In the first episode of the expansing Morgan and Dan discuss the scientific and social accuracy of the future presented in The Expanse and the books the show is based upon.

Listen to “The Expansing” wherever you get podcasts.

Recommended Reading:

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein

a cartoon of Morgan using a typewriter rolling her eyes at dan, he's pointing to gattaca on a tv, they are in a lunar base


[cross talk]

Morgan: If something is popular or if other people like it, you can’t control that.

Dan: Maybe this should just be the beginning of the first episode… OH OK, Uh, uh, thanks for joining us [Morgan laughs] on The Expansing, [laughs] another Expanse podcast, about The Expanse.

M: Are there many?

D: There are several. And I haven’t listened to any of them.

M: Yeah, me neither.

D: Because we’re coming into this as people who just are… want to nerd out, and—

M: Yeah, I’m staying very cold, I’m not, like, reading anything online—

D: Mmhmm.

M: —or like sampling other, other peoples’ opinions on this, so…

D: Yeah I thought about, maybe I should go through all of the other podcasts and make sure I don’t step on toes, and now I’m like, ‘No. I don’t even care.’ [Be]cause I found this show years ago—

M: Mmhmm.

D: —and thought: ‘This is really cool.’ And then, I don’t know what happened, my brain took a vacation and I was like: ‘Oh right! That show exists.’ and then was like, ‘Wow, this is goddamn amazing.’

M: Yeah.

D: I’m gonna watch every moment of this and watch the whole thing and now I’m reading all the books, and then Morgan: you’re just someone who I think is awesome and has great opinions about stuff.

M: Aw, thanks.

D: We have good conversations, so I was like: ‘Uuuhh please like this show. Please talk to me about this show, because no one else will do it because everyone else thinks that I’m the weirdo for being so nerdy about it and getting into it.’

M: Oh yeah, no, I’ve never had anyone who, like, shared my love of Science Fiction. You know, like, I’ll give my books away, I try to get people into my interests, and I collect, like, multiple copies of the same paperbacks just to give them away. Like, ‘Please read, for me? Like, so you can understand me better, please read this.’ And nobody, like, shares my love of Science Fiction, so… so yeah, it’s nice to actually talk about something.

D: Mmhmm.

M: Um, that I care about as a person, that’s not like directly happening in the world, right now.

D: Right.

M: I think that’s why sci-fi is great, because, like, you can, um, like, live in and analyze a world that doesn’t actually directly affect you. Its still feels real, but it’s not like… there’s no Donald Trump in The Expanse. Do you know what I mean? [laughs] I mean it’s kind of—

D: I mean there almost certainly is, but…

M: Yeah! But it feels abstract compared to the actual horror that we live with every day. So…

D: Right, right, right, right.

M: It’s like a way to talk about politics and not talk about politics. You know? Or like what’s right and wrong, or who’s objectively good and bad, without, you know… I think if you focus too much on the real world it can, um, be completely oppressive.

D: Mmhmm

M: And sci-fi is like, um, a really good release valve.

D: And any just fans of The Expanse who are tuning in, this is “The Expansing” so we’re going to be expanding [Morgan laughs] on a lot of the things that are going on in The Expanse, so we may or may not talk about The Expanse all that much in some episodes, or even some moments of discourse. Also, SPOILERS AHEAD, we’re just going to talk about whatever we want so—

M: Right!

D: —if you haven’t seen the entire show, or whatever,—

M: Go. [laughs]

D: —you need to turn around now, don’t be here for this.

M: Ah, well, The Expanse in and of itself is propped up by so many other things. It doesn’t exist on its own, it exists as a result of so much that came before it. And it is a very acute commentary on, like, global politics. Um, and it feels very relevant, probably because it’s modern. I normally don’t read or watch a lot of modern Science Fiction, so that was, uh, it’s kind of like a treat to have something that’s more like grounded in the world we currently live in. Um, especially from, like, the war-like aspect, the actual war that’s going on, it feels way more present.

D: Oh, there’s a war? (sarcastic)

M: They kind of touch on it briefly. [laughs]

D: Oh. Ok.

M: It just feels more present, versus like, in a world like Star Trek where they’ve achieved utopia, and the only wars that are being—


M: —yeah, for HUMANS, and the only people they go to war with are aliens that by nature are things we don’t relate to easily.

D: I also feel like, The Expanse, by its very nature, because it is a little more grounded, a little more realistic, and it’s a more about human frailties and really, like, people just being bad at being people—

M: Yeah, I…

D:—that it’s gonna be something that I feel very comfortable picking apart—

M: Sure.

D: —and being very critical of because it’s definitely one of those shows that I love to death, but then they’ll do something here or there in the show or in the books, and it’s like: ‘WHY?’

M: Yeah.

D: ‘No! No you idiots!’ [laughs]

M: Oh I have many thoughts on that. But thats what makes any good genre is… any good genre story is a human story. You know, Horror isn’t good because it’s gross, it’s good because it’s about people being horrified. [Dan laughs] Like, Science Fiction is good because it’s about how people actually exist and react in this world that’s different. Um, so… yeah, I, I love like the human element that gets introduced, but I do have some uh, some thoughts on that, so—

D: Yeah.

M: —some criticisms.

D: And we’re not going to go episode by episode, which the plan, I think, originally was to just do that. But uh—

M: I can’t remember.

D: —but also, Morgan’s intentionally staying away from the books so that I have commentary on the books, [be]cause I am reading those religiously. But Morgan has got a lot more sci-fi literary heritage, let’s say, than I do, or at least a more varied one. Mine’s a little bit too narrowly focused on Star Wars. [laughs]

M: Well I do love Star Trek, I do love Star Trek.

