Why are British sci fi authors better at creating space opera worlds?

CmdrShepN7

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Alastair Reynolds, Iain M. Banks, Peter F. Hamilton, Gareth Powell, and now Adrian Tchaikovsky.

In the 90s and 2000s it seemed like most American space fiction was bland Baen Starship Troopers bug hunting type space adventure.

American space fiction is better now that we have authors like James S.A. Corey and Anne Leckie but why during the 90s-2000s British authors were more interested in creating worlds where humanity had created vibrant communities in space while American sci fi authors imagined space as a place of giant bugs and warfare?
 

BAYLOR

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I always liked the way Arthur C Clark Portrayed Space travel. He always seem ahead of the curve in that regard. :cool:
 

Astro Pen

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America is a relatively new culture based heavily in modernism and commercially controlled aspiration. Spectacle triumphs over introspection.
The military industrial complex promotes a certain militaristic mindset of "what space is for" as an arena.

Britain is a much older and, dare I say, richer culture and was also much closer to the post war continental philosophers who wanted to steer her away from the American model. A model which, anyway, Britain was unable to realise due to being nearly bankrupt after the war. Bombed out, laden with poverty and having an emphasis on community and solidarity.

These respective positions, and their influence on writers, lasted several decades/generations.
 
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Lostinspace

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I am not at all sure that the basic premise is correct although Banks and Reynolds are certainly very good and unique. It may depend on the definition of "space opera worlds". Bujold was first published in 1986 and was certainly producing something like space opera in the 90s winning three Hugos. Surely Vernor Vinge's "A Fire Upon the Deep" and "A Deepness in the Sky" were also space opera?

What does seem clear is that many American writers over that period were attracted to near future science fiction or alternate history over space opera. Michael Chabon, Nancy Kress, Maureen F. McHugh, Kim Stanley Robinson and Connie Willis come to mind.
 

The Big Peat

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The problem with any answer reaching for deep seated cultural reasons is that in a period a little earlier but overlapping, American fantasy was bringing out these hugely detailed rich societies in epic fantasies that had a lot in common with space opera, while British authors were doing a bunch of things but nothing as rich.

But then of course those American authors were to no small extent inspired by what Tolkien did, who was formulating and writing at a time when most American fantasy was of the pulp variety. It is very difficult to find a consistent vein to fantasy on either side of the ocean, and it often feels like we swap models every few generations. And I'm guessing sci-fi is no different. Indeed, if British sci-fi authors took the space opera and ran with it after a lot of great American space opera, both on screen and in book, from the late 70s to 90s, that would sound very familiar.

Which is perhaps the answer. After a long period of space opera, the American public maybe wanted something new.
 

Venusian Broon

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I am not at all sure that the basic premise is correct although Banks and Reynolds are certainly very good and unique. It may depend on the definition of "space opera worlds". Bujold was first published in 1986 and was certainly producing something like space opera in the 90s winning three Hugos. Surely Vernor Vinge's "A Fire Upon the Deep" and "A Deepness in the Sky" were also space opera?

What does seem clear is that many American writers over that period were attracted to near future science fiction or alternate history over space opera. Michael Chabon, Nancy Kress, Maureen F. McHugh, Kim Stanley Robinson and Connie Willis come to mind.
I agree with you, there's loads of 90-00's US Space Opera that definitely isn't 'bug hunting' and many had 'vibrant communities in space'. Also I'd agree that the US SF market was skewed slightly differently to the UK one. I should know, I was there reading both ;).

Quite a lot of authors big then haven't had the legs to continue in large sales today, whereas the OP's list is just a list of what's big selling now w.r.t. British SF (I don't know anything about Powell, but the rest are 'giants' in my eyes.)
 

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