A decade of The Expanse
Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck look back on their epic space opera series, writing for television, and what they hope its impact will be a decade from now
A decade ago, I picked up a chunky, promising new science fiction novel, Leviathan Wakes, and found that something in the world really stuck with me: it was both a grounded and ambitious imagination of where we might be a couple of centuries from now.
There aren't many stories that stick with you beyond a reading or two, but over the years, I've found myself returning to The Expanse — in part because there's been a series of regular new installments — but because each time I've returned to it, I've found some interesting new insight into the world.
With that first installment turning a full decade this year (its birthday was back in June), with Amazon's television series coming to a close later this year, and with the final installment of the series, Leviathan Falls, hitting bookstores in November, it's a series that I've been thinking back on for a while.
A couple of weeks ago, I spoke with Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck about that anniversary and what their thoughts are on the legacy of the series, ten years in.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Leviathan Wakes came out back in 2011, a decade ago. With that anniversary in mind, how does that decade look when you look back?
Daniel Abraham: I don't know — there was a lot in there. That was a very full ten years. I mean, it's been awesome, it's been great to have the project be that successful, and it's been an amazing thing to see all the things that have come off with it. It's been fun to write it, and it's been fun to get to the end. It's also been kind of a rowdy 10 years to live through. The world we were in when we started writing this and the world we're in now looks very different.
Ty Franck: Well, it occurs to me that maybe one of the reasons I don't like prequels is because I'm not very retrospective. I tend to always be thinking about what's going to happen next. It's just, I hadn't thought of that before, but it just occurred to me maybe that's why I hate prequels. I don't want to go backwards, I want to go forward.
But you can also look at it as the past has brought you up to this moment, which I think is significant.
Franck: Sure, I don't think it's insignificant. I just think I'd never think about it.
Abraham: It's interesting coming to the end of something this big, though. It's a huge project. It's one of those things, I think that you're kind of a little happy and expansive and saying "by God, we'll do nine novels that go from the near future to a kind of the Galactic Empire and just do the whole arc in between." That's an easy thing to say over drinks. It's a hard thing to actually do in a decade.
So with that in mind, what's changed for you personally? How has that decade affected how you tell stories?
Franck: What's changed? I think we're both busier than we were. And the way that's affected storytelling is it's affected how much time you have to actually do [things]. You know, when Daniel and I were writing [Leviathan Wakes], we actually spent a whole day together every week, just shooting the shit and talking about the project. And then we would write chapters and trade them, and some days were pretty long days. We would just spend the whole day doing that. That hasn't happened in a long time.
Abraham: Now the big change is that we got the show, and once we had the show, we turned into not just novelists, but television writers, producers, and pretty hands-on writers and producers. That's over half of the time we've been writing these things we've been balancing it with what is for many people a full time
Related: Read the origin story for The Expanse, Waking the Leviathan
Do you miss that older way of working and hanging out together?
Franck: I mean, there's certainly times when we will hit a moment in the project where it would have helped, or where it would made it easier. I think with the last book, [Leviathan Falls], the last third of that book would have been a lot easier to get done if we had just been able to hang out in the same room for a month or two.
Abraham: I keep talking about the context. The other thing is, we were finishing a project during — let us call it a contentious — election cycle and then a pandemic. That's a little exhausting by itself. So doing that and having a day job, and ... it adds up. There's certainly times that I feel a little nostalgic for for the times when we had a little more spare time, and a little more spare focus.
Yeah, are you as you've come out of these, both the book series and the TV series, how are you reclaiming that time? Or are you?
Abraham: Poorly! We're spinning up a bunch of new projects now. It's my habit.
Daniel, I know you have a new fantasy book coming, you guys have Leviathan Falls and Memory's Legion coming, and then the two of you have...
Abraham: We have a trilogy that we're doing together as James S.A. Corey. I actually signed the contract on the fantasy trilogy in the two weeks between Syfy canceling the show and getting it picked up by Amazon. When I agreed to do those books, I thought I was gonna have a lot more time than I in point of fact had, because the resurrection changed all schedules.
Franck: Aaand Daniel tends to panic write. So when he thought he wasn't gonna have anything to do, I think he just sort of panic wrote a new series.