D: Yeah.

M: Um, Yeah. But, I only watched, I only watched the show because you asked me to. [Dan laughs] So. My, like, my main love for Science Fiction is what I, like, call the “Golden Age,” like, 1940’s through 70’s. This was perfect time for sci-fi. Um, and I’ve read like, I mean, you see my bookshelf, that’s like a fraction of my surviving collection. I’ve read so much, but like, not really stayed current on… I’m not a good TV watcher. You know, I started my sci-fi collection, [laughs] I didn’t have a TV for 5 years? And not in, not in like the hipster way, like, ‘I don’t have a TV, I just have this fish tank… and these plants…’ [Dan laughs] Uh, yeah it was a poverty based lifestyle choice. So I didn’t have a TV, at all, and any of my time at home was spent reading books and listening to the radio. That’s all I had for entertainment. So um, I just bought mountains of paperbacks. Every—

D: You’re such an elitist.

M: [laughs] I’m such a hipster. I had a typewriter, it’s cool…  Um, yeah, no TV, no internet, so just books and NPR. And I would buy mountains of sci-fi paperbacks, and like, when I got through the novels I started going into short stories. And um, that’s the remnants of my collection, but I’ve read like hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of these old books that, like, never really made it. [Dan laughs] A lot of these short stories, like, never really made it into a spotlight of any kind. Then I watch something like The Expanse and I can see, like, evidence of all this inspiration. Um, a lot of the stuff I’ve read was made into Twilight Zone episodes that you would not know because they didn’t credit authors back then.

D: Right, right.

M: It’s like Rod Sterling was the only guy who got credit on the Twilight Zone, but, I’ve read the short stories that these things were directly based on. So, um, I never got back in the habit of being a good TV watcher—

D: Mmhmm.

M: I never would have even known this show existed if you hadn’t told me to watch it.

D: Oh well, we can all thank Daddy Jeff Bezos for saving it for us, so he could live out his, his dreams.

M: Yeah!

D: Which is what we all want for him, is for him to get everything he wants.

M: If it’s the best, if it’s the best thing he does in his life, like—

D: Save The Expanse?

M: Yeah.

D: Give us some art, some lasting, uh, piece of, be something beautiful?

M: Yeah, build some spaceships, so like, we all get to go. That’s fine.

D: Yeah, let’s do that. If he wants to put his face on the door of the Luna Base, fine. But give it to us.

M: “Bezos Base?” I’m all—

D: “Luna Bezos.”

M: [laughs] Luna Bezos!

D: The Lunar Bezos.

M: Yeah. Someone has to do it. So.

D: So ah, I think that our plan is going to be, on top of all that just discussion, just sort of vague topics that we’re picking to talk about, jump around all over the place, so SPOILERS AHEAD as I said already.

M: Oh, I’m gonna let you guide me.

D: Uh, we’re gonna write some poetry, we’re gonna make some pieces of art, …you didn’t write a poem?

M: I didn’t write a poem.



D: Alright well I did. So. You’ll get mine later, it’s fine. Maybe you can think of one. Now.

M: I have to come up with one.

D: Get out your notebook, at the end of class, we’ll talk. [laughs] Uh, and of course assuming that we do anything successfully, we’ll just keep making these, uh, because we’re very bored. Um, we’ll need a corrections segment, I think, [be]cause we’re just gonna talk out of our asses for a lot of this and we’re gonna say some things that are… wrong.

M: I don’t mind being wrong—

D: I hate being wrong.

M: —I don’t mind—

D: Oh whatever.

M: —at least landing close to the point.

D: Sure. [Morgan laughs] No, I want to be conceptually right all the time. I’m always conceptually right. That’s understood. But you know, if I forget how far away Ganymede is, and get the number wrong, and someone points it out, you know, if anyone ever actually listens to this, and says: ‘Hey, Ganymede is this far away,’ I’m going to have to go: ‘Oh, by the way, I was wrong. Ganymede is that far away.’ 

M: Yeah, I, I, I think it’s more important to understand the concept that it’s super fucking far away—

D: Mmhmm. It is really far away.

M: —than know the exact numbers. [laughs]

D: I don’t know the exact number, and I’m definitely going to be saying ‘I don’t know this exactly,’ that’s going to happen a lot. 

M: Yeah, and with as much sci-fi as I’ve read in my life, I’m not going to remember every influence that I recognize. Like, I genuinely, I can remember the story clearly, I, I don’t remember who wrote—I don’t even remember what book to look in. I have so many on that shelf. 

D: But what do you want to talk about?

M: Uh, well, where do we want to start? Do we want to talk about the actual representation of the future according to The Expanse? 

D: I think that, well the fut—the idea of futurism is kind of really specific. Right? I think we wanted to talk about, I think, just that idea of portraying the future—

M: Sure.

D: —But there is futurism as like, a movement that does exist in a lot of different art forms… so.

M: Yeah.

D: Maybe we could do a little bit of both, I mean, there’s certainly a lot of aspects of sci-fi portrayals of the future and what life is going to be like or what technologies we have that are just kind of exploratory or isn’t as cool or this is probably going to happen, and then there’s the things that seem like more, that seem like a higher order of thinking where you’re trying to philosophically predict…

M: Yeah, I think what makes sci-fi… I mean that’s what brings people to Science Fiction in the first place, is, you know, the fact that it feels very close to where we currently live. I mean, fantasy is like, there’s dragons, there’s magic, anything can be anything, but in Science Fiction, like it’s grounded in this reality. It’s, it’s what’s happening today, then add a hundred years, add a thousand years. That’s what makes it so interesting. I think that’s why I have such a love for older Science Fiction, that was written in a world where, like, cell phones didn’t exist? [Dan laughs] And, you know, we had not gone to space yet. Uh, so it, it was truly far, far flung to even imagine intergalactic space travel. Uh, it’s kind of like knowing, knowing that the ocean is there but not really knowing what’s in it, you know? It’s like you kind of know the depth and the parameters—

D: Aw look at you, slipping in little Easter Egg jokes. ‘Here there be dragons’, huh?

