Tag Archives: The Expanse

Review of The Expanse TV series

with apology for an erratum

A new review of The Expanse TV series, co-written by SFF writer Heather Clitheroe and yours truly, is out today in the SFRA Review.

The Expanse may ruin other space opera for you…It’s worth it.”

And then the Expanse creators shared a very kind shout-out about the piece…making today this fan’s best ever May the 4th.

An unlooked-for kindness that an astute reader promptly rendered ironic by observing (to my mortification) that I’d misrepresented an Indigenous actor’s identity:

In working to correct this error, I’m reminded how attentive, sensitive readers like this speak to the calibre of the series and its capacity to generate and (mayhaps) organize such ardent community.

“Alien is the thing that made me want to write the books”: Ty Franck

Alien is the thing that made me want to write the books and the screenplays for the show,” says Ty Franck—half of the authorial team known by their nom de plume, James S.A. Corey—on the 16 Dec. 2020 episode of The Expanse Aftershow. Talking with Thomas Jane, director of season 5’s third episode, “Mother”, and Wes Chatham, Franck expounds:

“The movie Alien is the single largest influence on The Expanse. I saw that movie when I was, like, I think ten or eleven, and it never left my mind…so, the two characters in Alien that are what The Expanse is, is Parker and Brett. Two guys in jumpsuits walking around fixing pipes on a spaceship, and they’re treating it like a job. They’re not starfleet, they’re not admirals, they’re not like Klingons. They’re a couple of guys with pipe wrenches fixing stuff and complaining they don’t get as much money as everybody else…those guys, those two guys are the foundation of The Expanse.”

As a scholar of science fiction’s representations of labour, I find Franck’s reflection a helpful specification of the source material for The Expanse’s refreshingly sympathetic depictions of organized labour. I find three particular things striking about his words here:

  • It’s a clear, co-authorial assertion of labour and working-class perspective as an oppositional premise (“they’re not…”), and thus as both an aesthetic and an ethos;
  • It’s an open acknowledgment of intertextual influence and (unlicensed) adaptation, and so it models transformative fair use (as does a lot of SF, to be fair); and
  • In the process of explaining Alien’s influence, Franck also names—inadvertently, perhaps, but suggestively—two other SF classics, viz., “foundation” and “the thing.”

Research on unions and science fiction, mobilized

Last summer, the annual WorldCon (World Science Fiction Convention) included a panel, based on my & Bob Barnetson’s research on representations of unions in science fiction, that featured some of the authors I and co-author Bob Barnetson had discussed, namely Eric Flint and Cory Doctorow. (Wish I’d been there!)

Since then, that panel’s organizer, Olav Rokne, has hosted a still-continuing conversation on this topic via his Twitter account; see the thread (and Rokne’s excellent blog post):

(BTW, if you want a copy of Barnetson’s and my article, “Resistance is futile: on the under-representation of unions in science fiction,” e-mail me a request or see this link for details.)

In related news, I’m finally watching the enthralling TV series The Expanse, based on the eponymous novels by James S.A. Corey, which I think I’ll have to read too, since unions feature so prominently in this story — and, refreshingly, are depicted in a nuanced and more positive than negative light. (They’re about more than strikes, here; they enact an ethos of community, democracy, and the greater good.)