Dan and Morgan discuss the mobile infantry in science fiction, Morgan schools Dan on menstruation, Dan reminds Morgan she’s never been in Zero-G.
Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein
Packing for Mars by Mary Roach
[Music fades out, voices fade in]
Morgan: …she can move the ink through her own skin if she thinks about it hard enough. Wouldn’t that be fucking crazy if that’s the thing, that’s real? It’s not aliens, there’s no aliens, but like we can actually do that.
Dan: Just the Force.
D: Just Jedis really are a thing, that would be neat.
D: I hope.
M: Well, that’s, that’s my only explanation for why my electronics are screwing with me today. So either Mercury’s in retrograde or I’m, I have bad juju.
D: If you’re just joining us, this is The Expansing, a podcast where we talk about, among other things, the television show The Expanse and our other beloved sci-fi themes and books and movies and so forth. My name is Dan Winburn. I’m joined by Morgan ‘Somebody-or-other.’
M: Yeah, that’s my, my full legal name. Uh huh.
D: Morgan ‘Somebody-or-other’ and I think today we’re talking about ‘Space Marines.’
D: This is going to be a theme episode. We’re not specifically going to stick to our Expanse roots necessarily. And in fact—
M: I am most excited.
D:—most, mostly not. I think.
M: Yeah, I’m most excited for for this topic because it gives me an excuse to talk about my favorite book, which is Starship Troopers.
D: Right. Now, for anybody who hasn’t figured it out yet or hadn’t heard in the earlier episodes, I had not read Starship Troopers or The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Heinlein, I read both of those in a single weekend on the recommendation of Morgan, and we’re going to use that as a jumping off point for a lot of the conversation. But prior to that, we were just sort of talking about what are some themes for the podcast? And one of those that sort of jumped out was space marines. And then Morgan’s like, ‘Oh my god, I want to talk about space marines. So bad.’
M: So bad!
D: Okay, we got to do that then, and having not read Starship Troopers until just now. Uhhh. Wow, I missed out big time.
M: Thank you.
D: And obviously the actual literary material for that book is clearly the main seed crystal, if I may, of a lot of the ideas of marines in space, or just people fighting in space were clearly straight from that book.
M: Yeah, the the video game Halo.
D: There’s nothing. [laughs] Yeah.
M: Yeah. When, when Halo came out, I remember seeing the trailers and just being like, ‘Oh my God, this is literally Starship Troopers with the capsules and everything,’ so, the powered armor.
D: And for most people who may be approaching this now, I’m hoping that if we get a real audience for our show, you know that it’s going to be people who have read a lot of sci-fi and maybe that most of the people listening would have already read Starship Troopers. But I think a lot of people out there are sort of like me where, yeah, I’ve read sci-fi and I’ve I’ve I’ve read a lot of these authors. But my exposure to that, at least specifically, was obviously the movie from uh, from was it ’99? 1998? 
M: I think it might have even been earlier. It feels, like it feels older than that.
D: Anyway, from the nineties.
M: Yeah. It doesn’t feel that modern.
D: The well known extravaganza of Starship Troopers, the movie, which is a lot of fun if you don’t know the source material.
M: It is fun, but… It’s unfortunate if that’s your first exposure, because I think that would turn a lot of people off from reading the book.
D: It is deeply disappointing if you had read the book first.
M: Yeah, like me. Yeah.
D: Yeah. Because when we first mentioned it, it was like, Oh yeah, it’s like, I know it’s probably not as dark or satirical as the original. It’s like, No, it’s it’s a different thing.
M: I was like, ‘How dare you mention that in my house.’ Like, never speak of it.
D: And now and I understand, it’s like I will probably never let go of the enjoyment of watching said movie, but it’s obviously a total miss on—
D: —the point of the book and the tone of the book and even the structure of the book.
M: It like, it glances right off the side of the book and just kind of shoots off into space.
D: There are some similar names.
D: Some similar things happen. Sort of.
M: That’s about it. Yeah. [Dan laughs] I do think it is unfortunate that most people in our generation were exposed to the movie first, because when going through Heinlein’s catalog, you might just kind of skip over that one thinking that you’d already heard that story.
M: But the book is something that’s really special, and I do want to say that Heinlein gets a lot of flack for being a little bit of a fascist because of this book—
M: —in particular because it does glorify the military and military service. And it kind of really drives home this idea that you’re only really capable of doing any good in the world if you have been in the military.
M: So in star, in Starship Troopers, in the future you have civilians and you have citizens and civilians are everybody. You have pretty much every right, except you can’t vote, own property, run for political office, but otherwise you can generally live your life.
D: Yeah, you can be a rich person. You can be famous. You can do—
M: You can you can have assets, but—
M: —to have access to vote, make decisions politically or own property, own land. You have to be a citizen and citizenship comes with military service. And much like with our modern military, they say that you can do just two years and then opt out unless there’s a war—
M: —in which case you’re in for as long as they say.
D: “War were declared.”
M: Yeah. [laughs] And of course, it never ends up being two years, you know? But another thing in the book that I really love is that it’s extremely easy to join, or it’s hard to join, but it’s easy to get out.
D: Right, right.
M: Unlike our modern military.
D: Well, it’s it’s hard to make it through to join. It’s easy to go sign up to join.
M: Yeah, they try to deter you.
D: It’s easy to flame out.
M: Yeah, they’ll they’ll make it as difficult as possible for you to actually make it through and you can quit any time.
D: Yeah. Yeah, that was the really cool thing that reading the book for, the because when you watch the movie, you don’t get the impression it was like, ‘Oh my God, you messed up your whole life with one stroke of a pen.’ But they explicitly do all this kind of mental gymnastics with you and make you feel like you’ve suddenly done that. Like that you’ve taken the oath.
M: So you chicken out.
D: So you think this is too late? And they’re like, ‘No, you have 48 hours. If you don’t come back, it’s fine.’
M: The cooling off period.
D: I was like, ‘Whoa, that’s a really good system.’
M: But once you—
D: But yes.
M: Once you’ve walked away, once you said I quit, I tap out. You can never come back.
D: Right. That’s it.
M: And you can never be a citizen again. So yeah, I guess it does kind of make sense that in order to make decisions about the greater good, you need to have gone through a process like that. Um.
D: Yeah, that’s that’s what’s so dangerous about fascism is it has these things that are very reasonable appeals. Some of them.
D: Like and if you just say just that thing, it’s like, ‘Yes, that sounds good …on paper.’
M: Yeah. So yeah, I understand that he gets a lot of flak for that, and I’m constantly going to bat for Heinlein, and for this book specifically because I don’t really see it as fascist propaganda.
D: No, I got not that. Well. There were moments when I was like, ‘Yeah, this could be dangerous. A little bit.’ And then other moments where I was like, ‘Oh, there you are.’ That’s the yeah, that’s the actual message.
M: That warm feeling in your chest is things making sense, you know?
D: Right? There were a couple of moments where I realized, OK, just very subtly right there. He just gave you the clue that the thing the character’s thinking is exactly the same if you applied it to someone who felt differently.
D: It’s like there are these moments where you saw that little snapshot of like, Oh, he’s saying that this thing is bad when those systems do it, but you guys are doing the same thing right now.
M: Yeah, but…
D: And I don’t have a good example right out of my head.
M: But yeah, they point out the flaws in like the 20th Century system of government, as far as having a ruling class or a wealthy 1% making decisions. But in Starship Troopers—
D: People who have… go ahead.
M: It is like a top tier ruling class that’s making decisions. The only difference is that there is a bit of a meritocracy in effect where you have proven your, your ability to make those decisions through self-sacrifice and discipline, which is why I like, I feel like Starship Troopers was my first romance novel and like, there’s no romance in the book, but I fell in love, and—
D: That’s not entirely true. There is a very brief bit of like, oooh. [laughs]
M: Yeah, a little bit of like ‘mmmm,’ he’ll throw some stuff in there every now and again.
D: He is still human.
M: He’s very human, but I would read this book and like, clutch it to my chest and like, get tears in my eyes. And just like these moments and phrases and the history and moral philosophy, class flashbacks would just like touch me so deeply and felt like I was reading this hot and steamy romance novel, but it was for like political science and character development, and I just truly love it. I read it so many times and I go through the same emotional journey every time.