M: Yeah. [laughs] Well?

D: Look at you. Look at you. Getting professional on the first episode.

M: If they can do it, so can I. Um, yeah, oh, all of the like many, many recurring references to Don Quixote, that’s like—

D: Mmm Yeah.

M: [Chef’s kiss] Like, I love that. You know, just constantly slid in there. I think they could have gone a little harder in the paint on that though. Because Don Quixote is a tragedy, you know?

D: Yeah. Well, as, as you all, as you may well know that, uh, turns out that some very very smart people might not know what that story is about. 

M: Yeah, yeah.

D: They seem to think that maybe, maybe tilting at windmills is a literally good thing.

M: Not a good thing.

D: No, it is not. [laughs] 

M: Um. Not someone to look up to.

D: Thats what someone very smart does.

M: Right. And what makes Don Quixote such an interesting story is actually not the character, but how it was written. 

D: Mmhmm.

M: And you’re supposed to enjoy the reading of the narrative and not so much the content of the narrative. [Dan laughs] Um, like, you know, there, for example: there’s a part of… Cervantes is basically writing the story as if it was pieced together from manuscripts that he found, and stories that he heard. So, uh—

D: Which is like him being a, an archivist.

M: It’s just him—

D: It’s like the opposite story method of like futurist, almost. 

M: Sure!

D: He was like being as a, as a looking back futurist. Archival, sort of—

M: Yeah.

D: —‘I discovered this.’ 

M: But, like, to take it, there’s no limit to the amount of like, humor and he could play with his own story and, um, that would have been nice, like have a more, have a character like Don Quixote that was actually present in the story. For a form of storytelling. 

D: Mmhmm.

M: Um, but I’ll take what I can get. I thought it was very smart.

D: Oh, um, what do you think, like, my thought on The Expanse as far as the portrayal of the future that I’m wondering about, and of course it’s going to be difficult to ever know for sure, it takes place in, and somebody call me on this, it’s like roughly the same timeframe as what would be like Star Trek: The Next Generation.

M: I think it’s 2400’s?

D: Like it’s pretty close, time-wise from now to that point.

M: Right.

D: And of course, Star Trek’s perspective is this somewhat utopian vision, at least for certain populations, and, but specifically though things like the technology they were predicting, or saying ‘wouldn’t it be crazy if we had this fancy space tech’ and then, we already have a lot of it. It already happened.

M: Right.

D: I’m not even into my 40’s yet and suddenly this stuff that didn’t exist, exists now. So it’s like the went, they didn’t go far enough almost. Or inspired us to get there. Um, and I’m wondering, with The Expanse, It’s clear they didn’t go as far with that concept, because we’re seeing technology from now just a little more beefed up. 

M: Yeah.

D: But, they are portraying things that, in the Star Trek universe, looked a little bit more magical, and now we know well, it’s not magical, we figured out how that works and it’s portrayed as more of a machine, as opposed to ‘Oh, it’s a glowing box.’ [Laughs]

M: Right, or like some invisible sentient bubble of gas. right?

D: So um, I guess, right. I guess what I’m getting at is: do you think The Expanse is more on the mark? Or do you think that they actually undershot?

M: I, oh, I think it’s pretty dead on. Um, Like, look at where, if we’re talking Star Trek from the beginning, from the 50’s and 60’s, um, they were just getting a hint of global warming. Just, just beginning to start to see the effects of the Industrial Revolution on the environment. Um so, their future vision of, you know, a society thats basically utopian, they’ve eradicated disease, hunger, greed—greed being the big one. [Dan laughs] Money is not an issue in this world.

D: Which is how you know the Ferengi are bad. They’re greedy and they’re ugly. Double whammy. [laughs]

M: There you go. And they have those weirdly racist accents! Uhhhh [both laugh] so, classic evil! uhhh [continued laughter] Um, oh yeah, they’re, that’s a whole… that’s a whole thing. So, with Star Trek from the very beginning, it’s like the way that they were able to achieve this like utopian future, jumpsuited world, is eradicating greed. There’s no capital anymore. So, versus like to now, where you can’t write a Science Fiction story that doesn’t include the effects that we’ve already, like the strain we’ve already put on the environment. And what it’s going to continue to look like. [whispers] Is that good? [both laugh] Um, and then you know, even just from, what was The Expanse? 2015? Season 1? 

D: Uuhhhhhh…

M: Something like that.

D: [Whispers] We are bad fans.

M: A few years. In the last, in a very short amount of time, things have gotten so much worse. [Dan laughs] You know? That even from the time they wrote the series to now, like, we’re past the point of no return.

D: Yeah the book series is about, I think we’re just about a decade in.

M: Yeah…

D: Actually, first of all the authors, good on them [be]cause they are not short books, and they have just churned out high quality entertaining books, and got a series produced that isn’t dropping the ball. [laughs] So, go to hell Fantasy, Sci-Fi is better. But yeah, it’s been about a decade.