Abraham: It was a series I've been thinking about. But I mean, the idea of, oh my God, there's a hole in my schedule. I know I can fill that. That's just my pathology, that's what I do. But yeah, that's accurate.
The last decade has included the whole 2016 election and accompanying political turmoil, etc., and there are a lot of points where I've seen the show mirror some of that — how has, for the lack of a better word, real-world events or trends altered the series or nudged it in certain directions or influenced it?
Franck: I would say consciously, not really at all. We tend not to write about the things that are happening now. I mean, we've talked about this before — Daniel and I will be talking about sort of the philosophy of the story, and I'll say, "Oh, you know, there's this thing with Alexander" or "here's this thing with Nebuchadnezzar" or we'd sort of go that direction, and then people go, "Oh, well, this character is clearly Donald Trump." Well, I mean, it wasn't — we never even mentioned Donald Trump, when we're talking about — or any other politician, I'm just pulling his name out of a hat.
I think what this project has made very clear to Daniel and I both is how incredibly cyclical human history is. We just do the same dumb shit over and over and over and over again. And so if you write about stuff that happened a thousand years ago, suddenly it seems like you're writing about today, because we're doing the same dumb shit today that we did a thousand years ago. We don't we never seem to break those cycles.
Abraham: I would say it hasn't changed — the world hasn't changed the story as we wrote it, but I think it does change how people read it. I think that there's a lot of context that people carry into reading the thing and my hope is that as history continues to roll forward and other things continue to happen, the stuff we were talking about in the books continues to echo, and speak to all the stuff that comes next. Like Ty said, I think that's a pretty plausible scenario, because there is a lot of history that looks like it's reporting last week.
A decade ago, this was just a book series, and halfway through, you get the Syfy adaptation. How did that affect things for you guys? You mentioned that it's certainly cut into your time because you're working heavily on the show. What was that like? I don't want to say that the show had any impact on the books other than the time commitment, but were there any sort of work or process changes that happened as you were were plugging along?
Abraham: Well, I mean, the part where I went over to Ty's house on Wednesdays definitely shifted; we were living together in apartments in Los Angeles for months at a time. The thing, I think, for me, was not process-wise, but aesthetically, and what I really took away from this comes from working with our showrunner Naren Shankar. It has been amazing, watching him really focus on all the things that would do would make the project like one percent better and half a percent better and watch a kind of cumulative effect of all of that on the final project. It's reminded me of how important it is to look at sentences and paragraph breaks, and all of the little, little, small things that are easy to get lazy about, but which are in the final aggregate that really do have an effect on the final product.
Do you have an example of that from either the show or the series? What's one of those little tiny little moments?
Abraham: Well, for example, watching him do color correction, where we're going through a scene that I've seen a million times, and I've watched this thing from since it was since it was dailies; I've seen this footage and seen this footage and seen this footage, and having him darken a shadow in one place to deemphasize someone in the background, and lighten part of the screen to emphasize something else. And all of a sudden, the details work better, and the story that we're telling is more explicit, and it just — it wasn't a tool that I ever paid much attention to as a viewer, and the that level of consistent, almost subliminal attention to quality is what I think makes Naren really good at what he does — that and that he's a decent human being — between the two, he reminded me of how important it is to focus on the actual craft just consistently.
Did that come through in the books as well?
Abraham: I mean, the place that it comes through for me and Ty both that is reading through and looking for the verbal tics or the repeated words or the little craft issues that we both kind of tend to need to catch in editing. Ty and I both have this thing where we'll get a word stuck in our head and we'll use it like six times in the same paragraph. And one of the joys of this project has been that whenever I'm writing a chapter, Ty is there to go through and say "Wow, you really fell in love with the word 'still' here, didn't you? Look! Still, still, still, still."
So I did! And having his eyes there to catch me, like having Naren's eyes on the show, I think really keeps me from being the only one responsible for finding my blind spots. And I hope I do the same for him! I think I do.
Franck: Well, my problem is — I mean, I also do the getting the word stuck in my head thing — but I also I find physical description boring to write and boring to read. And so if I'm writing fast and not really thinking about it, all of my scenes take place in a formless white void. So yeah, Daniel occasionally go, "you know, I should probably put a few physical descriptions in here."