D: Yeah, it’s having never read it before. It was like, it’s not the same, but it’s more like the movie was closer to like a Fifth Element in feel and, you know, action and all that. And the movie or, sorry, the book is closer in feel to something like Full Metal Jacket.
M: Yeah, It’s like the first two thirds…
D: It’s much more plodding and it’s emotional and esoteric.
M: It’s psychological.
D: Yeah, psychological. It’s not Just action.
M: I think the first two thirds can go. Yeah.
D: Right. It’s more than half. Yeah, before he even becomes quote unquote ‘a marine’. And then the transition is very quick.
M: Well, technically he’s infantry.
D: Where is brain starts to operate. Right? Right, right? Yeah.
M: Mobile infantry.
D: Mobile infantry. Sorry.
M: It’s still the same concept.
D: ‘Base marine,’ ‘mobile infantry.’
M: The first ones in that do the, uh, the dirty work. So but yeah, I, I do also want to say, like on a personal level, I am not a fan of the military in general. I consider myself to be a pacifist. I think violence is the lowest form of communication. But when I read a book like, I’m also a product of my generation, right? So like, Heinlein wrote the book in 1959, when we have had like two successful American wars that we won and everything was great, everything went really well. And for us, and I think maybe like heading into Korea [nope], but we hadn’t gone through like losing the Vietnam War or losing—
D: Yeah, Korea had just happened. And he references Korea—
M: Ok, yeah.
D: —briefly in the book, like as a as a flashback of like, ‘Oh, there was a war in Korea in the 20th century.’
M: So I, coming into the world on the tail end of some massive military failures. You know, I haven’t had the same like, rosy kind of view of the military and war in general that Heinlein had when he wrote the book. So I forgive a lot of that. And I can also put myself in a place where I can see what he’s trying to say about why military service can be really good if you do it the right way. And part of that was the history and moral philosophy class that you’re required to take as a high school senior. You don’t get a grade for it, so there’s no pass or fail.
M: You just have to show up, and it gives people the opportunity to speak out and challenge the teacher and like they can be like, Fuck you, and it doesn’t. They still pass the class, you know—
D: Yeah they just have to audit it.
M: Yeah, the point is that they want you to be able to ask questions and speak your mind and not have to take tests and just really think about the subject matter and history and moral philosophy. I would I would champion that all day if they would make that compulsory in schools. Oh my God, we’re like so close. Like this outrage now over Critical Race Theory being incorporated. We’re getting really close to history and moral philosophy being part of a curriculum in schools. So I’m all about that. And maybe that would bring the world a little bit closer to one that we could have something like a Starship Troopers where we do have benefits to military service. But the way the world is right now, I don’t, I don’t believe that war is a solution. Heinlein outlines pretty clearly that there will always be war because people need war.
M: Like we we we need it to solve conflicts. There’s no way around it. We’re never going to be diplomats. And even the phrase ‘Violence never solved anything’ he takes, he takes head on and he says, ‘Oh, violence will solve everything.’
D: Right? Yeah.
M: ‘Violence will actually solve every problem.’ It might not be a good solution, but it will solve the problem.
D: I think his teacher is, is the one that takes that, takes that apart, and it’s like that’s like almost every problem we’ve ever had has been solved by violence. What are you talking about? That’s a stupid thing to say.
M: How do you define the violence? Is the violence a trade embargo?
D: And how do you define solving a problem?
M: Right? Yeah.
D: Whose problem is it?
M: It might not be your team that wins, but it will, the problem will be solved. So, yeah, so on a personal level, I don’t really advocate for the military in the same way that Starship Troopers kind of seems to. It does feel a little bit like a piece of propaganda in that sense. So I do understand, and that’s also why the movie took that hard turn into the propaganda side of things and like painting a rosy picture of military service. And then they jump really quickly into like the worst desolation. They go from. Like—
D: Right, right.
M: —this glossy view that you see Earthside of what the military is and then they get dropped and it’s just total chaos and carnage.
D: And it’s maybe up to that point because it was not the first appearance in movies of a space marine type of plot. You know, you had Aliens and things like that that happened before in terms of the movies themselves, and it’s almost like the American public didn’t really want to deal with the psychological aspects of that at the time.
D: And it’s like we’d gotten used to the mindless, you know, ‘send the grunts in there’ kind of mentality and they are treated that way in the book. But the book also makes it very clear that yes, they are grunts, quote unquote, but they are trained in such a way that they have had to break their minds apart and find out who they are to be able to deal with this stuff and to be training—
M: And to be trusted.
D: And to be trusted with expensive equipment…
M: To be trusted with the suit. And yeah, the suit alone…
D: The safety the human species…
M: Literally. Not to mention, like, you know, a few mobile infantry being dropped onto a city could could accomplish anything.
M: They could take over the city, they could level it. They could go in and extract a dignitary like a surgeon.
D: Right. It’s made clear that the violence is not the point.
M: Right. There is an art to what they’re doing, and in order to be able to do it, they have to actually like, you have to be able to trust each other, yourself, your commanding officers. And that’s really what makes this version of the military so special, which is that by the time you get an order, you follow it without question because you know, for fact, it’s justified, whatever you’re doing there’s a purpose for it because you have been taught that you’re at the core when Johnny Rico goes into the officer school. In the book, that’s all they do is try to get to the heart of like what will do the most good. And we tend to think of soldiers as doing the most damage because that’s what we do now. We go in and we firebomb. I don’t know if you actually like, especially right now, with what’s going on in Afghanistan and like our generation’s connection to the war in Afghanistan, because I think like our friends signing up at 18, you know what I mean?
M: It’s about as close to what’s happening in Starship Troopers or, you know, like…
D: Yeah, no, it really is, because there’s a 9-11 aspect of using the strike against Buenos Aires.
D: In the book and the movie, which the movie makes it much more, it’s not like it’s it’s not the way it was at all in the book, but it’s it’s much more clearly the thing that causes everything to start.
M: So like when our friends—
D: In the book it’s not so much portrayed that way.
M: When our friends signed up to join and then like watching the way that we actually went and wage the war in Afghanistan, it’s so grotesque. It’s horrific. And there’s no way to get through a city other than to bomb it, to be able to physically move through it. So, one of the things that they used in Afghanistan was like a rope with grenades tied to it, and they would launch it, and it would basically basically shoot out like a ribbon, hit the ground, all the grenades would explode and it would level everything in its path. And then the soldiers would walk through this path to get through a city and like, that’s why they hate Americans. Like because we literally went in and just smashed everything to achieve whatever. I don’t know, which is why I am very antiwar. But in the mobile infantry in Starship Troopers, this is they are like surgeons.
D: Portrayed as having…
M: It even opens—
M: It even opens with a ‘demonstration,’ quote unquote, on an alien planet where the goal wasn’t to kill a bunch of people. They were actually trying to spare as many lives as possible. D: Right.
M: But just fuck shit up enough to show like we could do more if we really wanted to, you know?
D: Like he throws a grenade in. It’s got the, which, which is an interesting parallel to The Expanse because they call them the skinnies.
D: Yeah, like, oh man.
M: I didn’t even mention that because I wanted to wait for you to read the book.
D: A different, a different species like not humans, not the bugs, but some other species.
M: A humanoid.
D: You’re right, humanoid. And you do not see them in the movie at all. They have no role, and they’re ‘Skinnies’ because they’re longer and skinnier aliens. But they throw he throws like a grenade type thing into a building that accidentally he blows into and it’s like full of skinnies. And it wasn’t supposed to do that.
M: And he’s like: ‘Fuck!’
D: And he’s like: ‘Oh shit!’ And he just drops a bomb in it, and it makes this noise, and it’s apparently in in their language going like: ‘This is a bomb. It will explode in 30 seconds. This is a bomb.’ It’s like, so…
M: ‘I’m a 30 second bomb, 29, 28…’
D: Right, right.
M: And he says, ‘Kinder to shoot them, man.’ [laughs]
D: That’s funny, man. That’s pretty funny.
M: I don’t know if that’s better or worse to be like, ‘Hey, I’m going to explode.’