M: So, in the last decade, um, things, like, our impact on the environment has, has exploded in the worst direction. Um, so you can’t imagine a future world that doesn’t exude that. The reason that a future where all the life on Earth is on government assistance makes more sense than a future where all life on Earth is free from like greed and poverty is because, look, look here now. You know? Versus —

D: I don’t know, I’m pretty sure we’re going to be able to change human nature in the span of a couple centuries. Pretty sure. Pretty sure. [laughs]

M: I uh, I don’t think human nature ever changes. I, I can never get on board with a pure utopian society because there’s always going to be people that, you know, there’s always, no matter, if you have access to everything your heart desires, there’s still going to be people that want more.

D: And just some people who’s wiring is a bit weird.

M: Yeah. They want to push the envelope. 

D: Break it all.

M: Yeah. Yet, trolls exist online now for a reason.


M: It’s just an aspect of human nature that’s always going to be present.

D: Shit what were we talking about? You were talking about something else just a second ago.

M: The, is Star Trek more accurate than The Expanse? 

D: [laughs] That’s too far. 

M: Global warming, we’re all going to die. 

D: Oh. Yeah. That’s no editing at all. We’re never going to edit any of the audio. The I mean, the thing that drew me in first with the Expanse was the credit sequence. 

M: Yeah.

D: Just right away. I mean, obviously and we’re going to talk about the music and all those things at some point, like we’ll just we’ll get around to that. But obviously, it’s engaging from an artistic point of view. But the content of like seeing the seas rise and seeing the Statue of Liberty Liberty get inundated and then they figure out the seawalls and all of that. And that’s actually the other thing I like about the balance of that. That particular aspect of the credit sequence is it gives you a lot of the world without saying a word, which is great, which also, I think is a good sign of this is in in the hands of the right kind of people that are making this show and you’re seeing a lot of details that aren’t really provided otherwise. And that goes for the books as well. If mean, I’ve read the books fairly recently, although there again, they are long. So I’m probably forgetting certain details, but most of the content in the books is really not on the background stuff in the world either, which I actually think is a bit of a weak spot. And I think that that gets fleshed out in some of the some of the novellas that I haven’t read. And and maybe they have plans for other other bits after the series is over to expand the universe a bit because you don’t get much of the ‘What’s it like on Earth?’ You hear those vague descriptions, but you actually don’t see it, much.

M: Yeah. And the only time you actually see Earth is through the eyes of of Bobby Draper the Martian. So—

D: which is probably a really intentional choice. 

M: Yeah.

D: But it is something that your brain is like, what’s it like? What’s it like? What’s it like? And they don’t give it to you, which is kind of cool because of the whole things in space and those people don’t know what’s going on.

M: Again, I think The Expanse is so much closer to reality than Star Trek for, you know, if we’re talking about art direction, the visual styling. The only thing you see on Earth is interior spaces.

D:Yeah, you’re right.

M: because it’s the only place that’s safe anymore.

D: Thats a good point.

M: I mean, if it’s not going to be pollution, it’s going to be UV rays—

D: Unless you—

M: —or disease, which has—

D: —are privileged like Holden of being raised in a by sort of radicals.

M: Yeah.

D: I want a way from, a way to get away from this.

M: Also the concept of—

D: It’s the only way you can do it.

M: A group family and also like group genetics is not new. That comes directly from Robert Heinlein, which I’m prepared to talk about at length.

D: Please do. Any time you want to insert a literary direction, I’m happy to hear it because for those of you listening, I think Morgan and I have read a lot of the exact same people, but I’ve read about 20% of the just sheer volume of what she’s read. So, she’s the one who’s going to talk at length about books.

M: When I find something I like, I just I want all of it. So if I if I come across—

D: Except The Expanse books. Which she is intentionally staying away from, just to make my life hard.

M: Well, we’ll call it grace. It’s actually just I’m, I’m overwhelmed at every moment of my life. So TV, I can handle… books, not so much. But yeah, at a time when I actually had an endless amount of free time to read, if I found an author I liked, I would just I would read everything.

So with Heinlein, there’s several books stories that all have a consistent theme of like group families, and Friday specifically was about an assassin who was built from the best genetic parts of several different people. I think it was 8, 8 different parents she had, which was so interesting. It was so close to Holden’s family unit.

D: Mm hmm. 

M: But it was basically polygamy, you know, where a bunch of people would marry in and share share resources, and even within his books, you know, society is judgmental of this and critiquing it in the same way they do in The Expanse, where they say, like, isn’t this just a way for you to hold on to land and resources?

D: You’re just cheating.

M: Yeah.

D: But it’s like— 

M: That’s what marriage is, fundamentally.

D: But at the time, if this is the only way to do it and it’s legal. Wha… what are you doing?

M: Yeah, that’s what marriage is, like, you, you combine your assets.

D: I mean, it also has commentary on the kind of desperation you’d have to be in in a world where the only way to have a normal life is to do something that most humans would consider fundamentally abnormal.

M: Right?

D: And to put yourself in this group situation when you might naturally only prefer one or two other partners, but all of a sudden you have to tamp that down. 

M: Yeah. 

D: To try and have a normal existence. Otherwise. T have a child that’s just yours and that you can love and be with and not have to worry about the state coming in and interfering with absolutely every aspect of it.

M: Which is, I think, a lot of the strife between Earth, Martians and Belters that’s portrayed as Earthers are depicted as being like kind of individualists genuinely believing in Earth’s exceptionalism because this is where we all came from.

D: Earth is classical liberals.

M: Yeah. Like, we’re the colonizers. We’re the ones that like, you exist because of us, therefore—

D: Mars is like mid-century conservatism.

M: I would love to be Martian. I love. I love the Martians.

