Adventures in Teaching: The Space Opera Syllabus Reading List


As most of you are aware by now, I’m teaching an upper division literature course in fall.  The theme:  American space opera.  A few weeks ago, the department approved my syllabus, so come the end of next month, I will be teaching a whole lot of really interesting works.  Here’s what my students will be reading:


  • The Skylark of Space by E.E. “Doc” Smith
  • Judgment Night by C.L. Moore
  • Dune by Frank Herbert
  • Ragamuffin by Tobias S. Buckell
  • Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
  • Rocannon’s World by Ursula K. Le Gin
  • Pride of Chanur by C.J. Cherryh

Short Stories, Essays, and Collections

  • The Space Opera Renaissance edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer
    • “Introduction”
    • “The Star Stealers” by Edmond Hamilton
    • “Empire Star” by Samuel R. Delany
    • “A Gift from the Culture” by Iain M. Banks
    • The Well Wishers” by Colin Greenland
    • “Escape Route” by Peter F. Hamilton
    • “The Remoras” by Robert Reed
    • “Aurora in Four Voices” by Catherine Asaro
    • “The Death of Captain Future” by Allen Steele
    • “Grist” by Tony Daniel
  • Daughters of Earth and Other Stories by Judith Merril
    • “Daughters of Earth”
  • “Water Pirate” by Leigh Brackett
  • “Boojum” by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette
  • “Ghostweight” by Yoon Ha Lee
  • “The Warlord of Saturn’s Moons” by Eleanor Arnason
  • “Thirteen Ways of Looking at the British Boom” by Andrew M. Butler
  • “Not Just ‘Cosmic Skullduggery’: A Partial Reconsideration of Space Opera” by Patricia Monk
  • “Introduction” to Space Opera edited by Brian Aldiss
  • “Space Opera” from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction
  • “Future-War Fiction: the First Main Phase, 1871-1900” by I.F. Clarke in Science Fiction Studies

Note:  I’m aware that there are a few British authors on the list.  This was intentional. Since the New Wave and New Space Opera have been heavily influenced/led/created by British writers, I have chosen to not only provide lectures on that connection, but to also show students some of that work.  Hopefully, it will be enough!

And there you have it.  A long reading list of great works of space opera.  I’m pretty satisfied with the list, even if it is missing a lot of things I wish I had the time to go over with my students.  Such is life.

So, what do you think?

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric and Writing at Bemidji State University. He received his PhD in English from the University of Florida and studies science fiction, postcolonialism, digital fan cultures, and digital rhetoric.

5 thoughts on “Adventures in Teaching: The Space Opera Syllabus Reading List

  1. a few look to be second (or other later) books in a series. Why? Doesn’t that mess things up a bit? Or do you not care since it’s more of an academic exercise?

    • I assume you’re referring to the Buckell and the Cherryh, yeah? The Cherryh is the beginning of a new trilogy in the same universe, so I think it should be OK. The Buckell is technically the second book, but it’s written as a standalone. There’ll be some confusion over certain aspects of the last third, but I can explain those beforehand without much effort.

      So, not too concerned about it. 🙂

    • Partly due to space limitations and partly because it is sorta space opera, but not quite. I went with Dune instead because it is more iconic as early re-imagining of space opera.

Leave a Reply