Super Science is a subgenre of the space opera
that was born by scientists
who started writing novels/novellas about what they believed the future would hold and how they believed the sciences would play a part. The idea is quite simple, science can do anything and expansions of science and works of scientists can fix any problem. For people in the business of writing such novels, the resolution to any problem is scientific. Even political problems
can be resolved simply by balancing a score. But when science is the answer for the good guys, then science is also the answer for the bad guys. For in the future the hero and villain are not great warriors
gun-fighters. The -tagonists are scientific minds, engineers and so on. They may culminate their battle with a zero-gee gun fight or a military operation, but their guns will be lasers they made themselves from spare parts in twenty minutes. However this is only one flavor of Super Science.
Roger launched his field of red opacity, but it did not reach even Boise's screens. All space seemed to explode into violet splendor as Rodebush neutralized it, drove it back with his obliterating zone of force; but even that all-devouring zone could not touch Roger's peculiarly efficient screen. The outlaw vessel stood out, unharmed. Ultra-violet, infra-red, pure heat, infra-sound, solid beams of high-tension high-frequency current in whose paths the most stubborn metals would be volatilized instantly; all iron-driven, every deadly and torturing vibration known was hurled against that screen; but it, too, was iron-driven, and it held.
Another sort of villain exists in Super-science, especially amongst left-leaning writers, but that isn't to say that it doesn't run the gamut. This villain is ignorance. The hero, with the might of reason and thought, is brought to a problem where people who worship some idiot god or are under the influence of dictators are vehemently trying to destroy him. They march in lock step with their masters and mass to fight the forces of progression and science. To combat these forces the scientist must first save himself from the people's witch-hunts and them must save the people from their oppressors. The villains in these stories are ultimately the people at the top, lording themselves over the little guys and convincing the little guys that they are god or some such hubris. Super science goes further yet to include one more flavor, where the opposing force is not some intelligent agent but nature itself.
The Doctor: You know, the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don't alter their views to fit the facts. They alter the facts to fit their views. Which can be uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that need altering.
When a problem comes along, in a Super Science novel it is tackled with the full force of the protagonist's intellect. They turn the wheels of mind at full force and produce an answer. Some of these stories will not have a direct antagonist but instead will have some problem that would not be assailable from any means but that of technological breakthrough. For instance, when a star ship is caught in an invisible energy field that will tear the ship appart in the next hour, the ships engineer will claim they need five hours to find a solution and then complete the task in 40 minutes, taking three 5 minute breaks. The engineer adjusts the deflector dish, readies and fires the 'Varkinov' wave or something similar and the ship is saved. The solution to every problem can be found and explained easily with a bad analogy of some kind.
after they kiss
"What were you just thinking?" -- Jenna
"In that particular moment, I was reconfiguring the warp field parameters, analyzing the collected works of Charles Dickens, calculating the maximum pressure I could safely apply to your lips, considering a new food supplement for Spot..." -- Data
"I'm glad I was in there somewhere" -- Jenna
Super-science is a hard genre to write well in, because so much emphasis is given to explaining how the hero bested the villain or overcame the impossible force of some kind. Some manage it, some overcome it. Star Trek was notorious for this sort of engineer wanking but it still managed to break ground in character development and just plain good writing. It is arguable that many Science Fiction writers will produce works of Super Science because they can't actually write all that well to begin with. The problem here is that scientists can become terribly excited by scientific and technological advances and some of them are compelled to write about it. When it began, the space opera was the grist of pulp, it was filled with all the things a young man in the 30s or 40s could want to read about and pushed itself to the limits of the fantastic to this purpose. The typical fourteen year old boy couldn't care less for character development as long as the hero got to kiss the girl and then be hurled across the heavens at unthinkable velocities.
As a result of this the space opera flourished but at the same time had to keep up with the needs of its readers. Many of those teenagers grew up loving Science Fiction and the space opera and some actually grew up to be writers themselves and the space opera evolved. The genre has come a long way out of the roots of Super Science but it is important that it still exists today. A modern space opera, if written well, will be a window into our own existence like any good novel. It will talk to humans about humanity and show them a future that at least one person believes is feasibly within our reach, or in reach of us. But Super Science doesn't exist to justify the existence of Science Fiction; it is there to tantalize, to be fantastic, to be over-the-top. Super science exists to seduce the young into the fold of nerds and bring old nerds back to their childhood, sitting in their dark bedroom reading a book with only a bedside light, burning across infinite skies.