The Atlantic

Why Space Operas Will Never Come True

The universe is just too big.
Source: Amir Dalsh / Reuters

As an astrophysicist, I am always struck by the fact that even the wildest science-fiction stories tend to be distinctly human in character. No matter how exotic the locale or how unusual the scientific concepts, most science fiction ends up being about quintessentially human (or human-like) interactions, problems, foibles, and challenges. This is what we respond to; it is what we can best understand. In practice, this means that most science fiction takes place in relatively relatable settings, on a planet or spacecraft. The real challenge is to tie the story to human emotions, and human sizes and timescales, while still capturing the enormous scales of the universe itself.

Just how large the

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic6 min readPolitics
The Lasting Lesson of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
For the first time in its history, NATO does not have a strong, principled American leader to guide it.
The Atlantic3 min read
The Persistent Complexity of Tool
Back with new music after a 13-year hiatus, the legendary metal band is as precise and devastating as it has always been.
The Atlantic5 min read
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Doesn’t Get What Makes Stories Scary
The film adaptation of the creepy children’s books is a serviceable homage, but it dilutes the power of the original tales.