D: Yeah, it’s like total chaos. It might have killed some of them, but it’s sort of giving them a chance?
M: And it achieved its purpose with the minimum amount of loss of life.
D: Yeah, everybody to get away from me right now. I don’t want any of you near me.
M: The point is to destroy the waterworks, to destroy churches, anything that represents civilization to them. And then you crush that. Leave them devastated. But with the minimum loss of lives.
M: And they they lose somebody. They lose a mobile infantry guy. And that’s a huge loss. But they took that on knowing that what they were doing on that planet was going to have such a greater good for the war and humans at home that they were willing to lay their lives down for something like that without actually being at war with the skinnies.
M: So that level of trust and then also, I guess, a fundamental distrust like understanding that human nature will always out and that you have to really be in control of yourself to fight your baser instincts, which is what a military man would do. A military man would be in control of himself. And this was an issue that I have with, but between The Expanse and the Starship Troopers, because again, it’s not a direct remake inspiration. You know, The Expanse is its own thing.
M: You know, the only reason that Gunny Roberta Draper in The Expanse goes against her protocol is because she knows that there are people in the Martian military that are selling them out.
M: And she, she says, like, you have to know your enemy before you can fight your enemy. Yeah, something like that would never happen in Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, like that corruption—
D: Yeah. Everyone is very pure.
M: Yes, because fundamentally—
D: He’s like, if you come through this, you must be a good person as well, as well as being disciplined.
M: He fundamentally believes… Yes, that anybody could achieve like this perfect morality if they were given enough chances and examples, and that you could become moral.
D: Morality through discipline.
M: Yeah. Which I kind of love. It’s a little like, kinky…
D: It’s achievable.
M: I love it!
D: It’s one of those things. It’s achievable, but it’s not realistic. You know what I mean?
M: Not for everybody.
D: Like, there’s a certain, there’s a certain number of people that can do that, that can that can change themselves on a fundamental level if they really sit down and do it but not everybody. Not everybody.
M: Well, I think Heinlein believed that everybody has the potential to be fundamentally good if you push them in the right direction. And in The Expanse, with the high level Martian military, you know, with the corruption and they’re selling arms and weapons for their own personal gain. And then you have the police chief who is doing it, but he’s doing it for, I guess, kind of a of a good reason to get his family off Mars to give them a chance…
D: Yeah, he’s that’s, he’s an interesting character because it doesn’t start off as likable, really in any way. And then you slowly start to think, Huh, this guy isn’t all bad. Like—
D: —he hasn’t really done anything that hurt anybody that didn’t, that wasn’t an asshole.
M: Sure. So it sets up like, you know, it kind of gives a little bit more leeway to Bobbie to actually have that, that dilemma within herself because it’s showing that like, you can make me a good person who makes bad decisions, [laughs] you know?
M: Yeah, but that level of corruption would never happen in the world of Starship Troopers. So there are difference, there are some stark stark differences between the two worlds. But yeah, the idea of a mobile infantry, the power suits, they’re basically the toughest things alive…
D: Yeah, they really go into a huge amount of detail. And—
D: —and the fact that he thought, I mean, like you said, it’s ’59 and he’s thinking of a suit that looks, makes a man look like a gorilla, which is about right—
M: Has gyros to keep you upright!
D: —If you made a mech-suit that was really working, it’s yeah, you got a little bit bigger than a person and that it takes hours to get into it and get it warmed up and get it all set up. And it’s all this incredibly intricate machinery and the idea that you thought of that.
M: And the Y-Rack on the back?
M: And the Y-Rack on the back that has the bombs.
D: Right, right?
M: Like, that’s what? It’s so smart. [Dan laughs] And then to have the powered thrusters and gyros to keep you upright and then he even briefly describes how your head is the only thing that’s not attached to the suit, so your head can move freely.
D: Right. So you can—
M: And that’s how you do your controls.
D: Some controls and stuff like that.
D: But, but really, like, and described it in detail and which even really thought like—
M: Which, we’re not even close.
D: Yeah. And he even really thought of, OK. It shouldn’t just fly, right? Like you could if it’s in space. But it’s like, no, it’s just a suit that amplifies everything you do. So the jumping is just an amplification. And then you got a couple of retro rockets, and it’s it’s a very believable and realistic take on the idea of a of a huge mech suit from 1959.
M: Yeah, it’s 2021 and we’re not even close to that. Like, not even close.
D: Not to that kind of thing.
M: Like we have kind of, no, we have space suits. And we have exo-suits.
D: We have a thing. We, there’s a guy that has made an Iron Man suit that it will actually fly. But, it’s like just stationary and it you have to be very strong. And it’s like only for a little while and it doesn’t do anything else.
M: It’s basically, he’s basically a cosplayer at that point. [laughs]
D: Yeah, it’s like a cosplay Iron Man, but it really does kind of get you off the ground. You can float around and it’s really cool, but we’re really inching our way there. But yeah, we’re still pretty far off. Whereas so many other bits of technology from so many of these books and shows we’ve, we’ve already cracked.
D: And that’s why The Expanse is so interesting in the way it presents them, because they’ve adapted to a lot of that and then incorporated the gray morality. That’s—
D: —crept into most of our media that we’ve sort of accepted that there’s no good guys anymore.
D: How do you feel about, how do you feel about the portrayal of the Mars Marines, in particular in The Expanse, as portrayed like at the beginning of Season 2, when they’re all in shown in their unit and they’re all very gung-ho about what they’re doing and they’re getting in fights with each other and all that stuff. How do you feel about that compared to what happens in Starship Troopers? The book.
M: Once they’re actually soldiers, everything relaxes like they’re not required to shine their shoes anymore.
M: They’re like: ‘You’ve, you’ve done it. You’re good.’
D: Right, right, right.
M: We’ve made a good soldier out of you and they get to the ship, and you know, every dispute is solved with a with a fist fight. You know, I mean, I don’t know if you remember there was one scene where he’s having, he [Johnny Rico] gets promoted, he gets a field commission to a higher position, which puts him senior to somebody who should be senior to him.
D: Right, right.
M: And they’re having an issue because the guy is not necessarily going against his orders, but he’s a little prickly about taking orders from Johnny Rico, who’s younger and less experienced. D: He goes to pull him aside.
M: And they go and you have a they don’t say, I’m going to go kick your, kick your ass. He’s like, Maybe we should step this into the, you know, into the washroom and talk about it. And the older guy is like, Are you sure? Are you sure we need to talk about it? And Johnny’s like, Yeah, I think we do. And he’s like, You think you can convince me? And he’s basically saying, like, Do you really think you can kick my ass, Johnny? And he’s like, ‘I’m going to do my best.’ And Johnny actually loses the fight and he wakes up on his back and the guy standing over him waking him up—
D: Oh right. I remember that now.
M: —and he says, ‘Hit me.’
D: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
M: And he just—
D: Oh, because there wasn’t it that they’re like both exhausted by the end of it?
M: Yeah. But Johnny got knocked out.
D: But he lost. Yeah.
M: He wakes up. The guy’s waking him up, throws a bucket of cold water on his face, and says ‘Johnny wake up, hit me, hit me,’ and he hits the guy and he falls over and he’s like, ‘All right, you did it. You convinced me. No more trouble out of me and my boys,’ you know, so he he basically, like, did the honorable thing and lost the fight.
D: Right, right. I do remember. that now
M: But even within, yeah, even within that, like, you know, scrapping around there was still that sense of honor. So they’re not like mindless grunts like you would see in something like Alien[s], where they’re portrayed as just sort of being a little bloodthirsty and savage.
D: And yeah, and they’re they’re like frat boys.
M: Yeah. So they don’t show the Martian marines as being just like a bunch of hooligans like rabble rousing across the Solar System.
D: No, that’s true.
D: So it’s mostly the, I guess, the part in the, The Expanse that bugs me is this very specific interpersonal stuff, like where they were like, giving shit to the guy who was born on Earth, as opposed to the girl who’s whose family owns all of the terraforming machines. And it’s like—
M: Yeah. I don’t buy that.