D: It would be pretty cool. It’s a little bit Fasc-y. But hey, they got, they got some cool stuff.

M: I do think it’s beautiful or they they constantly drive that drive home the idea that it’s our entire planet working towards a common goal, which is to bring it to life. 

D: Which would be, if that is in our future if we were able, which I think most modern theories on the way you would do terraforming and the nature of Mars as a planet in its current state are that this would not be possible. Scientifically, at this point, I think from what we understand currently, again, correct me in corrections, if you know more about it, but because of the nature of the magnetosphere.

M: Yeah, we don’t have the answer yet. There’s there’s no way to build an atmosphere—

D: I Think—

M: —from scratch.

D: In the books, they briefly touch on the concept that they somehow figured out how to kind of restart the core of Mars so that it would have a weak magnetosphere to not have its shred the the atmosphere. The second you got it built up.

M: Exactly. Yeah. If we’re lucky, we’ll get bubbles. We’ll get Biodomes.

D: Yeah and that alone is like, well, just do it, go on and do it now.

M: Well, I mean, we’re running out of time like this is this is what I was saying about like where we are right now with not just climate change, but also politically. Socially, we have way too much destructive power and not enough constructive projects. I don’t think we’re going to make it that far. I don’t think humanity is going to last long enough. I think we’re going to boil alive on Earth before we ever figure out a way to get off of it. So at the very least, you know, in a series like this, I think—

D: So you’re an optimist.

M: Very often, yes, I believe in the genuine good nature of people. No, I think that, yeah, people are inherently selfish and short sighted, and we’re always going to be battling that. But The Expanse is so much closer to the future than I think anything else I’ve ever seen. It’s not an optimistic view of humanity’s future. The best thing that they show is that we could get off this planet. That’s the best thing we achieve. And everything else is just the same garbage, the same fighting. It’s the same xenophobia, racism, fighting for resources like those things are never going to change.


One element of futurism is aliens and such, right? That there’s these greater skills, greater intelligences that are going to come help us out. And while The Expanse mostly avoids that, even though the fundamental element of the story is that there’s something alien that has come in and it’s kind of screwing up the works, like changing the plan, right? How much of that is in common with other views of the different kinds of futurism where you’re thinking of it as like, that’s a good force. That’s a bad force.

M: Yeah, they don’t really offer much of an explanation for why. Like, why would the protomolecule be here in the first place?

D: The books do go into that. Do that more in, the more in the sense of it being really portrayed as the way that that civilization spread its technology so that you could go prepare a solar system that met certain criteria.

M: Well, that’s very like—

D: Sending something very colonialism. And then it would do all by itself, you know, create the ring and then you boom. You could go visit and make it part of the civilization.

M: Well, that’s the same assumption that the Prometheus franchise makes is that there’s these engineers that sort of see the sea, the universe, any planet that seems to have habitable qualities, they’ll seed it.

D: Although it’s made fairly clear in books, if I’m not mistaken, that it’s not that just to make it clear that it’s not seeding the life. The way that it sort of do with Prometheus is seeding the tech. Yeah, just to get there, because they’re just going to go exploit the planet.

M: Yeah.

D: That’s what they’re for.

M: Yeah, I mean, that’s it’s very 2001: A Space Odyssey where the I don’t know how far back I have to go, this is pretty pop culture at this point.

D: I should hope that people listening to this will at least be aware of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

M: Yeah. So space, Arthur C. Clark and Stanley Kubrick actually co-wrote the movie and got together at the same time. 

D: I didn’t know that.

M: And there’s yeah, so they came up with they wanted to work together and they co-wrote the movie. And then Arthur C. Clarke sort of did his own adaptation as a novel. It’s slightly different, but still pretty, pretty close.

D: I read it once and I forgot everything because I’ve seen the movie a dozen times.

M: It’s one of my, It’s one of my favorites.

D: I read the book once when I was a kid. 

M: Yeah, 

D: And totally forgot everything about it. I just I do vaguely—No, I didn’t read 2001. I read 2010.

M: Right, so there were some—

D: That was even weirder because it was still talking about the Russians and stuff.

M: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, yeah, that that’s in The Expanse portrayal of like the Belters being basically a pidgin language that they have that was based on some Russian and and Filipino? 

D: German, Spanish. It does seem like there’s some Filipino in there.

M: Some Tagalog in there, which is directly from The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. 

D: Oh.

M: Directly, like everyone on the lunar colony speaks a pidgin language of Tagalog, some Spanish and Russian.

D: I don’t know why they left. It must have been a creative decision for marketing purposes because a lot of people, at least in the US, are going to be Spanish speakers. 

M: Yeah. 

D: Because in the books, a good portion of their sort of Creole is German. Very clearly German. You get almost none of that in the show, which is just kind of interesting that they made that choice because some of them are things that are actually closer to English words because it’s a Germanic language. So it’s like ‘Why’d they leave that one out? That’s kind of a cool one.’

M: Yeah, but I did like how ethnically it’s it’s just like a mixed bag of different last names, first names. Skin Colors—

D: There’s a lot of Asian names mixed in with some of the like ship names and some of those last names. And even some of the characters in the books are described a little bit more as being Asian. But a lot of them in the show are portrayed as something else, and that might be a bad thing because it’s taking away some representation, but there is plenty of it.

M: Well, that’s also—

D: But it’s also like—

M: It’s also very the moon is a harsh mistress where you have these people that are surviving on a colony. So not every family is made of biological descendants. A lot of people are being adopted, 

D: OK.

M: And there’s just a strange, there’s a very strange blending of cultures where you would have a Russian person who’s lending their last name to a family unit where their offspring are majority Hispanic. 

