So I'm chewing over the idea of eventually returning to writing far future SF-in-spaaaace, because that's what my editors tell me is hot right now (subtext: "Charlie, won't you write us a space opera?"). A secondary requirement is that it has to be all new—no sequels to earlier work need apply. But I have a headache, because the new space opera turns 30 this year, with the anniversary of the publication of "Consider Phlebas" (or maybe "Schismatrix")—or even 40 (with the anniversary of the original "Star Wars"). There's a lot of prior art, much of it not very good, and the field has accumulated a huge and hoary body of cliches.
Some of you might remember the Evil Overlord's List, a list of all the generic cliche mistakes that Evil Overlords tend to make in fiction (16: I will never utter the sentence "But before I kill you, there's just one thing I want to know."). I think that it might be a good idea to begin bolting together a similar list of the cliches to which Space Opera is prone, purely as an exercise in making sure that once I get under way I only make new and original mistakes, rather than recycling the same-old same-old.
This is not an exhaustive list—it's merely a start, the tip of a very large iceberg glimpsed on the horizon. And note that I'm specifically excluding the big media franchise products—Star Wars, Star Trek, Firefly, and similar—from consideration: any one of them could provide a huge cliche list in its own right, but I'm interested in the substance of the literary genre rather than in what TV and film have built using the borrowed furniture of the field.
List follows, below the cut.