D: —Um, I feel like you’re a little bit more someone who would be criticized, rich girl, whose family owns all the stuff. There’s going to be a lot more animosity towards that than some guy who was born on Earth but dedicated his life to Mars. It’s like that’s—
M: And got far enough to be suited.
D: They wouldn’t be fighting about that. I feel like—
M: No. He got far enough to get into a suit.
M: Yeah. So obviously, you’ve proven that you’re pretty dedicated to the dream of Mars. Yeah, and it’s the same in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress where like, it doesn’t matter if you were shipped up to the lunar colonies as a prisoner to serve a term or if you went voluntarily, you’re a loony, you know, like you’re you’re one of us now. As soon as you get here and you kiss dirt, you’re, you’re one of us. And I feel like that would probably be the same case for for Mars. There’s so few people. There’s so much work to do. Every like, every new ship would be welcomed, wouldn’t it?
D: I mean, you would think so. And maybe in the beginning it was like that.
M: It’s got to be a one way trip too. Mars is only—
D: At the beginning. Sure.
M: —one-third? One-third Earth G?
D: Uh, it’s more than that.
D: Maybe not, I don’t remember. We’ll have to look it up. [Almost 38%]
M: Yeah, but I thought it was like a third and then the Moon is like one-sixth.
D: Yeah, the moon is one-sixth. Maybe it is one-third. I. I feel like it’s not.
M: Regardless. I mean, you have to assume…
D: We’ll go research it and go [bla bla bla noise] insert the correct answer. [Again, close to one-third, it’s .375]
M: Also, like if you’re shipping off, let’s say you leave Earth and go to Mars. You land, you have no assets, right? So you would start your life as a Martian in debt to Mars, wouldn’t you? As a colonist?
D: If you were smart setting up a colony.
M: Because somebody—
D: If you owned it, it’s be the smart thing to do.
M: Now, if if you’re if you’re like leaving Earth, like the Marines parents left Earth to to have a better life.
M: They would be leaving Earth with basically their bare minimum government allowance, and they would land with no assets to buy a home, you know, start a job, get some money, you know, get some transportation, pay your bus fare… so you would start as a colonist in debt to the colony, right?
D: I mean, it would it could potentially just be a communal sort of situation at first. Or…
M: I just I think as soon as you get there, you’re just, that’s it. It’s a one way trip. There’s really no way to go back.
D: I would think, for most people, especially in the beginning, yeah.
D: When when we first go. As I hope we manage to eventually. Yeah, the first lot of people are going to be one way situations because it’s also just the infrastructure necessary to send something back is going to take a while.
D: —a while. [laughs]
M: So, so for them to be giving that guy so much shit about being born on Earth, didn’t feel right. It felt like you don’t really have to drive home the xenophobia that hard in a show like The Expanse, like everyone already hates the Belters. You know you have a perfect example right there.
D: When I was reading Starship Troopers, I was thinking about the comparison that one could make between the bugs and maybe the Marines themselves. But, but specifically the way that many people might perceive the military in general in that they’re really clear about workers are not dangerous. The fighters, the warrior bugs are dangerous. You kill them, but they don’t really have a mind, right?
D: They know what they’re doing. They’re trying to attack you. But if you hit the right thing, their brain just kind of turns off and they, they’re basically drones, right?
D: Just like very similar to the movie. And then there’s the brain bugs and the actual leaders, which they don’t go into much detail, just sort of like the movie. But in my mind, when I was reading it, I got the impression that there was at least some kind of comparison that the reader is being asked to make in their own mind between what the bugs are doing and what the humans are doing—
D: —and the fact that you’ve got soldiers on the ground that aren’t the ones making decisions that aren’t the ones in charge, that aren’t the ones that decided to be there.
D: But they perceive themselves as being much more autonomous and much more in control of what they’re doing and what their lives are. And—
D: —But are they, you know?
M: And does that give them more of a right to exist in the universe, because that’s what it is, it’s a competition for resources.
M: You know, and that’s the same reason we go to war on Earth. It’s all about resources. So, you know, you fight war over access to water, farmland, whatever. Who has more of a right to that stuff, you know, and everyone use their own kind as the superior, the superior race or the superior culture, just like Western civilization views itself as superior because ‘Well, we came up with shoes and wigs and carriages!’ But does that make you better than Egyptians or Pacific Islanders like just to call them savages because they didn’t develop the same technology that you did? You know what I mean, whereas like the Sumerians had a zero, way before Europeans did.
D: And I think it’s really interesting that in the book, even though it really goes into detail about what’s going on inside Rico’s mind and how the things that people are saying to him are doing or changing the way he thinks about stuff they used to believe. And that’s all really interesting and engrossing. But then it’s this huge sci fi story that has these two different groups of aliens, and you learn almost nothing about them at all—
D: —like he’s not even curious in the slightest.
M: No. No.
D: And nobody seems to be, it’s just like, ‘Wait a minute, we live in a universe where we’ve already made contact with a couple of alien species, and we just are not particularly interested.’
M: We’re not going to talk about that? [both laugh] We’re just going to gloss over that. Yeah, um.
D: It’s like, Yeah, we have to go shoot them.
M: Yeah, it’s a huge departure.
D: Like, we’re the bad guys. We’re the invading aliens. We’re not…
M: Well, when most sci fi like, that’s what drives the story is first contact and then how do you coexist? And like, you have to learn about them and learn to speak their language and like, Nope, nope, that’s not what matters in the story at all. It’s really just this one guy, kind of, with his solipsistic little existence and just reflecting on humanity in general, as he confronts these alien species so which I love because I feel like that’s such a human thing to do.
M: Johnny knows he’s not ever going to understand these aliens. He doesn’t have the time. He doesn’t have the energy, and he certainly doesn’t have the intelligence to do it. But he can understand humans. So all he’s doing is reflecting on humanity—
M: —and what confronting these this world really means for us. Even the skinnies, like they’re only really relevant to the story because there could be an alliance with the bugs.
M: So they want to be, they want to ally the skinnies first before the bugs do so that they can, so they don’t have to fight two, two species at once, which is just manipulative. That’s just politics. That’s not even about like, you know, a Prime Directive of like going and exploring new worlds. It’s just like—
D: No, it’s just tactics.
M: Yeah, it’s just, it’s political doctrine like we need to make an ally of them before they become our enemy. Good enough, that’s the end. So…
D: I thought it was so cool also that they talked about, I mean, I, I was a little iffy. I mean, I know it was published when it was. So the the the sexism that there isn’t the kind of sexism that jumps out and smacks you in the face, but it’s like, ‘OK,’ um within the world you kind of let it slide. But the idea of of women being better pilots because of their ability to take more G-forces and their reaction times being better and that sort of thing, that was really interesting. And the fact that they, he went out on a limb, especially for something from from the time that it was and said, if you’re a really good space pilot, you’re probably going to shave your head because that’s what you do. And so, Carmen, the only, the one character that’s like still there and still kind of the person she was but totally different has got a shaved head!
D: Denise Richards! Come on. [Morgan laughs] What is that?!
M: With your beautiful brunette tresses? Yeah, grow a pair. Yeah. Well—
D: Bic it.
M: —Carmen in the book [laughs] is mysterious from the beginning, so the superficial version that you meet of Carmen as a pilot, I like that they kept her. She kept herself preserved in the story.
M: You know, you don’t reveal everything about her.
D: She’s the hardworking nerd girl at school—
M: Who was also like pretty and athletic.
D: —but she’s studying really hard because she’s like, I’m going to go be a pilot. I don’t have time for your nonsense. And then she just goes and does that. And then they see each other like one other time, kiss on the cheek kind of situation, and that’s it.
M: Yeah, well…
D: None of this nonsense, like Rico in the movie is not allowed to have any real development.
M: Oh, he doesn’t get his nipples licked in the book. That’s so weird [Dan laughs] because they really focus on that in the movie, God. I hate the movie so much. I hate it.
D: It’s very different.
M: It’s very different. Yeah, and—
D: I don’t want to sell him short, but I have a feeling that Casper Van Dien doesn’t speak Tagalog.
M: [Laughing] He might not be Filipino. Um…
D: Spoilers on a book from ’59! It’s so weird, though, that they didn’t do anything with that. They didn’t incorporate that in any way.