D: Mm hmm. 

M: So you have these like the main character, first person narrator for the story, and he’s a Hispanic guy. But I can’t remember the last name in the book, but it’s Russian. Yeah. Everyone you encounter is like a weird. You never you can’t. You can’t really expect what’s going to come next. You might find out six pages and this person has black skin and they’re speaking German. So I like that they they actually brought that. 

D: Yeah, 

M:because I think that’s a lot closer to where we’re going to end up, and—

D: It’s sort of their way of doing that. The aliens thing that Star Trek does, but without all the makeup, it’s like you just have a black person… and that’s OK.

M: Who is also Russian!

D: Just a different person who’s part of the gaggle of characters. And it’s like their version of various aliens are like some of these factions, but also, like everyone kind of looks a little bit different from everyone else. The languages are like touch and go. You may or may not understand everything someone saying to you over the radio.

M: Yeah. And then the obvious, like immediate racism and xenophobia that comes with any part of your physiology changing as a human being. I think in the first episode they show a belter like, but it’s an amazing effect. It’s incredible effect. They have belter prisoner who’s like—

D: Oh yeah, he’s on the hooks.

M: Like, elongated limbs and very pale and very thin. And it was a great effect. And then ‘You got it? Good.’ and then drop it for the rest of the show [laughs]

D: I mean, I’m pretty sure that actor just looks like that. But they also, yeah.

M: But then everyone just kind of looks like people.

D: Yeah, there was that. I do wish that was something that they’d spent more effort on. I mean, I realize the TV shows have a limitations. 

M: Sure. 

D: And if it was animated, then I’m sure they would have done that. And I think that there really should be an animated version of something that comes out that could pay a little bit more lip service to those details because in the books are very clear about it. Like, it’s mentioned over and over.

M: But I think, you know, one of the most disturbing is the fact that in the TV show Martians, Earthers, Belters all look the same on screen, and it is so easy to believe that they hate each other.

D: Yup.

M: It’s so easy to believe, like, when you look at them and they just think, Oh, they’re just like people, you know, black on one side, white on the other, like, you know, like to us, it’s like, well, obviously. But, no, it’s actually very, very believable that they would hate each other’s guts—

D: They do.

M: —for like not being able to stay in gravity.

D: They use the language a little bit more effectively in place of the physical characteristics. They do the language thing with with the way they speak, which even at first I thought it was a mistake when they separate. And Naomi goes on, goes back to go hang out with more belters again.

M: Yeah. 

D: She speaks with a more of an accent.

M: It’s way more exaggerated.

D: At first, I thought, because it was like a season change, I believe she left. And at first I thought it was. It was an, that’s an error in production 

M: That’s just like going Home. 

D: Like they encouraged her to go do the ‘No, play it up more’ because a lot of them have very clear accents. The Belters and she didn’t really. But no, in the book as well. It’s that she codeswitched. Right?

M: Yep.

D: She went back.

M: It’s like going back home and like switching back to your your hometown accent.

D: They they do things like, you know, say, Oh, we don’t say that here on this ship, like call them Dusters or calling them—

M: Skinnies.

D: Skinnies and, and that is used a little bit more effectively as opposed to like, oh, this person’s obviously a Belter. Instead, they’re like, Oh, Skinnies and people look at you sideways.

M: So it’s it’s shockingly realistic. It’s so easy to just believe that people hate each other for these very arbitrary reasons and accidents of birth.

D: I mean, you reference the Star Trek episode that is the classic.

M: The black and white cookie people, right? 

D: Right. But can you think of another good example of that sort of being part of the world that was created, this sort of.

M: Absolutely.

D: Maybe, that, maybe that diverges from, I mean, you know, yeah, what I’m getting at.

M: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. It’s the entire premise of the book is about the lunar colonies, which are populated. It’s basically a prison camp. Unfortunately, one of the side effects of being and I think it’s a sixth G on the Moon?

D: Yeah, it’s about a sixth.

M: One sixth G, over time, is that you can’t return to Earth.

D: Right.

M: Your body changes in too many ways that you can never go back. So for a lot of the people that are sent to the lunar colonies for mining purposes, it’s a labor camp. It’s a life sentence because they physically cannot return to Earth, so they end up having families. And there’s a lot of free people at the point where the book is written. A lot of the people on the Moon are free citizens, but they can never return to Earth.

D: Right.

M: So they’re still considered a colony. The whole thing is run by a computer, which becomes sentient. It does. It describes in detail how the society functions and the prejudice. So you have a lunar colony where, like I said, a lot of people are mixed race, mixed heritage. The language is mixed. The book is actually written in first person narrative in the pidgin talk. So it’s a really steep learning curve to try to get. They do the same thing. They drop certain articles of speech. So you have to like immediately like hopscotch into that mode. But on the lunar colonies, there’s no prejudice. People don’t discriminate based on skin color, nationality like you’re you’re a Looney. But on Earth, you know they hate your fucking gut because you’re a Looney. And they see you as subhuman. And Heinlein plays with that a lot. The concept of like genetic engineering and the prejudice and racism that comes with that. I mentioned Friday who is a character that has genetics from eight different parents to make her the same story. He talks about an artificial person, which is not a person who is genetically altered, but maybe a person that has eight arms and their job is to work a machine that has all these levers. So they create basically these horrible Gollum human beings that have no civil rights—

D: Worker mutants. 

M: Yeah. So he plays with this a lot. And just like how our nature is always to basically keep somebody under our boot.

D: Yeah.