I remember you saying that you often skip through any of the feasts and Game of Thrones.
Franck: Oh, my God. If you do more than one page on what everybody's wearing and what everybody's eating, yeah, I'm just flipping until I see some dialogue start.
TV is a very collaborative experience, and I'm wondering how your work as writing partners working on the books has helped you in a writer's room, and vice-versa. Has working on a team on a TV production helped with writing the books themselves?
Franck: I don't think writing for TV helped with the books; I think writing for the books help with TV, because it's the other direction — Daniel and I were both very prepared for collaboration. So we got to the writers room, and just we added more people to the collaboration. That was fine, because we were already used to that. I think that that was the direction that that was helpful.
I think a lot of writers have a hard time going into TV, especially adapting their own work, because [writing a book is] such a solitary project, you know? You did everything yourself, every decision was yours, every creative direction was the one you picked. And so when you get in a room with a bunch of other people going, "well, maybe we could go this other way," it feels like it feels like your work is being attacked.
Whereas with Daniel and I, that was never the case. There's been multiple times in the writing of the series, or he or I would make a creative choice, and the other person would read it and go "eeeh, maybe not, maybe this other thing would be better." And if you're okay with that, if you're okay with hearing that from one person, you're probably going to be okay hearing that from ten people.
Abraham: I think the first step of letting go of exclusive ownership of the story was something we did on day one when we were working on Leviathan Wakes, and so when it came time to do that again, we were we were better practiced than we would have been otherwise.
As the series has progressed, it's gained quite a bit of acclaim, both from critics and from fans. It's become one of those shows that I see pop up quite a bit, and I don't think I've quite seen the same reaction since the SCI FI's Battlestar Galactica. I'm curious if you guys have any thoughts on why the show has struck that chord in this same or similar way?
Franck: I don't know. I mean, I think Naren is a good showrunner. I think we've been lucky in that we've gotten some interesting writers on the show. And we've been lucky to have a lot of consistency where the same writers have been working on the show for for multiple years, which is good. I think we lucked out with some casting.
Franck: 'Cause you try to cast well, but you never know until people get in front of the camera what they're going to turn out to be. I think we've gotten very fortunate with some key casting, and I think some of our greatest strengths are also the thing that will forever keep us a niche show, which is that it never it never stays one thing.
I get bored quickly, and so I don't want to write the same book over and over again. So like, there's certainly a fandom out there that would have been perfectly happy if Daniel and I wrote Leviathan Wakes over and over and over again, which is space captain and space detective solve crimes in space. If we had written that book 20 times, I'm sure we could have sold a jillion of them and had a very fervent fandom for that thing. And I would have been bored out of my skull. And because of that, we jumped around a lot. We tried a lot of different things — we're not happy to just do one thing over and over again.
The TV show follows that and I think there is a portion of the fandom that really likes that, who likes constantly being surprised, and I think there's a portion of the TV audience that wants formula, they want to tune in every week and get the same kind of story.
So I think if you're a person who doesn't need that comfort, if you're a person who likes the thing moving around a lot and being surprising, you're gonna probably like us a lot. And I think that's who are our most fervent fan base is. I think if you watch TV for comfort, we're probably not the show that
Abraham: We're a terrible laundry folding show, we're really bad at that.
Franck: We're not a great two screen show! I mean, I get people going "I was super confused by this," and then two comments later, they go, "well, maybe I was looking at my phone when they explained it." We're one of one of their shows that if you're not keeping your eyes on the screen, if you're not listening to every line of dialogue, this stuff that's just gonna pass you by. In a lot of shows they have wet. So Robin Veith, who was one of our writers, worked on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. She worked on it for one season, and she said that one of the things she learned was that every episode has the halfway point, where everybody stands at the whiteboard so that the plot can be explained.
And if every episode has to have that, where you have somebody explain the plot, they might as well be looking at the audience while they're doing it, like "did you guys catch all this stuff, it's gonna be important to the finale."