M: Yeah, well, Heinlein himself, he personally felt like race was such a non-issue. And the only reason he includes it in his books is because he acknowledges how important it is to other people, for whatever fucking reason.
M: But to him, he never felt like that was important. You know what I mean? Like Johnny as a person is not better or worse because he’s Filipino.
M: It’s just kind of a minor issue.
D: It’s well, it’s a non-issue because you don’t even learn about it really until the very end is where it’s like explicit about like—
D: —this is not who. Maybe this is not maybe what you were picturing in your mind’s eye—
M: And even Carmen, I forget her last name. [Ibanez]
D: —the whole book.
M: Her name is Carmencita, right,
M: You know.
D: I forget the last name, but it’s like very obviously Spanish name.
M: Exactly. And it’s the same in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress with all of the blended race. And then also like, I love that Heinlein does this, but like, very inappropriate slang that’s being used.
D: Mm hmm.
M: Um, Yeah. Like—
D: A little hard to parse out. Like Ok, ok, ok, ok.
M: It’s hard to look back with your modern eye and see that and not be like immediately have your hackles up. But he was just looking at it differently.
M: We’re just, we’re still just people…
D: Especially this huge extended family structures that they improvised on the Moon.
D: In The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.
M: Yes. So—
D: And The Expanse.
M: So his attitude was like, you wouldn’t, that wouldn’t be a derogatory thing, because first and foremost, you’re a Loony, first and foremost, you’re a Belter or whatever, and then you’re your race is just one of many qualifiers. You might be Russian, but then you’re also male or female or you’re also this or that or, you know convict or not—
D: Right, and the primary, the primary division in the Starship Troopers universe is citizen or civilian.
D: So yes, that’s the thing that matters. Literally nothing else matters in that world.
D: It’s like, you’re either this or that.
M: And he’ll even allude in Starship Troopers, too, like the drill sergeant Zim.
M: Who is maybe very ambiguous in race, like they never you never really said much.
D: Yeah. It’s not really super clear.
M: Yeah. So you’ll encounter people that have these sort of culturally specific sounding names, but then he never describes them.
D: Yeah. [laughs]
M: Which I love. I love that about Heinlein, because he he really does believe that race is kind of a non-issue when it comes to a person’s character. It has a lot to do with your development as a person. Like, what kind of community are race raised gender or how people treated you? Obviously, being the victim of racism would change you as a person. But it has nothing to do with how intelligent or capable or, you know, your value. Also, he gets a lot of flack for being sexist, and I never really saw Heinlein as sexist.
M: I think he believes—
D: —it’s sexist—
M: that there’s a difference—
M: —between men and women, sure.
D: He focuses a lot on, like reading it now, it’s like, ‘Whoa, why did you have to say that?’ But it’s like on its face. It’s not really sexist, but the way he said it, you wouldn’t write that sentence today.
D: Like I think you might describe the same thing, but you wouldn’t say it the way he said it?
M: I mean, but is that better? Is it better to deliberately omit something that is true?
D: No, that’s the thing is reading. It doesn’t. It doesn’t bother me when I read it because I know what I’m reading, but somebody could read it—
M: Oh, they do.
D: —who’s not, not looking deeper and go, ‘Oh, this is just sexist.’ And it’s like, not really?
M: Yeah, the criticism is intense. I don’t think Heinlein is sexist as much as his writing is aware of the existence of sex. And even like Wyoming, not the female like major character on The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is described as being very large. Like she describes herself as a cow.
D: I think she’s described like an Amazon.
M: Yeah. So she’s so tall that when she’s in her pressure suit, another character doesn’t even recognize her because she thinks it’s a man in the suit.
M: Because she’s so tall and thick and sturdy and like when she has to basically go into disguise in blackface, which Oh My God. [Dan laughs] God, that is probably the cringiest part. But honestly, I would do it if I was on the lam.
D: Well, it’s because it’s a disguise. It’s not…
M: Because it would be a great disguise!
D: Yeah, it’s like she gets her. She gets her hair curled and changed, and dyed because she’s like this blond bombshell, basically.
M: And she’s like, probably six feet tall.
D: Right? And they’re all like everyone who lives there looks different because, yeah, people show up on the moon with a particular like racial background because they came from Earth. And then after a while, everybody starts to look the same on the moon because we’re all just interbreeding. So it’s like she shows up and she’s obviously like fresher than the others.
M: Yeah, six feet tall, really thick—
D: So she has to like, hide herself, dye her hair, dye her skin, et cetera.
D: And it’s like, Yeah, it is cringy to think about now, but it’s like, if it were really happening, that would be a good way to disguise yourself, you know?
M: Yeah. And as far as like, I, I can’t I can’t get on board with the sexism, ‘sexist’ as a label because like Wyoming, not, in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress he has a point where he says basically women are just as smart and ruthless as men, but far more dangerous.
M: I like I think that Heinlein genuinely believed in female supremacy, but he thought women were better than men in every respect. Save for one, which is maybe physical strength.
M: Because every time you encounter a woman in one of his books, she’s literally the most amazing creature on Earth.
M: You know, like every female character he writes, is incredible. Even in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, the elder wife, the oldest wife in the family—
D: Right, Mum.
M: Mum, who is, like, probably well into her hundreds. The senior wife—
D: Right. [laughs]
M: —is also amazing. Like so smart, you know, like—
D: She’s like: ‘Oh, you want to rebellion, honey? OK, I’ll help.’
M: Yeah. ‘Can I have my own terrorist cell, please?’ So the sexism thing I, I get a little defensive about that too, because I, I think maybe his view that men and women are like two distinctly different things is sort of outdated, but I don’t think that his intentions were ever to demean women or belittle them.
D: No, no. That’s not the impression.
M: Because then Wyoming would not be six feet tall and strong and smart, and…
D: It’s also, it’s more like he’s taking a very naturalistic viewpoint, but he like, he in Starship Troopers he, he makes it a little bit more obvious where it’s like parts of the ship you don’t go into because the ladies are up there and you’re not supposed to, like, mingle with them. And it’s it’s like, Well, that’s sort of an especially in the fifties, you know, it’s like, Well, obviously you wouldn’t have them all mingling because that’s just going to be chaos, you know?
M: Well, we still—
D: All have sex and blah blah blah.
M: We still don’t have a coed military. We have a little bit here and there, but we still don’t have a fully coed military, and it’s for good reason.
D: Not in the way that’s portrayed in the movie.
M: Yeah, exactly. [both laugh]
D: And like you said, to an extent, you can argue that there’s a reason, right? That the there are things that if you’re in isolation with this group of people for a long time, those kinds of relationships or those kinds of problems are going to be more prevalent
M: Well the way the way he talks about in boot camp and they’re discussing the existence of women in their life. Now, those aren’t real. There’s no such thing. And no, I saw a woman one time, though, like, you’re a liar. Like because they’ve only been around men and like so focused on their job. And you know, that’s what USO shows originally started out as, was like, Hey, let’s remind the boys what they’re fighting for back home! And like—
D: Right, right.
M: Show them some girls so they can basically try to live long enough to go back home and fuck. Like…
D: Yeah, and there is some of that, I think explicitly about the like, remind them what they’re fighting for, sort of thing.
D: That, that is one thing that that stuck out to me as a man, as as feeling kind of sexist because it’s like, Well—
D: —I’m not. If I was in that position, I’d be like, I’m not just fighting for the fact that women exist, that we can go have sex with women or whatever, and it’s like but what about my uncle and—
M: I think he’s alluding—
D: —my mother? Like, like, I don’t want to see just this sex object and think that’s what we’re fighting for. I mean, I civilization…
M: Exactly, it’s probably it’s you allude to the fact that men and women make civilization because you make babies.
M: So it’s like, remind them what they’re fighting for. It’s like you’re fighting for the right to be a human being and propagate and like, you know, do the thing that is important to you, which is to drive the species forward. I know that’s incredibly outdated.
D: Yeah, it’s just it, really. It’s just the fact that the message, the way the message is written is outdated. It’s not so much the message itself.
