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Interview: Oliver Buckram on “Un Opera nello Spazio (A Space Opera)”

– Tell us a little about “Un Opera Nello Spazio.”

It’s a literal space opera, with song titles provided in both Italian and English. If you haven’t read it yet, then drop everything you’re doing and read it right now. It’s the most gripping tale of the eternal struggle between orangutans and armadillos that you’ll read this year.


– What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

I’ve always loved actual space opera. Two of my favorite novelists are Lois McMasters Bujold and the late Iain Banks. But writing actual space opera is much too difficult, so I wrote a parody instead.

This particular story started when the Nebula-nominated writer Vylar Kaftan challenged me to write a story containing the words “orangutan,” “sweater,” and “angelic.” While the last two words didn’t survive into the published version, the orangutan remains. I’m grateful to her and to the many others who’ve helped me improve the story.

I thought my story was an original idea, but sadly I was mistaken. F&SF editor Gordon Van Gelder alerted me to the fact that in 1997, Michael Kandel published “Space Opera,” a story which is also a literal space opera.


– What kind of research, if any, did you do for this story?

Despite its short length, the story required quite a lot of research. I know very little about opera and I don’t speak Italian. I stole most of the song titles directly from various Mozart operas. I also got help from some native Italians, including both my Italian niece and Armando Corridore, the editor of the Italian edition of F&SF.


– With “Un Opera Nello Spazio” and your F&SF debut in last month’s issue, “Half a Conversation, Overheard While Inside an Enormous Sentient Slug,” you’ve written two short, funny, offbeat stories. Is this the norm or the exception for your work?

So far, it’s the norm, although I’m just starting out as a writer (my first publication was in 2012). For example, I have another very short humor piece, “Presidential Cryptotrivia,” forthcoming in F&SF. One exception to this pattern is “The Museum of Error” which is also forthcoming in F&SF. It’s funny and offbeat, but it’s a novelet so it’s not short. Another exception is “The Black Waters of Lethe,” an entirely humorless short story coming out in Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

– What are you working on now?

Why should I be working on anything now? What exactly are you implying? Don’t I deserve a break? All I do is slave all day writing stories for you people, and then you have the gall to waltz in here with your fancy questions and I’m sick of it, I tell you. I’ve had enough. Next question, please.


– Anything else you’d like to add?

I believe aliens walk among us. Obviously, they’d initially infiltrate the U.S. Postal Service to obtain a stranglehold on our communications. Therefore, closely scrutinize your mail carrier. Is he/she behaving suspiciously? Are you aware the USPS is scheming to halt Saturday delivery? Tell the world, tell this to everybody wherever they are. Watch the skies. Everywhere! Keep looking. Keep watching the skies!

“Un Opera nello Spazio” appears in the Sept./Oct. 2013 issue of F&SF.



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