Our show never does that, we never go to the whiteboard, we never explain. If you didn't catch the important bits as we were going forward, you're just not going to get it. Which I think has make some people less likely to watch because they want be cooking while they watch the show and folding their laundry and checking their phone, and if you're doing that kind of stuff while you watch our show, you're never going to understand anything that's happening.
I literally just watched all of SVU from beginning to end while cooking, and for that reason — I could step away for five minutes and come back and know exactly what happened. I've been watching The Wire for the first time, doing the same thing, and yeah, that's not quite the same experience. I've been doing a lot of rewinding.
Franck: No! You gotta pay attention to The Wire! And in fact, it's such a beloved show now, and I will argue is the best show ever written. Um, it was not successful. When HBO first aired it, nobody watched it. And I think again, it is that thing of, if you're not paying attention, if you're not picking up on all the subtle little story and plot points that are dropped in dialogue in passing, if you're not really paying attention to that stuff, that show will just lose you.
And I think it had the same issue where people gave it a try early on, and they were like, "Oh, this is too confusing," and bailed out. I don't think we'll ever be considered the best show ever written, but I think our show is going to have a long life of people finding it later and realizing what it was.
Abraham: And we rewatch well. One of the things that I like about that is that there are shows that really reward going back and rewatching and spending time with, and there are shows that don't hold up. And there's nothing wrong with one-and-done shows, and nothing wrong with laundry shows, there's a lot of different projects, different kinds of good entertainment. But we are the kind we are, we're not trying to be all things to all people.
It's interesting, though, because one of the things that Ty and I talked about when we started the book series, was making the books really, really, really accessible. We were really interested in going against the trend we saw at the time of science fiction being insular, science fiction being hard for readers to to engage with; [where readers] didn't have the context of the last 20 years of sci-fi, but we were we were trying to make the books an on ramp for people who didn't read science fiction. And then we got to the show, and it's the same story. And it's the same show, but it's a completely different aesthetic when it comes to —
Franck: And I'll probably get some hate mail from this, but I think that actually says a lot about the difference in what sci fi was doing on screen versus what sci-fi by was doing in books. When I was late teen / early 20s, the sci fi books that I was reading, were getting increasingly insular and hard to understand and almost almost gatekeeping in their fandom, that like, if you hadn't read everything by Heinlein, you're not going to understand this book, or if you hadn't read everything by Bradbury, you're not gonna understand this book.
And I think it was, to some degree intentional, this sort of focus on that core fandom, and that's what Daniel and I were sort of rebelling against, like, it's okay for somebody to read science fiction that does not have an exhaustive knowledge of all of the history of science fiction.
At the same time, on TV and on screen, science fiction had gone the opposite direction, I think, largely where there were there were smart, complicated shows like Babylon 5. Well, Babylon 5 was not particularly at least successful as a TV show, and, and it was a real struggle for for [J. Michael Straczynski] to get it made. It didn't do well, whereas things like it — and I'm not bashing Star Trek: The Next Generation or anything — but TNG was very simple, very straightforward, very, very episodic. And it was the kind of show where you could look away for a couple of minutes and look back and you would know what was going on. And I think sci fi had really moved to that direction. So what seems like making it more accessible in book form, when put on screen, suddenly seems like more complicated than the other things on screen. And I think it's just because of the different directions, written sci fi versus screen size, had gone.
Abraham: I remember reading some short stories by a guy who was clearly way smarter than me, and having to kind of struggle to keep up with him. And then, on the other hand, having to explain spin gravity a gazillion times in Hollywood because even though they've been doing that one since 2001: A Space Odyssey, so much of the science fiction in filmed entertainment had been gravity plates or hand wavy, and we're just pretending gravity still exists for some reason. Just a little bit of rigor that we included really felt different.
Franck: And even even the smart shows like Ronald D. Moore's reboot of Battlestar Galactica — I don't think anyone would argue that it would argue that it wasn't a smart shout — it still hung on to a bunch of the sci fi, hand-wavy tropes: it hung on to faster than light travel, it hung on seemed faster than light communication, it hung on to gravity plating, the ships were still built like ocean liners rather than office towers.