M: Which plays out beautifully in The Expanse, because it’s easy to watch a show like that and say, like, Well, of course, the Belt deserves freedom. But you know, from an Earth perspective, a Martian perspective, that’s their colony. That’s their pets. You know, that’s my worker. That’s my butler. That’s my slave. Like, it’s so human now. So here we are on it. 

D: Now, before we kind of finish up our discussion, we were talking a little bit before about the idea of sci-fi being like, how you explore certain ideas. And given that so much of what we have accomplished as a species is about things we’ve imagined that we can create in the future, and the ability to imagine something that doesn’t exist has been so important to our survival as a species. And I’m wondering if you think that sci fi is kind of necessary for our survival in the future?

M: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. I’m a huge fan of Arthur C Clarke, and he didn’t just write fiction. He wrote a lot of nonfiction essays. He also invented communication satellites. Which is really cool. He co-narrated a bunch of Apollo missions at NASA, and he talks at length about how he would receive fan letters from really notable scientists and engineers because back then reading sci-fi was like, Read, it was pulp, it was not. I was very, very lowbrow. You would get fan letters from really prominent scientists and engineers at the time. ‘I love your work. I just can’t ever never talk about it with people.’ This is the reason to invent Comic-Cons. Sci-fi conventions started in the first place around Star Trek because people wanted to be able to talk to each other about science fiction without admitting it publicly because it was so frowned on for so long.

D: And as a huge Trekkie, as a kid, I always saw that the people going to Star Trek conventions and was like, What a bunch of nerds, right? Those people are out of their minds.

M: But then also watching it, you know, also like, really loving it.

D: I probably would have gone to one if one was in my town because I did not grow up in a big city, but it was like, Oh, what a bunch of nerds. And it’s like, all I did was watch Star Trek, and I still thought that was just a bit much.

M: Yeah. Right? So imagine being like a layperson who doesn’t give a shit about Star Trek, and then you find out, like the guy who’s building decoding a genome somewhere in a lab, loves science fiction. It was considered so trashy and I don’t, I think that, like scientific imagination, is more important than any need space, drive, and science. Obviously, we should solve problems like disease and hunger. But if you look around like everything we have, that makes life really wonderful, not just survivable, but wonderful, is imaginative, like having a monorail or talking about high speed rails, elevated trains like, yeah that solves a problem. But so do blimps. You know? But what’s cooler? What’s cooler? Would you rather take a monorail from Tokyo to southern Japan in two and a half hours, or a dirigible like, like ‘choose.’

D: And I’m also—

M: Obviously the monorail is way cooler, 

D: Right.

M: So like the human, the imaginative aspects behind science and technology that drives the fiction and the reality. I think that’s everything we wouldn’t live in the world we live in if it wasn’t for Star Trek.

D: No, that’s—

M: Hitting the mainstream the way that it did.

D: —hard to even, I don’t know how you could argue that really.

M: Just just hitting the mainstream,

D: Cell Phones existing, in the forms that they exist in. 

M: Yeah, the concept of, like, you know, using microscopic cameras to do surgery. 

D: Mm-Hmm. 

M: These things are incredible advancements that maybe someone sitting around would have thought it up at some point. But the fact that you have decades of people whose only passion in life was to sit around and think this stuff up for fun and then put that into the hands of people that, oh, I can actually do that. I can actually make a cell phone. Like we can thanks to Arthur C. Clark we have satellites. Thanks to Hedy Lamarr we have WiFi. And then you get that into the hands of the right people that know how to actually connect those things together and make a fucking cell phone.

D:And I feel like The Expanse is, like, really timely in that sense. Because it’s not presenting us with a lot of tech that is viewed as new or impressive. It’s just like kind of what we have, but better. They even talk about 3D printing, you know, doing food and stuff. The displays are a little bit more impressive that the communications are a little bit better than what we have. But like the physical aspect of getting to go this fast, it’s really just like, well, the engines more efficient is essentially what that boils down to. It’s not like trade as some magical new thing, but what is portrayed is if we don’t fix some stuff real quickly, our only habitable home might just get busted all up.

M: Which is where we are now.

D: And we are going to die.

M: Yeah.

D: So seeing that show, like especially if there’s a kid now watching The Expanse and they see the oceans rise and they keep hearing about sea level rise and they think like, we need to fix this like they did somehow. And then we look around and realize nobody’s doing anything, and hopefully it will inspire that in that way. 

M: Definitely. 

D: It’s like a little bit more negative way of doing it in the sense that it’s not inspiring hope and like dreams. It’s more just like, Oh my god, we have to save ourselves.

M: Well, whoever said hope was a good thing? Like, really, I mean, whoever promised that there would always be a positive outcome.

D: Thanks, Gene Roddenberry.

M: Yeah, I mean.

D: Lying to me, my whole life.

M: It’s kind of… it is a lie. It’s a lie. It’s a lie based on, you know, assuming that things stay static long enough for us to make these advancements. 

D: Yeah. 

M: Like a show like The Expanse, the world that we currently live in, this is a reality. We don’t have a lot of time. We might not get there fast enough and we’ll all just burn up into into ashes. So I thought like a very realistic portrayal of the impact that humanity has just by being here was was really refreshing. And yeah, it is not. I mean, how are we going to make all these amazing technological advancements where we can like punch wormholes in space and travel at light speed, if we’re if we’re still fighting for resources? You know, and like like assassinating world leaders and putting high fructose corn syrup and like, we have so many other problems that are, like, very immediate, you know, like the light speed, the light drive is not going to happen for us. 

D: Nope.

M: I don’t think we’re getting there, but we might get close to just really fast travel. 