M: And we’re more comfortable now accepting the fact that maybe not everybody wants to get married, have children or even have sex like the concept that somebody could be asexual is just now kind of really hitting the mainstream. But that doesn’t mean that Heinlein was a prude because he wrote extensively about group families.
D: Yeah, I didn’t. I didn’t get the impression he was a prude at all.
M: No. And you know what? The books that I recommended to you are so light. There’s another book called Friday that goes into really specific detail about an ’S’ group, and the S stands for a lot of things like Security, but also Sex and like it’s kind of understood that everyone can have sex with everybody in the family, like men and men, women and women, and it’s just kind of encouraged. He was so much more open minded about sexuality than those two books really expressed. So there’s definitely some sexist language, but with the best of intentions, I guess. And—
M: —also Starship Troopers, he never says that women can’t serve in the infantry. He never addresses that at all.
D: That’s true.
M: He never says that women can’t be soldiers. It’s just that women tend to choose to go into things like the Navy because there’s more opportunities to do things that are like suited to you know, like, piloting—
D: And the one thing that he makes very clear that it was like this would be a massive improvement on the way that our military does it, except that it’s really hard to do this accurately. And that is that they they really go into everything about you, find out your exact aptitudes and say, ‘OK, you’re going to this division. We need you here.’ Like they take your choices. They they consider that, but it’s very it’s much more scientific about like, now you’re going to be best for this.
D: And we need that or we have a slot for this. You might be good at that, but we really need this and you would definitely be good at it. So
M: Yeah. And if you’ve ever known anyone who’s been like a submariner, I think only recently they started to allow women on submarines. But for a long time, women were not allowed to serve on submarines for several reasons, one of which we used so much more toiletries than men. We use like three times the toilet paper because we have to use it every time we go. We menstruate, which creates a lot of waste. And when you’re in a metal tube, however, many thousands of feet below the surface for months at a time—
D: You’re going to attract sharks.
M: —[laughs] You can’t have that much paper waste. It just doesn’t make sense because women actually create more waste than men do. And like, you know, they need more things, basically because—
D: Practical reasons.
M: —we do get periods. Yeah. And it’s not sexist. It’s just people that are assigned female at birth have certain biological like needs that people assigned male at birth don’t have. Therefore, if you’re going to be in a submarine, you want the people who are best suited for that life for three months at a time. So kind of in the same respect, like in the space marines umbrella, that makes sense that you would assign people to what they’re best suited for based on a number of factors your biological sex being one of those. But he never explicitly says that a woman couldn’t be a soldier, but if you’re on a ship with a bunch of cap troopers, you know, it would be kind of like a submarine, right?
M: Thats what a spaceship is, it’s a space submarine. And maybe for the same reason. That’s why they have, you know, the only women on the ship are naval officers that are there for like…
D: God, what is, menstruation in Zero-G must be really unpleasant.
M: It’s probably about the same.
D: You think so?
M: Yeah, because it’s not really a gravity thing. It’s it’s like…
D: Well, I was thinking more about like getting everything out.
M: It doesn’t fall out Dan! [laughs]
D: I’ve never been involved in the, the cleanup process. So.
M: Oh my god, it doesn’t like fall out of you.
D: No, I know, I know it doesn’t just fall out, but gravity does a little bit of the work, a little bit. M: Yeah. Yeah. No, you’re right. A little bit, but not much.
D: All right.
M: It would be like having a nosebleed. That’s—
D: Yeah! Exactly.
M: —a nosebleed.
D: But yes, that’s what I mean, though, like if you’re in Zero-G, there’s a lot further to go than with a nosebleed because the nosebleed you’re talking about right here, right on the surface, right on the surface. And if you did, it would be starting to bubble right next to your nostril.
M: Yeah, right?
D: And that’s—
M: Well, it would be easier to clean up.
D: Well, I would think it would, I would think it would not descend. If it’s sloughing off inside the uterus, [Morgan sighs exasperatedly] it’s like unless there’s is there contraction?
M: Yes, there are contractions—
D: to push it out?
M: There are contractions in your uterus that, that’s what cramps are.
D: Right, right.
M: That’s literally what cramps are, is the contractions of the uterus pushing the blood in the lining out into the vagina—
M: —where it then exits because there’s only one direction it can go. And like even though gravity might play a small part because we’re upright, most of the time, there’s your vagina is self lubricating. So that’s why it does that. That’s why it has moisture is to like, clean itself.
D: No, I understand all those things. I’m just talking about the physical aspect of going from here to here.
M: It would totally come out.
D: It might, might be a little weirder in Zero-G. That is my main—
M: It might be slightly weirder.
D: I’m sure they’ve figured it out.
M: All periods are horrible.
D: I’m just saying the thought occurred to me. It would be really of, of any of the processes I can think of to undergo in Zero-G. That would be oh, seems like it would be one of the more unpleasant ones
M: Well think about, like if you were if you are bedridden, you’re paralyzed or in a coma and you have to lie on your back and you get your period like it’s it, gravity isn’t making it… You see what I’m saying? Because you’re parallel to the ground. So gravity wouldn’t be helping you get your period out?
D: Yeah, but gravity is doing some of the job because anything that goes down is going to also want to go sideways. And if there’s an opening, it’s just going to pour out the side because of gravity.
M: Yeah. This is a this is a really interesting subject now—
D: I’m just saying. [laughs]
M: —and it’s making me question like female astronauts.
D: No, I realize they get it done. I’m just saying it might be worse in Zero-G.
M: So, Mary Roach is an author who writes nonfiction, and she does these really great deep dives into specific subjects like food, sex and the afterlife from a scientific standpoint. But her writing is so beautiful that she’s a delight to read.
M: I’ve read a few of her books. She has a book called Packing for Mars and It’s Science Takes on Life in Zero-G, and she I haven’t read it yet, so maybe this is the next one that we need to read.
D: Oh yeah, maybe we should.
M: Because she talks about sex and zero gravity, death, aging, all of it, and she might actually talk specifically about periods. So we—
D: I hope so!
M: —can put a pin in this one for now.
D: Oh we need to know.
M: I’m going to say it makes no difference. I’m going to say all periods are bad start to finish, gravity or no,
D: I would put my I would put money on it, maybe being a little bit longer to get everything out.
M: Oh my God.
D: All the way because of because gravity is going to assist one way or the other.
D: If you’re down here, gravity is giving you a little assist. It may not be the main one, but there’s a little bit.
M: Ok. All right.
D: I’m just like, like, maybe it’s like half a day longer before you’re like, Yeah…
M: I would. I would. I was. I’m all the way out. I’ll give you maybe half a day. Yeah, maybe.
D: I’m not saying it’s like, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to die. Get it out of me!’
M: I don’t know. Maybe that is a risk. If you’re right and gravity plays a factor, then maybe you would have to do something extra to get everything out. Or you could risk, like maybe sepsis. I don’t know.
D: Maybe there’s maybe they have anything, because if you even created the tiniest, tiniest pressure differential, that would be enough like anything, the slightest little bit.
D: But, you know, just just like kind of like a bulb, they just went for a second, you know, might be enough to just, [Shwiiift]
M: Yeah. You mean like a douche?
D: Yeah, yeah. [Morgan laughs] Maybe that’s how they do it.
M: We’re going to have to find out because now, now this is kind of irking me.
D: OK, but swinging it back around the space marines, one last second, of the Marines of the Marines that we get to meet in The Expanse, who do you think is the most admirable space marine?
M: Well, obviously Bobbie.
D: Based on, let’s say, based on a Heinlein…
M: Obviously it’s Bobbie. I mean…
D: You think so, Bobbie?
D: How do you feel about Lopez? At the very beginning.
D: He’s the guy that interrogates them when they come on.
M: Um, yeah. And then.
D: He’s yeah, and then sacrifices himself. He’s very aggressive with them, but he’s never like unreasonable per se.
M: I feel like I feel like that was a really admirable portrayal of a Martian marine as far as, like, like truly like doing justice to the Martian marine, because that’s that’s how he would behave.
D: Yeah. And it’s very much, you know, this is the information.
M: Willing to sacrifice.
D: And he said—
M: The only thing he says is ‘I would have loved to have seen an ocean on Mars’ like, right? Even even at the end, all he was thinking about was how his actions were going to benefit Mars—
M: —which is the way it should be.