A lot of the things that are shorthand in sci fi that let an audience immediately connect with your show without having to think too much, he still included those things to get people into the show, and then the cleverness of that show was more philosophical and theological. But again, they were there, everybody has faster than light travel, everybody has gravity plating, everyone has faster than light communication, nobody thinks twice about those things.
So a show that deliberately says, "No, we're not going to have those things," I think threw people for a loop a little bit, because now, not only are you having to educate people on your world, which every new show has to do, but you also have to educate people on all of the things they have been miseducated about how science works, and how space works by every other show they've ever watched.
Abraham: Yeah, the number of people who have given us static because you don't immediately freeze in a vacuum ... I mean, we have miseducated a lot of people over a lot of years about what a lot of basic science looks like, and bucking that confuses people. There's a different visual language for the story.
I was part of the Launchpad Writers Workshop a bunch of years ago, which owes its existence to that very problem. It's designed to educate science fiction writers and TV writers, specifically to avoid those tropes, or to be aware of them. We'd look at things like, here's how gravity works, here's the scale of the universe, here's how blue and red shift works, here's what a black hole really is, stuff like that.
Thinking along those lines, have you noticed any differences in the fans that come to the TV show versus the ones who have been coming to the books?
Abraham: They seem to mix pretty well, in my experience. And I feel like there are certainly folks who read books who don't watch the show, and there are some who come to our show without being big readers. But there's a big overlap. If I had to guess, most of the folks who were really vocal fans were engaged with both forms.
I suppose you could also probably make the point that there's also you know, gaming fans as well. And I know that there's certainly a large cosplay contingent that has sprung up around the show.
Abraham: That's awesome. I love that. One of the things I was hoping when we got the show was that we would wind up seeing folks at conventions in costumes from our stuff, and that's been really great.
Have any costumes in particular caught your eyes or stood out for you?
Abraham: I remember one Julie Mao, who had actually had the blue fireflies as part of the costume, she had little LEDs on wires —
Franck: Was that a Julia? Or wasn't there a Miller like that too at San Diego Comic-Con?
Abraham: I was thinking of a Julia, but Miller would fit that too.
Franck: There was one at Comic-Con where he had strung little, thin Christmas light around him, and they were blinking.
A couple of friends of mine made Martian power armor suits at Dragon Con a couple of years ago.
Abraham: That's also cool.
I also like to think that we are an easy bunch, because if you get a good jumpsuit, you're kind of halfway there. Most of the most of our characters spend most of the time in very utilitarian stuff.
Yeah, I've got one of those that I put together pretty easily: I got the patches, and when I had trouble with the back decal, I just painted a big OPA symbol over it in white paint. Worked like a charm.
Moving on, I've been thinking about like thinking about the show coming to a close soon. How has that production been in the final stretch for you and the cast and crew?
Franck: I mean, I think it would have been a lot different if we'd actually been together. Because of COVID, all of us producers have been producing remotely.
Abraham: The writer's room for season six was a remote writer's room.
Franck: Yeah. And also the actors and crew and stuff, because everybody's split into pods. If you didn't do scenes with another actor, you never got to hang out with them, because you would be split into a different pod.
So the sort of seasons one through five version of this where Naren would be on set a lot, I'd be on set constantly, Daniel would be up there sometimes, where at the end of the season, you'd go to a wrap party where everybody would show up and talk about, you know, the previous year, if all of those things were still happening, I think there would have been a much more emotional experience. But as it was, it all felt sort of distanced because, I see all those actors in dailies, but I'm not there talking to them. The only actor I talked to pretty regularly was Wes Chatham.
That's for your podcast?
Franck: And Wes and I have become pretty good friends, so we would talk pretty regularly anyway. But of all of them, he's the only one I talked to all the time. So it did definitely change the, the way that played out. Like, I can tell that people are kind of sad, but at the same time, you never got to be sad together, so it feels distant.
It wasn't magnified by being together.
From my impressions from visiting the set and seeing y'all at press junkets is that you were a pretty close-knit cast. Is that accurate to say? Or was it just really professionally run?
Abraham: I think, yeah.
Franck: Yeah, both things were true.
