Doors locked (doors locked)Blinds pulled (blinds pulled)Lights low (lights low)Flames high (flames high)My body (my body)My bodyMy body (my body)My bodyMy bodyIs walking in spaceMy soul is in orbitWith God face to faceFloating, flippingFlying, trippingTripping from Pottsville to MainlineTripping from Mainline to Moonville(Tripping from “Pot”sville to StarlightTripping from Starlight to Moonville)On a rocket toThe Fourth DimensionTotal self awarenessThe intentionMy mind is as clear as country airI feel my flesh, all colors meshRed blackBlue brownYellow crimsonGreen orangePurple pinkViolet whiteWhite whiteWhite whiteWhite white
Sci-fi is a tricky gender in literature and video. Conveying unknown and non existent technology as part of daily life all they while keeping a plausible story line is something hard to do.
I don´t remember where I read this interview by Ray Bradbury where he said that sci-fi talks about possibilities, things yet to be, no matter how improbable they might seem, whereas fantasy dwells on the realm of the impossible, and not just unknown, yet unproven or tested or improbable.
Frank Herbert´s Dune is much more a fantasy book than anything else, by these standards, whereas I, Robot is sci-fi, considering the advancements on artificial intelligence and robotics. Oh, but then I am taking the books on their own premises. It is not unusual to have good books turned into weak movies or series, and create havoc among fans who try to choose which is the best version and all that boring geeky jazz.
And while the fans argue they fail to ponder the story, how it made them feel. For a moment considering book and series (or movie) as separate entities.
Whoever reads my reviews notices that I am interested on what the media products evoke on me, that it, the reflections they inspire. So, let´s get to my latest marathon, or binge watching! Expanse!
And the name “Expanse” is grating, cause there is nothing expansive about space travel, the idea of space shuttles, travels, etc is completely claustrophobic, pretty much alike deep sea diving. Deep sea and the space are not environments for human life. We can only survive in such environments by building special ships and stations, which necessarily limit our possibilities of locomotion, our freedom, so… claustrophobia.
The Expanse is based on series of books by James S.A. Corey , pen name of author Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, so it is a series written by a duo. The first season is based on the first book of the series Leviathan wakes and outlines the main characters and draws the checkboard where those characters move.
Here is the checkboard: Earth has colonized Mars and the belt of asteroids moving beyond it. In the process it creates different cultures, with different ways of life, languages and even physical features.
As the mother and home of the human race, Earth and Luna, hold a sort of supremacy over the colonies, it is a scientific and cultural centre, and deals with the results of its progress. It is a centre of civil service, administration, trade, and all the things associated with state enterprise. Mars, the first colony, undergoes a process of terraforming, of changing its landscape and weather in order to support human life. The hardships of colonial life, forms a society resembling that of the first colonists on the americas, where resourcefulness, creativity, community support, hardwork and thrift, courage, elf sufficiency, ambition and drive to succeed against the odds, contrasts with Earth´s more patrician disposition. Martians do suffer from some nostalgia from the earth of their ancestors, and are obsessed with shaping their planet the image of an ideal earth. After some time, fight and diplomatic negotiation, Mars attained its sovereignty. Earth has the longest life expectancy, followed by Mars.
Belters are those who live on the belt of asteroids, as well as those who were not born in a planet. They are often miners, lowly qualified workers, people employed with the moving of raw materials found on starts, moons and asteroids to keep a supply chain of raw materials for the big planets. Belters suffer the consequences of growing up in environments of low gravity and different levels of solar radiation. Their bones tend to be longer, and they have less muscular tone, which makes it impossible for them to even breathe in earth´s gravity. Their tall, slender figures are the result of lack of gravity. Life expectancy on the belts is arounf 68 y-o. Due to the isolation and the low importance as individuals, they end up with poorer education, doing less commendable jobs and developed their own language, a form of creole.
Earthers, Dusters (from Mars) and Belters. Tensions arise as the Belters crave for better life conditions and sovereignty. Among the colonists, those who suffered most physical transformations were the Belters.
The modified asteroids and stations did not keep conditions close enough to those of earth to promote the growth of human beings with the same physical constitution of those born in Earth. The book centers mostly on the effects of limited air supply and on the lack of gravity. So, more respiratory problems, humans whose body use less air in order to keep fully functional, to longer bones, muscles with lower density and backbones withtout as much support. Those changes do not affect their lifes in space, however, when on Earth or on a planet with gravity close to earth, Belters do not have minimal strength to stand up straight an walk, being prone to fractures; the lack of muscular density leads to respiratory problems, for the gravity pressure makes breathing harder on the muscles. In order to stay on earth they are often confined to water tanks to alleviate the effects of gravity on the muscles, and receive oxygen by masks cpap style. Earth, the ancient home of their species had become a hostile environment.
So, the centuries of colonialism led to the existence of different cultures and to a different, why not, spin off from human evolutionary tree. Yet, Earth and Mars, vie for control over the resources and the belt is the key. Belters want independence, Mars style, as self government, and neither Earth or Mars want to grant them that, in the meantine, the planets have to deal with their own problems and factions.
Expanse follows three characters in this first season. One is James Holden, an earther who works in an ice hauler (ice is melted for water at the belt) and his crew, who get involved in a terrorist attack which intend to pitch Earth against Mars and cause riots at the Belt. In the end we learn that neither party was responsible for the attack, but rather a faction with an agenda, the making of a bioweapon, or an evolutionary jump to an alien life form, that we will better understand on season 2.
Jo Miller, a belter born and raised at Ceres station but who greatly admires Earth and Mars, meaning that he´d love to escape the claustropobic and harsh life of the station where he was born. He is a police detective and is told to look for Julie Mao, a rich girl who was drafted into a terrorist organization, OPA, which fights for the rights and freedom of the Belt. As he delves into her story and follows the breadcrumbs who lead to her, he sort of fall in love with her and with the values she represents, of rectitude, solidarity, generosity, etc.
Second Secretary of the UN Chrisjen Avasarala , a cunning and experienced politician who is harsh but essentially fair. She wants to keep the peace in the system, and the status quo, protecting Earth. She avoids the all out war among Earth, Mars and Belt, and does her best to investigate the truth behind the events. As she gets closer to the facts, the investigation is shut down, which convinces her that there is a conspiration at the high levels of government which can lead all of them to disaster.
Saying more would spoil the series, and I think this outline might be too spoilery for many!
As a show, Expanse has good writing, and doesn´t bother to explain to the audience these background facts, it lets you put them together as you watch. The use of flashback is used only to introduce characters, not concepts. Unlike Star Wars, Star Trek and other franchises who think diversity is humans dealing with other species, Expanse deal with diversity within humanity, which is a subject that we deal on a daliy basis. It is not fantasy, it is science-fiction? The action is well crafted so it keeps the tempo, and serves a purpose within the narrative, the twists and turns are not deus ex machina, which is good, and make you feel a bit of an accomplice to the main characters.
The second season starts on February 1 in the US, and I don´t know when it will be available on netflix Brasil, so I have plenty of time to read books one and two, cause I a unapologetic spoiler whore and I want to know what happens next!
And yes, the song that kept echoing on my mind was walking on space, from the Musical Hair… because of the lyrics. Cause when humanity leaves this beautiful cocoon that is earth, it is bound to loose itself, in other words, to die.