D: Because these were and that would be one of the more difficult things to to make a quick decision about. If you were in his place and you were on the ship and this, these people that you didn’t care for that you thought were probably bad—
M: But it’s not about you.
D: No, I understand,—
M: Its’ about how you feel, yeah.
D: —but like your personal feeling is like this, these people are against Mars in some way, right? Not just you, but like Mars. And it’s—
M: But they realize, yes.
D: —now we need to get them out. They are more important than anything else right now—
M: Because they’re going to save Mars.
D: —You have to totally change your mind in a few seconds, in a few minutes and be willing to give your own life to keep them safe.
D: And he just does that, turns on a dime says ‘This is my duty now,’—
M: I mean, that’s that’s how it should be.
D: —as a character.
M: Yes, because if you’re if you’re a Martian marine, you’re not. Your goal is not to kill people. Your goal is to protect people. Ultimately, you’re protecting Martians. So as soon as it became clear that getting those people off, the Donager was what was going to protect the most Martians in the long run. That’s just what they did. There was no question because that’s what you’re supposed to be fighting for. It’s not for the sake of fighting, it’s for it’s to not fight.
D: And I also like that they portray him as being quite well rounded—
D: —because a lot of, in Starship Troopers, that’s that’s also sort of the point. It’s like, yes, these people are all dangerous killers, but they’re also intelligent. They can think on their feet. They understand the importance of civics and all those things…
M: And how everyone on the ship drops these, even the cook, like everyone on the ship fights. D: Right. So Lopez is in there doing all this stuff, but he’s also the person who is trusted with interrogating them with taking the focus drugs, with knowing everything about their lives and trying to figure out this mystery. But he’s also just getting down in the dirt and getting shot at, you know, right away.
D: So it’s pretty—
M: Well it’s the same in Starship Troopers where like even the chaplain is a soldier. The Cook is a soldier. There’s no such thing as a Swabby. And on the, on the ship, it’s every single person fights. So they encourage you to be well-rounded because everyone has to. You have to be able to function as a unit the way they encourage you to play musical instruments. And he describes in boot camp how they would go on those long marches.
D: Yeah. [laughs]
M: And they would like basically, you know, when it was time—
D: Have fake instruments, the like electronic versions of them or whatever. That was fun, which is a thing we can do now!
M: Yeah. Or they would do their marches and like it would be time to play so that anyone in the band would run to the front, drop their pack and without even a second thought, another guy would pick up his pack and carry it for him so that he could run to the front and play the electronic trumpet, you know, to boost morale. I really appreciated that portrayal like that because I I don’t love the idea of soldiers just being like mindless, bloodthirsty grunts.
M: I think it’s a little bit disrespectful ultimately, because you wouldn’t have gotten that far and just be like a cold blooded killer. You’d have to be well-rounded. You’d have to have some sense of civic duty, ultimately.
D: Especially any, anything that involves potentially interacting with a vacuum is—
M: Yeah, or an alien.
D: —you got to know what you’re doing.
M: Or that’s another side of it, an alien!
M: There’s a, there’s the potential for first contact. Every time a ship goes into space—
D: That’s, yeah.
M: —an alien could just pop up. So you have to be able to trust the people on the ship that their heads won’t explode. First of all. [laughs]
D: Just a bunch of meat heads…
M: Just like you’re like ‘Aaahhhh!’
D: ‘Kill it!’
M: Exactly, you have to be able to trust that those people won’t just shoot anything that looks unfamiliar. That’s just that’s a side of it, too. Like, you really need well-trained, well-rounded, thoughtful, intelligent, somewhat sensitive people—
M: —in your Martian marine force. And Bobbie maybe gives us the best example of that. But every Martian marine that we encounter aside from like the top brass…
D: Even the top brass, to an extent, they on paper fit into a lot of those things, and they are the more likely as well to be, well, read, and they in the show are portrayed more realistically like they’ve sort of merged, merged with politicians as they’ve gained power. It’s changed a little bit, but they were probably perfect examples of of the Heinlein marine—
M: Yeah, the—
D: —when they were lower.
M: —the diplomatic discussions were perhaps a huge missed opportunity to really showcase them a lot. You know, the ethics… the ethics of Mars.
D: Yeah, I think they really were because they changed it. They—
M: I’m sure they did.
D: —Bobbie, Bobbie is not… In the show, she’s portrayed as as as being lied to and misled and all that, and they didn’t do that in the books.
D: The books are more open about everything in general, like everybody knows more about what’s going on. It’s just like, how do they deal with it? And no one is pretending like Bobbie didn’t see what she saw—
D: —they are just they just don’t totally want to talk about it as much as she does. She’s like, ‘So how about we talk about the thing I saw’ and they’re all like, ‘rmmmm, maybe nooooo. That’s later in the agenda.’ You know, I think it’s more of a they’re dragging their heels rather than lying to her.
D: So she’s, and her her willingness to confront them about it is less treasonous. You know, she’s she doesn’t have to go that far to get to the point where she’s annoyed with them.
M: Well, even the lengths that she goes to in the series, you know, literally running to the embassy and like throwing her hands up and losing like she’s stripped of all of a ranking, right?
D: Yeah. I mean, yeah…
M: She’s busted out of the military. Even all of that makes sense and feels correct. You know what I mean? And she knew that what she was doing was the right thing to do because she really does believe in the dream of Mars. And it’s not about fighting Earth. It’s not about killing people, asserting dominance, military supremacy. It’s about oceans on Mars. That’s the goal. And she knows that what she’s doing is right for Mars [laughs]
D: Which for a lot of…
M: She’s maybe the best Martian…
D: Yeah, a lot of true believers like her. They have to get a lot more corrupted before they start being willing to tell lies to get what they want because they think that what they want is good and lies are bad. And you don’t. You shouldn’t lie. If if you’re trying to get something good for all these people, you tell them why it’s good and we’re all working towards it. So when people start lying to her about it, it disturbs her in such a fundamental level that that it like almost breaks her psyche where she’s like, This can’t be possible. Like, Why would you even do this? Like, she doesn’t understand why you would be dishonest about it, like it doesn’t make sense to her at all.
M: And her willingness to basically break the rules and to go against her military training in order to like, you know, fight for what is right is also very admirable.
D: Do you think Johnny Rico would have done the same thing in her position?
M: Oh, that’s so don’t ask me that. [Dan laughs] Yes, I do.
D: You think so.
M: I do. I think if Johnny Rico caught wind of any of his superior officers being corrupt, he would do something about it.
D: Yeah, yeah.
M: Yeah, for sure.
D: Almost certainly. There’s a lot in the book about him having his illusions shattered about his commanding officers being, you know, superhuman or—
D: Yeah. Or yeah, exactly. And that that he realizes slowly that the ones he’s thought either discounted him completely or actually dislike him, think the most of him.
D: And they’re hard on him because he’s because they believe in him or that they see themselves in him. And so he slowly starts to realize that, Oh, these guys are really good people, actually.
D: They’re actually they care about me a lot. And that’s why they’re so that’s why they are the way they are. Because if they didn’t do those things, I would get killed.
M: Yes exact—or kill somebody else.
D: And they want all of us to live. And they care about us deeply and are so upset when something bad happens that they feel that it’s their fault, even if it really wasn’t.
M: Yeah, it’s like being a parent.
D: That’s the way it should be. Yeah, but it isn’t.
M: Well, he describes the ship as like the lieutenant was their father. Yeah. You know, and the Sarge was their mother. They really were counterparts to this group of boys that were like children to them. And like, worried over them the way that parents would, and we’re almost godlike in that respect of knowing everything and being everywhere. And like the only time Johnny Rico gets lashes in boot camp is when he during a drill, when he fires a fake rocket without using his actual sights.
D: He was supposed to stay ‘sighted’—
M: He kind of eyeballs it—
D: —with the laser or something. Yeah,.
M: Yeah, and he didn’t. And he just eyeballed it, and they immediately shut off his suit and then he got lashes for it because a mistake like, doing something like that could have gotten another soldier killed. So they, like, just come down on him so hard to make sure they stomp out that behavior as quickly as possible.
