Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente
In the preamble, Valente discussed the Fermi Paradox (which he didn’t say, and isn’t a paradox, but nevermind). She soundly rejects variations of the “Rare Earth” hypothesis:
“Life isn’t difficult, it isn’t pickly, it isn’t unique, and fate doesn’t enter into the thing.” “Life wants to happen. It can’t stand not happening” p. 2
The problem isn’t really, “is there life?”, the problem is “who is sentient?”. With bazillions of diverse species everywhere, the question is, “Who are people and who is meat?”
This question usually leads to war, genocide, and devastation.
There has to be a better way.
Peace Music A Chance.
When the Earth is discovered by the galactic civilization (not least by decades of blaring top forty broadcasts), it must be subject to the standard test of sentience and admission to the galactic community:
Before wiping out H. sap.(taking care to preserve as much of the innocent bystanding ecosphere as possible), the newly found species must participate in the Grand Prix – a Eurovision style contest of song. High production, glittery, sappy, song and dance.
Each new species must compete, and must finish better than last. Last would be bad—total annihilation of the species.
And thereby hangs the tale.
“Rock wants to happen. It can’t stand not happening.” P. 12
One act is selected to represent the planet.
The galactic committee call for Yoko Ono (dead), and several other acts not currently available (Tangerine Dream?). Who knows how they picked this list—galactic taste is, well, alien, no? Mega-super-alien-alien.
At the bottom of the list, and the only one available, is Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeroes, a washed up, one-hit glam group who haven’t done much recently. (Apparently their Raggity Dandy was a hit even off-planet.)
Humanity is doomed, unless these old rockers can pull it together and party one more time.
All they have to do is not finish last.
That’s the basic story here. It doesn’t make any sense, but who cares?
It’s great. It’s fun. It’s insane.
“In Space, Everyone Can Hear You Sing”
Valente fills this book with a wonderfully imaginative galactic civilization, gloriously crazy story telling, weird characters, weirder dialog, and even weirder situations. I loved it.
File this book under the category: “Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, Rock and Roll saves the planet”.
- Catherynne M. Valente, Space Opera, New York, Saba Press, 2018.
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