Abraham: We had, I think, I think Naren set a really good, professional, serious, collaborative, collegial tone from the top, and I think that absolutely affects how people behave and how people come to the project. That said, Steven Strait was great about arranging get togethers for the cast to rehearse on the weekends, people hung out together, even when they were not, strictly speaking, required to. I feel like a lot of the friendships that were built in among the cast have survived and deepened through the years and are continuing now that the show's doing whatever kind of weird pause-y thing it's doing.
Between seasons five and six, you guys lost Cas Anvar because of his actions and the results of a misconduct investigation. I'm curious how that affected you personally and how you had to adjust the story to deal with his departure.
Abraham: You know, this actually leads me back to being a fan of Babylon 5. One of the things that it was really, really smart about was the way that in television, I think especially, all of the characters have to be standing on a trapdoor all the time. And when you watch Babylon 5, you can see how it was like, "Okay, this actor wanted to go do something else, we have another person come in, who can gracefully take over that storyline." And that's just the architecture of storytelling and that he did a great job with that. I think that a lot of shows deal with those kinds of cast changes, more or less gracefully, pretty much all the time. It's just kind of part of the medium.
Looking back, what was the biggest challenge translating the books to the screen?
Franck: It was learning how to write a screenplay?
Abraham: Yeah, that took a while, that was not straightforward. Learning with the toolbox for screenplay writing, learning what you did, instead of having exposition and physical description, how the documents were profoundly different. Ty figured that out way faster than I did. He was much better at shifting gears. I continue to grind gears on that one.
Franck: [laughs] My dislike of lengthy physical description turned out to be an asset.
Abraham: That was a superpower there. Now, that was like going into people's — I was describing a scene and talk about people's internal lives and then Naren's going "Okay, how do you film that? Feels melancholy. How do you feel melancholy?" "She's apprehensive but thinking about this," "Okay, I can't film that — thinking about that, that's not a camera thing."
Looking back on the last decade: are there any moments or high points that stand out, or the writing of it, or anything that you're particularly proud of or that you're happy happened?
Abraham: Well, there was the winning the Hugo Award. That was that was kind of awesome and unexpected.
This is the Hugo for Best Series?
Abraham: Yeah, we've gotten the Hugo for the best series, and now we have rockets. That was, you know, cuz I came up through fandom and the conventions scene, and WorldCons, and yeah, it's nice to feel like the stuff that I was doing — the stuff that we were doing — fit in with that. That was nice.
Ty, any retrospectives from you?
Franck: [Sigh] Again, I tend not to look backwards, and I'm less into the — I understand what Daniel saying, growing up around sci fi and the idea of winning Hugo seems like a really big thing. I'm less into the awards and that sort of thing.
The thing that I find myself proud of is when we're when we're doing press stuff, and you talk to women of color who are writers in the press who are like "I've never watched a show that had so many characters that looked like me" or "had so many characters that I can empathize with or that I could relate to."
The fight that we fought at the very beginning of this with the —
Abraham: Casting guys?
Franck: Yeah, well, I mean, it wasn't — fight is the wrong word — but the emphasis we put on this with the studio, and fortunately, Sharon Hall, who was the president of the studio was very sympathetic to this, agreed with us. She also fought for this, and then when the casting people came onboard, getting them to understand the kind of show we're making, and the kind of cast that we're looking for. All of those early struggles, every time we're in one of those with those press rooms and a black woman says "I love your show, I love Naomi, I love Bobbie Draper, I love that there's all these characters that I can really relate to," that feels like a huge win every time because I know it was hard to do early on, and it feels like it's paying off every time one of those people will say that to me, so I think for me, that feels like the biggest one.
What's next for you guys? I know you have another big space opera trilogy — can you say anything about that?
Abraham: Well, the trilogy we're coming out with from Orbit, it's also space opera, but it's a very different part of the space opera spectrum. It's something we're working on now, and soon as we really nail down a title for it. We have a lot of pet names for it right now, nothing we can actually put on a cover.
What's one of the what's one of the unprintable names?
Abraham: We sometimes called the Nebuchadnezzar stories.
I remember you saying that Dune was a bit of an influence.
Abraham: Dune is a touchstone...