D: He did a great job of that, too, because there’s a couple of times in there with the recruits do not understand the level of trouble they’ve just gotten themselves into.
M: Yeah. [laughs]
D: And like, literally like, you just committed a capital offense. Do you understand that? Like, no, we could literally kill you right now and be within our rights.
M: Yeah, that’s the other thing, in Starship Troopers, they, they have capital punishment. So most crimes are lashes.
D: Right, the 31, 31 offenses.
M: Crash landings.
D: Yeah, 31 crash landings. Right.
M: Um. Even civilians face to face lashes instead of fines because he acknowledges the fact that any crime that’s punishable by a fine targets poor people. Unfortunately.
D: Yeah, it’s just it’s just an expensive legal thing,
M: Right? To keep poor people in poverty. A crime should have a—
M: —punishment that everyone can pay equally, and the best one is just to lash you in public, or hang you.
D: Well, I liked I liked when he did the the the mistake in his suit for not not, you know, eyeballing the target because it took the reader by surprise too. Like, I didn’t realize the trouble he was in.
D: Once he got in trouble, I’m like, Oh, he’s in trouble because he didn’t do the thing.
M: But those are the kind of heroics that are praised in other you know, fiction.
D: Right, it’s like, but he did the thing. He achieved the goal, right? And but it’s like, but he did it wrong.
M: He threw the Hail Mary! He did it wrong.
D: He didn’t follow the rules and—
D: —it took me. I had to actually go back and read the passage again because I didn’t, I couldn’t figure out what he did wrong because it went by so quickly that it’s like, Oh, he saw it. And he’s like, Technically, I’m supposed to sight that with my lasers, but I, I could get it. So I just went ahead and do it, and I saved some time. And then it moves on in like several paragraphs later. Like, the next page was like, Wait, he’s in trouble. Why is he in trouble? What? And I had to actually go back and review it to realize, Oh no, oh.
M: And during the—
D: He’s in big trouble.
M: —during his what, field court martial, they say, like, Do you believe this man is salvageable? D: Right?
M: You know, they were going to just kick him out. They were going to just kick him out.
M: And they were like, If you’re worth saving and we’ll give you some lashes.
D: It’s like, Wow, you know, that’s yeah, that’s harsh.
M: So when you imagine like those kinds of heroics that in Starship Troopers got Johnny in so much trouble that are so frowned upon are like revered in most other sci-fi.
M: You want the character who’s going to sight it and they’re going to hit that target without using the laser because it just goes to show how determined and strong they are. Like, like James Holden would do that like he would. He would not use his laser. He would just eyeball it. He’d fucking get it too, because he’s the obvious good guy. Whereas like when you have Bobbie who knows exactly what she’s doing, she knows how to do it by the books, and she knows where to break the rules. And she’s probably one of my favorite, one of my favorite characters. Honestly, for that reason, because she is so disciplined, but she knows where to apply pressure, artfully. She doesn’t just scream it from the rooftops. She doesn’t send a transmission back to Earth, making a bunch of wild claims about Mars starting a war like just to stir up some drama like she’s very selective about where she applies pressure to get to the root of this mystery of like the corruption in the Martian military, which is evidenced through obviously her training. So I think like our modern military standards, everything she does is reprehensible. [Dan laughs] But when you when you consider in this specific world and also like the correlation to Starship Troopers, it makes perfect sense and it feels it feels really right for her to feel sort of like buck authority when she does, so. I also like that she’s an Amazon. She’s huge.
D: Oh yeah, she’s monstrous. She’s portrayed that way in the books, too. It’s like it’s actually really good casting where she’s portrayed as this. Like, terror machine.
M: They never they never give her the She’s All That treatment. You know what I mean? Like—
M: —even when she goes to have dinner on Earth with all the dignitaries, she’s in a ponytail.
M: And like a tracksuit, you know, she wears like an Adidas tracksuit.
D: Yeah. And I like that they didn’t. They didn’t try to make it like, Oh, she’s a tomboy. It’s like, No, she’s just a marine.
M: She’s a soldier. Yeah.
D: It’s like. She’s plenty feminine, and she hooks up with guys and it’s totally normal relationship—
M: Oh, she’s pulling tail… Yeah.
D: —there’s no there’s no weird like some female space marines have definitely had that, that like Aliens treatment where it’s like, ‘Oh, you have to be butch and badass,’ and it’s like, ‘No, you don’t really have to do that. It’s fine. You can still just be yourself and a soldier. It’s fine.’
M: Yeah, exactly.
D: But, um. So I think we’re gonna have to wrap up. But any fans of The Expanse who enjoys space marine type stuff in case you haven’t been paying attention, you should go read Starship Troopers and maybe never watch the movie again.
M: Never. Yeah, please don’t. I think Starship Troopers will make you a better person.
D: Honestly. Yeah, kind of. I was really surprised. Honestly, as a piece of literature, it is very solid. It is—
M: And as a piece of political commentary…
D: —it is moving, it makes you think it’s it’s fun. It’s got sci fi stuff in it that that adds to the flavor, but it’s not a sci-fi book as I’m concerned.
M: The socio— No, the socio-political aspects and also like the really, really harsh lens it casts on the 20th Century while being written only halfway through it.
D: Yeah, not even done.
M: Remarkably prescient, and the way that he addresses things like juvenile delinquency. Yeah, punish crimes that are punishable by fines because a monetary fine means that that crime is legal for rich people.
M: It’s only illegal for poor people, and that’s something we’re facing right now is that wealthy, affluent people don’t have to face the same punishments that people who live in poverty do. It’s disproportionate.
M: So believe it or not.
D: Where is this coming from?
M: Directly from 1959. Apparently because Heinlein wrote about that clearly in the book. So for being so far behind us, it feels very modern, very contemporary.
D: Yeah it really does. It’s amazing how it was completely readable.
D: Just there is no transition point where it was like, ‘Oh, I have to get used to what I’m reading.’ No, it was just, I’m reading a book about being in the military. It was very good.
M: Yeah, and in the same way that The Expanse kind of took that and then built on it with modern ideas about sociopolitical sphere. Because again, Heinlein was a little optimistic in his belief about humankind, where he clearly believed that we’re all just dumb animals, but that we could be made to do the right thing, where we could be led to the right decision. Whereas I think we’ve seen, like I said, we are a product of our generation. We’re a product of our time. We’ve lived long enough to see Dick Cheney and Halliburton. And you know what I mean? Like, we know that there is no such thing as a clearly moral imperative being built into all of humanity. Like, there’s always going to be people that are greedy and corrupt, and they’re going to find their way into high levels in the political sphere and they’re going to shit on all of us. So The Expanse definitely like incorporates that more realistic view of the world into the storytelling.
But yeah, I think that it’s obvious they knew what they were building on. It’s very clear that the writers of The Expanse were aware of Starship Troopers as a work.
D: Oh yeah.
D: It would be shocking if they weren’t.
M: And then bringing that like, moral dilemma that Bobbie Draper has and like you said, Lopez in the first space marine we really get to meet, and and then you know later on this dance between the US, the UN, sorry, the Martians, Jules Mao, like all this, all this stuff where the corruption kind of reaches a head. and all of the corrupt people at the top are now fighting their own war.
M: And everyone is out of the loop. That feels way more real and natural and now. That’s the part that scares me. That’s the part of humanity that scares me. It’s that Heart of Darkness shit. [Dan laughs] You know? Where you end up kind of being this, floating around vaguely while these incredibly corrupt evil people at the top are waging their own little war and you can’t do anything about it. So like…
D: Good times.
M: Yeah! It’s so great. Glad we made this far.
D: Read Starship Troopers. What was the other book? The living in Zero-G? Remind me.
M: Oh! Um, Mary Roach’s Packing for Mars. I’ve read a few of her other books, I haven’t read that one yet. But that might, that might be one we have to read. At least to settle the menstruation in space argument.
D: Yeah, we gotta know. Ok, so, if you’re listening to this, go read that. We’re gonna read it.
D: We’re gonna report back. I’m Dan Winburn. We have a—
M: I’m Morgan Wilson. [giggles]