D: Yeah, i mean—

M: It’s a really efficient engine or an additive that makes what we already have work well. And you know, that’s the beauty of the older sci fi, 40s or 50s, 60s, because there wasn’t a lot of technology to back up these big dreams that they had. So everything was kind of far flung and magical. Now it’s like, we’ve kind of done it all. I’m not going to say I know everything about technology in the world, but I feel like we’ve kind of hit the point.

D: There’s only a few big ones. It’s like the faster than light travel. 

M: Battery that never loses power. 

D: Transporter is—

M: Sure. [laughs]

D: kind of far out there like, yeah, we could probably maybe do that with a few atoms.

M: Right.

D: Here and there.

M: But there’s not a lot left that’s within our grasp…

D: Just take a shuttle.

M: Yeah, exactly.

D: It’s it’s if you haven’t watched Star Trek The Motion Picture, go take a gander and you’ll figure out real quick why transporters just aren’t worth it.

M: Yeah. Or, you know, The Fly because uh, Heinlein wrote a great story about that too, about early transporter technology, and how sometimes you just don’t come out the right way and…

D: Don’t mess with that.

M: Yeah. Also, like I was, a wonderful short story that I read basically about how you can lose a war by having technology that’s too advanced. You know, we’re in the in the search for newer technology that will get things done faster, more efficiently, and you actually lose a lot of your adaptability and then you can’t fight a battle the same way. Right?

D: There’s a Bruce Lee quote that I’m forgetting, but it’s something about the, you know, ‘A man with a weapon has limited his options,’ right? Like, you have a weapon. That’s all you’re thinking about it and someone else who doesn’t have one is going to figure out something creative and… take you down.

M: Yeah, a much larger view of of the actual battle. So I appreciate science fiction that is grounded in the present world. And like I said, I’m not a good consumer of media. I’m not a good TV watcher, movie watcher. So it really takes a lot to grab me and get me into anything but. I haven’t seen Science Fiction like this in a long time. Yeah, that feels appropriate, timely, accurate and then like very, very close to home. Everything’s very relatable.

D: Would you like to hear my poem?

M: I would love to hear your poem.

D: It is a haiku. And let me double check before I… don’t make a fool of myself. OK. And this one has a spoiler:

Fly Rocinante.
Shuddering panels cry out.
Alex doesn’t die.

M: I love it. 

D: Thank you. Thank you. 

M: [Snaps fingers] This is my beat poetry snapping.

D: We’ll put in some airhorns.

M: OK. All right, I’ll try. Off the top of my head. Are we doing haikus?

D: I did. OK. You can do what you want.


Oceans are rising.
Hope we can float like a duck.
Amos and Chris fuck.

[Both laugh]

D: Perfect. It’s very you.

M: That’s really all I want to see.

D: Obviously.

M: Like. The world is ending, but when are these guys gonna fuck?

D: We’re getting a lot of Amos body shots that are, probably satisfying to a lot of people.

M: Yeah. A lot of buns.

D: A lot of the dick lines. I don’t know what they’re called.

M: It’s called the ‘Line of Apollo.’ 

D: There you go.

M: Or ‘Cum Gutters,’ depending on, you know, I guess, your station in society.

D: I would like to have at least a momentary segment called Morgan’s Book Club, where you either recommend something that you’re currently reading. I know you said you’re very busy or that you think relates well to the subject discussed today, although there is one that you mentioned several times that might be…

M: Yeah, for sure. I think if you’re new to Science Fiction in general and you really like something like this, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is a good place to start because it is so obviously a direct influence like there are other books that matters of like warfare, obviously, they drew inspiration from that we can talk about. But The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is a great place to start because it is so close to the series, just the concept. Also, it clearly lays out how to form terrorist cells to overthrow a government, which they could have put into the series if they really wanted to. They didn’t, probably for a reason. [Dan laughs] But yeah, it clearly outlines how to overthrow government in a—

D: Perfect.

M: —stage military coup and organized groups of people without without having too many people with too much information and too many places. So, you know, that’s another great reason to read the book.

D: We are get on a list, right out the gate.

M: Yes, it’s a ‘how-to be’ a very functioning terrorist. But one of my favorite things about The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is the the politics of the lunar colonies. And there’s a character who is obviously Heinlein as himself in the book, but he basically outlines a philosophy called Rational Anarchy, which is allowing people to have freedom to make decisions, but also accepting that people are dumb and they need some direction. So it’s kind of an answer to libertarianism, where it allows people to have some amount of liberty, but then realize that that people are not very capable of working well in groups

D: Dangerous animals? Dangerous Animas that are unpredictable?

M: Yeah, unless you give them some structure. So that’s another great reason to read the book because it’s it’s just a very satisfying read on all fronts, and it’s it’s pretty much exactly like the foundation for the Belt. 

D: Awesome. And there are no corrections today because I’ve never said anything wrong, ever.

M: Me neither. I’m perfect every time.

D: Deal with it. Anything you want to plug? Twitter, Instagram, Website?

M: I don’t have Twitter. I am on Instagram. It’s all my artwork.

D: Oh, do you? You make art?

M: I do. I can’t believe we’ve never talked about this. It’s been twelve years. Yeah. So you can find me on Instagram at Lux Nova Studio, which is Latin. 

D: Look it up.

M: I didn’t have TV for five years.

D: And I am @DanWinburn on Twitter. And that is it. It’s all I have.

M: Can confirm.

D: Dan. Win, like ‘I win.’ Burn like ‘that burns.’

D: If you send him a friend cross on Facebook and he doesn’t answer, it’s because he doesn’t have a Facebook. OK, bye.

M: Bye.