Franck: I mean, less of an influence story-wise, and more operating in a similar space. The thing with Dune was that it was ten thousand years in the future, and so it allowed a lot of history. Dune did a great job of sort of implying the past. You know, they talked about the Butlerian Jihad; Frank Herbert didn't go into detail with it, but you know what the effect of it was on the world. And yeah, he hints at the history of the Bene Gesserit, and he hints at the history of, of the noble houses and, and what the CHOAM company is, and all those things, and it just makes the world feel gigantic, because there's all this history behind it. There's all these things that are just sort of things that nobody in that world questions. The CHOAM Company — they all know what it is, so nobody ever explains it to each other. That, I think that is sort of more the influence or the touchstone than anything plot wise, just trying to find a place in the far distant future where you can imply a ton of history without ever really talking about it.
Abraham: That kind of that kind of aesthetic decision, that kind of aesthetic route.
What do you hope, or how do you hope The Expanse — books and TV show — are remembered a decade from now in 2031?
Franck: Well, I'm sure we'll all be dead before then. So I don't know.
... should we survive?
Abraham: I mean the thing that I would love to see, for the series, as as books and as TV, I would love to see it feel the same niche for the generation coming up that like Larry Niven and Alfred Bester filled for me. I would love to see this be something, things that people take and alter and reinterpret, and reimagine and turn out their own kind of awesome stuff, with our DNA in it, that if we can get other people later on, excited by this and start making their own stuff, I feel like will have been part of the conversation in a meaningful way. If people just like our stuff, and then nobody ever gets jazzed enough about it to make their own art, then eeh, that would be disappointing.
Franck: And I hope they do what the writers who were inspired by Ray Bradbury and Robert Heinlein and Le Guin, and now are writing their own stories and going "you know, I really loved Bradbury, but I didn't like that he was maybe not as sympathetic to his female characters" or whatever, and they're writing their version of that story that fixes the things in it that they saw that didn't work with their sensibilities. I really hope 10 years from now somebody is doing that with our shit. Like, "I really liked Leviathan Wakes, but it didn't feel it was like, sufficiently sympathetic to whatever blind spot Daniel and I had." That would be great!
Do you think you've had an impact on the larger space opera science fiction canon already? Anecdotally, I've seen people point to books like Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice getting published, or there being a bit of a space opera resurgence because of The Expanse's success.
Abraham: I don't think it's just us. I think that Scalzi opened the door, and we walked in second. But I think the evidence starting maybe ten, twelve years ago that there wasn't an audience for this kind of stuff certainly changed the view of it in publishing. And I hope — if Ancillary Justice got a leg up because of us, I think we did good work. That would be awesome.
Franck: Yeah, and obviously, it's not like we were inspiring Ancillary Justice to be written, but I think what we have heard from from Ann herself, is that the fact that Leviathan Wakes had done as well as it had helped her sell Ancillary Justice, that it opened a door that her book could then go through. And I'm glad that it did, because I'm glad that we have that book. It was a huge hit, it went on to win a lot of awards and stuff and did some really interesting things with genre that people hadn't really done before. So if we nudge the door open a little bit and her books slipped through the crack we made and got in that that's great. Like, I don't I don't need it to be more than that.
Abraham: Yeah, I don't know that we've changed how people write, but I think we have changed a bit about how people publish.
Do you think or have any hopes that there is anything story-wise that will come out from the from these books or from the TV show?
Abraham: I hope so. I mean, I don't know that I'm in a position to say what that's going to be? But I have things that I'm very proud of with the show, that I like about the show that I hope other people wind up doing too. But we'll see! We've planted the seeds, and we'll have to see what actually comes up. Maybe it's a flower, maybe it's a seed, maybe nothing. That's something we're just going to have to discover later on. That's other people's work.
As always, thanks for reading. Today, Orbit has released a special, tenth-anniversary edition of Leviathan Wakes (I'm awaiting my copy now), and later this year, we'll see the final installment of the series, Leviathan Falls hit stores. (And Season 6 of the series air on Amazon!)
The Expanse has meant quite a bit to me in the last ten years, and I'll be writing quite a bit more about the series in the months to come. Stay tuned. If you're a newcomer to Transfer Orbit, welcome! Please consider signing up as a subscriber. You can find details here.