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 a graduate student at the University of Florida studying science fiction, postcolonialism, posthumanism, and fantasy.

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.

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