read the complete interview at: http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-12171-Lexington-Literature-Examiner~y2009m6d6-Summers-sun-shines-on. In this interview, I talk about the writing process, influences and things I like to read, and some of how The Solar Sea came about.

An Online Reading

If you would like to hear a sample of The Solar Sea drop by: http://www.internetvoicesradio.com/AuthorsHotShot.htm. Scroll down until you find June 5 David Lee Summers, The Solar Sea. You’ll also find a brand new book trailer for The Solar Sea.

Tales of the Talisman

I spent time this past week working on Tales of the Talisman. I edited the stories scheduled to appear in the fall issue of the magazine. We’re getting back on track as hoped. I’m afraid the summer issue will be late. Currently it looks like it’ll come out in August. However, the fall issue shouldn’t be so far behind schedule. I’m hoping it’ll be out in late September or early October. The winter issue should be out as scheduled in December.

Back at Kitt Peak

Today, I returned to Kitt Peak tonight for a work shift. I will spend three nights at the 4-meter and three nights at the WIYN 3.5-meter. Given how busy this past week has been, it almost feels like a chance to catch my breath! This shift I spend time assisting with infrared observations at both telescopes. As I write this, we’re observing a distant cluster of galaxies with the 4-meter.

Good Music

Myranda and Verity are out of school for the summer. This past week, they each participated in a choir camp held at Las Cruces High School. On Friday, before coming up to the observatory, I went to each of their performances. As always, it was great to see the kids performing and it was really impressive to see how well the kids did with only one week of rehearsal. The interviews were fun and I’m very pleased that The Solar Sea earned an award, but the thing I’m most proud of is how well the girls did at their respective performances.

The week in review – 4/4/2009

Happy Birthday, Kumie

This week started out with Kumie’s birthday. I returned home from Kitt Peak and we went out to dinner to celebrate. Though I had given Kumie her first present a week before, I knew she still needed a new Handheld PDA, since the old one was wearing out. This led to an adventure in shopping on eBay.

I haven’t shopped on eBay for years. The last time was in my early days at New Mexico State University and I was shopping for a computer for my office. I remembered I had the account, but realized I’d never transferred it to my personal email when I left the astronomy department. When I tried to transfer my account I discovered that someone else has been assigned my old email address. Fortunately, the person who now has my old NMSU address was quite helpful and I was able to transfer my account with no problem. I found a nice, used replacement for Kumie’s PDA and it arrived this week. Kumie is now using it and much happier with it than the old version.

Tales of the Talisman

Most of my week was spent laying out the spring issue of Tales of the Talisman magazine. I was a bit behind with the issue because this past winter proved to be extremely busy, but I’m quite pleased with how this issue has turned out. The issue went to the printer on Friday and, if all goes well, I hope to have issues to ship in about two weeks. I have made the issue available for preorder at: http://www.talesofthetalisman.com/bookstore-v4.html

Here’s the table of contents for the issue:

3 Spring Is in the Air
Introduction by David Lee Summers

4 Dragon Offerings
Story by Janni Lee Simner
Illustration by Liz Danforth

7 Dragon Dreaming
Poem by K.S. Hardy

8 Unicorn Chase
Story by Douglas Empringham
Illustration by Teresa Tunaley

17 Elusive Legend
Poem by Carol Hightshoe

18 Frost
Story by Andi Newton
Illustration by Lonnie Allen

21 Alchemy of Souls
Poem by Jennifer Crow

22 Dreams and Nightmares
Story by Bradley H. Sinor
Illustration by Tom Kelly

27 No Butterflies Allowed
Poem by Neal Wilgus

28 Tranquility
Story by J Alan Erwine
Illustration by Laura Givens

32 Galaxy Time Shares
Poem by L.B. Sedlacek

34 Red House, Blue House, My House, Your House
Story by Mark Anthony Brennan
Illustration by Noah Van Sciver

37 Haiku
Poems by William Landis

38 Ain’t Technology Wonderful
Story by Jim Chandler
Illustration by Paul Niemiec

42 Collar and Chain
Story by K.S. Hardy
Illustration by April Martinez

49 Red Rain
Poem by Michael S. Wilson

49 Mercury Rising
Poem by Christina Sng

50 Dutchman Rescue
Story by Michael D. Turner
Illustration by Laura Givens

59 Change
Poem by Lawrence Barker

60 Pond Scum
Story by Jim Lee
Illustration by Russell Morgan

63 Near the End
Poem by Maril Crabtree

64 Witch’s Skin
Story by Rik Hunik
Illustration by Neil T. Foster

68 Cereus
Poem by William Corner Clarke

68 Owner’s Manual
Poem by Marcy Lynn Tentchoff

69 Secret Lives of the Undead
Story by Glynn Barrass
Illustration by Paul Niemiec

70 When Time Slips
Story by Lee Clark Zumpe
Illustration by Erika McGinnis

75 When Wizards Dream at Night
Poem by Richard H. Fay

76 A Fury’s Fortune
Story by Robert T. Knight
Illustration by Jim Collins

79 888 Elysian Fields
Poem by CEE

80 The Blessed Days
Story by Mike Allen
Illustration by Jag Lall

88 Malthus overlooked a cure for the planet of the apes
Poem by Roibeárd Uí-neíll

89 Book Reviews

The issue also features fun front and back cover illustrations by Laura Givens. Now that the issue is off to press, it’s back to work on the edits of B.T. Robertson’s Chronicles of the Planeswalkers: Alignment. Once that’s complete, I hope to start work immediately on both the summer and autumn issues of Tales of the Talisman so we can get back on schedule.

Spring Concert

This past week, my daughter Myranda performed in the Spring Concert performed by the string ensembles of Picacho Middle School and Vista Middle School. There were over 100 kids playing such pieces as “Wexford Circle” by Elliot A. Del Borgo and the “Hornpipe” of G.F. Handel. Throughout the concert, there were violin and cello solos as part of the pieces played. However, one kid out of the 100 plus kids there had a solo all to herself. Myranda played Dvorak’s “Largo” on the bass with all eyes on her and did a splendid job. I was very proud of my daughter.

Battle of the Books

If that weren’t enough, Myranda also did very well at the regional Battle of the Books tournament today. For those not familiar with Battle of the Books, it’s like a spelling bee, except that instead of spelling words, kids answer questions about books they’ve read over the course of the school year. Myranda’s team came in second place.

At the Battle of the Books tournament, Kumie discovered that the librarian at Picacho Middle School had accidentally checked her personal copy of The Solar Sea into the school library. There’s now a waiting list for the book from the kids at Myranda’s school. Ms. Miranda, Myranda’s school librarian, would like to order more copies. We’re working on making that happen!

May Schedule

This week the first draft of my May schedule at Kitt Peak National Observatory came out. Looks like I have one particularly long shift that month — nine days on the mountain. The shift itself looks like it will have some good challenges and I look forward to it. However, it does mean that I’ll miss the opening day of Star Trek, which I have been looking forward to seeing. In itself, that’s not a big deal. I’ll see the movie during my next week off. However, I do ask that fiends who do get to see the movie during its first weekend of release not send me any spoilers!